Glacier National Park in Montana protects some of the most visually stunning mountain terrain anywhere, with giant mountain peaks, above tree-line alpine terrain and alpine to valley length waterfalls. This tour also now includes visiting the beautiful Many Glacier section of the park, with terrific hikes and lake cruising available.
The earliest National Park managers felt it was important to create a driving route that would cross the Park between west and east and climb over the Continental Divide. The road they created would be purely for sightseeing. Then starts the story about stubborn engineers, hard working labourers and many skeptics.
Though the Going-to-the-Sun Road drive is only 50 miles, expect to spend most of a full day taking in the mountain views, alpine flower filled meadows and waterfalls. While the views are numerous, the pullouts aren’t. We’ll give you plenty of notice so both the driver and passengers can relax and feel comfortable about what’s ahead.
If you appreciate National Park lodges, then you’ll enjoy a visit to Lake McDonald Lodge, a National Historic Landmark.
And we climb, in many places the road is carved right out of the mountain side. But there is only one switchback located at “The Loop“. You’ll find out why. The engineering marvels along the drive like Triple Arches and the Tunnels are visually impressive. So are the stories of the “powder monkeys” tasked with hanging off the cliffs by rope, drilling holes and stuffing them with dynamite.
If you are touring early in the season, you might get a free car wash at the Weeping Wall, as the snow melt showers over the road. You can’t fully credit the outstanding scenery at Big Bend with views to Mt Oberlin in words. Have your camera ready, you’re going to be taking a lot of photos today.
Most will want to capture the milestone of the highest point along the route, and perhaps warm up inside at the Logan Pass Visitor Centre. Here, we’ll explore the different versions around the name “Going to the Sun Road”.
The Many Glacier section offers a superb and stunning collection of views and activities. Hiking options vary from rewarding uphill efforts to Grinnell Glacier, or gentler loop walks around alpine lakes. Lake cruising has been a tradition for Many for decades. Use the cruisers for the pure sightseeing enjoyment or to shorten some of the longer hikes.
The valleys and alpine terrain throughout Glacier National Park are also ideal environments for a variety of wildlife and animals sightings are common – always be on the lookout!
The Going to the Sun Road can be driven as a one way journey between West Glacier and St Mary, but it’s just so good, you may want to turn around and do it again in the other direction. Whichever way you choose to go, we have some different commentary on the return trip, while still pointing out the major sites.
Many Glacier, St Mary or West Glacier
Allow a half day to travel one way, or a full day to return and enjoy the views in the opposite direction. It’s recommended to have an extra day for the Many Glacier section.
One way, West Glacier – St Mary is 50 miles. Add 30 miles for a return trip between St Mary and Many Glacier.
Glacier National Park in Montana protects some of the most visually stunning mountain terrain anywhere, with giant mountain peaks, above tree-line alpine terrain and alpine to valley length waterfalls. The Going to the Sun Road spans the width of the park and along the drive, you’ll find plenty of pull-outs, scenic viewpoints, and hikes. It’s the most scenic drive in the park and is often considered one of the most beautiful drives in the entire United States.
Most people visit Glacier National Park from July to September, as they want to hike, drive the Going to the Sun Road, and be able to fully explore all that the park has to offer. The summer months of July and August are the best months to visit Glacier National Park, but they’re also the busiest. Autumn colors can be spectacular but you can also experience winter weather as early as September.
There is so much to see and do in Glacier National Park that many visitors come back year after year and still find new places to explore. You’ll want to spend at least a few days in Glacier National Park, including at least one day to explore the Going to the Sun Road.
Glacier National Park has introduced a timed ticketed entry for peak season dates. Advanced reservations are mandatory, visit nps.gov for more details.
Typically the Going to the Sun Road has been fully open from late June or early July until well into October. Opening is dependent on seasonal snow plowing, spring and fall snow storms and other weather related events.
Expect at least two hours to drive the full 50 miles of Going to the Sun Road with the slower speed limit between 25-45 miles per hour. This road is popular and quite narrow, with only one lane each way through all the best parts. It’s best to allow a full day for the drive along the Going to the Sun Road (and ideally two days to enjoy the hikes and attractions) and set out early if you plan the return trip, or half day to travel one way. It’s recommended to have an extra day for the Many Glacier section.
Glacier National Park has introduced a timed ticketed entry for peak season dates. Visit nps.gov for details and reservations.