Sunday, July 13, 2014

Glacier NP: "Going-to-the-Sun Road"

Glacier National Park's famous "Going-to-the-Sun Road" has been on my "Drive List" for years. Because it's only open for a brief period during the summer, I've never seemed to be in the right place at the right time. When I heard it had finally opened last week, I decided this was the year.

Starting from the east side near St. Mary, MT, the road begins as a gentle climb up the valley. A large fire to the north has unfortunately blanketed the area with a smoky haze, but you can still how beautiful Glacier NP is, and why it is one of the very best in the country.

A few miles later, the road ascends much more steeply. The abrupt drop-off and blasted rock (plus a couple of "interesting" tunnels) give you an idea of what went into building the road.

Just over the summit at Logan Pass, you get an excellent view back down the valley, and a good view across to your route down the other side. It's not as gradual as it looks!

There was a lot of traffic, so I tried to take my photos in the gaps. Don't let the single car in this shot fool you, it's a heavily traveled road full of drivers who want to go at all different speeds.

I can't say it's the best road I've ever driven, but it definitely deserves a place in the top dozen or so. The long, steady, winding route down the valley offers consistently beautiful views.

Down in the valley, the road follows a river to the main tourist/visitor facilities at Lake McDonald. From there, it's a short drive farther to the West Glacier gate.

If you ever visit Glacier NP, the "Going-to-the-Sun Road" is pretty much a mandatory activity. Plan on using an entire day to cover the 50 mile road at a good pace for viewing and frequent stops, then either turn around and go back the same way or — my suggestion — drive the very pretty US2 return route around the southern border of the Park.

Click here to see exactly where I am posting this from on Google Maps.

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