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Glacier National Park in Montana protects some of the most visually stunning mountain terrain anywhere, with giant mountain peaks, above tree-line alpine terrain and alpine to valley length waterfalls.
This amazing road was designed purely for sightseeing, crossing from one side to the other, and over the Continental Divide. The story about construction is a tale of stubborn engineers, hard working labourers and many skeptics.
Though the drive is only 50 miles, expect to spend most of a full day taking in the mountain views, alpine flower filled meadows and waterfalls. While the views are numerous, the pullouts aren’t. We’ll give you plenty of notice so both the driver and passengers can relax and feel comfortable about what’s ahead.
As we climb, in many places the road is carved right out of the mountain side. But there is only one switchback located at “The Loop“. You’ll find out why. The engineering marvels along the drive like Triple Arches and the Tunnels are visually impressive. So are the stories of the “powder monkeys” tasked with hanging off the cliffs by rope, drilling holes and stuffing them with dynamite.
If you are touring early in the season, you might get a free car wash at the Weeping Wall, as the snow melt showers over the road. You can’t fully credit the outstanding scenery at Big Bend with views to Mt Oberlin in words.
The highest point along the route is celebrates at the Logan Pass Visitor Centre and a high alpine hike on a warm sunny day. Here, we’ll explore the different versions around the unusual “Going to the Sun Road” name.
The valleys and alpine terrain are also ideal environments for a variety of wildlife and animals sightings are common.
The tour can be driven in either direction, between West Glacier and St Mary. And it’s just so good, you may want to turn around and do it again in the other direction.
West Glacier or St Mary
Allow a half day to travel one way or a full day to return and enjoy the views in the opposite direction
One way, West Glacier – St Mary is 50 miles
Typically the road has been fully open from late June or early July until well into October.
Opening is dependent on seasonal snow plowing, spring and fall snow storms and other weather related events.
With a limited season, the GTTSR typically doesn’t open until late June or even early July after snow has been plowed.
Autumn colors can be spectacular but you can also experience winter weather as early as September. If conditions allow the road stays open until 3rd Monday in October.
We think so, the views change completely on the return trip. There is also different commentary, between highlights.
If driving it as a return trip, it’s best to make an early start to get a head of the crowds, at least in one direction.
Expect at least 2 hours to drive the full 50 miles of Going to the Sun Road with the slower speed limit between 25-45 miles per hour.
This road is popular and quite narrow – only 1 lane each way through all the best parts. And since it is carved into the sides of mountains, there aren’t as many scenic pullouts as most touring roads.
All of this means that most people want to drive slowly to enjoy the views – and we should too.
Don’t be surprised when you may only average 10 miles an hour through some sections. Just relax and enjoy the outstanding views.
Allow a full day, and set out early if you plan the return trip, or half day to travel one way.
Access along the Going to the Sun Road will be by ticket entry in 2021. Reservations will be required from Memorial Day till early September during the hours of 6am – 5pm.
Reservations are available in advance, online at recreation.gov. Tickets are valid for a 7 day window. 2/3 of tickets are available 60 days in advance and the remaining 1/3 of tickets released 2 days in advance.