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What a view while biking the Going to the Sun Road
What a view while biking the Going to the Sun Road

Biking Going to the Sun Road, Glacier NP

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I’ve had a trip to Whitefish, Montana in my sights for some time. I didn’t have specific plans other than to see what sort of outdoor adventures one could do in the area. And then I found out that hiking and biking Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park was available to hikers and cyclists in the spring.

The road remains closed to cars until sometime in June but for two glorious months you can be biking Going to the Sun Road without the threat of being smushed into a rock wall. That was our goal one late April weekend.

John and I made the five hour drive from Calgary down to Whitefish on a Friday night. After a leisurely start the next morning – as we had no clue what we were really getting ourselves into, we made our way to the west entrance of Glacier National Park.

We parked about a mile outside the park by the Travel Alberta information booth. In hindsight, one should drive into the park as it costs $US15 per cyclist for a seven day park pass (winter rate from November 1 – April 30), and only $25 per car if you get the winter rate.

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Looking down Lake McDonald from the Apgar Visitor Centre
Looking down Lake McDonald from the Apgar Visitor Centre

Going to the Sun Road – a National Historic Landmark

The Going to the Sun Road, now a National Historic Landmark, cuts a 53 mile swath through the Rocky Mountains, across Glacier National Park. The narrow, winding road is only open seasonally.

Typically it takes about ten weeks to plow the length of the road. In big snow years, up to 80 feet of snow has been reported at Logan Pass. According to the website, the earliest the full road will be open this year is June 15th. September 20th will be the last day to drive the entire road in 2015, though some sections west of Logan Pass will be open into October.

Right now the road is plowed for approximately 12 miles PAST Avalanche Creek and this part of the road is only open to hikers and cyclists. There is a parking lot at Avalanche Creek if you don’t want to ride the 17 miles from the Visitor Centre at the west entrance.

We chose to ride all the way in from the park entrance, thinking that the exercise would be great. And it was, but because neither of us had done a serious ride this year, we were both tired and sore by the time we got back to our car (at 6 PM).

It’s an easy ride to Avalanche Creek and it’s not until you round the bend and head northwest for the loop that the grade increases.

The experience of biking the Going to the Sun Road 

As you can see from the photos, the road is very narrow and there are some big drop-offs. I’d rather be on a bike than in a car any day. Plus the views you get at the edge are sublime. And you can stop and go as you please. But don’t linger by the avalanche chutes that are still packed with snow.

The Going to the Sun Road ranks up there as one of the top bike rides of my life. I’d love to come back another time and cycle all the way to St. Mary’s. Right now the road in from St. Mary’s is completely inaccessible.

You can check the real time status of the road here. Plan to cycle on weekends and when the road crews call it a day.

Once the road opens to cars (beware the length restrictions) then bicycles will only be permitted on the road before 11 AM and after 4 PM.

Enjoy the bike ride

Reading about the fire of 2003 in Glacier National Park
Reading about the fire of 2003 in Glacier National Park
A perfect April day to be biking the Going to the Sun Road
The easy part of the Going to the Sun Road
A perfect April day to be biking the Going to the Sun Road Beautiful Lake McDonald
A perfect April day to be biking the Going to the Sun Road
Admiring the falls above Lake McDonald
Admiring the falls above Lake McDonald
Our scenic lunch spot - just up from Avalanche Creek
Our scenic lunch spot – just up from Avalanche Creek
Really lovely cycling along this section
Really lovely cycling along this section
Lots of people out biking the Going to the Sun Road before it's open to cars
Lots of people out biking the Going to the Sun Road before it’s open to cars
I'm still smiling biking the Going to the Sun Road
I’m still smiling
Heading through the tunnel on the Going to the Sun Road
Heading through the tunnel on the Going to the Sun Road
Looking towards Heavens Peak
Looking towards Heavens Peak
The view from The Loop
The view from The Loop
What a view while biking the Going to the Sun Road
What a view while biking the Going to the Sun Road
I'd much rather be biking Going to the Sun Road than driving - notice how narrow it is
I’d much rather be biking Going to the Sun Road than driving – notice how narrow it is
Crossing a major avalanche chute
Crossing a major avalanche chute
Spectacular views down the valley from where we'd come
Spectacular views down the valley from where we’d come
There's an airy drop-off at this section of road
Biking Going to the Sun Road beside an airy drop off
The snowbanks are still enormous around the avalanche chutes
The snowbanks are still enormous around the avalanche chutes
Biking the Going to the Sun Road past one long avalanche chute
Biking the Going to the Sun Road past one long avalanche chute
A lot of sweeping needs to be done before the road will be ready for cars
A lot of sweeping needs to be done before the road will be ready for cars

How far we cycled

John and I figured we cycled about 90 kilometres in total and climbed at least a few thousand feet – though it felt like more. I highly recommend this bike ride!! But go prepared with extra food, water, gloves and a warm jacket for the descent.

A new option for overnight and rentals

Roam Beyond is a newer company offering a selection of products that are perfect for biking the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

Need to rent an e-bike? They’ve got you covered. Want to stay in a cool cabin close to to the bike ride? Again they’d be perfect. And if a weekend of catered, chef-prepared meals with bikes and accommodation sounds like a fun way to kick-start your summer, then check out their options – only available on weekends. 

Check out the sweet set-up in their cabins
Check out the sweet set-up in their cabins

Where to stay in nearby Whitefish

There are lots of options in Whitefish from staying on the ski slopes, to in town to on the lake.

Top rated properties include the Lodge at Whitefish Lake, The Farmhouse Inn & Kitchen and The Firebrand Hotel.

Location map of the Going to the Sun Road

                                     

Further reading about things to do in Montana

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

Bike the Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park early in the season before its open to cars

 

 

 

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