Glacier National Park: Going to the Sun Road

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Going-to-the-Sun Road

The 50 mile Going-to-the-Sun Road first opened to traffic in Glacier National Park in 1933. It remains a key attraction in the park today. On our first trip down, we began at the East entrance in St. Mary. We then took a Red Bus tour of the Eastern side. We toured the road in our rental car a few more times that week and saw something different each time.


The park closes Going-to-the-Sun Road during the colder months. It is very difficult to plow due to the twists, turns and sheer cliffs. They get snow drifts of up to 80 feet in the higher elevations! The plow crews started work at the end of April the year we went. When we got on a plane bound for Kalispell at the end of June, the road was still closed. Late on the night of our arrival, the Park Service tweeted out the happy news that Going-to-the-Sun was open for the summer season!


Integrating the Road

The road opened in the 1930s as an engineering marvel. It had been a three-year project that actually took 11 years to build. The design of the road changed over the course of the construction. It was planned as multiple switchbacks carving up the mountain to Logan Pass. It became only one long switchback called The Loop. This reduced the visual impact, but increased the cost and time needed for the project.


The road is named for the mountain it cuts through on the East side of the pass. Legend has it that a Native American god came down from the sun to teach the Blackfeet how to hunt. He left his image in the mountain upon his return to the Sun. The source of that legend is in dispute. Is it a Blackfeet legend, or did a European settler make the whole thing up?


On our trips up and down Going to the Sun, we saw tunnels, glaciers, beautiful mountains and valleys and countless waterfalls crossing the road. We were thrilled to have four bighorn sheep cross the road in front of our car one evening. They posed for photos and then clambered up the cliff next to us.


Another time, when all I had handy to take photos was my phone, we saw two black bears. One blonde, one brunette, they frolicked by the side of the road. We’d heard a ranger talking about this duo on a hike earlier that day. Apparently the couple had come together to mate and there were multiple visitor sightings of them in the St. Mary area.


Going to the Sun Posts


Location: Going-to-the-Sun Road, East Glacier Park, Montana
Designation: National Park
Date designated/established: May 11, 1910
Date of my visit: June 24, 2018

Bighorn traffic jam at the East Tunnel…can you see him peeking over the hood of the car in front?