Glacier National Park’s Going-to-the-Sun Road

Our quick two-day stay at Glacier ended way to quickly. We were to arrive in the Seattle area before nightfall and had a good 9-10 hour drive ahead of us. First though, we were leaving the park via a sensational, awe-inspiring drive. One of the most famous mountain roads in the United States is Glacier National Park’s Going-to-the-Sun Road. This 50 mile road crosses the Continental Divide and spans the park from east to west. Construction of the road began in 1921 and was completed 11 years later. It was an engineering feat. It is the first to be registered in National Historic Places, National Historic Landmarks, and Historic Civil Engineering Landmarks. 

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It is a narrow, two-lane road with hairpin curves carved into mountains. Due to these conditions, vehicles are limited to no longer than 21 feet in length, 8 feet in width and 1o feet in height. We barely squeaked in under the limits. Even as early as we were at driving the road, we were shocked that the few pullouts and trailhead parking areas were already full. Consequently, all of these pictures were taken through the windshield as we traversed the road – sorry for the blurriness. 

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We were on the road by 6:30 am. If you want to see wildlife and avoid the heavy traffic, you have to start very early. 

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Glacier Mountain overlook was the only place we had a chance to stop. The views were  stunning.  

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I especially loved the towering Bear Grass  flowers. 

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The early morning hours are the prettiest time, with the sun creeping across the mountain tops. Going from the east side to west was perfect as we didn’t have the glare of the bright sun in our eyes as it rose up in the sky. Beautiful alpine wildflowers edged the road in many areas. There are two tunnels, the East Side Tunnel at 408 feet long and the West Side Tunnel at 192 feet long, one on each side of Logan’s Pass. Click here to see video of the immense difficulty in building and maintaining this east tunnel. 

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There are quite a few hairpin curves around the towering edges of the mountain. The Loop is the tightest of these turns. I wasn’t sure we were going to be able to make the turn!

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The road was officially named the “Going-to-the-Sun Road” during the dedication of the park in 1933. The name was borrowed from the nearby “Going-to-the-Sun Mountain.” However, I like the Native American legend from the Blackfeet tribe. In this legend, the deity, Sour Spirit, came down from the sun. He was to teach Blackfeet braves the techniques of hunting. Once finished, Sour Spirit begin to go back to the sun. He stopped at a nearby mountain and reproduced his image on the top to be viewed as inspiration for the future Blackfeet braves.  If you travel at daybreak or nightfall, depending on your direction, at some point on the road, you will be “Going-to-the-Sun!”

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After doing “the Loop,” we were no longer on the inside of the mountain road and were now clinging on the sheer drop off side!!! I was clutching onto the “Holy Sh## bar on the door, and leaning to the inside to “hold” the car on the road! We had made it to the west tunnel. 

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The views were spectacular and a bit scary (for those of us that don’t like heights)!

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In what seemed as “no time at all,” we were back nestled in towering pines looking upward to the mountains, but in reality, the trek took about 2 amazing, breath-taking hours. 

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Do you want to see more gorgeous pictures taken along Going-to-the Sun Road? Click here for more wonderful things to see and do on this epic road. 

Do you ever wonder what this road looks like in the winter or how in the world they plow it out after being buried by 60-80 feet of snow? Click here and check out some amazing pictures by the national park service from this spring. The road was opened to travel on June 17th of this year. 

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