blog_post_35

Biking Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park

Known as one of the most beautiful drives in North America, Going to the Sun Road, is a bucket list item for many. Millions of tourists visit Glacier National Park every Summer to journey along this scenic route. But, I heard that visitors can bike the road before it opens to vehicles each year, and this intrigued me.

To view a video of our journey click here.

I wanted to feel the wind in my hair, smell the pines, and hear the rushing river flow by. So, I called a friend, and we scheduled a trip. Cheaney grew up near Glacier National Park, but surprisingly, had never biked Going to the Sun Road. Isn’t it funny how that happens?

Sign at the West Entrance to Glacier National Park

As a local, I knew May was the month we needed to visit. Early May could prove difficult, as long winters can delay the plowing process. We checked the weather and booked our excursion for a sunny day in the last week of May.

As a local, I knew May was the month we needed to visit.

Map of Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park

Because we waited until the end of May, Going to the Sun Road was open to vehicles from the West Glacier entrance to Avalanche Campground. If visiting sooner, you will need to start your bike journey closer to the park entrance. Exercise is great, but I signed up for the incredible views. So, the closer start was a win for me.

Exercise is great, but I signed up for the incredible views. So, the closer start was a win for me.

After a quick pit stop, we hopped on our bikes and began pedaling the slight incline along the river. As we came around a curve, the mountain landscape took our breath away, and we hopped off our bikes to capture the beauty. 

Biking Going to the Sun Road from Avalanche Campground in Glacier National Park

Back on track, we raced along until we noticed fellow cyclers stopped on the road ahead.  Then, we saw it, a large black bear having an afternoon snack along the roadside. He seemed completely oblivious to our presence, focused only on one thing. Other cyclers hopped back on their bikes and pedaled past, ignoring the recommended 300 foot pedestrian to bear distance. 

Then, we saw it, a large black bear having an afternoon snack along the roadside.

After waiting for some time, it was clear this bear planned to have a 5 course dinner here. Reluctantly, I climbed back on my bike, bear spray in hand, and pedaled along the far side of the road until the bear became a black dot in the distance. At this point, I could feel a tinge of hunger myself.

Black bear in Glacier National Park

Around mile 5 the road became steeper and the clickety clack of our bicycle gears broke the silence. Stops became more frequent as our legs felt the burn, but we called these slight delays photo opportunities. A mule deer in the distance must have smelled our sweat and came closer for a lick. Our arms became natural salt blocks for this unlikely friend as we checked off a new bucket list item.

Stops became more frequent as our legs felt the burn, but we called these slight delays photo opportunities.

In the distance, we could see the arch of the West Side Tunnel and pedaled a bit faster to take in the views. Stepping through one of the side windows, we were cooled by the mountain waters splashing down around our feet before raising our eyes to the valley vistas below. As we pedaled out of the tunnel we noticed a rainbow forming in the mist of the falls and wondered at the beauty of the day.

The West Side Tunnel - Biking Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park

After another mile, we reached The Loop and gave each other a high five. I devoured my sack lunch of beef jerky, munchies, and almonds while taking in the snow capped mountain views all around. More adventurous types may have continued further up the road or parked their bikes and hiked along The Loop Trail for a bit, but I was content to lay on the rocks and let the sunshine drench my face.

The Loop - Biking Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park

Soon it was time to test the braking abilities of my bike. I hopped on board and my smile grew, like a kid’s in a candy shop, as I quickly gained speed down the mountain. Whizzing through the tunnel and past the trees, I felt truly free. The wind blew through my hair and the views spread before me, unmatched and unending.

Whizzing through the tunnel and past the trees, I felt truly free.

Soon the road leveled once again and my speed slowed as I coasted along the rambling river and back to my vehicle. 

It was an unforgettable day, and I was incredibly satisfied.

Know Before You Go

Stay on the right hand side of the yellow line. Bikers come down very fast on the opposite side.

Avalanche Campground to The Loop is just shy of 8 miles one way.

Plowing progress of Going to the Sun Road can be checked here.

If you have good bikes with gears, this trip can be done with ages in good health ranging from 8-70. Some may just have to stop more than others.

Bikes can be rented from Apgar Village or from Sportsman Ski Haus in Whitefish or Kalispell

Be sure to properly discard food wrappers in designated trash cans or pack them back out.

Bring plenty of water for your ride.

Bear spray is recommended and can be rented in Apgar or purchased at most large local retailers. (Walmart, Costco, Sportsman Ski Haus, REI, Etc.) Be sure you know how to use it before entering bear country. You can view a short tutorial here.

You may also like

Backcountry Camping at Cracker Lake in Glacier National Park

Montana Secrets of the Locals Episode 2

What to Pack for Glacier National Park

Top 5 Rome
Top 5 Rome
Apr 09, 2019
Don't do this in Rome!
Don't do this in Rome!
Apr 09, 2019
12 Tips for Rome
12 Tips for Rome
Apr 09, 2019
Cortina D'Ampezzo, Italy: Eat, Stay, Shop, Play
Cortina D'Ampezzo, Italy: Eat, Stay, Shop, Play
Apr 16, 2018