August, 2015: This little 50 mile road was the biggest attraction for me in deciding to visit Glacier National Park. At the road’s dedication in 1933, the park Superintendent declared it “the most beautiful piece of mountain road in the world.” All I know for sure is that this road amazed and astounded me every single time I was on it.
Me at one of the viewpoints
showing the ongoing road hugging the mountainside
I ended up driving it several times back and forth, usually starting from the west side since I was staying in Columbia Falls. While I had intended to start my stay at St. Mary Campground on the east side, when I first arrived in the area, that was shut down due to the wildfires and smoke. When I finally was able to go all the way from one side to the other, I couldn’t get enough. See map.
Glacier National Park’s largest lake: 10 miles long and 472′ deep
From the west entrance, pretty much the first 10 miles hugs the shoreline of this beautiful lake. Check out every pull-off because there are incredible views everywhere. Lake McDonald is a glacial lake evidencing the 2,000′ thick river of ice that once moved down the valley.
Breathtaking beauty around every little twist and curve
I took so many pictures, it’s been hard to decide which ones to use, so I’m going to include my very favorite pictures from all the days I drove the road here on this main page. Then I’m going to do a few pages broken down by location on either the west side (Apgar to The Loop) or the east side (Logan Pass to St. Mary), as well as some of the hikes I did.
The waterfalls were pretty sparse during this time due to the dry conditions, but I still really loved this one.
My biggest disappointment regarding waterfalls was that the famous Weeping Wall was dry, but the trails were easier to see this way and were pretty interesting anyway.
Logan Pass is the highest point on the Going-to-the-Sun Road and is also at the Continental Divide. From the west entrance, Logan Pass is 32 miles and from the east entrance, 18 miles.
Just about every time I drove to or by here, the sign was out saying the parking lot was full and to expect parking delays. And it was usually true that I had to circle the lot at least a few times before lucking into a parking spot.
From here I did the Hidden Lake Trail and attempted the Highline Trail but chickened out on that one once the handrail ran out (separate page coming on those).
Viewpoint of road winding around mountain
About 1/2 mile from Logan Pass (on the west side of it), there is a little trail and boardwalk leading to this spot. Don’t miss it!
East Side Tunnel (looking east)
On a mountainside road, it’s a little surprising that there are only two tunnels. This one is just a little past Logan Pass and is 408′ long.
East Side Tunnel (looking west)
See what I mean? No matter which way you’re heading, it’s incredible!
West Side Tunnel (looking west)
This one is 192′ long and is about a mile from the Loop.
Whenever I went, I ended up staying longer than I intended and had to drive part of the way in darkness before I got home. It was worth it.
Moon Rise over the Mountains
As I was coming home toward dusk again, I caught this and just swooned!
I couldn’t believe my luck to catch the sun right at the tips of these mountaintops. By the time I got to this pull-off, I was only able to get one shot before the rays were below the peaks. This was the sunset on my first drive on the road on August 9. I had just arrived the day before and the road had been closed until then, so I felt particularly fortunate.
I was also lucky enough to see it after it had just re-opened following a snowfall. Seeing some of the sights blanketed in snow was truly magical (9-7-15). A full page on this day coming soon, too.
General Info and History:
You’ll see this length restriction sign past Lake McDonald lodge on the west side (about at Avalanche Creek) and on the east side by Rising Sun. Don’t think this applies to everyone except your rig because I guarantee you will regret it.
From What to Expect on Going To The Sun Road (NPS brochure) page 3: “To help reduce congestion, vehicle size restrictions are in effect. Vehicles, and vehicle combinations, longer than 21 feet (including bumpers) or wider than 8 feet (including mirrors), are prohibited between Avalanche Campground and the Sun Point parking area. Vehicle and vehicle combinations over 10 feet in height may have difficulty driving west from Logan Pass to the Loop, due to rock overhangs.”
There were times I would hold my breath at the sheer height of the drop-offs and I marveled at what it must have taken to plow through to get this road built. I found the history of it fascinating, including the battles waged to get it built, the political wrangling and local opposition. Three men died during construction.
Going to the Sun Road – An Engineering Feat (NPS) – Imagine the obstacles faced by the engineers and laborers who constructed the winding Going-to-the-Sun Road more than fifty years ago. Sheer cliffs, short construction seasons, sixty foot snow-drifts, and tons of solid rock make road building across the Continental Divide a unique challenge. When Glacier National Park celebrated the completion of the Going-to-the Sun Road on July 15, 1933, more than two decades of planning and construction had become a spectacular reality.
Transportation: There is a free Shuttle Service from July 1 through Labor Day with several stops along the road. Xanterra operates the interpretive Red Bus Tours for a fee on both the east side and west side. I wanted to do both of these, but due to the unpredictable weather, road closures because of smoke, etc., I always just took off on the spur of the moment and never could plan ahead enough. I wouldn’t have missed driving myself, but also would have liked to have a chauffeur a couple of times so I could have seen more without having to keep my eye on the road and death grip on the wheel.
Going To The Sun Road Turnouts and Pullouts (Enjoy Your Parks.com)
Celebrating 75 Years of an Engineering Marvel (Summer 2008 Glacier Visitor Guide) – The Going-to-the-Sun Road continues to serve as a national model for context-sensitive road design and construction that is both conscious of, and complimentary to, scenic landscapes as well as cultural and natural resources. In the 75 years since its completion, this scenic mountain road out of rock has taken countless visitors to the heights of the Continental Divide where they can experience and enjoy the diversity of Glacier’s alpine grandeur and unparalleled landscape.