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Picture this: misty forests, rising peaks, and lush greenery set 6,000 feet above sea level in the mountains of Montana’s Glacier National Park. Now imagine winding through the cliffside and finding the Going-to-the-Sun Road – a secluded highway surrounded by nothing but serene landscapes for its 50-mile stretch. Constructed in the 1920s to draw tourists to the region, the Sun Road is the only way to gain access to the park, and with many scenic overlooks, glistening lakes, and natural beauty, it is a must. For more on one of America’s most famous drives, read our guide.
The Going-to-the-Sun Road, also referred to as the Sun Road, isn’t your average highway – situated within the Rocky Mountains in America’s Northwest, the Sun Road is subject to road closures during the colder months due to snowfall and unpredictable storms and, thus, requires careful planning. Portions of the Sun Road remain open year-round, but the alpine portion is dependent on weather conditions (usually, it’s open June/July through October) – be sure to check the road status page before making the drive.
Other important information to note is that this road, because it is secluded high within the mountains, does not provide gas refueling stations along the way, so visitors must plan ahead. There are also three visitor centers along the Sun Road, in Apgar, Logan Pass, and St. Mary, with restrooms, information, water, exhibits, and bookstores.
While making the drive along the Going-to-the-Sun Road, relish in the natural beauty just outside the window – from the alpine forests and pristine lakes to the natural wildlife such as mountain goats and bighorn sheep. For the best views of the glacier, head to the Jackson Glacier Overlook, located between Logan Pass and St. Mary, and for wildlife viewing, head to Logan Pass, St. Mary, or Many Glacier. Other must-stops include Goat Haunt, one of the park’s most remote and tranquil locations (only reachable by foot or boat), and Lake McDonald Valley – an area once occupied by massive glaciers, now filled with hiking trails, abundant wildlife, historic chalets, and stunning lake views.
For the outdoor enthusiast, Glacier National Park offers an array of activities, including over 700 miles of hiking trails, cycling, fishing, boating, cross-country skiing, and ranger programs and tours. For the best in hiking, Many Glacier offers numerous trails – with the Grinnell Glacier trail and the Iceberg Lake trail as the most popular – accompanied by massive mountain ranges, lakes, and active glaciers. You can also head to the less crowded Two Medicine, a hiker’s paradise fit with breathtaking vistas and waterfalls. Don’t miss the striking views from St. Mary’s vistas or the field of wildflowers in Logan Pass (during spring).
Whether you’re into cozy cabin lodging or sleeping under the stars, the Glacier National Park has an array of accommodations to appease any traveler. Choose from 13 campgrounds – five of which are located along the road in Apgar, Sprague Creek, Avalanche, Rising Sun, and St. Mary – and over 1,000 sites. For the more experienced, visitors can opt for river camping or backcountry camping within the mountainside. For a more comfortable stay, head to the Apgar Village Lodge or Village Inn Motel in Apgar, Motel Lake McDonald, Swiftcurrent Motor Inn in Many Glacier, or Rising Sun Motor Inn; or discover backcountry life at the Sperry Chalet and Granite Park Chalet. For a luxurious experience, check out the historic Lake McDonald Lodge or the Many Glacier Hotel (currently under renovation). Pro tip: book early as reservations fill up quickly.
For eats along the Sun Road, visitors can head to Rising Sun, Lake McDonald Lodge, and Apgar Village – Eddie’s Cafe, Jammer Joe’s Grill & Pizzeria, and Two Dogs Flats Grill, alongside dining within lodges and hotels, are highly recommended. There are also plenty of stores for grabbing picnic goods, including Eddie’s Mercantile in Apgar, Lodge Camp Store in Lake McDonald, Swiftcurrent Camp Store in Many Glacier, Rising Sun Camp Store, and Two Medicine Camp Store; for picnicking, head to Rising Sun, Avalanche Creek, Sprague Creek, and Apgar.