From glacier-fed lakes to cedar forests, verdant lush valleys to windswept alpine meadows, all rimmed by vast mountain vistas, Glacier National Park’s iconic Going to The Sun Road has it all! This epic 50-mile drive takes travelers through some of the most spectacular scenery and some of the most grand vistas in all of the northern Rocky Mountains.
The Going To The Sun road is truly an engineering marvel. Did you know that it is also both a National Historic Landmark, and a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark? Come along for the drive and you’ll see why. Stop along the way, and enjoy the views. Park the car, ditch the crowds and explore along trails less traveled. As they say, it’s all about the journey!
The Going To The Sun Road Adventure Begins!
Let’s put this driving adventure into high gear! Our point of entrance today is at St. Mary, on the eastern edge of Glacier National Park. Our drive then winds along along nearly 50 miles of Going to The Sun Road, ending at Lake McDonald, near the park’s western entrance.
First stop of the day? Sun Point, where a short but sweet walk from the parking lot leads to the Sun Point Nature Trail and fabulous views of St. Mary Lake. Most visitors tend to stop when they see the lake. Keep going along the trail far enough, and you’re sure to leave the crowds behind. Nothing like having an incredible view such as this one all to yourself!
Moving on down the road now. Next stop – Sunrift Gorge. A little patience might be in order here as you juggle for a parking spot at this widely popular stopping point. You might also have to wait your turn to get an up-close vantage point of this incredible water-carved gorge. It’s worth the stop though, as there’s more to see here than just the gorge!
Photo opp at Sunrift Gorge complete. Time to ditch the crowds once again! No need to get in the car just yet. Simply pick up the nearby trail less traveled down to Baring Falls. It’s a bit rough and rugged in the beginning, and few people venture this way. All the better for lovely, unobstructed views of Baring Falls. See, wasn’t it worth the stop?
Back in the car! Let’s continue on up, up up, as the road climbs higher into Glacier. Savor the views along the way, like this mountaintop momentary surrounded by a drift of clouds. Not all stops require an off-road hike to enjoy the view, and if time is limited, take advantage of the many pull-offs for quick and sweet scenic views like this one.
At last! Logan Pass and the Continental Divide is dead ahead. This must-see pass is the highest point on Going to The Sun Road. It is also immensely popular. Seems like everyone gathers at the Logan Pass gift shop. No worries. Though the parking lot may be packed with noisy tour busses and the boardwalk crammed with chatty tourists, it’s not hard to get away from all the commotion. Just look for the Hidden Lake Lookout trailhead and hit the trail!
The further one hikes up the trail, the thinner the crowds become. The reward for hiking the trail less traveled? Spectacular, uncrowded views across Logan Pass and Hidden Lake. Oh, and maybe a mountain goat or bighorn sheep sighting too. They live around here, you know!
Logan Pass and Hidden Lake views accomplished. Ready to continue past the Continental Divide and westward to Lake McDonald, with, of course, more eye-popping scenery. Like the views along Oberlin Bend, just west of Logan Pass. Here you will find spectacular vistas of the Going to The Sun Road’s west side and the surrounding mountains, even on a cloudy day!
A short and easy stroll along the Oberlin Bend boardwalk is a must-do. Keep a keen eye open for possible mountain goat sightings. They are known to frequent the nearby mountainside. Oh look! There’s one now on a nearby cliff. Isn’t he a beauty!
Next is the Weeping Wall, where vehicles pass within inches of a rock wall with water continuously cascading down. You might want to keep your car windows closed when passing by this section of the road. Your car is sure to get wet here! The road is quite narrow along this stretch so no stopping. You’ll have to admire this sight and snap that photo on the go.
Just one more stop before this drive takes a final detour. The Trail of the Cedars wanders through an old growth cedar and hemlock forest. Though quite short, and quite easy, this one mile long, wheelchair accessible trail is an enjoyable snapshot of the many different ecosystems and grand vistas Glacier has to offer.
At long last, the end of the road along this Going to The Sun Road driving adventure is in sight. Lake McDonald Lodge and the amazing Lake McDonald is just around the next bend. Time for a walk along the lake’s edge before bedding down for the night.
Plan A Going To The Sun Road Adventure
Though the Going To The Sun Road may seem a short drive at only 50 miles long, it is far from a quick adventure. This is truly an all day drive, one you will want to savor, and one where even with a full day, you’ll still not see everything along this marvelous road. There’s just so much to see and do along the Going to The Sun Road!
With so many possibilities, it’s a good idea to have a general strategy to how you will want to experience this iconic road. Do your research, decide what’s important for your travel style, and most of all, be flexible! This road is drop-dead gorgeous, and who knows what might catch your eye along the way.
Our strategy for driving the Going to the Sun Road? We followed the Going To The Sun Virtual Geocache. It was just the right amount of stops for us on the drive from East Glacier Village to Lake McDonald. And we kept it flexible for those unexpected sights we just had to see.
Ready to plan your own day of adventure along the Going to The Sun Road? Here are several links to kick that drive into high gear.
- Glacier National Park
- Going to the Sun Road Information and Transit System
- Top Ten Things About the Going to the Sun Road
- Going to the Sun Road FAQs
- Hiking The Trails
- 2015 Glacier Visitor Guide
Traveler’s Tip: Check the Glacier NP Current Road Status before heading out. If your plans are to get to the other side, you may be in for a snowy surprise! The road at Logan Pass had just opened the week prior to our visit – in July!
Traveler’s Tip: If you plan to drive an extended length vehicle, check the park’s vehicle size restrictions policy before hitting the road. You don’t want to be turned away at the gate!
Have You Driven The Going To The Sun Road?
Just oh-so-many places to pull over and explore along this vast stretch of road. So many spectacular vistas around every bend in the road, along each and every trail hiked. It’s no wonder the Going to The Sun is such an iconic drive. Pictures just don’t to justice to this natural masterpiece.
How about you? Have you driven the Going to The Sun Road in Glacier National Park? Wasn’t that some of the most amazing scenery you’ve ever seen? What was your favorite vista? Do share! If you haven’t been to Glacier, are you now inspired to hit the road?
Want more insight into adventures of Glacier National Park? Check out these other posts:
- Get off the beaten path at Hiking The Upper Two Medicine Lake Trail.
- Read about adventures in Lake McDonald at A Misty Morning Trek to Avalanche Lake.
- See all you can do at 7 Family Adventures in 5 Days Exploring Glacier National Park.
You’ll be glad you did!
All images by C.Biederman. Map from National Park Service – Glacier NP.