Today was my full day in Glacier National Park and, with my wife who flew in for the weekend with me, we drove the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Yes, drove, since my wife had joined me and we took the car rather than the bike. For the day, at least, I was a fellow explorer. We met a number of bikers along the way that were enjoying spectacular views of broad, U-shaped glacial valleys.
The road starts off rather tame, following the shore of Lake Macdonald and offering some great views if you park and walk to the shoreline. Once you get to The Loop, things change and the road is quiet steep with high cliffs to the valley below. If you have issues with heights, I recommend riding the road East to West because for this part of the ride you’ll be on the inside lane.
I recommend pulling off as often as possible and taking in the view and the informational signs. Breathtaking doesn’t even describe it and my pictures hardly do it justice (and I think would be even more spectacular when it’s not cloudy). We stopped just after the Logan Pass summit and hiked back to some waterfalls along Lunch Creek. Toward the end, the clouds started to clear and we were offered a view of the (relatively short) distance back to the road. The trail was steep, but very much worth it. Once through the high pass, we descended down to Lake Saint Mary where the clouds had begun to clear.
We returned via Highway 2 by taking the Montana State Highway 48, which wound through the foothills with steep (but shorter) climbs to overlook the front range of the mountains. At one point, I was able to identify Gunsight Pass and Gunsight Lake, which we had observed from Going-to-the-Sun Road at the Jackson Glacier turnout.
Once back in Columbia Falls, we discovered Backslope Brewery. After you finish your ride, this is a great spot to grab a pint and some food.
What I Learned
The turnouts on Going-to-the-Sun Road are very educational and talk about the region, as well as the challenge of building the road. There are nearly 130,000 glaciers worldwide, but number is on the decline as the glaciers shrink.