Glacier’s Granite Park Chalet is a stunning backcountry chalet, accessible only on foot, and only available with a reservation. But here’s a tip: if you’re in the Glacier area, and can be flexible, check the Granite Park Chalet reservation website to see if there has been a cancellation. They don’t have a wait list, so if there is a cancellation, the first person to call gets the room. I did exactly this about 10 days ago, and was lucky enough to nab a room for two for a night. This, combined with a couple of nights at the Bowman Lake campground, made for a delightful little mini-vacation. Bowman Lake is a bit of a secret as well – it’s one of the most out of the way campgrounds in Glacier (along with Kintla Lake), so it usually has spaces available when the other campgrounds are full. We arrived on Friday afternoon, and there were still spaces available. In fact, there were spaces available all weekend. And when you can wake up in the morning and share the view with three whitetail deer….well, things don’t get much better, do they?
You can get to Granite Chalet on three different trails: the Highline Trail from Logan Pass, the Loop Trail from the Loop area of the Going to the Sun Road, or the Swiftcurrent Pass Trail from the Many Glacier area. We chose to take the Highline Trail in, and the Loop Trail out, and we used the Glacier shuttle system, which made the whole thing easy. In the days before the shuttle you’d need to worry about finding a parking spot at Logan Pass, and then you pretty much had to go out the way you came in. But this time we left our car at the Apgar Transit Station, hopped a shuttle to Logan Pass, and we were good to go. Then we hiked out the Loop Trail, and took the shuttle back to our car. Works like a charm. You have to leave enough time to get to Logan Pass (it took us about 2 hours from the transit station, partly because of construction on the Going to the Sun road), but that’s really the only thing to keep in mind.
The Highline Trail is one of the most popular trails in the park, so don’t expect solitude – at least for the first four miles. But that’s OK. You can get solitude in a national park by heading into the backcountry. A trip to either Granite or Sperry Chalet is kind of a middle ground – you’re in the backcountry, without motor vehicles, but you’re not alone. You do, however, get to sleep on a real mattress. And part of the fun is interacting with the other guests at the Chalet.
The first section of the Highline Trail includes a part that’s cut into the side of the cliff. It’s plenty wide, so it’s really not scary, but I suppose if you have a serious fear of heights you might want to choose another way in:
Mountain goats like to hang out here, too. No fear of heights for them.
It’s 7.6 miles from Logan Pass to Granite Park Chalet. It’s not a hard hike, but it’s got a few ups and downs, so it’s not exactly a stroll, either. But the views!
And the flowers!
After about 6 miles, you get the first view of the chalet in the distance.
We also got our first view of a bear. A grizzly, digging roots about 300 feet off the trail. He seemed oblivious to us, so we just took a quick picture and kept on our way. But yikes, just the same.
The chalet (which, by the way, is not made of granite) is charmingly rustic, with a communal kitchen, and a common dining room where the staff entertained us with talks during the evening “coffee hour.” We learned, for example, that we were coming up on the 45th anniversary of the “Night of the Grizzlies.” Yikes again. The rooms are spartan, with either two or four bunk beds, and the log walls are certainly not soundproof – which explains the free earplugs that the staff gives out. But what a location. And what fun to meet people from all over and learn their stories. (Although we also ran into our neighbors from down the street.) All in all, it’s a great experience.