Tag: Going to the Sun Road
After exploring all we could on the east side of Glacier National Park, we woke up the third day and discovered that the Going-to-the-Sun road had opened for the season. I have no idea how we got so lucky that it opened up on the day we had to go from Rising Sun Motor Inn to our Airbnb in Whitefish. So, we checked out of the hotel and hit the road much earlier than we expected that day!
Going-to-the-Sun Road is 50 miles long and runs from St. Mary to Apgar Village, crossing the Continental Divide. It is a beautiful drive, unlike anything I had ever seen before. Completed in 1933, the road is a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark complete with stunning vistas, tunnels through mountains, hairpin turns, and bridges over cascading waterfalls.
Going-to-the-Sun Road is an engineering marvel and you really have to see it to understand it. Before we drove it, I could not figure out how it could be the end of June and the road was not open yet. Then, we drive the portion of the road that was closed only a few hours earlier, get to Logan Pass and some of the hiking trails were still covered in snow (above). On parts of the road, snow was pushed up to create a wall right next to the road. I’m from Michigan, I’m used to snow and cold winters. This was a new experience for me.
I kept thinking if they started plowing in April or May, how could they still be working on it on June 25? Well, up to 80 feet of snow can be lying on the road near Logan Pass in an area known as the Big Drift. The plows can usually reach this area around mid-May but can often take a month or more to plow it due to avalanche risk. We were talking with a ranger on June 24, hoping that the road would open and she told us that at that point, the plowing was done, they were just making sure the road was safe from avalanche risk before opening to the public.
Now, my description may make this road seem scary, and at times it was a little hair-raising, but the views are absolutely worth it! Due to the nature of the road, vehicles must be less than 21 feet long, ten feet long, and eight feet long to drive between the Avalanche Campground and Rising Sun. If your vehicle is too large or you’re just nervous driving, Glacier Park Lodges offer guided tours on a fleet of historic, red, jammer busses! I was so disappointed that I wasn’t able to score a reservation for one of the tours because the buses are iconic!
In 2021, driving Going-to-the-Sun Road required reservations. Reservations at lodging along the road, the aforementioned bus tours, and boat tours also counted as reservations. If you didn’t have one of those existing reservations, you needed to reserve an entry ticket on Recreation.gov to be able to drive the road during the day. You were also able to enter the road before 8 AM and after 5 PM. A lot of people had difficulty getting reservations. We were able to get them the first day they were available without any problems.
The reduced capacity of the road made for a much nicer driving experience than I had hear about in the past. There was no bumper-to-bumper traffic. A few times, we were able to pull over and take pictures of the road without another car in it! I may be in the minority here, but I really hope they bring back reservations for 2022. They can increase the capacity some, but don’t let it get flooded with cars again. This was a much better way to see this iconic park!
Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to stop back next week as I recount our experience launching a kayak in Lake McDonald! To read more about this trip, check out the Epic National Park Road Trip. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.
After leaving Yellowstone in the morning, we arrived at the East Side of Glacier National Park after about seven hours on the road. The famous Going to the Sun Road hadn’t opened for the season yet, so the east side of the park was pretty quiet.
Even though we knew we couldn’t cross Logan Pass, we turned on our GyPSy guide and drove the part of the road that was open. One of the hikes the guide recommended as an easy hike on the east side of the park was the hike to Baring Falls (left). The hike is less than a mile round trip and was a good way to ease into hiking in Glacier with only 400 feet of change in elevation. At a 25 foot drop, Baring Falls is by no means the biggest waterfall in the area, but it is definitely one of the easiest hikes on the east side of the park. We saw a deer grazing near the water, which was a nice treat.
After our hike, we headed to our room for the first part of our time in Glacier at the Rising Sun Motor Inn. This location wasn’t my first choice, especially so early in the season with the Going to the Sun Road closed, but the room was available two months ahead, so we grabbed it. The motel-style hotel is not my favorite but I will take it if it allows me to sleep inside a National Park. The rooms were clean and the private bathroom was a big step up from our Old House Room at the Old Faithful Inn. We hardly saw anyone else around. The downside to staying at Rising Sun in 2021 was that the restaurant, Two Dog Flats, was closed for the season due to staffing shortages. I didn’t think anything of it when we got the email in advance. I figured we would be able to find some food outside the park in St. Mary. I did not realize how dismal the dining choices would be. If I had it to do over, I would’ve planned to cook on our camp stove in the Rising Sun Picnic area across the street.
Overall, I enjoyed our stay at Rising Sun, but if you’re booking early in the season, be aware that the Going to the Sun Road probably won’t open until the end of June or early July and that really limits what you can see. If Two Dog Flats is closed again, you may want to try to find lodging on the west side of the park where there are more services.
Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip, check out the Epic National Park Road Trip. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.