If you’ve ridden a motorcycle for any length of time, you’ve heard about the Going-to-the-Sun Road. It’s one of the most iconic named rides in the two-wheeled world. Construction on the road began in 1919, and ten years later, resulted in a 48.7 mile route that snakes across the Continental Divide in northern Montana from West Glacier in the west, to St. Mary in the east. The road is famous, not just for its twisty turns and vertigo producing drop-offs with only boulders serving as guardrails, but also for its breathtaking scenery along every mile of pavement. After all, it runs right through the heart of Glacier National Park, known as the “Crown of the Continent.”
Unlike other National Parks, Glacier only has one road, Going-to-the-Sun, for the public to access the park. That means traffic control is a big deal, especially lately with the huge influx of folks using the parks. In addition to a park pass, you also have to have a vehicle reservation pass to access the road. It’s only $2, but there’s a limited number of passes. There was a window of opportunity several months ago to obtain one, but I was unable to get a pass online during that time, so I had to wait until 8 am once I was here to try to get a pass for the next day. After multiple failed attempts, I finally secured a three-day pass and was feeling pretty grateful for the thinned traffic as I wound my way up the mountains in the crisp, clear morning air.
Back in the winter during the planning phase of this trip, I wasn’t able to obtain a Going-to-the-Sun Road vehicle pass, so I made a one-night reservation for a room at the Apgar Village Lodge in the National Park to ensure I’d actually be able to ride the road (the hotel is on the road, so they have to let you on it if you have a hotel reservation). Since I had the reservation anyway, I spent one night indoors, instead of camping outdoors, during my time in West Glacier. As I was sightseeing in the Apgar Village before checking in, I met another female rider. I was riding behind her on an 8-mile section of…you guessed it… ROAD CONSTRUCTION… that was all loose gravel. After talking for a bit, she admitted that she was a novice rider, but by the way she was handling her bike, you never would’ve known it. Like me, Francie had done the ride as an out-and-back instead of as a loop, so we essentially had ridden the Going-to-the-Sun Road twice. Instead of looking frazzled, like I think I did after riding my first mountain passes back in Colorado, she came out the other end smiling from ear to ear. We sat and chatted for a long while- yet another kindred spirit! I’m truly hoping our paths will cross again someday.
Since my room was right along the shore of Lake McDonald, I got up in time to sit on the shore for sunrise. Yes, it was really cold! By the time the sun peeked over the mountains around 7 am, a fairly large crowd had gathered to witness the spectacle. The event wasn’t accompanied by anticipated pink hues, but the blue tint to the morning world was magical.
After sunrise, I joined a few other folks in line at Eddie’s Cafe and Mercantile for breakfast. I met Dale and Becky, who were celebrating their wedding anniversary, and they asked me to join them for breakfast. They were married in the park 30 years ago and had returned for their anniversary. How cool! We shared a great meal and conversation- so many wonderful people on this journey!
Once I checked out of my room and exited Apgar Village, my ride on Going-to-the-Sun Road had ended. It was every bit as epic as it is purported to be. Glacier National Park is definitely worth a visit, and Going-to-the-Sun Road worth a ride!