Post Summary: Things To See On Going-To-The-Sun Road in Glacier National Park, Montana
Labeled as one of the most amazing drives to take in the world, Glacier National Park’s Going-To-The-Sun Road boasts towering peaks, stunning valleys, and epic views at every turn.
(Seriously, it’s hard to keep your eyes on the road – but please do!)
In this blog post, we’re sharing the best stops on these 50 miles of epic scenery. We’ll tell you where to find the best views on the Going To The Sun Highway, how to plan your time wisely, and tips on getting the most out of this scenic Montana drive.
Let’s hop in the car and get going!
What’s So Special About This Road?
You’re probably wondering why the Going-To-The-Sun Road is such a big deal. I mean, it’s just another scenic drive through the Rockies, right?
It’s SO much more than that, and even though it’s only 50 miles from end to end, we suggest allowing at least 2 hours to soak it all in (or come back multiple times in one trip like us!) It’s one of the most iconic west coast road trip routes, so you’ll want to stop at every turn!
From crossing the continental divide, experiencing waterfalls right from the road, and seeing goats and bears directly off the highway, it will be the most exciting 50 miles of your life!
So, Where Do I Begin?
There are two entrances to the Going-To-The-Sun Road – one on the east side and one on the west. Here are the coordinates:
What Cars Can Drive On Going-To-The-Sun Road?
There are also very important requirements for driving this scenic Montana highway.
Not all vehicles will do! In fact, it’s incredibly dangerous (and illegal) if you don’t listen to these limitations so HEAR US OUT!
In order to drive the Going-To-The-Sun Road, your vehicle must:
- be under 21 feet length
- be under 8 feet wide, and
- be less than 10 feet tall
Have a long camper van? Are you towing a trailer? Don’t worry, all hope is not lost!
There are plenty of places to park RVs and longer vehicles on both the east and west entrances.
You can easily park at one of the larger visitors centers like Apgar and St Mary.
Glacier National Park provides a free shuttle system on the Going-To-The-Sun Road in its entirety, between Apgar Visitor Center and St Mary Visitor Center.
Want to see more than just the road? Consider Glacier’s In-Park transportation on the historic red shuttles that drive all around Glacier National Park!
All The Best Stops On Going-To-The-Sun-Road: Glacier National Park
If you’re entering the park from the west side, the first view you’ll get of the park is from Lake McDonald. The lake is 10 miles long and can get up to 500 feet deep.
Along your route, you’ll drive quite a long ways beside Lake McDonald for the first part of the Going-To-The-Sun Road, and there are plenty of places to pull off and take pictures of the view.
For a longer stop, we suggest visiting Apgar, which is a little town right next to the water. There, you’ll find a campground, as well as a gift shop, outfitters, and other touristy things to do.
It’s a spectacular place to stop for a quick meal on the shoreline – the lake’s horizon is scattered with several mountain peaks.
Our favorite part of Apgar is the day-use area, where you can rent canoes, have a picnic, or even take a dip in the lake!
One of the first attractions eastbound on Going-To-The-Sun Road is McDonald Falls. There’s a generously-sized pullout area for parking, and you can reach the viewing platform by a small set of stairs.
It stretches across the entire McDonald Creek and is the main feeder for Lake McDonald. It’s a quick and beautiful stop worth taking.
If you’re looking for an easy but beautiful hiking trail on the Going-To-The-Sun Road, you’ll find it on Avalanche Trail.
This 4-mile out and back hike is perfect for all ages, with a gentle elevation gain to an incredibly scenic alpine lake.
It’s an easily accessible hike for many in West Glacier, so you’ll find quite a bit of traffic on the trail.
Don’t let that deter you, however – once you’re at the lake there’s plenty of room to spread out along the shore and get some peace and quiet by the water.
Trip Tip: Come early to snag a parking spot. We circled the lot about three times until we luckily came across someone leaving! Come with lots of patience, this part of the Going-To-The-Sun Road is one of the busiest in the entire park.
Read More: Everything You Need To Know About Avalanche Lake Hike in Glacier (coming soon!)
Trail of The Cedars
You can easily take this trail alongside Avalanche Trail because the paths begin on the same route.
This nature loop is wheelchair accessible and family-friendly, with an incredibly flat and wide trail on one side and a boardwalk amongst the cedars on the other.
Notable trees along the path are Western Red Cedar, Black Cottonwood, and Western Hemlock. Some of them are more than 500 years old!
There are also several interesting features along the Trail of The Cedars to discover. Our favorite was the overturned tree, where you could study the roots up close!
You can also spend some time sitting on one of the many benches along the trail and listening to the soothing Avalanche stream that runs in the middle of the loop.
The Loop is a hairpin turn in the Going-To-The-Sun Road in Glacier National Park. It’s incredibly challenging to navigate, so you’ve got to be alert when encountering this part of the route.
This is one of the main reasons why long vehicles at RV’s aren’t allowed on the road. Could you imagine the traffic mishaps that could occur??
Here at The Loop, there is a parking area that fits maybe about 20 cars and is great for a quick stop for those epic Glacier views.
However, we recommend parking long-term at Logan Pass if you choose to take one of the longer Glacier hikes nearby.
Some of the things you can do here are:
- Hike to the Granite Park Chalet and back
- View Heaven’s Peak, an 8,987-foot tall peak
- Begin the Highline Trail (historically this is the “end” but you can choose to go the other direction too!)
The Weeping Wall is a section of the cliff that receives a huge amount of runoff during the springtime melt. The water runs off the edge of the rocks and falls right onto the road.
The park has installed drains below to try and control the gush of water on the road, but chances are your car will still get wet.
The flow is strongest in the spring, but we came in September and it was still splashing all the cars that passed by.
Big Bend (Best Sunset Spot In Glacier)
The best views on the Going-To-The-Sun Road is hands down at Big Bend. This is a curve in the road before you reach Logan Pass Visitors Center, and immediately following the Weeping Wall (when heading from west to east).
We came during sunset and the golden hour was spectacular. The valley lit up with warm greens and amplified the colors of the wildflowers that covered the ground.
Trip Tip: Stay just a bit longer after sunset for Blue Hour. The light is still rich with color, and most of the crowds have dispersed by this time.
Logan Pass Visitors Center
The Logan Pass Visitors Center is the highest point of the Going-To-The-Sun Road, sitting at 6,647 feet in elevation. Here, you’ll also cross over the continental divide!
At Logan Pass, you can take a bathroom break, pick up a trail map, and ask the rangers questions about your upcoming hikes.
During busy season, the parking lot is commonly full so prepare to drive a few laps around the lot until you find someone leaving their spot for you to park.
You can also use the Logan Pass parking lot as your home-base for the afternoon if you are planning on doing some hiking.
There are two trailheads around the lot, including Hidden Lake Overlook and The Highline Trail but you can opt to take the free Glacier shuttle to other trailheads around the area from the Visitor Center.
The Highline Trail is an 11.8 one-way trail that takes you through some of the most dramatic views of the Glacier National Park mountains.
The most common way to take the trail is by starting at the Logan Pass Visitors Center and ending at “The Loop” trailhead and then taking a shuttle back up to the top. But really, it’s your hike and you can hike it however you want!
Some features on the trail that are worth mentioning can also be great pitstops or turn-around points along the way. Here are some of the best parts of the Highline Trail:
- Taking a break at the Granite Park Chalet
- Walking along the Garden Wall
- Peering down the 100-foot drop on the cliff wall (closest to Logan Pass Trailhead start)
This is likely one of the most interesting and scenic trails in America, so we highly recommend doing it, even if it’s just a little part!
Read More: 11+ Amazing Hikes In Glacier National Park
Hidden Lake Lookout
Hidden Lake Lookout is an easily accessible hiking trail on Going-To-The-Sun Road.
From the Logan Pass Visitors Center, you can take a 3-mile round trip walk to a viewpoint that overlooks Bearhat Mountain and Hidden Lake directly below.
The first part of the trail is on a boardwalk and series of stairs and platforms, so get ready for the best stair-stepping view of your life!
Labeled as ‘moderate’ for its quick elevation gain in such a short period of time (700 feet in 1.5 miles), we think it’s doable if you stop to take in the wildflowers and views every once in a while.
This is a popular spot for viewing mountain goats grazing for a snack, or pikas (little mouse-like creatures) squeaking to each other from the rock piles above.
Remember to always stay a safe distance from wildlife on the trail (25 feet from most, and 100 feet from predators like bears!) and NEVER feed them.
They’ve got plenty of food around the park – they really don’t need your granola bar!
Jackson Glacier Overlook
Jackson Glacier Overlook is a quick pullout on Going-To-The-Sun Road. From here, you can view the 7th largest glacier in Glacier National Park.
Located on Mt Jackson in the distance (at 10,052 feet, it’s the fourth highest peak in Glacier National Park), this is a great time to pull out your binoculars and spot the bed of ice at the top!
If you plan to visit Glacier National Park only once, don’t pass this stop. The glaciers are melting rapidly, and it may not be around much longer, unfortunately.
St Mary Falls
St Mary Falls hike is one of the most popular waterfalls trails in Glacier National Park.
The easiest way to reach St Mary Falls is hiking from the St Mary Falls Trailhead, but you can extend your hike by starting at Sun Point Parking Lot and walking along the shores of St Mary Lake.
Once you reach the viewing area, there’s a bridge with a great view of the falls, a place to sit for a break, and some afternoon shade for a welcome rest.
St. Mary Falls is 35-feet high with a three-tier drop, but the bottom two are the most easily visible.
Want more from this hike? Continue your adventure to Virginia Falls on the trail past the sitting area. It’s less than a mile away from a second Glacier waterfall!
Sunrift Gorge is a must-see spot on the Going-To-The-Sun Road. Here, you can easily visit waterfalls like Baring Falls, St Mary Falls, and Virginia Falls from the trailheads.
After the 2015 Wildfire blazed through the area, the trees are just standing skeletons of what they once were. But sometimes with destruction comes beauty!
We were very surprised at how much we loved hiking the trails right off this pullout on Going-To-The-Sun Road.
The underbrush was growing in quickly, and the lack of trees actually provided incredible views of the mountains across the lake.
This trails leaving from this area are very sunny, so make sure to wear sunscreen and a hat to shade yourself on your hike!
Too warm? Go for a dip in the water!
Sun Point Nature Trail
Sun Point Nature Trail is a quick 0.1-mile path to a giant rock that has incredible views of St. Mary Lake in all directions.
Trail Tip: This is a great stop to stretch your legs without committing to a longer hike. Make sure to bring your camera and pack some sunscreen!
Wild Goose Island
One of the last stops (or the first if you’re going westbound from St Mary) on Going-To-The-Sun Road is a viewpoint overlooking Wild Goose Island and St Mary Lake with stunning mountains in the distance.
Wild Goose Island is a great stop on Going-To-The-Sun Road to get out of the car and quickly stretch your legs.
There isn’t much to do except for climbing to the lookout and viewing the island. You can’t actually access the island from this particular spot, but the views are worth it regardless.
We think the best time to visit this spot is when the sun is out! This could mean a specific time like sunrise and sunset, or simply a time when the sun is high in the sky.
This is because the light reflecting off the lake and mountains make for an incredibly Instagram-worthy photo!
St Mary Visitors Center
St Mary Visitors Center is the last westbound stop or the first eastbound stop on your Going-To-The-Sun Road trip. Here, there are tons of bathrooms for a break, plenty of parking, and shuttle access if you want to leave your car for the day.
Inside the Visitors Center, you’ll find a huge topographical map of Glacier’s mountains, and an interpretive display that teaches visitors about the Blackfeet Tribe that live on the east side of the park.
Trip Tip: Depending on your cell service provider, some carriers have coverage around St Mary Visitor Center. If your carrier doesn’t have service, the visitor center also has free wifi in 30-minute increments.
FAQs ABOUT GOING-TO-THE-SUN ROAD
What Is The Going-To-The-Sun Road’s Elevation?
The highest point of the highway is at Logan Pass Visitor Center, at the Continental Divide sign at 6, 646 feet (2,026 meters).
How Long is Going-To-The-Sun Road?
The Going-To-The-Sun Road in Glacier National Park Montana is 50 miles long, passing through Logan Pass and part of the Rocky Mountains. (Want to see as much as possible? Read our Glacier National Park Itinerary here!)
Will I See Wildlife On The Road?
The chances of you seeing wildlife on Going-To-The-Sun Road in Montana are very high. Although we obviously can’t guarantee it, here are some tips on increasing your chances of spotting that bear, moose or goat off the road!
- Come early morning or late evening. This is when the day’s heat isn’t so bad, and animals come out to graze on the land.
- Ask the park rangers for current wildlife spottings and tips on where to view them safely.
When Is The Going-To-The-Sun Road Open?
The Going-To-The-Sun Road opening times are only in the summer months at Glacier National Park.
It’s a very short season, which usually happens between early-mid July and Mid-October. All other times during the year, the road is closed due to extremely high snow volume. (Some parts of the road receive up to 80 feet of snow!)
To reach East Glacier in the winter, you’ll have to take the detour through Highway 2 which is located on the southern border of the park.
Because of the precarious location of the highway, it’s nearly impossible to plow and maintain during the winter months, so the park completely shuts down the road in the winter.
There is no hard-set date every year for the opening of Going-To-The-Sun Road, as it depends on the weather. However, the Going-To-The-Sun Road status is frequently updated online HERE.
Tips On Driving The Going-To-The-Sun Road
Driving on Going-To-The-Sun Road can be a challenging and rewarding journey. Here are some tips to make your trip successful and ease any worries you may have:
- Cars Cannot Exceed 21 Feet. Park at either the Apgar Visitors Center or St Mary Visitor Center and take the free Glacier Shuttle.
- Go Slow. People are distracted in many ways – small roads, amazing views, and crowds are all reasons to not speed!
- Have a Designated Picture-Taker. Worried about missing those views? Have someone with a camera in charge of taking photos, and take turns!
- There Will Likely Be No Cell Service. Download an offline map if you want some navigation and access to the area. (Click on our road trip planner post to read how to download maps!)
- Use Pullouts! Traffic can slow significantly when visitors decide to take pictures on the Going-To-The-Sun Road. Help keep a steady flow going by using a pullout if you want to snap a quick photo.
- Pack Layers. Mornings in Glacier are pretty chilly but can heat up fast in the afternoon. Bring layers to accommodate the weather for that day!