The hike topped out at 7,280 feet but the elevation gain over the first 7.6 miles was quite gentle and the views were breathtaking. The hardest part was the four mile downhill Loop Trail, which winds through part of the 2003 burn so you are exposed during the hottest part of the day and the slope can be challenging to the knees.
We hiked from East to West and there was some haze in the West, making photos a little challenging...but even so the beauty of this place could not be denied. I'll let the photos tell the story...
|Morning clouds cloak the mountain tops.|
|The first part of the trail hugs the mountainside.|
We were shaded at the start and the cool breeze had us bundled up at first.
|After the first half mile the trail became greener and flowers were still blooming at this altitude.|
|At the top of a long switchback, layers of mountains started opening up around us.|
|The trail continues along the mountainside with stunning views both above and beyond us.|
|We felt like we were on the edge of the world.|
|Keyna comes around a corner, backed by the jagged peaks we had just passed.|
|The trail is a thin line in the hillside, Hans is the tiny white dot at right.|
|At our lunch stop we admired this marmot with a mouthful of greens.|
|Granite Park Chalet, perched on the hill at the right, commands an amazing view.|
|One of the most exciting moments of the day: spotting a mountain goat in a classic pose on a distant ridge.|
|In the zoom he looks like a big fellow.|
|You can stay at the Granite Park Chalet, reservations required.|
|Happy hikers at the chalet: Mike, Keyna, Lisa, Hans.|
When we reached the transit stop at The Loop trail head, I took the park shuttle back to Logan Pass to get the truck since two of our group were prone to motion sickness and the road was quite curvy. Unfortunately that meant I missed the excitement when Hans, Mike and Keyna got to see a bear while they waited for my return!
The Loop is a busy parking, trail head and transit center so when the bear showed up it caused quite a stir. He was just munching away in the bushes near the restrooms, right where my fellow hikers were standing! A ranger ended up shooting a rifle with blanks to scare the bear away from all the people.
This was a memorable hike and one we would recommend to anyone who can handle 12 miles. It's best to start early for parking at the trail head, also you need to be aware what time the last shuttle stops at the Loop.