The best place to start your adventure in Glacier National Park is along the Going to the Sun Road. Highlighting all the best sights in the park, simply driving along this scenic route will showcase all the beauty the park has to offer.
Even though the Going to the Sun Road just takes you through the surface of the park, there are still tons of things to do and see. With so many overlooks and trails, you won’t be able to see everything in just a day.
Before setting off on your trip, you’ll need to know how to plan your drive on the Going to the Sun Road. This guide will show you how to make your itinerary step by step.
Get ready to put the pedal to the metal – your adventure in Glacier National Park starts here.
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The Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park
What is the Going to the Sun Road?
Whether you’re planning on spending a few days in Glacier National Park or you’re just on a day trip, the Going to the Sun Road highlights all the beauty of the park in a 50-mile stretch of road.
With jagged mountain peaks and cascading waterfalls, you’ll be able to see all the jaw-dropping scenery of Montana.
To drive the entire 50 miles of Going to the Sun Road, you’ll need at least two hours. It’s important to note that it will take two hours if you’re driving with minimal stops.
This scenic drive is meant to be driven slowly, with many breaks along the way. With hiking trails and gorgeous overlooks, prepare to spend most of the day driving and exploring Going to the Sun Road.
Best Time to Drive the Going to the Sun Road
Before you hit the road, there are a few things to consider when planning your trip on the Going to the Sun Road. Most importantly is what time of year you’ll be traveling.
While the road is open year-round, unpredictable snowfall causes partial closures during the winter.
To ensure you’ll get to see every inch of the scenic route, be sure to visit between May and September.
Know Before You Go
Preparation is everything when it comes to enjoying our National Parks. While I did a lot of research prior to our visit to Glacier National Park, I found very few tips on how to make our drive go smoother along this road.
To save you the trouble of learning on the fly, here are my top tips to prepare yourself for a spectacular drive:
- Fill up on gas before you enter the park. There are no gas stations along the Going to the Sun Road. It’s also not a place you want to run out of fuel. There is a lot of traffic and getting a tow truck up to move your car would take hours.
- If you are prone to motion sickness or car sickness, come prepared. This road is twisty, curvy and even sitting in the front seat was a challenge to keep the feeling at bay. I highly recommend and use meclizine to treat and prevent car sickness. Take this right when you enter the park, do not wait.
- Make sure you have a good pair of sunglasses. You will be blasted by the direct sun in many places on the road and you need to see. The road is narrow and in some places, there isn’t much of a stop from the edge.
- Get started early! I cannot stress this enough, especially during the peak summer and fall months. The parking lots and pull-offs fill up very fast, so if you have a specific stop in mind, head straight there to ensure you get to experience it.
- If you cannot find parking, drive around the lot a couple of times and you’ll probably get lucky.
- If you’re traveling in a party with multiple cars, try to carpool. Finding parking for more than one vehicle is near impossible during peak season.
- Plan for the drive to take all day. It may only be 50 miles but it is slow going along a narrow two-lane highway. Plus, you’ll likely have to drive it out and back. This is not a drive you do in an hour and then move on.
- If you plan to hike or walk anywhere outside of the parking lot, purchase and bring a can of bear spray with you at all times. Glacier National Park is home to the densest population of grizzly bears in the lower 50 states. You do not want to encounter one without being prepared.
Best Stops Along the Going to the Sun Road
For this guide, we’ll be taking you along the Going to the Sun Road stop by stop from west to east, starting from Apgar Village and ending at St Mary Visitor Center.
Hitting all these sights in one day is quite tricky, so you may need to pick and choose what best interests you!
Located a bit north of West Glacier, Apgar Village and visitor center is the western entrance to Glacier National Park, and the first stop on our trip up Going to the Sun Road.
Here, travelers will find cafes, hotels, and even souvenir shops where you can stock up on everything you’ll need on your adventure.
Apgar Village isn’t just a place to shop and rest before exploring the park; the visitor center is also located near Lake McDonald Beach.
With loads of campgrounds and scenic views, you may find yourself spending more time at Apgar Village than you originally planned.
Continuing on past Apgar Village and Lake McDonald, you’ll find the breathtaking McDonald Falls.
Although this waterfall is plunging from hundreds of feet in the air, these roaring rapids streaming over jagged rocks are more than enough to give you a rush from the shore.
Getting to McDonald Falls is a bit tricky due to it not being marked on the road. What you’ll find is a sizable parking lot with a short trail leading to the falls. If you’re ever in doubt of where to go, simply listen for the roaring waters.
Sacred Dancing Cascades
The next stop on your journey along the Going to the Sun Road is Sacred Dancing Cascades. The water is not gushing as fast as at McDonald Falls, but you can still jump rocks and explore the banks of the McDonald Creek.
Around these tranquil waters, you’ll find loads of small waterfalls and streams to explore. The Sacred Dancing Cascades also makes for the perfect spot to pull out a snack and have a picnic.
Trail of Cedars
Many of the best hikes in Glacier National Park start at the Trail of Cedars. Even if you don’t have time to embark on a day-long trek through the woods, the Trail of Cedars will still give you a taste of all the beauty of the Montana wilderness.
The Trail of Cedars is a loop trail that is only one-mile in length. Even if you have a lot to do on your trip, you can squeeze it in: the hike will only take about 30 minutes to complete.
Coming around a dangerous curve, The Loop is a hairpin turn that shows off some of the most fantastic scenery in Glacier National Park.
With a parking lot inside The Loop, you can park your car and explore the panoramic views on foot.
If you’re looking to go on a more extended adventure from The Loop, several trails start from this overlook. Hikes such as Highline Trail and Granite Park Chalet both start from this hairpin turn.
After gazing out over the peaks of the Rock Mountains from The Loop, the next stop on your journey will be at Haystack Falls.
Crossing over a bridge, you’ll see a stream of flowing water spurting out from the mountains overhead, flowing underneath the road.
Haystack Falls are over 490 feet high. Although the falls are located right along the road, there is still a small turnoff where you can park and snag a few pictures before continuing your journey.
Unlike some of the other waterfalls along Going to the Sun Road, the Weeping Wall will actually get your feet wet. Prepare to turn on your wipers; this waterfall will come crashing down on top of your car!
As the route hugs the side of the mountain, the waters from above trickle down on the road below.
As the weather starts to cool off, you’ll find less water falling from the rocks, but the drive still makes for an amazing one of a kind experience.
One of the other more famous turns along the Going to the Sun Road is the Oberlin Bend. After you make your way along the curve, make sure you stop to take in some of the breathtaking scenery of the Oberlin Mountains and surrounding nature.
The overlook from Oberlin Bend is sure to be one of the spots you’ll end up taking most of your pictures.
With hanging gardens on the slopes of mountains and sweeping views of the valley, this is one viewpoint you won’t want to miss.
Logan Pass Visitor Center
Many travelers ride along the Going to the Sun Road just to get to Logan Pass Visitor Center.
Noted as being the highest point along the road, this spot is so much more than just a visitor center: it’s also the gateway to some of the most breathtaking hikes in the park.
Both Hidden Lake Overlook and Highline Trail both start from Logan Pass Visitor Center. Although Highline Trail will take you at least five hours to complete, the easier Hidden Lake Overlook Trail should only take about three hours to finish.
Jackson Glacier Overlook
No trip to Glacier National Park would be complete without seeing a glacier! At the Jackson Glacier Overlook, you’ll be able to feast your eyes on the white blanket of snow and ice nestled into Mount Jackson.
Although only the seventh-largest glacier in the park, Jackson Glacier is still impressive. With panoramic views of the picturesque mountain range, this overlook is a spot you’ll want to be sure to pull the car over to see!
St Mary Falls
Sick of sitting down and need to get out and stretch your legs? The short hike to St Mary Falls is more than enough to get your blood pumping as you venture along the trail in search of stunning waterfalls.
The St Mary Falls Trail is only 1.7 miles one way and should take about an hour to complete.
As you’re coming to the end of our west to east journey along the Going to the Sun Road, you’ll find the scenery just as impressive as when you first started.
At Sun Point, not only will you get views of the mountains in the distance, but you’ll also be able to see them reflected in St Mary Lake.
Is the overlook not enough for you? Sun Point has a short hiking trail that will further immerse you in the serene nature.
The Sun Point Nature Trail is only 1.2 miles one-way and is the perfect spot to see more of the forest before hopping back into the car.
Wild Goose Island Overlook
The next stop on your tour of Going to the Sun Road happens to be one of the most photographed places in all of Glacier National Park.
Wild Goose Island Overlook has breathtaking views of St Mary Lake and the neighboring Rocky Mountains.
Other than the overlook itself, you won’t find many hiking trails or other things to do at Wild Goose Island Overlook. But the jaw-dropping scenery is sure to have you stunned for several minutes.
St Mary Visitor Center
The last stop on your adventure will be at St Mary Visitor Center. If you still have plenty of time in the day, you may even want to drive back down the Going to the Sun Road to get a different perspective on the park.
At the visitor center, you’ll get much of the same information you’d get in Apgar Village.
The only difference is that St Mary Visitor Center can also provide extra information on the Blackfeet Reservation, which is located in the eastern part of the park.
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