GOING TO THE SUN ROAD!
An Engineering Feat & One of the Most Beautiful Drives in America
Completed in 1932
Going to the Sun Road, often called just “Sun Road” is a 50-mile long scenic drive that cuts east-to-west across the beautiful Glacier National Park. It is one of the most jaw-droppingly gorgeous places you will ever see! Guaranteed. The crystal-clear rivers, massive mountain vistas, and beautiful lakes are something one doesn’t easily forget. Having lived right next to the park for a year and a half, I can tell you that the views never stop shocking you!
The Sun Road is one of the most notoriously difficult roads to plow in the US, as snow drifts can get as high as 80 feet in some places. For this reason, many think that the window to experience this road is reserved for the warm months of July through September. By the end of this post, we hope to break that misconception for you! Going-to-the-Sun Road can (and should) be experienced in all four seasons. In fact, many of the most stunning times are outside that busy, summer timeframe…
During the springtime, while the crews are working hard on snowplowing the road, the portions that they’ve already plowed are open exclusively to bikers and hikers! No motorized vehicles are allowed.
The warming weather and lack of crowds make this one of the coolest rides you’ll ever do! You can enjoy the road without the worry of cars and the annoyance of crowds, making it perfect for all ages and experience levels. You can take it slow, stopping where and when you want to, and even have a pretty good chance of seeing wildlife during this time (bring your bearspray)!
You’ll want to check the road status online to see which portions are currently open for bikers. As it gets closer to the end of June, more and more of the road will be open. Eventually you will be able to bike all the way up to Logan’s Pass (if you so dare)! Regardless of how much or what portion of the road you decide on, this is an experience that should be on everyone’s bucketlist!
Usually near the end of June or early July, Going-to-the-Sun road will officially open for the summer! July and August are considered the peak season, and really the only time that Glacier gets a ton of visitors. Yes, there will be crowds! But here are some tips in avoiding them:
- The common advice you’ll hear is to get up early to avoid the crowds. But let’s be honest, tons of people are doing this. Our advice: do the drive in the evening! Not many out-of-towners realize that in the summer, sunset in Montana is LATE—we are talking about 9:40 PM at its peak. This means that you have until about 10 PM to see things! My family and I would often go into the park after work around 6 PM and COMPLETELY avoid the crowds. We would be alone most places, and often wouldn’t see another car drive past for a good 5 minutes. Take advantage of the evening sun!
- Another “insider tip” is the Moonlight Ride. Once a month, on the full moon, locals will meet at the top of Logans Pass around midnight and bike down the western half of the road. With no cars to worry about, and the moon illuminating your surroundings, it is magical. Don’t forget to wear a headlamp and to dress warm!
When you do drive the road, there are plenty of spots to pull over. They are pretty well-marked, making for a pretty seamless drive. Some of our favorites are Lake McDonald, Trail of the Cedars, Heaven’s Peak, Bird Woman Falls, the Weeping Wall, Logans Pass, and St. Mary’s Lake!
Fall is one of the prettiest times along Going-to-the-Sun road! The road typically stays open until the last week or two of October, giving you plenty of opportunity to see the fall foliage. Northwest Montana has a lot of larches, which turn BRIGHT yellow in the Fall, making it a photographer’s dream! No crowds and beautiful colors make the area feel pretty magical. One of our favorite views (which happens to be right at the beginning of GTTS Road) is from the base of Lake McDonald! Be sure to check it out.
During the winter months, Glacier gets its fair share of snow! But that doesn’t mean that people aren’t outside—quite the contrary, actually. One of our favorite things to do in the winter when we lived there was to snowshoe or cross-country ski along Going-to-the-Sun Road.
Start at the base of Lake McDonald and work your way east. Everything seems so quiet and still at this time of year, and the Northwest Montana winters make for an extra-pretty backdrop. This area is known for its “snowghosts”—trees that gradually accumulate a buildup of ice until they are completely covered! It makes for a very Dr. Seuss-esque landscape, and is simply gorgeous.