Tag Archives: Going-to-the-Sun Road

Fall in Montana: Driving Glacier National Park’s Going-to-the-Sun Road

Last week, my favorite travel partner and I hopped on Amtrak’s Empire Builder and rode it from Whitefish to East Glacier Park. (You can read the full post on our train trip in Montana here.) And you guys, it was such a fun adventure! But our trip didn’t end there.

After disembarking the train, we decided to head into Glacier National Park and drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road. From East Glacier Park, we took Looking Glass Highway (Highway 49) above the Two Medicine Valley and made our way to St. Mary and the east entrance of Glacier National Park.

Looking into Two Medicine from Looking Glass Highway.

Looking into Two Medicine from Looking Glass Highway.

Fresh snow in Glacier National Park.

Fresh snow in Glacier National Park.

Truth time: Looking Glass Highway is one of my favorite drives in the state.

Truth time: Looking Glass Highway is one of my favorite drives in Montana.

After a quick stop at St. Mary Lodge & Resort, we headed into St. Mary and started driving the Going-to-the-Sun Road. And you guys, it was incredibly beautiful!

Take a look…

Hello, St. Mary Valley.

Hello, St. Mary Valley.

Looking up the road from Two Dog Flats.

Looking up the road from Two Dog Flats.

Going-to-the-Sun Road.

Going-to-the-Sun Road.

As we were driving past St. Mary Lake, the reflection practically begged us to pullover. So we did.

As we were driving past St. Mary Lake, the reflection practically begged us to pullover. So we did.

I'm confident I could have sat here for hours.

I’m confident I could have sat here for hours.

Fall colors + St. Mary Lake = me in love.

Fall colors + St. Mary Lake = me in love.

Hi.

Hi.

Wild Goose Island on St. Mary Lake.

Wild Goose Island on St. Mary Lake.

Debbie taking in the view.

Debbie taking in the view.

The fall color on the trees and underbrush was starting to really change, so we took a short hike down from Wild Goose Overlook.

The fall color on the trees and underbrush was starting to really change, so we took a short hike down from Wild Goose Overlook.

This is my piece of heaven on earth.

This is my piece of heaven on earth.

Driving up the road out of the tunnel.

Driving up the road out of the tunnel.

Fresh snow on Going to the Sun Mountain.

Fresh snow on Going-to-the-Sun Mountain.

Two Montana-loving traveling buddies.

Two Montana-loving traveling buddies.

You guys, check out the fresh snow on the ground behind me.

You guys, check out the fresh snow on the ground behind me.

The view from Logan Pass. (I love this view, but it's so pretty it almost looks fake. But it's not, I promise.)

The view from Logan Pass. (I love this view, but it’s so pretty it almost looks fake. But it’s not, I promise.)

After driving up to Logan Pass and back down again, we had some free time before we needed to return to East Glacier Park and catch our train home. So we did what any two Glacier National Park-lovin’ gals would do: we drove to Many Glacier.

Take a look…

Two Guns (Glacier Park Boat Company's wooden boat) heading to the head of Swiftcurrent Lake.

Two Guns (Glacier Park Boat Company’s wooden boat) heading to the head of Swiftcurrent Lake.

Two Guns under Mount Grinnell.

Two Guns under Mount Grinnell.

The view from the dining room at Many Glacier Hotel.

The view from the dining room at Many Glacier Hotel.

A few things to note if you plan to visit the east side of Glacier National Park in fall:
-Rental cars are available from spring to fall at Glacier Park Trading Company in East Glacier Park.
-Plan for cool weather. While it was gorgeous when we went, we did bust out our scarves and coats at Logan Pass. Weather in the mountains can change quickly, so always be prepared.
-Bring water.
-If you plan to visit Glacier National Park in the fall and want to stay in one of the historic park lodges or motor inns, plan to book your travel early (like now).
-Don’t be afraid to stay outside of the park. There are plenty of lodging options just outside the park that tend to stay open later in the season.
-If you time it right, you can catch dinner at Serrano’s Mexican Restaurant in East Glacier Park. They’re open for dinner through September 30.
-The Going-to-the-Sun Road is slated to be open in its entirety through October 16, weather dependent. You can check the road status here.

Needless to say, it was a good day.

xo,
TT

A Perfect Day on the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park

Happy anniversary. In case you’ve forgotten, we’ve been together five years now. Can you believe that? During the last five years, I’ve told you stories while you’ve shared your memories with me about a place we both love: Montana. And by now, I’m sure you know that I’m head over heels for Montana and Glacier National Park. During our time together, I’ve learned a few things. One is that it’s important to tell the stories that  make my heart happy. So, in celebration of my five years of sharing a place I love so dearly I have one more story to tell you. It’s about a perfect day I had on Glacier National Park’s Going-to-the-Sun Road.

Read on…
I take a deep breath and pinch myself. I’m traveling north from Missoula to Glacier National Park on Highway 93 and I’ve just been greeted by the jagged snow-covered peaks of the Mission Mountains near St. Ignatius. This view has met me countless times as I’ve made the journey north, yet it always strikes me as being one of the most beautiful sites in the world.

Cresting Ravalli Hill, this view of the Mission Mountains greeted me.

Cresting Ravalli Hill, this view of the Mission Mountains met me.

As a lifelong Montanan, it seems that by now I’d be used to the scenic beauty of the state that I call home. But even after 30+ years of living in Big Sky Country, the jaw-dropping views that are found around every corner of this place never cease to amaze me. During my growing-up-years on the Rocky Mountain Front, the western corridor of the state seemed so far away. After all, to access these fertile valleys, I would have had to travel over the mountains. And to a five-year-old girl, that meant actually driving straight through the mountains. In my mind, it couldn’t be nearly as simple as cresting the Continental Divide at Roger’s Pass near Lincoln and traveling west along Highway 200.

Sawtooth Mountain on the Rocky Mountain Front.

Sawtooth Mountain on the Rocky Mountain Front. When I was five, I thought we had to drive straight over this mountain to get to Western Montana.

As I continue north, the next view that greets me at the top of Polson Hill is Flathead Lake—the largest natural freshwater lake in the West. At Polson, I take the road less traveled and head around the east side of the lake on Highway 35. My speed slows down as I meander along the shore of the lake and take in the view of countless cherry orchards before settling my gaze on the immense lake to the west.

Flathead Lake from the top of Polson Hill.

Flathead Lake from the top of Polson Hill.

One of my favorite road trip snacks: Flathead cherries.

One of my favorite road trip snacks: Flathead cherries.

The miles tick by as I continue north toward my destination: Glacier National Park.

Beargrass in Glacier National Park. Photo: Donnie Sexton

Beargrass in Glacier National Park. Photo: Donnie Sexton

When I was younger, my family spent part of every summer in Glacier National Park where we hiked, camped, played in ice-cold waterfalls and marveled at the size of the historic lodges. And while I’m no longer the little towheaded girl that’s missing my two front teeth, the park is a place that still stops me in my tracks.

Enjoying lunch on the Going-to-the-Sun Road as a little missy.

Enjoying lunch on the Going-to-the-Sun Road as a little miss.

Today, I pull my car off of Highway 2 and drive into the quaint community of West Glacier, crossing the Middle Fork of the Flathead River en route to the park. Before entering the park’s west entrance, I’m taken aback by the teal waters of the Middle Fork. Many of the waterways in the park (including the Middle Fork and McDonald Creek) have a distinct color that is created from glacial runoff. My first stop—Apgar—is located a mere two-minute drive from the park’s west entrance gate. Here, in this quaint village nestled at the southern end of Lake McDonald, I dip my toes into the crystal clear waters of the park’s largest lake.

The view of Lake McDonald from Apgar Village.

The view of Lake McDonald from Apgar Village.

"Fueling" up on huckleberry ice cream at Eddy's Cafe in Apgar Village.

“Fueling” up on huckleberry ice cream at Eddy’s Cafe in Apgar Village.

After my customary stop in Apgar Village, I navigate my way further into the heart of the park, piloting the car along the Going-to-the-Sun Road. As the miles tick away under my tires on this 50-mile-long road (it’s an engineering marvel and National Historic Landmark), I think about the builders that spent years laboring here and creating something that allowed visitors to see some of the most stunning scenery in the continental United States. Slowly but surely, I continue on past Lake McDonald Lodge before cruising through a forest of ancient red cedars, steadily gaining elevation as the road curves at “The Loop” and past the Weeping Wall before making a stop at Logan Pass and its Visitor Center. Along the way, I’m greeted by three mountain goats—two adults and a kid—that are often seen just below Logan Pass.

Climbing up toward "The Loop" from the west side.

Climbing up toward “The Loop” from the west side.

The view from Logan Pass.

The view from Logan Pass.

Looking toward Wild Goose Island on St. Mary Lake.

Looking toward Wild Goose Island on St. Mary Lake.

After a short hike in the shadow of Reynolds Mountain among wildflowers, the trip travels onward toward St. Mary. As the car hugs the road and sharp drop-offs and alpine valleys come into view, the terrain continues to change as elevation is lost. Dropping into Two Dog Flats, a starkly different topography of the park comes alive with wider meadows and grasslands. Before exiting the park, I stop at the St. Mary Visitor Center and wander out to take in the view. For a moment in time, I’m given a glimpse into what Montana’s First Nations may have seen and felt when they lived in the park millennia ago. It’s a place of sacred beauty; a land that seems almost otherworldly.

Blackfeet dancers in St. Mary.

Blackfeet dancers in St. Mary.

Vowing to capture this moment and feeling in my memory forever, the road trip continues on back to the west entrance of the park. While the easiest drive is taking Highway 89 to Browning before picking up Highway 2 to East Glacier Park, the adventurer in me opts for Highway 49 between Kiowa and East Glacier Park. Also known as Looking Glass Highway, this route provides stunning views of both the Blackfeet Nation and the Two Medicine Valley and has an entry point into Two Medicine.

The view into Glacier National Park's Two Medicine Valley from Looking Glass Highway.

The view into Glacier National Park’s Two Medicine Valley from Looking Glass Highway.

While Two Medicine used to be one of the busiest areas in Glacier (prior to the building of the Going-to-the-Sun Road), today it’s one of the quietest areas of the park and one that I often retreat to. Before catching the evening boat tour on Two Medicine Lake with Glacier Park Boat Company, I make the quick hike to Running Eagle Falls. Also known as “Trick Falls,” this waterfall is actually made up of two separate falls and was named after a female Blackfeet warrior.

Running Eagle Falls.

Running Eagle Falls.

As my mind takes in the importance of this area of the park, I travel west with the setting sun and think back on today in all its perfection. Because to me, any day in Glacier National Park is perfect. May we all find a place that makes our hearts whole, happy and at home.

xo, TT

Plowing Glacier National Park’s Going-to-the-Sun Road

In Western Montana, it’s currently one of the most wonderful times of the year. Why? Because the snowplow crews in Glacier National Park are in the midst of plowing the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Each spring, the plow crews make their way up the road–while it is covered in snow–and start to uncover one of the most scenic drives in the country.

Okay, I know you may be thinking, “Tia, how much snow could there possibly be on the road?” My answer: A LOT.

The “Big Drift,” located east of Logan Pass, can reach depths of up to 90 feet. (To put it in perspective, that’s like taking 15, 6 feet tall men and standing them on top of each other). Every year, the plow crew working on the west side of the road and the plow crew working on the east side of the road meet at the Big Drift and together tackle one of their biggest challenges.

This photo from spring 2013 shows crews starting to tackle the Big Drift.  Photo courtesy: GlacierNPS

This photo from spring 2013 shows crews starting to tackle the Big Drift. Photo courtesy: GlacierNPS

Here’s a look at plowing photos from this spring…

Red Rock Slide on April 10.  Photo: GlacierNPS

Red Rock Slide on April 10.
Photo courtesy: GlacierNPS

Clearing slide debris on April 16.  Photo courtesy: GlacierNPS

Clearing slide debris on April 16.
Photo courtesy: GlacierNPS

Grizzly Slide (1 mile east of the Loop) on April 24.  Photo courtesy: GlacierNPS

Grizzly Slide (one mile east of the Loop) on April 24.
Photo courtesy: GlacierNPS

Little Granite (2 miles east of the Loop) on April 30.  Photo courtesy: GlacierNPS

Little Granite (two miles east of the Loop) on April 30.
Photo courtesy: GlacierNPS

Holy snow.  Photo courtesy: GlacierNPS

Holy snow.
Photo courtesy: GlacierNPS

Near Haystack on May 7. Photo courtesy: GlacierNPS

Near Haystack on May 7. Photo courtesy: GlacierNPS

Plow crews 4 miles west of Logan Pass.  Photo: GlacierNPS

Plow crews four miles west of Logan Pass.
Photo courtesy: GlacierNPS

The view toward Logan Pass and the Going-to-the-Sun Road on May 14.  Photo courtesy: GlacierNPS

The view toward Logan Pass and the Going-to-the-Sun Road on May 14. Photo courtesy: GlacierNPS

Near Big Bend on May 15.  Photo courtesy: GlacierNPS

Near Big Bend on May 15.
Photo courtesy: GlacierNPS

Cutting through the snow near Big Bend on May 20.  Photo courtesy: GlacierNPS

Cutting through the snow near Big Bend on May 20.
Photo courtesy: GlacierNPS

The plows make progress near Siyeh Bend on May 23. Photo courtesy: GlacierNPS

The plows make progress near Siyeh Bend on May 23.   Photo courtesy: GlacierNPS

And if you thought the only thing that the plow crews have to do is plow the road…think again. After the road is cleared, hundreds of guard rails are installed to make summer road trips on the Going-to-the-Sun Road safer.

To the Glacier National Park plow crews, I’m sure you’ll say “Listen lady, we’re just doing our jobs.” But regardless, this girl would like to give you a hearty THANK YOU for putting in the time and hours needed to open the road and introduce people to one of the most beautiful places in the world.

xo,
TT

PS: If you want to keep up with how many miles of the road are open, you can do so here. To view more plowing photos, visit the Glacier National Park Flickr page.

PPS: Yesterday, it was reported by KAJ that plowing in the park is going so well that the road is expected to open on time, meaning we should be able to cruise the Going-to-the-Sun Road in its entirety on Friday, June 20 (weather dependent).

Let’s Drive…the Going-to-the-Sun Road

How many of you have driven the Going-to-the-Sun Road?

Cruising the famous road in Glacier National Park.

Cruising the famous road in Glacier National Park.

Hands down, it is the most popular activity for visitors in Glacier National Park. Crossing the Continental Divide at Logan Pass, it connects St. Mary (the east entrance of the park) and West Glacier (the west entrance of the park) and is a must-do when visiting Glacier National Park.

In all honesty, it can be hard to know where to stop as you navigate your way along this 50-mile-long road. No matter which way you look, you’re going to be met with jaw-dropping views that include wildflower-filled meadows and glacial-carved terrain rising high above you, as well as rushing waterfalls and streams.

The good news: You no longer need to guess where to stop and snap that gorgeous photo.

The Going-to-the-Sun Road is filled with pull-outs that are ideal for re-enacting childhood photos with your sister and dad. (Or so I've heard).

The Going-to-the-Sun Road is filled with pull-outs that are ideal for reenacting childhood photos with your sister and dad. (Or so I’ve heard).


Meet my friend Jake Bramante.
Jake in Glacier National Park.  Photo courtesy: Hike734.com

Jake in Glacier National Park.
Photo courtesy: Hike734.com

An overachiever (and all-around nice guy), in 2011 he set out to hike all 734 miles of trails in the park. And again, because he’s an overachiever and because he is awesome, he shared his adventures on his blog.

And now two years later, Jake has a new project. Just this year, he released a driving guide for the Going-to-the-Sun Road that helps visitors have the perfect day in Glacier National Park. To which I say: Thank you, kind sir.

His guide is an ideal tool when you’re driving the Going-to-the-Sun Road, especially if you’re a first-time visitor. As part of his guide, Jake eliminated the guess work of where to stop and when, helping you take advantage of every minute you have in the Crown of the Continent. My opinion: It’s probably the best $9.95 cents you’ll ever spend.

Your guide to the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

Your guide to the Going-to-the-Sun Road.


Maps are available online or you can pick them up at retail locations within the park, as well as in Kalispell (Sportsman Ski Haus, Rocky Mountain Outfitter, Army Navy and Replay Sports), Whitefish (Red Caboose and Whitefish Chamber of Commerce) and Missoula (Trailhead and Fact & Fiction).

Happy exploring,
TT
 

PS: This year, the Going-to-the-Sun Road is slated to open in its entirety on June 21, 2013 (weather dependent).