Travels and Tourism

Going to the Sun Road | he Going-to-the-Sun Road, a spectacular drive through the mountains

The Going-to-the-Sun Road was completed in 1932 and is a spectacular 50 mile, paved two-lane highway that bisects the park east and west. It spans the width of Glacier National Park, crossing the Continental Divide at 6,646-foot-high Logan Pass. It passes through almost every type of terrain in the park, from large glacial lakes and cedar forests in the lower valleys to windswept alpine tundra atop the pass. Scenic viewpoints and pullouts line the road, so motorists can stop for extended views and photo opportunities. The road is well worth traveling in either direction, as the view from one side of the road is much different than from the other. In 1983 Going-To-The-Sun Road was included in the National Register of Historic Places and in 1985 was made a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.

Open Season

The lower elevation sections of Going-to-the-Sun Road remain open all year and provide access to many locations and activities. The summer opening date of the alpine portion varies from year to year, based on snowfall and plowing progress. There is no set date for the road to open over Logan Pass. Typically, the road has been fully open by early July.

Portions of the road may close due to weather. It’s typically fully open until the third Monday of October, but that may change due to weather conditions at any point.

Plowing

Plowing Going-to-the-Sun Road is a monumental challenge each year. Unpredictable spring snowstorms, avalanches, or other weather-related events can slow down progress. It’s common for work crews to need to re-plow sections of park roads when weather events happen. Safety for plowing crews, contractors, and the public is our utmost concern and priority. These unknown factors make predicting the precise opening date of Going-to-the-Sun Road impossible.

Vehicle Size Restrictions

Vehicles and vehicle combinations longer than 21 feet (including bumpers) or wider than 8 feet (including mirrors), are prohibited between Avalanche Creek and Rising Sun. Vehicles over 10 feet in height may have difficulty driving west from Logan Pass to the Loop, due to rock overhangs. Stock trucks and trailers can access Packers Roost from the west and Siyeh Bend from the east.

Bicycling

From June 15 through Labor Day, the following sections of the Going-to-the-Sun Road are closed to bicycle use between 11 am and 4 pm:

  • From Apgar turnoff (at the south end of Lake McDonald) to Sprague Creek Campground, both directions
  • Eastbound from Logan Creek to Logan Pass

Due to ongoing road rehabilitation on Going-to-the-Sun Road, portions of the roadbed may not be paved. Bicyclists should use extreme caution riding on gravel portions.

Speed Limit

For safety reasons, the speed limit is 40 mph on the lower elevations of the road and 25 mph on the alpine section. Be very careful around blind curves, as animals and pedestrians often cross the road unexpectedly.

By the Numbers

  • Without stopping, it takes approximately 2 hours to drive the full 50 miles of Going-to-the-Sun Road.
  • Logan Pass is the highest point on Going-to-the-Sun Road at 6,646 feet (2,026 m).
  • Logan Pass is 32 miles (51.5 km) from the west entrance and 18 miles (29 km) from the east entrance. The parking lot at Logan Pass is usually fills by sunrise and remains very busy throughout the daytime hours, though this can vary based on weather conditions.

Amenities

  • Gasoline is not available in the park. There is an electric vehicle charging station across from the Lake McDonald Lodge camp store.
  • Food and lodging can be found along the road at Rising Sun, Lake McDonald Lodge, and Apgar Village during the summer months.
  • Picnic areas are found at Rising Sun, Avalanche Creek, Sprague Creek, and Apgar.
  • 5 out of 13 campgrounds in Glacier are located along the road: Apgar, Sprague Creek, Avalanche, Rising Sun, and St. Mary.
  • There are three visitor centers located the road, at Apgar, Logan Pass, and St. Mary. All have restroom facilities, trip planning information, bookstores, drinking water, and exhibits.

Viewing Opportunities

Glacier National Park is wild country, and wildlife may be present anywhere along the road. Mountain goats and bighorn sheep are consistently seen near Logan Pass. Grizzly bears are often seen near Two Dog Flats on the east side.

Jackson Glacier Overlook affords the best opportunity to see a glacier from the road. It is located on the east side of Going-to-the-Sun Road between Logan Pass and St. Mary.

Travel Alternatives

There are transportation options if you prefer to leave the driving to someone else. Visit the Getting Around page for more information.

Best Stops on Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park

Going-to-the-Sun Road is one of the top scenic drives in the United States, called the “Crown of the Continent”. This main road through Glacier National Park is one of the best ways to see the park in a short amount of time.

But this stunning scenic drive is only open a few months a year. In addition, it now requires advanced reservations, so seeing Going-to-the-Sun requires advanced planning!

In this post, I’m sharing everything you need to know about Going-to-the-Sun Road in 2024, including:

  • The 27 best stops and scenic viewpoints
  • All about the vehicle reservation system for 2024
  • How to check Going-to-the-Sun Road status and opening dates
  • Tips for driving this epic 50-mile route

Important Note
Glacier National Park requires all visitors to have a reservation to drive Going-to-the-Sun Road and enter North Fork, Many Glacier, and Two Medicine starting May 26 until September 10, 2024.

Glacier National Park At-AGlance

Before diving in, here are a few highlights to help you plan your trip:

Best Time to Visit: Summer is the best (and most popular) time to visit, thanks to the warm weather and all park facilities being open. Visit in early to mid-September to avoid peak crowds.
Where to Stay: If you’re looking to stay in the park, I highly recommend the Many Glacier Hotel. To stay outside the park, look for accommodations in Babb or St. Mary, like St. Mary Village.
How to Get There: Glacier Park International Airport (FCA) in Kalispell, Montana, is the closest airport. Use Skyscanner to browse flights and find the best price.
How to Get Around: The best way to get around the park is by car. Use Rentalcars.com to browse deals on rental cars or rent an RV or campervan with Outdoorsy!
Best Self-Guided Tour: My favorite way to learn more about the park is with GyPSy Guides, a narrated self-guided tour perfect for road trips and scenic drives. The Glacier Going-to-the-Sun Road Guide provides incredible commentary and detail about history and geology.
Don’t Forget: Be sure to get an America the Beautiful National Park Pass ahead of time. This $80 pass is valid for 12 months and gets you into all 400+ national park sites (including Glacier!).

What is Going to the Sun Road?

Going-to-the-Sun Road is the crown jewel of Glacier National Park, often called the Highway to the Sun. This 51-mile scenic drive winds through the heart of the national park, the only road through this mountain pass.

But before Going-to-the-Sun Road, there wasn’t an easy way for automobiles to navigate the park.

In 1921, Congress granted Glacier National Park the money to begin road construction on what was then called the Transmountain Highway. Over the next 12 years, engineers and construction workers built what became Going-to-the-Sun Road.

In 1933, the scenic drive opened to the public, but it wasn’t until 1952 that the road was paved entirely!

Today, it is widely considered a transportation and engineering marvel. The builders battled deep snow and harsh conditions constructing a road across the Continental Divide. In addition, large explosive blasts were not used to maintain the natural landscape.

Going-to-the-Sun Road snakes around the cliffs through immaculate scenery. The narrow, winding road makes this one of the most exhilarating drives in the country.

Going to the Sun Road By the Numbers

  • Distance: 51 miles
  • Drive Time: 2 hours without stops
  • Highest Point: Logan Pass at 6,646 feet
  • Open Dates: Late June to Early October (varies by year)
  • Vehicle Restrictions: Vehicles longer than 21 feet or wider than 8 feet are restricted between Avalanche Campground and Rising Sun Picnic Area
  • Park Lodges: Apgar Village Lodge, Apgar Village Inn, Lake McDonald Lodge, Motel Lake McDonald, Rising Sun Motel
  • Visitor Centers: Apgar, Logan Pass, Saint Mary
  • Campgrounds: Apgar, Sprague Creek, Avalanche Creek, Rising Sun, St. Mary

Going to the Sun Road Reservation Exemptions

If you meet any of these conditions, you won’t be required to make a reservation to drive Going-to-the-Sun Road.

  • You are staying at in-park accommodations along Going-to-the-Sun Road, including lodges and campgrounds. This exemption does not include reservations in Many Glacier or Two Medicine. Entry to Going-to-the-Sun Road is only included for your stay in the Going-to-the-Sun Road corridor. Read more about where to stay in Glacier National Park.
  • You have commercial activity reservations along Going-to-the-Sun Road. These tours include reservations for Red Bus Tours and boat tours through Glacier Park Boat Company. Entry tickets to Going-to-the-Sun Road are included for the day’s reservation only.
  • You arrive at the park before 6 AM or 3 PM. Reservations are only required during these peak hours. In 2024, nightly construction at the West Glacier Entrance restricts entry to the park before 6 AM. To enter before 6 AM, you must enter from the east side of the park at St. Mary.
  • You’re visiting Glacier National Park after September 10, 2024. Reservations are only required from May 26 until September 10, 2024. After that, access to Going-to-the-Sun Road doesn’t require reservations until the seasonal closure.
  • You only drive Going-to-the-Sun Road from St. Mary East Entrance to Rising Sun. Reservations on the park’s eastern side aren’t needed until you reach the Rising Sun Checkpoint.

Important Details About the Going to the Sun Reservations

  • All ticketed entry reservations are valid for three days. Therefore, you are not required to make multiple ticketed entry reservations for each day you plan to enter within that three-day window. However, you’ll need an additional reservation if you want to drive Going-to-the-Sun for longer than three days.
  • All reservations are per vehicle. Your reservation (and park entry fee) covers everyone in your car. However, if you bring multiple vehicles and caravan through the park, you’ll need a reservation for each car.
  • Ticketed entry reservations cost a $2 reservation fee. The reservation fee does not include your entry fee to the park. You will be required to pay for entry to the park separately.
  • The ticketed entry system does not cover your park entrance cost. All visitors must either present a valid national park pass (including lifetime senior passes) or pay the $35 7-day National Park Service entrance fee upon entering the park.
  • Your national park pass does not grant you access to Going-to-the-Sun Road. Even valid America the Beautiful and Lifetime Senior pass holders must make a ticketed entry reservation.

What to Do if You Can’t Get a Going-to-the-Sun Road Reservation

If you aren’t able to secure a reservation for Going-to-the-Sun Road in 2024, consider some of these alternatives:

  • Enter Going-to-the-Sun Road before 6 AM. Reservations are only required between 6 AM and 3 PM. Visitors can enter before 6 AM at the St. Mary Entrance without reservation.
  • Make a tour reservation. Reserving a boat, bus, or horseback tour along Going-to-the-Sun Road grants you access to Going-to-the-Sun Road on the day of your tour. Read this blog post on Glacier reservations for the exact tours that exempt you.
  • Take the Going-to-the-Sun Road shuttle. If you park at the St. Mary Visitor Center, you can take the free, first-come, first-served shuttle throughout the park without a reservation.

When does Going to the Sun Road open?

The opening date of Going-to-the-Sun Road changes each year, depending on last winter’s snowfall and plowing schedules. Generally, the road opens in mid-to-late June. However, to be safe, it’s best to plan your trip to Glacier National Park between early July and September.

When does Going to the Sun Road close?

Going-to-the-Sun Road typically closes for the season in late September or early October. However, this date will depend on construction projects planned for the off-peak season and early snowfall accumulation, if any.

Going-to-the-Sun Road Opening Dates History

Parts of Going-to-the-Sun Road close seasonally, while others remain open year-round. The lower portions of the road between Apgar and Lake McDonald Lodge are accessible even in the winter months.

Plowing begins in spring, with sections of Going-to-the-Sun Road open to hikers and bikers only as road crews plow the Logan Pass area.

Before the opening in June, Going-to-the-Sun is typically open from Apgar to Avalanche Creek on the west side and St. Mary to Jackson Glacier Overlook on the east side of the park.

Over the past five years, Going-to-the-Sun Road across Logan Pass has opened on:

  • 2018: June 22
  • 2019: June 22
  • 2020: July 13 (late opening due to COVID)
  • 2024: June 25
  • 2022: July 13 (due to late winter weather)

Over the past five years, Going-to-the-Sun Road across Logan Pass has closed on:

  • 2018: September 29
  • 2019: September 25
  • 2020: October 9
  • 2024: October 10

Where to Stay Along Going to the Sun Road

Glacier National Park offers plenty of lodges and campgrounds along Going-to-the-Sun Road, perfect for exploring this beautiful area.

In 2024, these lodging and campground reservations will allow you access to Going-to-the-Sun Road during your stay.

Tips for Driving Going-to-the-Sun Road in 2024

  • Start early. Parking along Going-to-the-Sun Road fills up by mid-morning. In addition, a reservation does not guarantee parking in popular areas. To avoid crowds, start at sunrise or in the late afternoon. If you can’t get an entry reservation, you can still enter Going-to-the-Sun Road via the St. Mary entrance before 6 AM!
  • Fill up on gas ahead of time. Unfortunately, there are no gas stations within the park or along Going-to-the-Sun Road. However, gas stations can be found at both ends of the drive, in West Glacier or St. Mary.
  • Allow extra time on your scenic drive. It takes roughly 2 hours to complete the drive from West Glacier to St. Mary without stops. I recommend exploring this route and its excellent stops for at least 4 to 5 hours!
  • Bring food and water. To save time and money in the park, I recommend packing a lunch, snacks, and plenty of water. Dining options are available at Apgar, Lake McDonald, and Rising Sun if needed.
  • Drive west to east. Most of the scenic viewpoints on Going-to-the-Sun Road are located on the south side of the road along the valley. Driving west to east allows you to make easy right turns in and out of parking areas. However, if you’re scared of heights or timid about driving, driving east to west can calm your nerves as there are fewer sharp drop-offs on that side of the road.
  • Dress in layers. Since you gain several thousand feet of elevation while driving Going-to-the-Sun Road, temperatures at Logan Pass are colder.
  • Download maps and reservations offline. Unfortunately, phone service is limited along most of Going-to-the-Sun Road, even at the entrances. So be sure to have your navigation and Going-to-the-Sun Road available offline without cell service before arriving.