Are you looking for a list of the best stops on Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park?
As one of the most scenic drives in the entire world, this article will fill you in on the must-see stops on Going to the Sun Road.
Whether it be stunning valleys, towering mountain tops, cascading waterfalls, colorful wildflowers, or majestic wildlife sightings, this 50-mile scenic drive through Glacier National Park has it all!
We also include our top 10 tips for driving Going to the Sun Road, where to find the best views, as well as what to expect when visiting there.
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Driving Going to the Sun Road
Going to the Sun Road is a winding two-lane highway that bisects Glacier National Park east and west through its cliffs, valleys, and mountainous terrain.
Consisting of paved, narrow lanes, hairpin turns, steep drop-offs, and tight curves, Going to the Sun Road reaches a height of 6,646 feet when crossing the Continental Divide at Logan Pass.
This engineering masterpiece gets visitors up-close-and-personal with towering mountains, cascading waterfalls, beautiful valleys, and gigantic glaciers.
In addition, anticipate potential wildlife sightings of grizzly bears, black bears, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, moose, elk, and white-tailed deer.
As the crown jewel of scenic drives, Going to the Sun Road is truly the heart of Glacier National Park and is a must-do to any Glacier National Park itinerary.
- How long is Going to the Sun Road? 50 miles long.
- How long does it take to drive Going to the Sun Road? It takes 2 hours, one-way, without stops to drive Going to the Sun Road. (It takes much longer when adding in hikes, pullouts, and overlooks.)
- Where does Going to the Sun Road start and end? Nestled in the Rocky Mountains, Going to the Sun Road runs from West Glacier (in eastern Flathead County, Montana) to St. Mary (in Glacier County, Montana).
- When is Going to the Sun Road open? Lower portions of Going-to-the-Sun Road remain open all year. The opening of the alpine portion varies, however, and is based on snowfall amounts and plowing capabilities. Typically the road is fully open in late June or early July through the third Monday of October (but that can change due to weather conditions at any point).
To help you plan, check out past opening and closing dates.
- Are there any regulations on Going to the Sun Road? 45 MPH is the speed limit in the lower elevations of the road and 25 MPH in the alpine section. Vehicles, and vehicle combinations, longer than 21 feet (including bumpers) or wider than 8 feet (including mirrors), are prohibited between Avalanche Campground and the Rising Sun picnic area parking.
- Does it cost money to drive the Going to the Sun Road? You need a park pass to access Going-to-the-Sun Road. Ticketed Entry reservations for Going-to-the-Sun Road will no longer be required as of September 07, 2021.
Best Stops on Going to the Sun Road
This article was researched and written by me upon driving and exploring the entire distance of Going to the Sun Road several times.
With a notebook and pen in hand, I documented the mileage and details of each stop in order to share exactly how to execute this portion of your visit to Glacier National Park.
This guide assumes you’re driving Going-to-the-Sun Road from west to east, starting in West Glacier and ending in St. Mary.
As the most popular way to experience the Going to the Sun Road, we too chose to explore the scenery from west to east as depicted by the order of the following stops that are listed.
If you’re coming from the opposite direction, follow the list of best stops on Going to the Sun Road in reverse order.
1. West Glacier: Mile 0
West Glacier is a small town that is located immediately before you actually go through the West Entrance of the park.
Though it is congested with foot traffic and other curious tourists, West Glacier is a great place to stop for gas, food, and Glacier National Park souvenirs.
It is also home to Golfing to the Sun Mini Golf (18+ hole mini golf) and the opportunity to book rafting or scenic floats through Glacier Raft, Great Nothern Resort, Montana raft, or Wild River Adventures.
2. Glacier National Park Sign: Mile 0.5
After driving through West Glacier you’ll cross a bridge over the Middle Fork Flathead River.
Immediately after the bridge, pull off to the right-hand side of the road to take an obligatory photo next to the Glacier National Park sign.
I mention this because the pull-off comes up very quickly and is easily missed if you’re not prepared to pull off as soon as you cross the bridge.
3. West Entrance: Mile 1
There are a total of 4 ticket-entry booths at the West Entrance to Glacier National Park (at the time of our visit, there was not a separate line for pass holders).
Choose to enter whichever line is shortest.
Your time spent in line will be based on how quickly the cars in front of you pay and/or ask questions of the Park Rangers taking tickets.
Click here to check on Glacier National Park’s required fees and passes.
4. Apgar Village & Apgar Visitor Center: Mile 2
The first road signs you see after entering the park will be for both Apgar Village and Apgar Visitor Center (they are not the same thing and I highly recommend visiting them both).
Apgar Village is similar to West Glacier in that it is a small recreation hub of cabins, gift shops, and restaurants.
Best of all, it provides you your first chance to experience Lake McDonald.
Here you can wade, swim, kayak, or SUP in the beautiful Lake McDonald, or simply experience the gorgeous views and mountainous backdrop from the shoreline.
Both options are very popular, so do plan ahead.
You can either follow the road signs and hope to find parking in the congested Apgar Village, or you can drive and park at the Apgar Visitor Center. (From the Apgar Visitor Center parking lot there is a 0.4-mile path that leads to Apgar Village.)
Apgar Visitor Center is 1 of the 3 visitor centers along Going to the Sun Road and is a good place to talk to park rangers, shop for souvenirs, views maps, and use the restroom.
5. Lake McDonald Lodge: Mile 11
Lake McDonald Lodge is a beautiful Swiss-chalet park lodge that is located directly on Lake McDonald.
The lodge has ample parking and allows visitors to walk through and admire its beautiful lobby, as well as head out back to view the panoramic views of Lake McDonald from its dock.
The Lake McDonald Lodge dock is also the launch point for Glacier Park Boat Company’s scenic boat tours as well as has a place to rent paddleboards, kayaks, rowboats, or an 8hp motorboat.
6. McDonald Falls Overlook: Mile 13
Just past Lake McDonald Lodge is a pull-off to view McDonald Falls.
After taking a few stairs down toward the creek you’ll find a large observation deck that allows you to experience the powerful McDonald Falls and its blue-green water.
This is the first of many cascading waterfalls that you can experience on the Going to the Sun Road.
7. Sacred Dancing Cascade: Mile 13.5
As one of the best stops on Going to the Sun Road, the Sacred Dancing Cascade pull-off is a photogenic area where you can view rushing waterfalls cascading over McDonald Creek.
There is no strenuous walking required to see these beautiful waterfalls and rapids, instead, a short path takes you directly to the viewing area that includes a sturdy footbridge that goes over the creek.
It is from the bridge that you can get a clear upstream view of the Sacred Dancing Cascade.
8. Avalanche Creek: Mile 17
Avalanche Creek is one of the most popular and congested spots on Going to the Sun Road for its campground, picnicking areas, and hiking trails.
This pull-off is where you park to access the trailheads for the popular Trail of the Cedars (a 1-mile loop trail on a boardwalk; handicap-accessible), and our favorite hike, Avalanche Lake Trail (4.5 miles).
Take whatever parking spot you can find here and follow the signs to get on the trail of your choice.
(A full article on Avalanche Creek Trail and what to expect: Coming soon!)
9 Redrock: Mile 18
Redrock is a hidden gem on the Going to the Sun Road.
It is a lesser-talked-about location to experience beautiful views as well as cascading rapids that flow into a calm and pristine watering hole with turquoise-blue water.
We definitely include Redrock as a must-see stop on Going to the Sun Road and wish we would have allotted more time to spend here.
After a short hike on a well-manicured path, you’ll find an observation deck, as well as gigantic rocks to sit and view the surrounding area on.
You’ll find many people picnicking and swimming in the calm water here.
10. West Tunnel: Mile 24
As you proceed east, you will start to gain elevation as you come across the first of two tunnels located on Going to the Sun Road.
Completed in 1927, this is an iconic spot complete with window ports that overlook Heaven’s Peak & the Upper McDonald Creek Valley.
Immediately past the West Tunnel, there is a pullout to stop and take in the views and/or park in order to walk back through the tunnel to peer out of its window ports.
11. The Loop & Heaven’s Peak: Mile 24.5
An essential part of Going to the Sun Road’s initial design, The Loop is a giant hairpin-shaped switchback that allows the roadway to gain significant elevation up the mountain.
As the road’s only switchback, the difficulty in maneuvering through The Loop is the main reason that long vehicles and RVs are not allowed on the alpine portion of Going to the Sun Road.
This long continuous loop blends well into the landscape however and allows for epic views of Glacier National Park.
Most notable is Heaven’s Peak, the highest peak in the park that can be viewed from the large park lot found there.
Heaven’s Peak is one of the most photographed spots in the park and yields Instagram-worthy pics!
Park here to hike to Granite Park Chalet (8.4 miles) or to begin the Highline Trail – historically this is the “end” but you can choose to go the other direction too (11.8 miles).
12. Haystack Falls and Bird Woman Falls: Mile 27
Signage will mark a pull-out where you can view both Haystack Falls and Bird Woman Falls, two of the tallest and most recognizable waterfalls viewed directly from Going to the Sun Road.
Both features are the results of glaciers and are especially dramatic in early summer during the maximum snow melt-off.
12. Logan Pass Viewpoint: Mile 28
After maneuvering around The Loop, you’ll once again gain significant elevation and navigate along sheer drop-offs.
3.5 miles past The Loop is a large pull-off called Logan Pass Viewpoint where you’ll find perhaps the most stunning views of the mountains and valleys of Going to the Sun Road.
The panoramic views here are both beautiful and breathtaking, as well as put the grandeur of the park into full perspective.
This is a great spot for the driver of your vehicle to actually get out and be able to enjoy the views (as well as take a break from clenching the steering wheel).
13. Weeping Wall: Mile 29
Though there is not a pull-off located here, the Weeping Wall is a Glacier National Park experience that you don’t want to miss!
This roadside waterfall caused by snow runoff (which dries up to a trickle by August) splashes its clear, cold mountain water onto the road.
It is literally so close to the road that if you’re westbound, you can open your car windows to feel its splash.
Everyone will be smiling as you feel the spray from the Weeping Wall!
14. Big Bend & A View of the Triple Arches: Mile 29.5
Immediately following the Weeping Wall, there is a large pull-off within Big Bend, the huge U-shaped turn where the Going to the Sun Road bends back on itself.
Big Bend is known to provide both the best view on Going to the Sun Road, as well as the best spot to watch the sunset in Glacier.
Along with phenomenal views of the valley, you can get a great view of Triple Arches up ahead.
Triple Arches is a bridge with three foundational arches that help support the Going to the Sun Road over this area of gaping, rocky terrain.
15. Logan Pass Visitor Center: Mile 32
Located at the highest point along Going to the Sun Road (6,646 feet), Logan Pass Visitor Center is definitely one of the best stops on Going to the Sun Road.
Making it this far up the mountain feels like a huge accomplishment once you finally reach the parking lot, however, parking is extremely difficult to come by.
Be prepared to drive around for a while waiting for someone to leave. I recommend slowly cruising the parking lot and following guests who appear to be leaving to try to snag their spot.
It is worth it. Just be patient.
When you do find a spot, stop into the visitor center, use the restrooms, and take the amazing, highly recommended 2-hour Hidden Lake Overlook Trail (2.7 miles), or the more vigorous Highline Trail (11.8 miles).
You’ll likely meet mountain goats and Bighorn sheep while exploring Logan Pass.
Additional planning tip: Because you’re likely to come across snow in this area, hiking shoes, and perhaps traction cleats, are a better choice than tennis shoes or hiking sandals.
Also, don’t forget hiking poles!
16. Lunch Creek: Mile 33
Lunch Creek is a historic resting spot and one of the best stops on Going to the Sun Road.
Located .8 miles past the Logan Pass Visitor Center, Lunch Creek gets its name from the fact that it was a popular lunch spot for early visitors to the park.
No formal trails exist here, so visitors must enjoy this intimate spot from the paved parking area or the rock-block safety barriers found here.
Take note that Lunch Creek is a popular place to spot Big Horn Sheep, as it is right in the middle of a track that they use to cross over the creek and back.
Crossings occur more often in the early mornings and evenings.
17. Siyeh Bend & Siyeh Creek: Mile 35
Located after passing through the East Tunnel (the 2nd of 2 tunnels found on Going to the Sun Road), you’ll come across a prominent bend in the Going to the Sun Road.
This bend marks the visible transition point between high-elevation alpine vegetation, to the forest of St. Mary and the east side of Glacier National Park.
Pull off here to view Siyeh Creek and the surrounding mountain peaks.
In addition, two popular day hikes depart from this location, Piegan Pass (9.2 miles) and Siyeh Pass (8.9 miles).
18. Jackson Glacier Overlook: Mile 38
Jackson Glacier is the only glacier visible from Going to the Sun Road, making the Jackson Glacier Overlook one of the best places to stop for a photo op.
Often times there is a park ranger stationed at this overlook to help educate and answer questions about the glacier.
Take a moment to read the signs here that talk about climate change’s impact on the shrinking glaciers.
19. St. Mary’s Falls Trailhead: Mile 39
Another very congested stop of the Going to the Sun Road, the St. Mary’s Falls Trailhead, provides access to the most popular waterfalls in Glacier National Park: St. Mary and Virginia Falls.
The 2.4-mile roundtrip hike to St Mary’s Falls hike can be extended to 3.6-miles in order to also experience Virginia Falls.
If you are particularly fond of waterfalls, this is the place for you!
(You can’t help but notice the significant wildfire damage to the trees in this area. The damage is a result of the 2015 Reynolds Creek Fire that burned large a large area of the Going to the Sun Road vegetation.)
20. Sun Point: Mile 40
Another hidden gem, and one of the best stops on Going to the Sun Road is Sun Point.
To explore Sun Point a sign will direct you to actually veer off of Going to the Sun Road onto a driveway that leads to the large Sun Point parking area.
Oddly, there are very few people that explore this area (which means you can always find parking), despite the fact that the best panoramic view of St. Mary’s Lake is found here only a short distance from the parking lot.
Likewise, Sun Point is the trailhead for the short 0.6-mile roundtrip hike to Baring Falls, or the full 6.4-mile hike to view Baring, St. Mary, and Virginia Falls.
21. Wild Goose Island Overlook: Mile 43
Wild Goose Island Overlook is a famous overlook in the park that is featured in the movie, The Shining.
It is also one of the best stops on Going to the Sun Road because the view here has been photographed and published in multiple books, magazines, calendars, brochures, and travel guides (meaning you need to get in on the fun!).
The viewpoint offers splendid, panoramic views of the magnificent peaks encircling Saint Mary Lake with Wild Goose Island being the centerpiece.
22. St. Mary Visitor Center
At the end of Going-to-the-Sun Road when driving west to east, you’ll find St. Mary Visitor Center located right before the park exit.
As one of the 3 visitor centers on Going to the Sun Road, here you can view exhibits, watch a 15-minute park film, use the restroom, or participate in ranger-led programs.
Top 10 Going to the Sun Road Tips
- I’d recommend driving the road from west to east, as you’ll be on the outer edge of the most scenic portions of the carved road. I felt that in driving this direction, the views were more spectacular and the pull-offs were easier to access.
- The days in Glacier National Park are long in summer meaning with the sun sets as late as 10:00 PM. This leaves plenty of time to explore Going to the Sun Road during daylight. In other words, don’t be too concerned if you get a late start.
- One thing we regret not having when we toured Going to the Sun Road is a pair of travel binoculars. Spotting wildlife isn’t as easy and close-up as some other National Parks, and you obviously want to keep a safe distance when viewing bears.
- Also, be sure to pack a reliable cooler. There are limited options to grab food along the road, and any of the available options are extremely pricey. I suggest loading your cooler with bottled water, fruit, sandwiches, cheese sticks, and any other easy to pack meals and snacks.
- There can be big temperature changes when going from the West Entrance to Logan Pass. Even if it is a warm day, be sure to pack layers.
- Gas is not available anywhere on the Going to the Sun Road so be sure to fill up ahead of time.
- WiFii is extremely spotty (or nonexistant) on Going to the Sun Road. Be sure to print off or screenshot any necessary maps or info to have handy on your phone ahead of time.
- 5 of the 13 campgrounds in Glacier National park are located along Going to the Sun Road. They are: Apgar, Sprague Creek, Avalanche, Rising Sun, and St. Mary. Take note that none of the 5 campground accept reservations, and instead, operate on a first come, first served basis.
- Food and lodging can only be found along the Going to the Sun Road at Apgar Village, Lake McDonald Lodge, and Rising Sun. Lodging within the park starts taking reservations 13 months in advance and fills-up quickly, so do plan ahead. (A full article on where we stayed in Whitefish, Montana: Coming soon!)
- There are transportation options if you prefer to leave the driving to someone else while exploring Going to the Sun Road. This includes Glacier’s Shuttle System and narrated Glacier Bus Tours. You’ll find the the Red Bus Tours are extremely popular.
Final Thoughts on Going to the Sun Road
Please Note: Glacier National Park Ticketed Entry reservations for Going-to-the-Sun Road are no longer required as of September 07, 2021.
I will keep this information on the blog in case that the reservation system is reinstated again in the summer of 2022.
May 26th – September 6th, 2021, Glacier National Park is requiring all visitors to reserve ticketed entry to drive Going-to-the-Sun Road in order to better manage the influx of visitors.
Entry tickets are available 60 days in advance on a rolling daily window.
Tickets are also available two days in advance at 8 AM MT on a rolling daily window.
I suggest setting an alarm in order to be online right at the opening window and to know what time this means converted to your local time. You may get a message that states the system is overloaded, but keep refreshing your screen for approximately 5 minutes. By then you will know if you have secured a ticket or not.
Entry tickets are good for 7 consecutive days including the reserved day of arrival.
Only one Going to the Sun Road entry ticket is required per vehicle or motorcycle.
If you liked reading about the best stops on Going to the Sun Road, let us help continue to plan your getaway to Whitefish, Montana and Glacier National Park:
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