Not your average highway
You can start from Hwy 89 in St Mary or from Hwy 2 in East Glacier. You can make this a loop too. For example, from St Mary you can continue on Hwy 89 and head toward Browning, hang a left and head west on Hwy 2 to East Glacier. At East Glacier you go under the cement railroad bridge onto Hwy 49. (Highway 49 was once part of the alignment of US 2, prior to the construction of a highway bridge across Two Medicine Creek.)
For this description we start from St Mary on Hwy 89. You head south out of St Mary. The road winds up thru remnants of the 2006 Red Eagle Fire with a great view of Divide Mountain. As you get to the top of the hill, there are some pullouts if you want to stop and look back at the views over St Mary Lake toward Logan Pass. However, most folks will come back this same route so you can save it for the return.
At the top of the hill and in various areas there are some areas that you can pull out and get some wildflower pics in the small meadows. As you continue on the road you wind around to another area where there is a big meadow in front of you above the road that goes along a spur of Cut Bank Creek or the road that takes you to the TH at Cut Bank. Sometimes you get to see horses in the meadow . The views to the Rockies is also outstanding here.
It's about 19 miles on a narrow highway until you reach the Kiowa/MT49 junction. Hang a right here and your curvy adventure on the 11 mile Looking Glass Road will begin shortly. Much of the route is steep, narrow, and winding, and prone to landslides. Once you get up thru the trees and around a couple corners you will start encountering additional pullouts. They are narrow so keep that in mind when parking and pulling out of them. There are a few blind corners so one needs to really be diligent here when driving or walking around. Also the road takes a beating during winter and you will run into some short gravel areas and go over swells caused from the frost. The road has short sections of 8 feet or so that have dropped a few inches (or more) lower than the other parts of the road.
Eventually you top out on this part of the road and start heading down MT49. There are blind corners lined with aspens and The views of Lower Two Medicine Lake will come into view. There are once again a few pullouts. One where you can actually walk out a ways to get a better view toward Upper Two Medicine Lake and the mountains. You will come to a marked section where you can opt to take the 4 mile drive over to Two Medicine. This too is a worthy destination that will leave you at the upper edge of Two Medicine Lake looking at one of the most photographed scenes in Glacier National Park with Sinopah Mountain standing tall. This is a popular camping area as well and there is a store and restrooms. You can also take a boat ride and there are numerous hikes in the area as well.
Continuing on the 49 you will reach the over 100 year old Glacier Park Lodge. This is also a stop worth your time to go in and check out the tall logs used to hold the roof up as well as to walk thru the garden that is filled with blooming flowers. Across the way is the East Glacier Park Train Depot. From here it's a hop, skip and jump under the cement railroad bridge to Hwy 2 and East Glacier. If you're headed back to the park, here is a good place to fuel up a little cheaper. Oh and there are some good eateries and shopping places as well as a hostel.
On the way back, you will get even different views, especially once you top out and get a view of Cut Bank Ridge and the wide open rolling plains. They don't call this "Big Sky" country for nothing. After you've done this drive, you'll feel like you can handle whatever curves and bounces are thrown your way and will really appreciate the smoothness of the Going to the Sun Road.
Check out the Official Route and Triplog.
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.
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