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This is likely a great time to hike this trail!  Check out "Prefered" months below, keep in mind this is an estimate.

Going-to-the-Sun-Road, MT

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Guide 11 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List MT > North Central
4.6 of 5 by 5
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Distance One Way 50 miles
Trailhead Elevation 4,499 feet
Avg Time One Way 2-4 hours
Interest Historic, Seasonal Waterfall, Perennial Waterfall, Seasonal Creek, Perennial Creek & Peak
Backpack Yes & Connecting
Dogs not allowed
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
60  2017-08-16
Lake McDonald kayaking and much more
82  2014-07-18 tibber
44  2012-08-06 tibber
44  2011-07-24 tibber
86  2008-07-11 tibber
65  2005-07-12 tibber
Author Grasshopper
author avatar Guides 42
Routes 458
Photos 8,104
Trips 508 map ( 5,318 miles )
Age 74 Male Gender
Location Scottsdale, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Jun, Sep, Jul, Aug → Any
Seasons   Early Summer to Early Autumn
Sun  6:13am - 6:43pm
0 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
.. 1932 Engineering Marvel ..
by Grasshopper

Likely In-Season!
Overview: On July 15,1933, this marvel of engineering wonder was officially dedicated and renamed from the "Transmountain Road" to "Going-to-the-Sun-Road" and has been described ever since as one of the most beautiful fifty (~50) mile pieces of mountain road in the world!

It is estimated that 98% of the visitors to Glacier NP see the park from the Going-to-the-Sun-Road or other roads within the park. Early park naturalist George C. Ruhle, who named this new highway in 1933 stated:
"At first this was primarily a walking and horseback riding park.. Now they skim through it in an automobile and they cling to it like a shipwrecked sailor to a raft."

Warning: Because you really won't be keeping your eyes on the road as you drive, the safest and most preferred mode of transportation is the Glacier NP "shuttle service vans" which operate each year from ~July 3rd to September 1st. You can also drive "your own vehicle" or you can also "bike-it"(limited to certain hours of the day).

History: Construction began in 1924 and was completed in 1932 (eight long years to complete). On July 15,2008, the Going-to-the-Sun-Road celebrated its 75th anniversary.

Drive: On the Going-to-the-Sun-Road there are at least 17 stops which include: scenic viewpoints, visitor centers, hotels, shops, bathrooms, campgrounds, boat rides, and day hiking or backpacking trail heads for at least 12 different connecting trail hikes.

Water Sources: Not a problem..

Check out the Triplogs.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your scenic drive to support this local community.

2013-07-16 Grasshopper
    WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

    Most recent Triplog Reviews
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    Lake McDonald kayaking and much more
    I'm not sure who or when it was decided we would go kayaking but we did. I'm guessing at the miles. But first we have to drive the magnificent Going to the Sun Road. Just before the Rising Sun you start to see the results of the 4,800 acre Reynolds fire of 2015. As we continued on the road you get new views of the area’s spectacular mountain peaks that are no longer obscured thanks to the fire’s removal of the tree canopy... a silver lining I guess. Nonetheless I am glad I have video before and after the fire damage along this section of road. The place where it looked terrible was Sunrift Gorge.

    The road is in spectacular shape as they finish up the several year construction. Some of the pullout areas are massive now like at Wild Goose Island (sadly the one dead tree on the Island does make it not nearly as pretty) and Haystack Butte Falls area. We got out at both as at least now you can pretty much find parking. However, there aren't any lined parking spaces per se so I have to wonder if they are going to correct the hap-hazardness of it all.

    And as I have been hearing, there is just no parking at Logan Pass unless you get there early which we were not. So we took two loops in the hopes someone would pull out but ended up getting a space down at the next pullout past Oberlin Falls where they have built a viewing area. We got to see a couple goats up high and also enjoy the view to the north of the mountains. Mountains that I still can't identify which has frustrated me since 2005. I could take a guess but I'm not sure so if anyone is better at topo or google earth, I'd love for you to take a stab at the ID ... .php.

    After one last stop at Haystack Butte Falls pullout (there was still snow and lots of Fireweed with a respectable view of Bird Woman Falls), we finally made our way down to the McDonald Valley. We had lunch at the Jammer Joe's Grill and Cafe, I bot a new hiking hat at the GNP store and then headed for Apgar Village/Lake McDonald. Parking wasn't easy at any of the places as we continue to love our Parks to death. Glacier has two different shuttles (express and a frequent stop) and I think for the most part, those are pretty full as well. I'm just glad I've been able to enjoy this park back in the day when it was much less crowded in the common areas.

    Surprisingly we found a place to park not too far from Boat Rental place. I wanted to get a two seat kayak for our trip on Lake McDonald but none were available so we each got our own lime green boats; the only thing available at the time. I believe it was $15 per hour. We got some instruction about where and where not to go and climbed in. Well I've not really kayaked before so I was a bit intimidated plus that water is very cold. Wendy gave me some pointers and off we went. I decided rather quickly that it would take me a bit to be comfortable so I told Wendy to go on ahead over to an area we had intended on going toward another shoreline up the lake.

    I just paddled around in the middle of this part of the lake and really was quite content. I watched the people around me including some board paddlers that had fallen off their board and couldn't seem to get back up. They started yelling for help once they got back on the board. A few people in a canoe came by and started paddling them to shore. Apparently Apgar Rentals saw what was going on and brot a boat out to pick them up and take them back to shore.

    On top of all of this, I was watching the smoke from the Sprague Fire that had been started by lightening from the storm we experienced up on Boulder Pass three nites ago. Almost all through the video you can see the smoke from the fire that would eventually take out the living quarters of the 114-year old Sperry Chalet on August 31st. I was trying to identify the exact location of the fire based on the layout of the mountains and explain it to Wendy.

    When Wendy got back she offered me more pointers on the kayaking thing and those definitely helped. Then she did two donuts around me in both directions, such a show off :lol: . I even got it on video. Since our two hours was almost up we paddled on in to shore. It was a really nice afternoon for kayaking and nice to get some upper body and core work in. Next we headed to the tourist store to see if there was anything we should buy but there wasn't so we headed for the W Glacier KOA.

    I realized as we were driving that I didn't have the address for the KOA but I assumed it would be signed somewhere on the Highway 2 that we were traveling. If not, we would have to stop somewhere to inquire. I was pretty sure it was in the direction we were going (west on Highway 2 out of Glacier Park) and sure enough, I was right. You have to drive a couple miles off the main highway and when we arrived, we were stunned at how beautiful it was. We got the key to our little cabin and ate our leftover food from lunch and the rest of our Cattle Baron t-bone steak.

    The next day: Hungry Horse Reservoir, Huckleberry Patch, Whitefish Big Mountain, Whitefish (shipped our bear spray home), dinner and stayed with my second cousins (lots more details in the photo set). I hadn't been back to Whitefish since my mom died so it was a harder visit than I thot. We used to live there, had an art gallery, and I was married there. I highly encourage you to go up to Big Mountain (that's what they called it when I lived there, it's now Whitefish Mountain) to do some hiking or ride the lift and or do some luging (sliding) as it's great fun [ youtube video ] (video of just the luge ride).

    Going to the Sun Road Videos:
    To Logan Pass - [ youtube video ]
    At and around Logan Pass - [ youtube video ]
    Logan Pass to Lake McDonald - [ youtube video ]

    Kayaking Lake McDonald with Sprague Fire in background [ youtube video ]
    Hungry Horse Reservoir including the osprey I saw with Ambika and Guru in 2012 [ youtube video ]
    Whitefish Big Mountain ski lift, Interpretive Center and luge (includes the 3 minute luge movie) [ youtube video ]
    around Whitefish and my cousins place including their morning Jam session with Wendy [ youtube video ]
    Flathead Lake's Woods Bay with more cousins, Swan Lake, Big Fork and some of Kalispell's Conrad Mansion [ youtube video ] . I highly recommend you visit the mansion if you ever get to Kalispell. I've wanted to see the mansion many times but never made the time. I think the story will surprise you, it did us.
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    Gotta love this road; I was on it each of the 4 days in the Park.

    Day 1: coming in from the St Mary VC it was VERY windy and smoky. I stopped and found a book to read while in GNP: the natural history of the park by David Rockwell. What a great book with so much information in the first few pages it overwhelmed me. I drove to the Rising Sun and checked in, had some dinner and then read before heading to Wild Goose Island pullout to meet Jody of HAZ for a sunset photo shoot. (starting about the 3:45 mark is the GTTSR part of the video including some limted bear action, the first part of the video is the wildflowers up on the 89 before coming into St Mary)

    Well the Wild Goose Isld meetup didn't happen as we didn't realize east side construction would close the pullout completely. Needless to say, it will be interesting to see how that all turns out. It is a popular stop because this pullout is one of the most used for the incredible backdrop it provides for one of the best photo ops in Glacier National Park I drove up just past the Jackson Overlook before turning around. I did get some interesting photos of Virginia Falls. Oh and I found Lost Lake :DANCE: because the construction revealed it's hiding place.

    Day 2: headed to Two Medicine for my Rockwell Falls hike. The weather was blustery and VERY windy and the smoke was still thick in the air. I did stop at the stone bridge to get some pics and video. Did I say it was really windy! The first 5:15 of the video is my drive on GTTSR with a couple stops:, second part is on the Kiowa Loop.
    On the drive back, once again the weather was tenuous and the smoke was still in the air though I think some of it did blow away to the plains. In this video, starting from around the 5:30 mark is GTTSR as I get closer to the Rising Sun

    Day 3: my major day on GTTSR from the east side, such an incredibly scenic drive :) . After my hike to St Mary Falls I headed up to Logan Pass for my 1PM Highline Trail hike of course having no idea THAT was not going to happen today. I took my time and stopped at Siyeh Bend and Lunch Creek. There is a bit of a trail up Lunch Creek so I took that. The clouds were rolling in as was the wind.

    I stopped at a couple more pullouts with some stunning views :y: of the Glacial Valley and so many waterfalls! I finished off the drive being impressed by the large snowbanks still around this time of year (probably from the end of June storm). The sky was starting to get a little darker now. Even more depressing I had to drive around for 20 mins before finding a parking spot which is twice as long as normal. I thot maybe with the weather people would not stop here but it was packed and stayed that way. Here is video from the rest of my drive up to the pass, at the pass and in the parking lot as the storm came up from the west side:

    I made a quick trip to the restroom and crowded VC then went back to the vehicle to have lunch before the hike. Well within minutes it all came; the wind, the cold, the rain. The VC would appear, disappear as would Pollock Mountain. Clements Mountain didn't even make an appearance for the most part. Even the east valley would completely disappear.
    I wondered what it was like for the people hiking to Hidden Lake as they would totally be engulfed by the clouds plus they were hiking on snow for much of the hike. And then, were they able to see the lake?

    Well I decided there was not going to be a hike and near as I could tell the people who had gathered for it with rain gear disappeared and I didn't see them hiking so I took off. I had a migraine anyway altho when I'm hiking, it doesn't bother me as much. So I drove back down the GTTSR and then I saw it: BEARGRASS, a whole mountainside of it :o . Oh my gosh! I tried to get pictures of it but the weather was miserable. I did get one good close up though. The storm followed me down the valley as I sat at a construction stop admiring Wild Goose Island where this video of my day ends:

    At least I got to have a good lunch at Two Dog Flats (a jalapeno elk bratwurst dog with sauerkraut and caramelized onions, fresh salad (no iceberg lettuce here), huckleberry wheat lager and huckleberry ice cream :DANCE: ).

    Day 4: I woke up to drizzly weather. My last day in the park. It was like dejavu again from 2010 but I hoped the results would be similar... that by the time I got over to Many Glacier the rain and clouds would lift in time for the hike :pray: , meanwhile, it was a dreary drive.

    beargrass was crazy up past Lunch Creek.
    wildflowers were everywhere it seemed. The VC was certainly worth the stop to see some of them in their prime including blanketflower and spreading fleabane. Lots of northern bedstraw this year.
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    8-3 We drove about 10 miles of the GTTSR to get to Siyeh Bend for our hike in Preston Park. (Ambika got a pic of a bear standing up; though he wasn't facing us it was still pretty cool). And of course, we had to take the GTTSR back to the Rising Sun.
    8-4 We drove the GTTSR about 8 miles to get to the Gunsight Pass TH at the Jackson Overlook where we left our car. Our intent was to hike the Gunsight Trail to Sperry Chalet for 2 nites and then come back to the TH but the temps and distance and difficulty of the hike had us change our mind and we hiked down the Sperry Trail to Lake McDonald instead.
    8-6 :wrt: Shuttled from Lake McDonald to the Avalanche stop to change buses to Logan Pass to change buses and then to our car at the Gunsight TH at the Jackson Overlook. We drove the GTTSR to Logan Pass Visitors Center and walked around.
    We drove slowly down the west side of Logan Pass as there was some waterfall action. We stopped at the Overlook that was just completed last summer and walked around. As we came back to our car, there was a lot more goat action occuring at what I think is Oberlin Falls. (I got a lot of it on film).
    We drove all the way to Apgar Village at the western edge of Lake McDonald with a stop at Lake McDonald Lodge complex to eat a late lunch at the Red Jammer restaurant where we had a huckleberry soda,huckleberry beer, huckleberry wine and huckleberry ice cream along with a pizza and a bison bratwurst.
    The next day was our tourist day.

    8-8 We drove the GTTSR in the AM to the Rising Sun Boat Dock and Rising Sun store.

    Here is some video of the goats and such on GTTSR and Lake McDonald:
    Be sure and change the setting to HD for optimal video viewing.

    And in case you would like to see the notorious floral garden of Glacier Park Lodge outside of East Glacier, here is a 2 minute video from that:
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    We took the Going to the Sun Road to The Loop from the Rising Sun and parked our car. We only had one construction stop on the west side just after going over Logan Pass. We were lucky to have some goats entertain us. We also got a good look at the Highline Trail that was still closed due to snow cover. It would open around the 31st.

    We slowly made our way past the Big Drift and the Weeping Wall before arriving at a very full parking area at The Loop. From here we hiked up to the Granite Park Chalet. We had intended on coming back via The Loop but would end up, thankfully, taking the Swiftcurrent Trail :y: down to the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn and then hitching a couple rides to get to the Rising Sun to retrieve Gary and Wendy's truck and then heading to The Loop to retrieve our car.

    See the photos for the timeline on 7-24 and then 7-25. We did get a chance to stop at the Visitors Center on our drive back from The Loop to the Rising Sun on the 25th. It still had lots of snow around it... and mind you, it's almost the end of July.

    VIDEO of drive on GTTSR to The Loop:
    Here is a video that was also at the bottom of the Swiftcurrent Pass trip report: VIDEO of our drive from Many Glacier to The Loop to Logan Pass and Visitor Center:
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    After finishing our hike at Avalanche Lake and a wonderful fish and chips lunch at Lake McDonald Lodge, it was time to head over to our cottage at the Rising Sun Motor Inn via the infamous Going-to-the-Sun-Road. It was a slight overcast day and windy but still a great day :) for a drive through Glacier Nat'l Park.

    Waterfalls were plentiful as was the snow. The creeks were running high and the trees seemed ever so tall so we opened up the sun roof so I could get some "up" pictures. The road was in pretty good shape considering the construction. There was a sign warning that traffic would be stopped enroute. This is one time I kept saying "please let us have to stop" as there were many pull out areas unavailable since the road was under construction in a couple different areas. My wish came true as we were stopped with an excellent view of Heavens Peak covered in snow.

    As we moved up the road the Weeping Wall seemed to be crying its eye out and some vehicles were treated to one of Mother Nature's greatest car washes. Across the way Bird Woman falls was flowing along with other ancillary falls. Just past the Weeping Wall is Haystack Butte falls and it was flowing pretty heavy as well... especially as it was coming out the very large culvert under the road. Rounding the corner to Logan's Pass was a massive area of snow with a waterfall on top. We suspect that snow may not melt by the time they have to close the road in mid-Sept.

    I was surprised that there was a lot of parking available at the visitor's center in the middle of the day. My cousin was worn out so I told her I would just walk 15 mins in and 15 mins out on the Hidden Lake Trail. It seems I am never going to get to do that full hike due to circumstances beyond my control. I was surprised at how snow covered the trail was; especially once you got to the crest of the hill before it descended toward Hidden Lake (you couldn't really see a trail and they had it marked with poles and such).

    The rest of the drive was indeed beautiful. We stopped at Siyeh Bend where I got a few more pictures of Clements Mount as well as of Jackson Glacier. Mount Jackson had a lot of extra snow as well. It's important to note that these glaciers are NOT leftover from the last Ice Age. We ended the day at Two Dog Flats to enjoy a nice supper and a view of the moon a top a mountain across St Mary Lake. :wist:
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    On July 15,1933, this marvel of engineering wonder was officially dedicated and renamed from the "Transmountain Road" to "Going-to-the-Sun-Road" and has been described ever since as one of the most beautiful pieces of mountain road in the world! On this 50 mile one way-"landmark in the sky" there are at least 17 stops which include: scenic viewpoints, visitor centers, comfort stations, hotels, shops, campgrounds, boat rides, and hiking trailheads for at least 12 different trail hikes!

    Rather than drive our own vehicle or bike-it(if you like), this busy day before the 4th of July, the three of us planned to ride the free Park Shuttle Service the entire 50 mile one way trip(to/back) starting from the east end at the Saint Mary Visitor Center and ending 17 scenic stops later at the Apgar Transit Center at the Apgar Village on the west end. This was only the 2nd year that the park service has had this alternate means of transportation in effect starting around July 2nd of each year. With this very heavy 2008 snow year at GNP the snow plows had just completed their work on July 2nd to open the entire road over the high passes :), so, needless to say there were a few scheduling kinks to be worked out, but not having to drive and watch the road at the same time gave us all maximum viewing range to take-in all the "jaw droping-oou-ah" beauty along this engineering wonder.

    We did take a break and a short walk at the Logan Pass(6646') Visitor Center where one of the more popular hikes to "Hidden Lake" begins. I had hoped that we would be able to do this hike before our departure on 7/7, but there was a 15' snow bank in front of the visitor center(igallery/image_page.php?id=3542) and a 20' snow bank behind the VC where the actual TH was located! :o We continued westward on the shuttle to visit the huge and beautiful Lake McDonald at the fancy Lake McDonald Lodge. We took a short walk to the shoreline to view "the upper end" of the lake behind the lodge(igallery/image_page.php?id=3546). We then decided to have a nice lunch at the lodge restaurant before returning back(due to our concerns with the shuttle scheduling issues this 2nd day of operation on this 2nd year in service, we didn't want to take the chance of returning to our starting point at Saint Mary Visitor Center after DARK.. we will have to save our trip to the west end at Apgar Village for another visit! On our shuttle ride back, one of the spectacular areas to view along this Going-to-the-Sun-Road is the "Weeping Wall" (igallery/image_page.php?id=3541) Pretty cool indeed! :D This is a result of the heavy winter'08 snow melt cascading down onto the road..a free wash job for all!!

    I would also like to say that this July 15,2008, was the 75th Anniversary Year for the Going-to-the-Sun-Road. I feel honored to have been able to visit this historic and most beautiful "landmark in the sky" during this special celebration year!
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    Since Hank went to the trouble of posting the GTTSR description, I thot I would post my trip and pictures. In the pictures, you will be able to see the scene in 2005 and in some cases, I will show you the picture from this year which is almost 3 yrs to the date.

    We were staying at the KOA in my brother's "Big Rig" motor home at St Mary's and had to rent a suburban so as to accomodate my niece's baby seat, two moms, my brother and his wife and me. We drove the road both ways, going from the east side and turning around just after heading down on the west side. We got out quite a bit as there is just so much to take in. It's nice that no one on this road is in a hurry so the traffic, though somewhat plentiful, is polite.

    It was an absolutely glorious day with lots of wildflowers in bloom and some mountain goats out and about. We did get out at the Visitors Center at Logan Pass and spend 1/2 hour or so. We were lucky to find parking as it is very crowded mid day. The glacier lillys were amazing.

    This drive is a "must do" if you get near Glacier Park. I always take it even if it's slightly out of the way as I am going from Kalispell to the east side or visa versa.

    Permit $$

    Glacier National Park
    $30 per car(week), $12 bike/foot(week), $50 annual View Current Entrance Fees

    Map Drive
    Paved - Car Okay

    To scenic drive
    From "either" West Glacier, MT (the GNP-Apgar Transit Station) "or" East Glacier (the GNP-Saint Mary Visitor Center): The Going-to-the-Sun Road starts at either of these two locations and continues for ~50 "jaw-dropping-oou-ah" miles in-between.

    page created by Grasshopper on Jul 16 2013 12:57 pm
    3 pack - loud whistle
    go prepared
    help comment issue

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