Welcome to my hiking guide on Grinnell Glacier Overlook! My name is Craig Cooper and I grew up in a small town in Texas. I lived there for most of my life but always dreamed of living in a mountain town where I could enjoy the outdoor activities I love the most, such as hiking and skiing. I now live in the Sierra Nevada Mountains on the shores of Lake Tahoe.
Ever since I can remember, I have been drawn to nature and the outdoors. Most of my childhood was spent outdoors and some of my most fondest memories were camping with family and friends. I always looked forward to it! So now as I have grown into my adult years, I am able to travel to all of these incredible destinations that I have always dreamt of visiting, and take on hiking trails that have been on my bucket list for so many years.
Grinnell Glacier Overlook was one of those dream hikes! This place always piqued my interest because this glacier is one of the only accessible glaciers left in Glacier National Park. In order to get to the overlook, we took the Highline Trail from Logan Pass. The entire trail is incredible and follows a ridgeline almost the entire way along the Going to the Sun Road, so the trail is loaded with expansive views of the national park.
Hiking the Highline Trail & Garden Wall Trail
The Highline Trail features impressive views of some of the most unique mountains I have ever seen and even more glaciers in the distance. Most of the trail is exposed to the sun, so hikers should prepare for that. Take plenty of sunscreen and I recommend a sun protection hat if available.
During summer, there are wildflowers lining the trail and scattered along the sides of the mountains. The trail also has the “Wall” which is located within the first half mile from the trailhead. This is a section of the hike that features cables along the side of the trail due to a narrow path. This portion of the trail is popular as mountain goats hang out in the area.
This trail also gives you an option of visiting Granite Park Chalet, which was built in 1914-1915 and is now listed as a National Historic Landmark. But we chose not to visit as Grinnell Glacier Overlook was our planned destination.
After hiking for approximately 6.5 miles, we came to the Garden Wall Trail – the trail that takes you up to Grinnell Glacier Overlook. The trail to the overlook is located directly off of the main Highline Trail and is well marked.
How Difficult is it to Reach Grinnell Glacier Overlook?
Overall, I would consider this hike very challenging and suited for more experienced hikers with high levels of fitness. After finishing our hike, we clocked in over 16 miles in total and over 3,500 feet of elevation gain.
The most difficult part of the entire trail was the Garden Wall Trail to get to Grinnell Glacier Overlook. This portion of the trail gains over 950 feet of elevation within 0.6 miles along the Continental Divide before reaching the overlook. Although the effort was well worth it, it was quite strenuous.
My Rating of Grinnell Glacier Overlook: 10/10
On a scale of 1-10, I rate Grinnell Glacier Overlook a 10. Considering the effort it took to reach the overlook, the views took my breath away. I realized this wasn’t just a nice view, this was a view unlike any I had ever experienced!
After standing in awe for some time, we decided to attempt to find a sliver of shade in order to sit down and have some lunch and load up on energy bars and water. After lunch, I realized the trail continued a bit further, so I decided to hike up a bit more and I reached an even more impressive view.
I highly recommend following the trail up a bit further after reaching the overlook because there is another viewpoint that features views of not only Upper Grinnell Lake and the glacier, but also Lower Grinnell Lake and Lake Josephine in the distance. This was definitely the cherry on top!
Highlight of my Hike to Grinnell Glacier Overlook
One of my favorite moments from this hike took place at the overlook. We were chatting with fellow hikers about photography while capturing the glacier when all of a sudden we became surrounded by five bighorn sheep.
It was great to see them in their natural habitat and I was able to snap a few photos. To make this moment even more epic, those five bighorn sheep were joined by approximately 20 others while on our descent back down to the Highline Trail. It made for a wonderful experience!
Accommodation in Glacier National Park
From our experience, it was difficult to find accomodation and a place to stay within Glacier National Park. We ended up staying in Whitefish, which is only 26 miles from the west entrance of the park. I recommend staying in Whitefish to anyone who is planning to visit Glacier National Park if you are unable to find accomodation inside the park.
This charming Montana town provides many options for shopping and great restaurants. We stayed at Grouse Mountain Lodge and enjoyed our stay – we would recommend it to anyone. The lodge is located in town and has a great restaurant, Logan’s which we ate at 3/6 nights of our stay.
Tips for an Eco-Friendly Hiking Adventure
In order to hike in an eco-friendly manner, I always hike with my collapsible water bottle with a built-in filter by Katadyn. There were many small waterfalls along this hike for me to get water along the way when needed, so I suggest getting a water filter bottle of some kind before heading out on the trail in order to eliminate single use plastic as much as possible.
Another eco-friendly tip I would like to emphasize is staying on the marked trails. It may seem like a simple piece of advice, but staying on designated trails is one of the best ways we can all ensure environmental preservation.
Final Thoughts on Grinnell Glacier Overlook
The parking lot to access the Highline Trail is located at Logan Pass, which tends to get full early in the morning (especially in summer). We reached the parking lot by 6:45 AM and the lot was full – we had to park a mile away, adding on an additional 2 miles to our hike. I recommend planning ahead and rising early on the day of your hike in order to get a park.
This trail is mostly exposed for the entire duration – so plan for a full day exposed to the sun. Make sure you have plenty of water, food, sunscreen and protection from any unexpected weather – I would recommend a poncho or rain jacket just in case. Be courteous to others on the trail. As this is a difficult hike, please allow those hiking uphill to pass.