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Biking The Going To The Sun Road, Glacier National Park

Biking the Going to the Sun Road, Glacier National Park

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 the 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 the 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 $10 per cyclist for a seven day park pass, yet only $15 per car.

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

The Going to the Sun Road

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.

Cycling is definitely the way to experience 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
A perfect April day to be biking 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

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.

Further reading about things to do in Montana

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

Biking the Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park

 

 

 

Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 61,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

This Post Has 9 Comments
  1. Gorgeous photos! Brought back so many memories, my husband and I cycled from Thunder Bay to Yellowstone for our honeymoon (1980-on 10 speeds) and The Going to the Sun Road was a high point.

  2. Hello, good bike trip!
    Thank you for all the information, is very helpful.
    I was wondering if you know when the road opens this year. Also if you have any other kind of information or suggestions about that bike ride I’ll really appreciate.
    Thank you!

  3. […] St. Mary is just a little bit of a village and a seasonal one at that. It’s got a gas station, a grocery store – though with a rather uninspiring section of food and a handful of accommodation options. St. Mary owes its existence to the park and the fact that it’s the easternmost entrance to one of the most stunning drives on the planet – The Going-to-the-Sun Road.  […]

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