Glacier National Park's Going-to-the-Sun Road
The highlight of Glacier National Park, the Going-to-the-Sun Road is one of the world's finest scenic drives. The fifty mile road through the park's wild interior connects the east and west sides of Glacier National Park, climbing spectacularly over the Continental Divide at Logan Pass, elevation 6,680 feet. (Photo, left: The vertical western face of the Continental Divide, called the Garden Wall.)
The road passes through different worlds east and west of the divide. Much of the west-facing side of the Rocky Mountains within the park, comprised of the Lewis and Livingston Ranges, features a vertical rock face known as the Garden Wall. Going-to-the-Sun Road was literally carved into this cliff. The result is a thrilling and hair-raising ride with unbelievable views of both mountains and valleys. The outer edge of the road drops off thousands of feet into the valley below with immense views (Photo, below right). The mountains also act as a rain block. Much of the blocked precipitation ends up falling on the west side's Lake McDonald Valley. The result is a mild, damp climate with an environment very similar to the Pacific Northwest coast. The forests here are extremely dense with very lush undergrowth. The east side of the park is more open and drier, more typical of the interior American West.
The route below the Garden Wall also features an amazing number of waterfalls. This is especially true in early summer when the heavy snowpack is melting. One of the most scenic spots is the Weeping Wall (Photo, below left). This long length of wall features a series of gushing waterfalls in the spring and early summer, which reduces to a mere trickle in late summer and fall. However you cannot always see the falls. The higher elevations of the road west of Logan Pass can easily be shrouded in fog and clouds, especially in early summer. This can make driving quite challenging given the twisting road and the cliffs. East of Logan Pass the climate is much drier, and the steep twisting roads quickly give way to a gradual descent.
Logan Pass is the highest elevation on the drive and offers a harsh alpine climate with stark scenery. One last June visit offered dense fog, a heavy snow pack, and 36°F (2.22°C) temperature at midday. A previous visit offered sunnier conditions but a cold, biting wind. The chalet-style visitor center offers welcome warmth and excellent views from the picture windows.
The National Park Service now provides a free shuttle bus service along the entire length of the Going-to-the-Sun Road. The buses run frequently from early morning until late evening and stop at all important destinations. The shuttle system should improve visitors' experience by reducing mid-summer traffic and congestion. The Logan Pass parking lot and many of the best scenic pulloffs west of the Divide are often jammed full during mid-summer. We strongly urge park visitors to use the shuttle bus system!
Map of Glacier National Park's Going-to-the-Sun Road
Some features on this map can be clicked on to view further information.
Best in the West Guide - Spectacular Scenic Routes