From many points along Going-to-the-Sun Road between Lake McDonald and Logan Pass, the Garden Wall demands travelers' attention. That seems to be enough for most tourists, but the mountaineering-minded will like knowing that there are named peaks, trails, and ridge traverses along the Garden Wall, and that there are pages for some of them right here on SP.
The Garden Wall is a knife-edge ridge that runs approximately 8 miles roughly between Swiftcurrent Pass and Logan Pass. Mount Gould, one of the park's most distinctive mountains, is the highpoint, and Bishops Cap, a small, exposed pinnacle, is the second named peak on it. Finally, there is Pollock Mountain. There are numerous unnamed spires and peaks. The ridge itself forms the Continental Divide here.
The formation is not named for its dramatic crest but rather for the character of its western face, where the steep mountainsides sport terrace-like ledges with "hanging gardens" that paint the slopes a vivid green in summer. Long, narrow waterfalls tumble down; in some places, such as the Weeping Wall, they spray vehicles on Going-to-the-Sun Road.
The Garden Wall is too large and complex for this page to sufficiently cover the major climbing objectives; the next section, however, provides an overview and some links. This page is mainly for general information and for organizational purposes.
Photo by FlatheadNative
Mount Gould-- The highpoint of the Garden Wall and one of the park's most photographed and dramatic peaks. There are Class 3 routes from the Garden Wall. The other side, the eastern one, has some of Glacier's hardest climbs, which have terrified even highly experienced mountaineers. Bishops Cap-- No place to be on a windy day, but a highly recommended Class 4 scramble in good conditions. Pollock Mountain-- Not an especially impressive peak, but it has an interesting scrambling route, the Great Cleft Route and pairs well with Bishops Cap. Garden Wall Traverse-- From the Glacier Overlook (see below) to Swiftcurrent Pass, one can traverse along or just beneath the crest of the Garden Wall, enjoying inpiring views of mountains, glaciers, lakes, and waterfalls. As the route passes just feet from Swiftcurrent Glacier, it is good for accessing this shrinking body of ice if one is so inclined and prepared. Gem Glacier-- On pgs. 276-277 of A Climber's Guide to Glacier National Park by J. Gordon Edwards, there is a description of a Class 4 route to this small glacier on the eastern side of the ridge. This route is also the way to access the Northwest Ridge on Mount Gould, which Edwards describes as being more enjoyable than the standard route. Haystack Butte-- A "family-friendly" summit right off the Highline Trail, accessible from Logan Pass (longer but easier) or from near the Weeping Wall on GTS Road (shorter but more strenuous). Highline Trail-- This trail passes under the crest of the Garden Wall for nearly 8 miles, almost all of it in the open, to Granite Park Chalet. It continues beyond the chalet deeper into Glacier's backcountry. The trail is mostly easy with some moderately steep sections and a few places where long falls await careless hikers. It is also a prime wildlife-viewing area, and people almost always see mountain goats and bighorn sheep and frequently see grizzly bears. Glacier Overlook Trail-- About a half-mile south of Granite Park Chalet, this short but steep trail climbs to the crest of the Garden Wall, where there are outstanding views of Mount Gould, Grinnell Glacier and Upper Grinnell Lake, and more. RT distance from the chalet is less than 3 miles.
Traversing the Full Garden Wall?
A few people on this site have asked if the full ridge has ever been traversed. My guess, based on some remarks by Edwards in his guide, is that it has, but only very rarely. Dangerous snowfields and huge cliffs make this outing something to be attempted only by the most skilled mountaineers who also are familiar with the rock in Glacier National Park.