Haystack Butte (Glacier National Park)

For the final day of our long weekend camping trip to Montana, Zosia Zgolak and I visited the heart of Glacier National Park to hike up Haystack Butte via the popular Highline Trail.  After camping the previous night just outside the town of Hungry Horse, we got up early on the morning of 7 August 2017 and drove to Logan Pass via West Glacier and Going-to-the-Sun Road.  Even this early in the morning, the road was already congested due to heavy traffic and construction, and our drive slowed to a crawl at times.  Fortunately, there were still some spaces left when we pulled into the parking lot at Logan Pass, and we quickly grabbed one near our favourite breakfast spot on a low stone wall.  The remaining parking spaces quickly filled up as we ate breakfast, and as we returned to my car to gear up, we were constantly being asked by circling motorists if we were just about to leave.

While it was a relief to finally get away from the circus in the parking lot and start hiking, the jam-packed Highline Trail was hardly an improvement as we knocked elbows with hordes of hikers going the same way.  Fortunately, hikers are generally a polite bunch, and everyone was very courteous and friendly on the trail which helped make the hike much more pleasant despite the crowded atmosphere.

I had already hiked this part of the Highline Trail when I ascended Mount Gould in 2012, and despite some smoke and haze in the air this time around, the views were still just as spectacular.
The parking lot was full by about 8 AM! Zosia is ready to start hiking from Logan Pass parking lot.  Clements Mountain is in the background.
This trail was super busy on this day! From the start of Highline Trail near Logan Pass, Haystack Butte can be seen at left.  Also visible are Bishops Cap (right), Mount Gould (centre), and Swiftcurrent Mountain (distant far left).
It's surprising how no one seems concerned about potential rockfall here... The first part of Highline Trail runs across some spectacular cliffs.
She's a butte! Here is a closer look at Haystack Butte.
Cute! A hoary marmot crawls on top of a rock in front of some fireweed.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

The pass is sometimes referred to as "Haystack Pass". The Highline Trail can be seen making one long switchback up to the pass between Haystack Butte and Mount Gould.
Maybe it should be renamed "Shark Fin Butte"? Haystack Butte looks more like a shark fin from across the basin.  The grassy bench at upper right is the key to the ascent.
People actually get hurt hiking up and down this switchback! Zosia hikes up the lower part of the switchback.  Haystack Butte is but a rocky knob from this angle.
Or you could just take off up the slope to the left... Zosia approaches the pass below Mount Gould.
It took us about 1.5 hours to hike to the pass between Haystack Butte and Mount Gould, and we subsequently left the trail here and headed westward on a grassy bench.  The idea is to traverse far enough to circumvent cliffs guarding the east side of Haystack Butte before heading up easy south-facing slopes.  We did just that and encountered no difficulties whatsoever in reaching the summit.

For some reason, there were swarms of bugs on this day flying about the rocks and cairns on the summit ridge, and although most were not of the biting variety, they were still annoying as hell.  There seemed to be less bugs at the west end of the summit ridge, and that is where we stopped for a break.

Despite the hordes of people on the Highline Trail, we surprisingly had Haystack Butte all to ourselves, and it felt nice to enjoy a bit of solitude on our little island in the sky.
A good beaten path can be found somewhere just ahead. Zosia leaves the Highline Trail and traverses the grassy bench aiming for a break in the cliffs to the left.
It's a family-friendly slope! The south-facing slope of Haystack Butte grants easy off-trail hiking.

I love hiking in shorts and my "pride" shirt!

Sonny and Zosia stand on the summit of Haystack Butte (2274 metres).


It's a great scramble and a marvelous mountain! The scramble route for Mount Gould goes up the long crack just right of centre.
Maybe one of these days I will hike the rest of the Highline Trail... The Highline Trail continues north along the Garden Wall.  Swiftcurrent Mountain is the tan-coloured triangular peak at distant left.

It's on my to-do list...and Zosia's too!

Heavens Peak is a real eye-catcher to the west.


We retraced our steps for the return trip and were once again awed by the amazing scenery all the way back to Logan Pass.

When we returned to the parking lot, motorists were still slowly circling around like sharks in a tank, and sure enough, we were once again asked if we were leaving as we reached my car.  The driver must have felt like he won the lottery when I answered in the affirmative, and thankfully, he was patient enough to allow us a few minutes to change and pack up our gear.

We subsequently drove to St. Mary for some gas and ice cream before heading home.
Wow, the trail actually looks empty here! Zosia passes some fireweed on the hike back to Logan Pass.  The peak in the distance is Mount Cannon.
Great bang for your buck and an ideal trip to do with loved ones and/or novices! Total Distance:  13.9 kilometres
Round-Trip Time:  5 hours 18 minutes
Net Elevation Gain:  325 metres

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