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 a good chunk of the Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park was open to hikers and cyclists right now. That nailed it, especially with good weather in the forecast for the 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.
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 ride.
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.