By Amanda May
Going-to-the-Sun Road is one of Glacier National Park’s best drives and a definite to-do on any Montana vacation. Connecting West Glacier and St. Mary, the route takes you through the heart of the park and Logan Pass.
On your way, you’ll pass by Haystack Mountain, Mount Gould, Bear Hat Mountain and Mount Cannon, a few of Glacier’s landmark peaks.
In the deep valley you also be able to feast your eyes on vast fields of bear grass, a white, bell-shaped wildflower, along with colorful Indian Paintbrush and Magenta Fire Weed.
Guard rails and brick walls will prevent you from falling from the deep canyons that the road winds along. Other amazing driving experiences along the route include entering rock-hewn tunnels and driving right by waterfalls.
Bring your camera because along the way you’ll probably see a few mountain goats, sheep and maybe even a grizzly bear!
Going-to-the-Sun Road is 52 miles long and was completed by 1932 by the United States government. It was an epic project, crossing the Continental Divide at 6,646 feet at Logan Pass. It runs through ancient cedar forests, alpine tundra and borders glacial lakes.
Five out of Glacier’s total thirteen campgrounds are located along the road; Apgar, Sprague Creek, Avalanche, Rising Sun, and St. Mary.
Scenic viewpoints are sprinkled along the route with pullouts for drivers. The route is great no matter what direction you take it in, and since the views are actually quite different, you might want to take it both ways!
Don’t miss your opportunity to see a glacier from the side of the road at Jackson Glacier Overlook! It is located between Logan Pass and St. Mary.
Without stopping, it usually takes drivers around 2 hour, but take it easy, stop, take in the majestic views and get some great photos along the way!
To drive along Going-to-the-Sun Road, your vehicle must be 21 feet or shorter, 8 feet (or less) wide and less than 10 feet high, so you can make it through the tunnels. Check your vehicle before setting out on the drive and check the weather. Conditions can rapidly change in this part of Montana, so be prepared!
Hiring a tour guide is a good way to get the most out of the drive, as they can point out features and let you in on the history of the area.
The scenic drive is free, but there is an entrance fee to Glacier National Park.
Obey the speed limit, they are there for your own safety! The speed limit is 40 miles per hour in the lower sections and 25 miles per hour in the alpine section of the drive.
As the road is over 75 years old, it is undergoing a rebuilding phase. During high season delays will be held to 30 minutes on any one-way trip along the road, but in late autumn delays may last up to 2 hours. The reconstruction will be taking place over the next 8-10 years. During 2010’s summer, road work is scheduled to occur west of Logan Pass between Big Bend and Logan Pass.
Be aware that there are no gas stations or restaurants along the way!