Going-to-the-Sun Road (US Glacier National Park)
Tuesday, September 30, 2014 at 9:01PM
Michael A. Uhl

01 Glacier NP Mike sm

(October 1, 2014) As Mitch and I were planning our ride to British Columbia this year, we knew we wanted to ride through Glacier National Park (US)*; it was just a matter of route. You can simply take US 2 through the area. However, in our planning process, I spoke to my sister—an avid camper—and Jim Arscott at Jockeys Cycle—an avid rider—and both emphatically argued that we must ride Going-to-the-Sun Road. This dramatic road snakes along the edges of mountains and lakes within Glacier National Park between St. Mary, Montana in the east—at US 89—and West Glacier, Montana—at US 2—on the west end.

This was Day 7 (Friday, July 4) of our ride. Our destination that day was Canmore, Alberta. We had camped the night before at the Kampgrounds of America (KAO) in St. Mary. It’s a very nice campground and I recommend it, by the way. We had a short ride on Day 6, having ridden from Bozeman to St. Mary. We were thus feeling a little more rested than most other days. That’s very important because you do not want to ride the Going-to-the-Sun Road tired or distracted.

I’m not sure it matters which direction you ride Going-to-the-Sun Road, but I want to let you know that the more challenging segment is on the east (St. Mary) end. We started with the scary end. You should also know that it’s considerably cooler in the park than in the surrounding area. It was in the 70s at the KAO but in the mid 40s on the Sun Road. As we were riding in the early summer when there was still plenty of melting going on along the road, we encountered wet, cool, and slippery conditions. At some points, there was even a little ice on the road. That got our attention!

You do a lot of looking up and down on this road. The Sun Road snakes along the edges of St. Mary Lake and MacDonald Lake, and on the west end, which is also the lower elevation (and warmer) end of the Road, the road traces the path of a creek that changes names along the route and would easily be called a river in most other parts of the country. 

Because words cannot do it justice, I’ll keep the text of this post brief. And though my photos also fail to convey the majesty of the Going-to-the-Sun Road, I offer them here as an inducement for you to go and see this place for yourself. (Click on a photo to display the full-size version of the image.) 

 
We weren’t on the Road long before stopping to take pictures of postcard-like scenery.  

The drop-offs were steep in many places. Neither one of us wanted to walk to the edge of this loose gravel and get a photo looking down. We figured we’d live longer that way. :-)


 

We seemed to see more now-covered mountains around each turn in the road.


  Falling water and snow were common elements along Going-to-the-Sun Road.
 
OK, I confess: we couldn’t resist backing right up to the edge of this cliff for a photo. Trust me on this, it’s much more dangerous than it looks in the photo.   

Perhaps it was all of the cold rocks and snow —and a lack of sunshine on our Road— that made us feel like we had ridden into a refrigerator.


 

Some protrusions of rock just look more massive than others…and worthy of a photo.


  Check it out…Mitch has a tanned face but is heavily dressed for the 45°F temperature up on the Road.
10 Going to the Sun Road mt peaks 1 sm   11 Going to the Sun Road mt peaks 2 sm
As majestic as they come...  

Oh look, another mountain peak!


 
That’s a lot of snow.  

Oh, and yes, there are tunnels too!


16 Going to the Sun Road waterfall 1 sm   19 Going to the Sun Road waterfall 4 sm
We had to ride on the wrong side of the road in places to avoid getting wet from melting snow raining down on the road. If you like waterfalls, you’ll love Going-to-the-Sun Road.   Mitch was impressed enough with this waterfall to stop for a photo.

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*I want to make the distinction between the US and Canadian Glacier National Parks. On my ride this summer, I toured both.

Article originally appeared on The Long Rider (http://www.mikeuhl.com/).
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