Two narrow lanes, one spectacular adventure: The Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park offers 50 miles of natural brilliance. Marvel at dramatic mountainscapes while winding through peaks and valleys. Picturesque alpine forests frame glacial lakes, and waterfalls cascade down sheer rocky cliffs. Keep your eyes peeled for expansive fields that burst to life with wildflowers in the summer months and the abundant wildlife that meander freely through the park. The route takes travelers across the Continental Divide at Logan Pass, through several tunnels and under rock overhangs, all of which are truly exhilarating. The beauty cannot be replicated and is truly majestic. Going-to-the-Sun Road tours are an essential element to any visit to Glacier, but ahead of your journey, here are five things you need to know before taking a trip on the Going-to-the-Sun Road.
1. The Weather Calls the Shots
This scenic byway is open year-round, giving visitors access to some of the park’s best scenery and activities. However, during the winter months inclement weather conditions can close select portions of the road, especially those alpine sections in higher elevations. While there are no set Going-to-the-Sun Road opening dates, the snowfall tapers off in late spring, and typically, the road is open in its entirety by late June or early July. The road remains open for summer visitors, and when the snow begins falling in late October, the Going-to-the-Sun Road begins its abbreviated route once more. Of course, unpredictable weather events that result in the need for plowing may disrupt regular schedules.
2. There is No Bad Direction to Drive
Bisecting Glacier National Park from East to West, Going-to-the-Sun Road presents miles upon miles of breathtaking vistas. The drive’s linear nature gives travelers the option to begin at either end of the park and choose their adventure. Each direction offers a different perspective on the Rocky Mountains and their surrounding glory and offers a different level of thrill. It is important to note that the road is appropriately barricaded and has provided safe passage through the park since 1933. Travelers that seek a little more security should travel from East to West. This route, beginning at the St. Mary Visitor Center at the East Entrance, hugs the mountains while twisting and turning through the range. Thrill-seekers may enjoy the West-to-East route, which commences at the Apgar Visitor Center at the West Entrance and runs along the cliffside. Both the driver and the passenger will have plenty to look at from the road and the well-placed scenic lookouts throughout the route. Admire the scenery from both vantage points by following the road in both directions on a round trip excursion. Going-to-the-Sun Road maps are available for convenience.
3. You Can Make the Journey as Long or as Short as You Please
A full introduction to Going-to-the-Sun Road is an all-day event. Driving slowly and stopping off at all the scenic outlooks presents the full majesty of Glacier National Park. Fantastic photo opportunities abound as well as ideal pausing points for hiking and picnicking. On the other hand, if you are short on time, you can drive Going-to-the-Sun Road without stopping in approximately 2-3 hours. Either journey is wonderfully scenic and an epic experience to remember.
4. Come Prepared for Anything
In the mountains, especially during transitional months, the weather can change at the drop of a hat. When setting out on Going-to-the-Sun Road, it is important prepare for anything. Bring along coats and wear layers of clothing to add or remove as needed during stops at lookouts or while exploring the hiking trails. There are several stops for food and lodging throughout the route; however, there is a 33-mile section of road that does not have anywhere to purchase refreshments. It is a good idea to bring enough food, snacks, and water to sustain you and your fellow travelers for the day.
5. Shuttle Services are Available to Guests
Want to experience all of the grandeur of the route without having to worry about watching the road? Embark on one of the Glacier National Park tours by shuttle or vintage Red Jammer Bus. Going-to-the-Sun Road shuttle services make several scenic stops throughout the park while following along the legendary roadway. Shuttle tours do not feature commentary, which is ideal for guests merely looking for a guided journey from east to west or vice versa. The shuttle service is complimentary and included with your admission to the park. If it is an all-encompassing excursion you seek, there is no better way to experience the park’s extensive history and endless beauty than aboard the vintage Red Jammer Buses.
A marvel of engineering and one of the most fantastic roadways in the U.S.A., Going-to-the-Sun Road earned its designation on the National Register of Historic Places in the early 1980s. Experience it for yourself with a train tour featuring Glacier National Park, such as America’s Great National Parks, Empire Builder with Glacier National Park - Chicago to Seattle or Glacier National Park & Chicago.