Going to the Sun Road is Glacier National Park’s biggest attraction. In fact, prior to coming to the park, it was about the only thing we knew was there. Completed in 1933, after nearly twelve years of careful engineering and construction, this narrow, two lane road stretches approximately fifty miles through the center of the park. It crosses the Continental Divide at a peak height of 6,646 feet above sea level and traverses twists and turns along some of the most beautiful alpine scenery you could ever imagine.
Due to the narrow lanes, low tunnel clearances, and occasional hairpin turns, vehicles longer than 21 feet or wider than eight feet are restricted from driving on the road. And I wouldn’t even feel comfortable pushing it to those lengths. We drove with our F-150’s sideview mirrors tucked in most of the way just to be safe. It really is not bad to drive otherwise, as long as you take it slow, but I would not want to have to worry about driving anything bigger.
Luckily for anyone driving in a bigger rig, there are shuttles that run the length of the road, as well as tours that run on the original “Red Jammers” from the 1930s, that look pretty darn cool and even peel the roof back for everyone to get a good view (on nice days, that is).
To reach different trailheads along it, we wound up driving the road several different times from both directions, so our images are pieced together from a few different days. Our drive typically started coming up north on Route 89 from Two Medicine to St. Mary, on the eastern end, which is a stunning drive in and of itself, and made us not mind driving the extra hour quite as much.
The road is bookended by St. Mary and MacDonald Lakes, both large, pearly, turquoise lakes that make for some of the most iconic images of the road. This image here of Wild Goose Island is probably the most recognizable view.
The rest of the drive along this lake is pretty leisurely with mountains and meadows of wildflowers (in summer) off to the right, as well as the water and huge mountains off to your left. You can even see one of the largest glaciers in the park, Jackson Glacier, from the road. Signs in the park said that due to rising temperatures, the glaciers in Glacier could be melted as soon as 2030, so if you want to see them, go now! The appearance of everything is sure to change over the years, proven by the fact that vegetation grows much higher up on the mountains in the park than at the beginning of the century. Though I’m sure it will continue to be gorgeous regardless!
Most of the pull offs are on the side going West to East, so if you want to stop for photos and have the best views out of your passenger side window, this is the direction to go. But don’t miss out on going the other direction, either, as this is where you get treated to countless small and large glacial waterfalls right next to, and even dumping right onto, the road! It was such an exciting and special experience the first time we did it this way. The most famous of these waterfalls is the Weeping Wall, where if you have your passenger windows down, expect to get wet! Our good camera is unfortunately not waterproof, but be sure to look out for our YouTube video later to come on the road to see the wall in action. 🙂
Peak elevation occurs at Logan Pass, where we drove through some clouds on the one day, and the road begins to really twist and turn along mountain walls, with thousand foot drops into valleys and views similar to those you’d see in the “Sound of Music” off to the other side.
This is certainly where the most breathtaking scenery is. I was a little nervous leading up to this stretch as steep drop offs can make me a little uneasy but the scenery was so incredible that I barely had the chance to think about it.
Finally, as you get closer to the West end, you lose elevation and being to travel through a forested area. This stretch doesn’t quite compare to the rest of the scenery, but is pretty nonetheless and leads to one of our favorite hikes we did in the West end of the park, Apgar Lookout.
If you plan to go, plan to get an early morning start to beat the crowds as well as for it not to be fully open until July (clearing up to 80 feet of snow from parts of the road takes a long time!). For a park with countless ways to see beautiful scenery, this is definitely the most accessible way to see it and an experience not to be missed!