Driving the Going-to-the-Sun Highway in Glacier National Park, Montana, USA
The Going-to-the-Sun Highway in Glacier National Park in Montana, is one of the most beautiful drives in America.
The 50-mile highway runs from the east to the west entrances of Glacier National Park in Montana. Millions of people visit Glacier Park to see the highway.
Surrounded by jagged peaks, waterfalls, and mountain goats, the highway is sure to impress.
How long does it take to drive this highway?
How long will it take you to drive the Going-to-the-Sun Highway? That depends on how long you take to stop and enjoy the sights. It takes me about two hours generally from Whitefish, Montana, to the top of Logan Pass. I probably don’t stop as much as you will want to though, because I have seen it so many times.
You should always check weather ahead of time, but in the middle of summer, except for the chance of rain, you should be good to go.
Generally, even if traffic is bad, it moves pretty steadily, so it depends on how many pullouts you stop at to take photos. There are plenty of places to stop to get your photos.
Keep in mind, the highway is not much of a highway. That is, it is a very narrow, two-lane road that drops off sharply on one side. It can frighten a lot of people to drive it. So keep in mind Glacier’s wonderful shuttle service.
Can I ride my bicycle?
The answer is, yes … most of the time. From June 15 through Labor Day, the following sections of the Going-to-the-Sun Road are closed to bicycle use between 11a.m. and 4 p.m.:
- From Apgar turnoff (at the south end of Lake McDonald) to Sprague Creek Campground
- Eastbound from Logan Creek to Logan Pass.
I don’t think that most people realize there are limitations, because they ride at these times anyway. I find bicyclists in the middle of the day on the highway to be dangerous for themselves, and also for all of the vehicle traffic. The road is not wide enough for everyone.
What is at the top?
Logan Pass is what you will reach when you reach the top of the highway. There is a Visitor Center, and bathroom available. This is a great spot to stop and take photos and go for a hike. You can count on seeing Bighorn Sheep and / or Mountain Goats at the top.
But keep in mind, that there is only one small parking lot at the top at Logan Pass, that doesn’t fit that many cars. If you drive up, and see the “Logan Pass is FULL” sign – it means there are no open parking spots. This will inevitably happen mid-day every single day of the summer. So either go early (or in the evening), or you will be doing laps waiting for someone to leave.
Is the east or the west the best way to drive?
In my opinion, the west side provides more spectacular views. By west side, I mean driving from Logan Pass down to Lake McDonald. The views on the east side are stunning too, of course, but the west side seems more expansive. So whatever you do, don’t miss the west side. Jackson Glacier Overlook is on the east side, which I find beautiful.
Here is what the east side of the highway looks like while driving:
Here is what the west side of the highway looks like while driving:
When does the highway open?
Clearing the highway of snow is quite the task each year, due to the amount of snow the pass gets each winter. Brave men and women work to snowplow the road to make it accessible by vehicle. I love watching their progress, and Glacier National Park posts really awesome photos as they work toward their goal. You can see their photos here.
The earliest the entire 50 miles of the road can be open for driving is June 21 of each year. But the east side of the highway, from St. Mary to Logan Pass, often opens earlier, depending on snowfall. So Logan Pass may be accessible prior to June 21 (but generally the Visitor Center will not open before then!).
Important dates for 2013: (Taken from the National Park Service website)
- September 22, 2013 – The last day to drive the entire 50 miles.
- September 23, 2013 – A section of the road will close to vehicle traffic to accommodate accelerated road rehabilitation. You will still be able to drive to Logan Pass, most likely from the West Entrance.
- October 20, 2013 – The last day to drive to Logan Pass.
- October 21, 2013 – The alpine section of the road will be inaccessible to vehicles.
MORE FUN VIDEOS TO WATCH:
The next video provides a great view of the falls you will see about 3/4 of the way up the west side of the Going-to-the-Sun Highway, headed for Logan Pass. This video provides a 360 degree view. Definitely worth watching!!
The next two videos are of the “Weeping Wall,” as it is called, a wall of waterfalls that spill onto the road. You can nearly drive right underneath them, as you head down the west side of the Going-to-the-Sun Highway. Fun, unless you have a convertible. Then maybe even more fun. 😉
I truly hope you enjoy your trip through Glacier National Park, and one of the most beautiful drives in the entire world.
Warm Wishes from Big Sky Country,
Alex M. Neill
Montana Vacation Blog