Going-to-the-Sun Road 2021: What You Need to Know (+ 22 Must-See Stops!)

Views along Going-to-the-Sun Road 2021

Going-to-the-Sun Road is one of the top scenic drives in the United States. As the main road through Glacier National Park, it’s one of the best ways to see the park with little effort! Typically open from late June to early October, this scenic drive is a must-see.
The 50-mile long drive has scenic viewpoints, pull-offs, and hikes along the way.

In this guide, I’m sharing everything you need to know for Going-to-the-Sun Road 2021, including:

  • All about the ticketed entry system for 2021
  • How to check Going-to-the-Sun Road status and opening dates
  • Tips for driving this epic route
  • 22 must-see stops along Going-to-the-Sun Road

Are you ready to explore Montana’s best scenic drive? Let’s dive in!

Going-to-the-Sun Road 2021 Pinterest Pin
Going-to-the-Sun Road 2021 Pinterest Pin

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Looking for more helpful guides for your trip to Glacier National Park? You’ll love these posts!

History of Going-to-the-Sun Road

Glacier National Park was founded in 1910 as the 8th national park. This was 6 years before the National Park Service was founded! At first, here wasn’t an easy way to navigate the park, particularly not for automobiles. As the park grew in popularity, it became clear that a road through the heart of the park could expand accessibility.

In 1921, congress granted the park money to begin 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 completely paved!

Today, it is widely considered a transportation marvel and engineering feat. The builders battled deep snow and harsh conditions constructing a road across the Continental Divide. Plus, the road was built without large explosive blasts in order to maintain the natural landscape.

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

General Information About Going to the Sun Road Opening & Driving

Going-to-the-Sun Road runs through the heart of Glacier National Park. Along the drive you’ll find some of the park’s best views and hikes. But due to inclement weather from fall to spring, Going to the Sun Road is only open in its entirety in the summer.

Here’s what you need to know about driving the road and when it’s open.

Looking for more information about where to stay in Glacier National Park? Check out this guide.

Highline Trail hike in Glacier National Park

Going-to-the-Sun Quick Facts

  • Distance: 51 miles between the Apgar West Entrance and St. Mary’s East Entrance
  • Drive Time: 2 hours, one-way without stops
  • Entry Fee: $35 entry into Glacier National Park is required
  • Amenities: Restaurants at Lake McDonald, Apgar and Rising Sun, 3 lodges, 4 picnic areas, 5 campgrounds, 3 visitor centers
  • Gas Stations: None
  • Bicycling: Not allowed from 11am to 4pm during peak season from June 15 to Labor Day

Going-to-the-Sun Road Entry Fees

To drive Going-to-the-Sun Road, you’ll need to pay the fee to enter Glacier National Park. You have two options for your trip to Glacier:

  • 7-Day Glacier National Park Pass
    • Valid for 7 days
    • Best purchased at the Glacier entrance station upon arrival
    • Cost: $35
  • America the Beautiful National Park Pass
    • Best deal if you plan to visit more than 1 national park
    • Valid for 12 months
    • Admits you to all 63 national parks, plus monuments, historical sites, forests, and more
    • Cost: $80

Opening Dates & Plowing Schedule

Parts of Going-to-the-Sun Road close during the year while others remain open year round. The lower section of the road between Apgar and Avalanche Campground is accessible even in winter months.

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

Over the past 5 years, Going-to-the-Sun Road has opened on:

  • 2016: June 16
  • 2017: June 28
  • 2018: June 22
  • 2019: June 22
  • 2020: July 13 (late opening due to COVID)

You can read more historical opening dates and all historical closing dates here.

Vehicle Regulations & Restrictions

Since Going-to-the-Sun Road is narrow with sharp turns, the park service has restrictions on vehicle size.

These vehicles are restricted between Avalanche Campground and Rising Sun Picnic Area:

  • Longer than 21 feet
    OR
  • Taller than 10 feet
    OR
  • Wider than 8 feet

If you drive a vehicle or RV that is restricted, I recommend renting a car for your time in Going-to-the-Sun Road. You can check rental car prices from the nearby Kalispell airport here.

Important Note
There is currently a rental car shortage for the airports near Glacier National Park and rental cars may already be booked for your dates. I recommend making a rental car reservation ASAP. If you cannot find a rental car at the Kalispell airport, look at surrounding areas or consider driving instead of flying if you are within a days drive. Another alternative is renting a campervan or converted SUV from Outdoorsy in the Kalispell area.

Sun sets on Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park, one of the best views on this 3-Day Glacier National Park itinerary.

Shuttle

Glacier National Park runs a shuttle service along Going-to-the-Sun Road. This is ideal for hikers and those who don’t want to start their day at dawn. It is also very convenient for those staying in Apgar Village, Lake McDonald Lodge or any of the campgrounds along Going-to-the-Sun Road.

The shuttle runs between Apgar Village and St. Mary Visitor Center with a transfer at Logan Pass Visitor Center. Shuttles start at 9AM and last service out of the park is at 5PM. If you’re interested in catching sunrise or sunset along Going-to-the-Sun, you’ll need to drive yourself.

Read more about the Glacier National Park shuttle system here.

2021 Notice
The Glacier National Park shuttle is optional and will run during the summer of 2021 with reservations. Visitors can make reservations to board the shuttle at either the Apgar Visitor Center or the St. Mary Visitor Center. Click here to book your Glacier shuttle reservation.

Alternatives

Going-to-the-Sun Road is the only route through the heart of Glacier National Park. If you wish to avoid driving Going-to-the-Sun Road, particularly after dark, you can take Highway 2 south of the park between Apgar and St. Mary.

What You Need to Know About Going-to-the-Sun Road Opening 2021

In 2021, Glacier National Park is requiring all visitors to make a reservation to drive Going-to-the-Sun Road between May 28 and September 6. Here’s what you need to know about visiting Going-to-the-Sun Road in 2021.

You will need a reservation to drive Going-to-the-Sun Road unless:

  • You are staying at in-park accommodations along Going-to-the-Sun Road, including lodges and campgrounds. This does not include reservations in Many Glacier or Two Medicine. Entry to Going-to-the-Sun Road is included for the duration of your stay.
  • You have a reservation for a tour along Going-to-the-Sun Road, including guided hikes, horseback ride, bus tours, or boat tours. This includes reservations for the Red Bus Tours or boat tours through Glacier Park Boat Company. This does not include tours in other areas of the park. Entry to Going-to-the-Sun Road is included for the day of your reservation only.
  • You have a reservation for the optional Glacier National Park shuttle. This shuttle departs from both the Apgar Visitor Center and St. Mary Visitor Center and serves as your reservation to enter Going-to-the-Sun Road. Click here to book your shuttle ticket.
  • You will only be visiting Many Glacier or Two Medicine areas of the park and do not plan to drive Going-to-the-Sun Road. You do not need a reservation to enter Many Glacier or Two Medicine.
  • You are entering the park before 6 am or after 5pm. Reservations are not required outside of regular park hours when the entry stations are not manned.
  • You are arriving at the park on foot or on bicycle. This will not be the case for most visitors.
Glacier National Park Ticketed Entry Flow Chart

Here’s what else you need to know about your ticketed entry:

  • All ticketed entry reservations are valid for 7 days. You are not required to make multiple ticketed entry reservations for each day you plan to enter within that 7 day window.
  • Ticketed entry reservations cost a $2 reservation fee. This does not include your entry fee to the park.
  • Ticketed entry does not cover your park entrance cost. All visitors will be required to either present a valid national park pass or pay the $35 7-day entrance fee upon entering the park.
  • Your national park pass does not grant you access to Going-to-the-Sun Road. Even valid passholders will be required to make a ticketed entry reservation.

Looking for more ways to fill up your days in Glacier National Park? Check out my 3-day Glacier itinerary or my 7-day Glacier itinerary!

Glacier National Park Ticketed Entry Diagram

How to Make Your Ticketed Entry Reservation for 2021

Your reservation, or “ticketed entry”, to drive Going-to-the-Sun Road can be made two ways:

  • Book 60 days out. 3/4 of the reservations will be released 60 days in advance. Reservations are released at 8 AM MDT on Recreation.Gov.
  • Book 2 days out. The remaining 1/4 of reservations will be released 2 days in advance. Reservations are released at 8 AM MDT on Recreation.Gov.

Tips for Reserving Your Going-to-the-Sun Ticketed Entry

  • Buy a national park pass ahead of time. The $2 ticketed entry reservation does not cover your park entrance fee. You’ll either need to pay the $35 entrance fee for the week or buy a national park pass. I highly recommend the America the Beautiful National Park Pass if you plan to visit multiple national parks in the next 12 months. This pass gets you into all 63 national parks and 400+ monuments and sites. You can get yours in advance here for only $80.
  • Make reservations at 8 AM MDT the day they are released. Reservations will be in high demand, so I recommend booking your entry at exactly 8 AM MDT 60 days out. Psst… 60 days out doesn’t just mean the same day 2 months out. Double check your dates by googling “60 days before July 15”… or whatever your date is.
  • You don’t have to enter the park on the first day of your reservation. Per the Glacier National Park website, visitors are strongly encouraged to arrive on the first day of their Going-to-the-Sun Road reservation, but the reservation will be valid at any point during the 7 day window. For example, you could book a reservation for July 15, but enter Going-to-the-Sun Road for the first time on July 17. The reservation beginning on July 15 would be valid for 7 days until July 21. This is a great alternative if your target date is sold out.
  • Download your reservation offline or take a screenshot ahead of time. Cell service is notoriously bad at the entrance stations, so download offline, take a screenshot, or print a hardcopy.
  • You will need to provide proof of purchase for in-park lodging or tour services. If you are using lodging or tours as your entry, you will need to present proof of purchase (along with a valid park pass or pay the entry fee). Again, I recommend making this available offline.

Read More: Glacier National Park Ticketed Entry System for 2021

Where to Stay Along Going-to-the-Sun Road

Those choosing to stay inside the park aren’t required to get a ticketed entry reservation in 2021 and have unparalleled access to the sights along Going-to-the-Sun Road.

There are 3 lodges along Going-to-the-Sun Road:

  • Lake McDonald Lodge – A swiss-style lodge with amazing lake views and a handful of restaurants
  • Rising Sun Motor Inn – A rustic option with a restaurant and a gift shop near St. Mary Lake along Going-to-the-Sun Road
  • Village Inn at Apgar – A motel-like inn with both standard and full-kitchen rooms near the west entrance

To book a stay at one of the in-demand park lodges, book your lodging 13 months in advance when reservations open.

Camping in Glacier National Park is a great option for budget-conscious travelers. Most of Glacier’s campsites are open from mid-June to early September.

There’s a few options for reservable campgrounds along Going-to-the-Sun Road:

Tips for Driving Going-to-the-Sun Road in 2021

  • Fill up on gas ahead of time. There are no gas stations within the park or along Going-to-the-Sun Road. Gas stations can be found at both ends of the drive, in West Glacier or St. Mary.
  • Start early. Going-to-the-Sun Road gets crowded in the middle of the day and parking can be nearly impossible. To avoid crowds, start at sunrise or in the late afternoon. Psst… if you can’t get a ticketed entry reservation, you can still enter Going-to-the-Sun Road before 6am!
  • 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 taking at least 4 to 5 hours to explore this route and all its amazing stops!
  • Bring food and water. To save time and money in the park, I recommend packing a lunch, snacks, and plenty of water. If needed, there are dining options available at Apgar, Lake McDonald, and Rising Sun.

Going-to-the-Sun Road Status Right Now

Want to know the status of Going-to-the-Sun Road right now? Click here to check the latest status, including plowing updates. This link will also share the latest updates on the Going-to-the-Sun Road opening date 2021.

Going-to-the-Sun Road Map

Don’t miss these must-see stops along Going-to-the-Sun Road. Plus, you can download this map to take on your trip for the ultimate road trip guide.

Map of Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park

Best Stops on Going-to-the-Sun Road

Now that you know all about Going-to-the-Sun Road (and the ticketed entry system for 2021), I want to share the best stops along the famous scenic drive.

This guide assumes you’re driving Going-to-the-Sun Road from west to east, starting in West Glacier and ending in St. Mary. If you’re heading the opposite direction, follow the map and points of interest in reverse order.

At the junction of Going-to-the-Sun Road and Highway 2, set your trip odometer to zero to track your mileage. I’ll reference mile markers as well as the distance between points throughout this guide.

West Glacier: Mile 0

Going-to-the-Sun Road starts at the junction with Highway 2 in West Glacier, MT. West Glacier is a small town with a few shops and restaurants open during the summer tourist season. Stop here and fill up on gas before beginning your journey along Going-to-the-Sun Road.

Glacier National Park Welcome Sign: Mile 0.4

Glacier National Park welcome sign

Less than half a mile from the Highway 2 junction, after crossing Middle Fork Flathead River, you’ll see the Glacier National Park welcome sign. Stop for the obligatory picture before continuing on your journey.

Glacier National Park Entrance: Mile 1.0

You’ll drive another half a mile to reach the park entrance. Here you’ll show your ticketed entry reservation and national park pass to enter. The park rangers will also give you a park map.

Apgar Visitor Center: Mile 2.1

Glacier National Park has 3 visitor centers along Going-to-the-Sun Road. The first one you’ll encounter is the Apgar Visitor Center, roughly a mile past the entrance station. This smaller visitor center is a good place to stamp your national park passport, talk to park rangers, or use the restroom.

Lake McDonald Viewpoint: Mile 8.2

Lake McDonald Viewpoint along Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park

As you continue east, you’ll drive along Lake McDonald, a 10 mile by 1 mile lake on the west side of the park. Lake McDonald is 472 feet deep, over 3 times the average depth of lakes worldwide. Drive 6.1 miles past the junction of Going-to-the-Sun Road and Apgar Visitor Center until you reach a pull-off along the left-hand side of the road.

This wide pull-off offers plenty of parking and walking trails down to the shore of Lake McDonald. Park and walk down to the shore to admire the glacially carved lake. If you’re super precise, here’s the exact coordinates of the pull-off: 48.580833, -113.902442.

Lake McDonald Lodge: Mile 11.0

Lake McDonald Lodge in Glacier National Park

Built in 1913, Lake McDonald Lodge is a swiss-chalet park lodge with 80 rooms and multiple restaurants. Drive another 2.8 miles past the Lake McDonald viewpoint before reaching the drive for Lake McDonald Lodge. Park and explore the lodge. After admiring the lobby, head out back to take in the views of Lake McDonald from the dock. Here you can rent water sports equipment, like canoes, or sign up for a boat tour of Lake McDonald through Glacier Park Boat Company.

McDonald Falls Overlook: Mile 12.8

McDonald Creek in Glacier National Park

Just 1.8 miles past the turn off for Lake McDonald Lodge is a pull-off to view McDonald Falls. From the sidewalk, you can see the small cascade along McDonald Creek, which feeds into Lake McDonald.

Avalanche Creek: Mile 16.6

Avalanche Lake hike in Glacier National Park

Another 3.8 miles along Going-to-the-Sun Road, you’ll cross Avalanche Creek. This area is home to Avalanche Campground and trailheads for Trail of the Cedars and Avalanche Lake. This area looks different than most areas of the park, more reminiscent of the pacific northwest with cedars and hemlocks. With more old-growth than other parts of the park, Avalanche Creek was sheltered from recent forest fires. If you aren’t planning to hike Trail of the Cedars or Avalanche Lake during your trip, stop here for a quick leg stretch. Trail of the Cedars is a 1-mile loop trail on a boardwalk, handicap-accessible path.

If you’re in a vehicle over 21 feet or wider than 8 feet, this is the furthest you can proceed along Going-to-the-Sun Road.

Read More: 19 Best Hikes in Glacier National Park

West Tunnel: Mile 23.8

As you proceed further east, Going-to-the-Sun Road will start to gain elevation. After 7.2 miles, you’ll reach the West Tunnel. Completed in 1927, this tunnel has window openings overlooking the Upper McDonald Creek Valley. Immediately past the tunnel, there’s a pullout to stop and take in the view. The tunnel has a sidewalk for you to carefully walk back and peer through the windows.

The Loop: Mile 24.4

Shortly after passing through the West Tunnel, you’ll reach “The Loop”, an area named for its hairpin-shaped switchback. A popular stopping point, this area has a parking lot (although expect parking to be full in the middle of the day). Here you can view the highest peak in the park: Heaven’s Peak. The Loop is also the ending point for the Highline Trail and a trailhead for access to the Granite Park Chalet.

Viewpoint of Logan Pass Region: Mile 28.0

A foggy sunrise along Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park.

As you proceed past The Loop, you’ll gain more elevation and navigate along sheer drop-offs. Drive slowly and carefully through this region of the park. A large pull-off 3.6 miles past The Loop is by far my favorite viewpoint of the valleys along Going-to-the-Sun Road. Stop to take in the views of arguably the most scenic part of the park. This pull-off provides an opportunity for the driver to stop and look around instead of focusing on the narrow road. Here are the exact coordinates for the pull-off: 48.732698, -113.743537

Read More: Hiking the Highline Trail in Glacier National Park

Weeping Wall: Mile 29.2

Weeping Wall along Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park

Another 1.2 miles past the pull-off, you’ll pass the Weeping Wall – a waterfall caused by snow runoff. In early Summer, you may get wet as the water splashes onto the road, but by late Summer the Weeping Wall may only be a trickle.

Big Bend: Mile 29.4

Big Bend viewpoint along Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park

Almost immediately following the Weeping Wall is Big Bend. As its name implies, Big Bend is a point where Going-to-the-Sun Road bends back on itself, creating a U-shape. The large pull-off here provides more opportunities for viewing and photographing the valley. This area is particularly pretty around sunset.

Triple Arch: Mile 30.3

Back in the 1930s when Going-to-the-Sun Road was built, workers were unable to find flat land to continue the road. Instead, they built a bridge with three foundational arches to pass over the gaping, rocky terrain. Just under a mile past Big Bend, you’ll drive across this architectural feat built into the rocky cliff face.

Logan Pass Visitor Center: Mile 32.2

Logan Pass Visitor Center in Glacier National Park

Located at the highest point along Going-to-the-Sun Road (6,646 feet), Logan Pass Visitor Center is the second visitor center you’ll encounter. Home to two of the park’s most popular hikes (Highline Trail and Hidden Lake Overlook), parking is difficult to come by from 8 am to 5 pm. If you do find a parking spot, stop into the visitor center or take the hike out-and-back to Hidden Lake.

Read More: Hiking the Highline Trail in Glacier National Park

East Tunnel: Mile 33.3

East Tunnel along Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park

This 408-foot tunnel was built in 1932, the same year that Going-to-the-Sun Road was finished. You’ll pass through this tunnel 1.1 miles after Logan Pass Visitor Center, as you begin your descent into the St. Mary Valley.

Siyeh Bend: Mile 34.9

Siyeh Bend is roughly 1.6 miles past the East Tunnel. This bend marks the transition from high-altitude alpine vegetation to the forests of St. Mary. Pull off here to view Siyeh Creek and the surrounding mountain peaks.

Jackson Glacier Overlook: Mile 37.6

Jackson Glacier Overlook along Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park

Jackson Glacier is the seventh-largest glacier in the park and one of the only ones visible from Going-to-the-Sun Road. Drive 2.7 miles past Siyeh Bend, before stopping at the overlook. Bring binoculars for a closer view of the glacier. Take a moment to read the signage here around climate change’s impact on the dwindling glaciers.

St. Mary Falls Trailhead

St. Mary Falls in Glacier National Park

If you’re looking for a day hike along Going-to-the-Sun Road, stop at St. Mary Falls trailhead. This 3.6-mile out-and-back trail takes you to the most popular waterfalls in the park: St. Mary and Virginia Falls.

Sun Point: Mile 40.3

Baring Falls hike in Glacier National Park

If you can’t find parking at the St. Mary Falls trailhead and still want to see waterfalls, drive 1.1 miles further and stop at Sun Point. This parking lot has more parking with a short 0.6-mile round trip hike to Baring Falls, a less crowded waterfall along St Mary Lake. You can also do the full 6.4-mile hike to see Baring, St. Mary, and Virginia Falls from the Sun Point trailhead.

Wild Goose Island Overlook: Mile 43.2

Your last stop before reaching the eastern park exit is an overlook along St. Mary Lake. Wild Goose Island Overlook is 3.9 miles past Sun Point and is a majestic vantage point for sunset. Does it look familiar? It was featured in the opening credits of the classic movie, The Shining.

St. Mary Visitor Center

At the end of Going-to-the-Sun Road, you’ll find St. Mary Visitor Center before the park exit. Just outside of the park exit is another Glacier National Park sign if you missed the photo op on the way into the park.

Frequently Asked Questions About Driving Going-to-the-Sun Road in 2021

Where does Going-to-the-Sun Road start and end?

Going-to-the-Sun Road starts in West Glacier just outside of Glacier National Park’s west entrance. It traverses the park, over the Continental Divide and ends in St. Mary, Montana.

How long is Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park?

Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park is 51 miles long and runs from West Glacier to St. Mary.

How steep in Going-to-the-Sun Road?

Going-to-the-Sun Road peaks at 6,646 feet above sea level at Logan Pass Visitor Center. Parts of the drive are steep, narrow, and winding, making it difficult for bicyclists and large vehicles.

How long does it take to drive Going-to-the-Sun Road?

It takes 2 hours to drive Going-to-the-Sun Road without stops. I recommend taking at least 4 to 5 hours to stop and enjoy the sights along Going-to-the-Sun Road.

How dangerous is Going-to-the-Sun Road?

Going-to-the-Sun Road is dangerous and drivers should take caution. The road is nearly impossible for oversized vehicles to drive, so the park restricts all vehicles longer than 21 feet or wider than 8 feet. For the best safety, follow the speed limit, watch for pedestrians, and avoid driving Going-to-the-Sun Road at night.

Do you need reservations to enter Glacier National Park?

In 2021, reservations are required to drive Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park. All visitors will need to make a ticketed entry reservation in addition to paying the park entrance fee. 3/4 of the reservations are released 60 days out and the remaining 1/4 are released 2 days out.

Is Going to the Sun Road open in Glacier?

Going-to-the-Sun Road is open in Glacier National Park in 2021. Depending on snow plowing, the road usually opens in mid to late June. For the latest updates and Going-to-the-Sun Road status, check the Glacier National Park Service website.

Will Many Glaciers open up in 2021?

In March 2021, the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council voted to open the eastern entrances of the park for the 2021 season. Many Glacier is open in 2021 and does not require an entry reservation (unlike Going-to-the-Sun Road).

Is East Glacier open in 2021?

East Glacier is open in 2021. In March 2021, the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council voted to open the eastern entrances of the park for the 2021 season.

Final Thoughts on Going-to-the-Sun Road 2021

Going-to-the Sun Road is one of the best scenic drives in the United States. But this year, things will look a little different…

In 2021, Glacier National Park is requiring all visitors to reserve ticketed entry to drive Going-to-the-Sun Road. You can make your reservation 60 days out on Recreation.gov.

If you aren’t able to get a ticketed entry reservation, try booking a boat tour or reserving a shuttle ticket instead.

Don’t miss the 22 must-see spots along Going-to-the-Sun Road listed here. My favorites are The Loop, Avalanche Lake, Logan Pass, and St. Mary Falls!

Most of all, don’t forget to buy your national park pass!

Looking for more helpful guides for your trip to Glacier National Park? You’ll love these posts!

Is visiting every national park on your bucket list? Check out this list of the best things to do in all 63 USA national parks!

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Want to share your thoughts, tips, and advice with me and other readers? Have questions about your trip? Head down to the comments section below!

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68 thoughts on “Going-to-the-Sun Road 2021: What You Need to Know (+ 22 Must-See Stops!)”

  1. Hey Julia,
    Taking a last minute trip to glacier the first week of October 2021- lol next week!
    I know it is risky with the weather. Plan to do going to the sun road and then staying in East Glacier for the night – heading back the next morning. Can you suggest a decent place to stay that will be open that time of year? And also, any hot springs we can dip in along the trip that is a moderate/easy hike to get to?

  2. Hi Julia, I just want to say great job on the website and my wife and I just got back from Glacier and we appreciated this GTSR stop-by-stop guide. This is just my opinion having just driven the route several times over the last week or so: adding Haystack Creek/Bird Woman Falls and Lunch Creek to their respective pull-out descriptors could help with clarity. Also, in The Loop descriptor you state that Heavens Peak (8848) is the highest in the Park; actually Mt. Cleveland is at 10,466 ft. Thanks for your labor of love!

  3. Hi,
    I have never been to Glacier NP before but we will be there June 6th-8th next year. I know GTTS road won’t be open fully but do you know how much would be open around that time? We are staying in Apgar so we would be on the west end.

  4. I heard that so many people are entering prior to 6 am then parking and sleeping in their cars that there aren’t parking spaces even by 7 am at many spots. Can anyone verify if they’ve found this to be true?

  5. Hi. I am planning to stay up until 2am my time to book lodging for next year on August 1. It seems like there are so many reservations required now, that I’m not actually clear on what else we need to enter the park, if we have lodging within the park and/or to ride the shuttle. Apologies if you already stated this. Can you restate what those staying within the park need to access all the shuttles and the park itself? Our plan right now is to book four nights at Lake McDonald Lodge, followed by three nights at Many Glacier Hotel. When the chalet reservations open up, we hope to spend one night at Granite Park Chalet and two nights at Sperry. So I would then release holds for those specific nights on the hotels. Any advice you can provide about getting around and getting access is much appreciated.

    1. Hi Jen! If you’re planning a trip for next year, there will hopefully be fewer restrictions and issues with accessing areas of the park. Under 2021 rules, those staying inside the park are able to access all areas of the park without a reservation. But if you are staying inside the park and want to ride the shuttle, you will need to make a separate reservation for that. Again, I’m thinking the system will be less strict for next summer if COVID cases decline.

  6. I read that Many Glacier Valley will be closed 9/17. Does that mean that Grinnell Glacier, Apikuni Falls, Cracker Lake, Iceberg Lake, Ptarmigan Tunnel, and Many Glacier Hotel are off limits after 9/17? We arrive in Whitefish that evening.

  7. Hi,
    Thank you so much for all of your helpful feedback. Do you have any info about first come first serve camping without a ticket for the GTTSR? We were thinking we would need to arrive at campground before 6am, but we heard of other campers being asked to leave. Any insight?

    1. Hi Kristen, To first-come, first-serve camp in Glacier in the campsites along GTSR in 2021, you’ll need to have a permit to drive Going-to-the-Sun Road. You will not be able to FCFS camp if you don’t have a permit and arrive before 6 am.

  8. If we are planning to just walk from parking lots to see sites such as McDonald lake or cedar loop trail do we still need bear spray , we will not be doing any hiking.

    1. Hi Tammy! If you’re mainly in the parking lot area, you probably don’t need to carry bear spray. That said, bears still occasionally stumble into these areas, so you should still practice proper bear safety, giving them plenty of space and staying clear.

  9. When traversing west to east and reaching the east entrance, so you recommend turning around and heading back Going to the Sun Road to exits or taking Rt 2 to head back west?

  10. What an incredibly helpful site! Thank you!
    I’m coming on a very quick trip 16JUL, arriving around noon, leaving noon the 17th. No tickets available, so how much would I be able to see after 5pm? My goal is to capture as many pictures as I can. 🙂

    1. Hi Kent! After 5pm you’ll have a few hours to explore Going-to-the-Sun since the sun sets pretty late. I’d recommend spending most of your time between The Loop and St. Mary as I think those are the most scenic parts of the drive!

  11. If we plan to bike the going to the sun this coming June 26th do we need entry tickets to the park of any kind or tickets to ride our bikes on the going to the sun? We were just up to Lake McDonald lodge in April and we didn’t need anything other than paying to get into the park.

    1. Hi Sue! If you’re entering the park on bike, you do not need a ticketed entry reservation. If you are planning to drive into the park and then bike, you will need an entry reservation though. One other thing to note – between June 15 and Labor Day there are restrictions on some parts of GTSR for cyclists between 11 AM and 4 PM.

  12. what is the meaning of road to the sun closure on SEP’6 ?
    Does it mean that U don’t need a ticket ? or that the road is closed and U can’t pass ?

      1. I heard that before the road gets open for traffic, there is a window when it is only allowed for travel by bike or for hikers. And the same happens at the end of the season. I can’t find any official info about it though. Does anybody know anything about it?
        Thank you!

        1. Hi Julia – so grateful for all the information you’ve provided and the beautiful photos! I am coming out there September 16th. So I still need the $35 park pass, but not the ticketed reservation? I tried calling the national park unsuccessfully. Thanks!

        2. Hi Julia,
          We are planning to be in Glacier National Park for 2 days. We are staying in Whitefish. We have the GSTR ticketed entry pass for both days. We have a reservation for the St. Mary Lake boat tour at 12 noon on the first day. We would like to do the Going-to-the-Sun Road, Lake McDonald, Avalanche lake hike, St Mary’s fall hike. How do you recommend we split our days?

          Thanks much!
          Raj

          1. Hi Raj! I’d recommend spending your first day driving across Going-to-the-Sun Road in the morning, taking the noon boat tour, hiking St. Mary Falls in the afternoon, and then driving back across GTSR to Whitefish. On your second day, I’d recommend doing Lake McDonald and Avalanche Lake/Trail of the Cedars.

        3. Do you know if it is hard to enter the park before 6:00 am? We will be there this week and I’m afraid we won’t be able to get the Sun Road pass. I’ve also tried booking the boat tours and they are sold out as well. Thanks for all of the advice you are sharing.

          1. Hi Michele! It should be fairly easy to enter the park before 6 AM since the ranger stations are unmanned. That said, given the high volume of traffic entering Glacier National Park this year, I’d recommend giving yourself a 30 minute buffer.

          2. Hey Michele, I would love to know if you attempted to enter before 6:00. or if you were able to get tickets. I’m anxious about our entry in late August.

          1. Hi Nancy! I think September 7th would be a great time to visit Glacier. You’ll no longer need to deal with the ticketed entry system and the weather should still be pretty warm. I visited at that time of year in 2019 and most days were in the 70s and 80s. Any time before mid September will be fine weather wise (barring any freak weather patterns).

        4. We have a park pass and a GTTS road pass . We are interested in hiking St Mary’s Falls and doing sunpoint Nature Trail. Where would we park to access these trails and what time would we need to arrive to snag a parking spot? We are entering from West Glacier.

          1. Hi Sherilyn! St. Mary Falls is accessible from the St. Mary Falls Trailhead, as well as the Sun Point Trailhead. If you want to park at the St. Mary Falls Trailhead, I recommend arriving before 9 AM (or after ~4PM). You’ll be able to find more parking at the Sun Point Trailhead; You will likely be able to find parking here most times of day, but may have to circle the parking lot a bit. If you’re up for the extra hiking, I recommend just parking at Sun Point and making a loop along St. Mary Lake to see Baring Falls, St. Mary Falls, and Virginia Falls.

        5. Are the tickets that open up 2 days prior to a non-released date also good for 7 days, as the 60-day prior tickets are? So I would have more available days to try to get a ticket for the day we will actually be in the park?

          1. Hi Joan! The tickets released 2 days prior are the same as the ones released 60 days out, so like you’re saying you will have several potential dates to try to get entry to the park. Since the tickets are valid for a 7 day period, I recommend checking for several days that would overlap with your date since you don’t have to enter the park on the exact day of your reservation (as long as it’s within that 7 day window).

        6. Oh my gosh this really sucks… I have ten family members going in 3 cars and we can’t get the dark entry tickets and the bus tours are sold out. Any other suggestions? Anyone have a ticket they are not using that I can buy?

          1. Hi Sam! One option is to have everyone enter the park before 6 AM as you won’t need a ticket when entering the park before that time. Unfortunately, I don’t think the tickets are transferable. Have you checked into Glacier Park Boat Tours for you dates? That’s another option as well.

        7. Thank you SO much for all this information!! I see many posts over the internet about doing the Going to the Sun Road from West to East starting in Apgar. If we were to start on the East side are we still able to stop at all the places you highlighted? Not sure if there is a barrier blocking the sides of the road from turning one way to another. Thank you!

          1. Hi Stephanie! The main reason I recommend driving GTSR from West to East is because many of the most scenic turnouts are on the south side of the road (so it’s an easier pull off on the right hand side when driving from West to East). There isn’t a physical barrier or median, so you can still access the scenic viewpoints when driving from East to West, but you may have to continue past, find a safe spot to turn around, and return to the viewpoint.

        8. If I have a senior National Parks Pass do I only need to get the ticket entry to the Going to the Sun Road?
          Thanks for the great guide!

          1. Hi Cindy! You’re correct – the senior national park pass covers your entry fee to the park, but you will still need the ticketed entry reservation to drive Going to the Sun Road!

        9. We are party of 5 looking to visit GTSR on July 2nd.
          Do I have to book Boat tour of Lake McDonald for only one person or all 5 to get entry on GTSR?

          1. Hi Suchit! I’m actually not sure of the answer to this – I think it depends on how strict the park rangers are being on entry. I’d say the best way to find out for sure would be to call the Glacier National Park Service at 406-888-7800.

        10. These are great tips! Once you get to the other side, is it best to drive back by the same route or go around to get back to our campground?
          Thanks, Kris

          1. Hi Kris,

            This will depend on what part of the park you’re staying in. If you’re staying along Going-to-the-Sun Road, I just recommend retracing your route to get back there. Hope that helps!

        11. Thank you for sharing all of this information. We are traveling to Glacier in July and it has been difficult to find info on GTSR for 2021…you have literally saved our trip with your tips! We booked two boat tours thanks to your suggestion – we can’t wait to explore the park for the first time!

        12. Hi there! All of this is extremely helpful. It seems like even if you have the Going to the Sun Road ticket that the road is partially closed until they’re done plowing. As such, if I was to go to Hidden Lake, is my best bet to park at Avalanche and bike to Logan Pass? Any other alt route to get there? Also interested in going to Many Glacier and Grinnell but I am a bit confused as to how to get there. Do I have to go on the highway all the way around the park to get to the east entrance? There’s no way to cut through the park with Going to the Sun Road being closed is there? Appreciate all of the help in advance!!

          1. Hi Deb,

            You’re correct that the road will remain partially closed until plowing is complete. Until then, you could bike to Logan Pass as you mention from Avalanche Creek when crews are not actively working. This is a very strenuous bike ride though given the elevation gain. Until the road is open, there isn’t a very easy way to get to Logan Pass.

            You can take Highway 2 instead to reach the Many Glacier area, which takes roughly the same amount of time as driving there on Going-to-the-Sun Road.

        13. thanks for all the info!
          We are heading to Polson after doing the drive, and wondering what the best way there is – spend the night in St. Mary’s and do the Going-to-the-Sun road in reverse? Or go down to East Glacier and take Highway 2? I’ve been studying maps and I’m not sure. Thanks!

          1. Hi Crystal,
            I think either of those routes would work and are close in driving time. What might help make the decision is where you can find availability in a place to stay. At the end of the day though, you can’t really lose with either of these routes.

        14. I can not get the entry ticket. I have the park pass.
          Can I get into the park from West Glacier before 5:30 am and drive the GTTS?

          1. Hi Larry,
            Per the Glacier NPS website, you do not need a ticket to get into the park before 6 AM or after 5PM. So by entering at 5:30AM, you will be fine, but you will not be able to re-enter once you leave Going-to-the-Sun Road for the day (until after 5PM).

        15. Hi- This is so helpful. So if we do not get a ticketed entry to GTTS, will we not be able to have access to Apgar Nature center, trail of the cedars, or avalanche lake trail? I am trying to a plan an itinerary in case we don’t get the tickets. We already have a boat tour scheduled for Many Glacier on one of our days, so I was hoping to to do those other activities on the other day. If we rent kayaks or paddle boards at Lake McDonald, would that give us entry onto the GTTS for the day? or does it have to be the boat tour reservations?

          1. Hi Katherine!
            You’re correct – if you don’t get a GTTS ticket, you won’t be able to access anything past the entrance gate on the west side of the park, including Apgar Nature Center, Trail of the Cedars, and Avalanche Lake. My understanding is that if you have a reservation for any tour or activity along Going-to-the-Sun Road, that admits you for that day. I assume that would include kayak/paddle reservations at Lake McDonald, but the best way to be sure is to reach out to Glacier Park Boat Company and confirm with them.

          1. Hi Mark – thanks for your feedback! Unfortunately there’s a rental car shortage across a lot of the country and it’s affecting smaller areas like Kalispell even more. As I’m sure you’ve been doing, continue to check rental car availability as cancellations may occur. I’d also recommend reaching out directly to the local rental car companies at the Kalispell airport (if that’s where you’re flying into) to see if they are able to help you with a reservation that may not show up online. Worst case, you could look into alternatives like renting a campervan from Outdoorsy if no rental cars become available. Again, thank you for your feedback and I will add more detail around this point in the post.

            1. I was able to get a rental car on Turo – which is a car sharing app. I’ve never used them before, but am willing to give them a try. You may want to check them out.

              1. Hi Laura! This is a great tip. I hadn’t heard of Turo before, but it sounds like a great hack for getting around the rental car shortage in Glacier this summer. Thanks for sharing!

            2. Despite my best efforts, all of the entry tickets for my dates were taken before I got one. Really bummed about it because I’ve never been to Glacier before. But I’m committed to making the best of it. Any suggestions for a good 3 day itinerary in Glacier that does not include GTSR? 🙁

              1. Hi Jeff! Sorry to hear you weren’t able to get the entry tickets for your date. Here’s what I would do – check to see if there’s openings on your dates on the Glacier Park Boat Company tour of either Lake McDonald or St. Mary Lake. Having a reservation for either one of these boat tours will allow you entry to Going-to-the-Sun Road for that day (and the tours are always interesting!). This way, you at the worst are able to do the boat tour + spend the rest of that day driving Going-to-the-Sun.

                I would then also look at trying to get the entry ticket again 2 days before your arrival to give you access for your entire trip. The park is holding some reservations to be released on Recreation.Gov 2 days out, so you may be able to get one then. But again, even if you’re not able to get the entry ticket, you’ll be guaranteed one day on Going-to-the-Sun with your boat tour reservation if you choose to go that route.

                Otherwise, you are able to spend time in Two Medicine and Many Glacier without a reservation. If you can’t see Going-to-the-Sun, I’d recommend sunrise at Two Medicine Lake and hiking Grinnell Glacier, Iceberg Lake, and/or Redrock Falls in the Many Glacier area.

                Hope this is helpful!

                1. It is impossible to get a ticket to the going the sun road. I was on waiting before they became available on several different dates and checked all day. I have made 4 phone calls being on hold for hours only to get told misinformation. I was told the last time I called that they have been selling out within 1 minute on the 2 dates they opened tickets for my date. I have had this trip booked for over a year due to covid. I was told if you come.in before 6pm you don’t need a ticket. So I guess we will be getting up really early on this trip. Unfortunately I have wasted at least 15 hours of my like trying to get one of these stupid $2 tickets. Their method for selling them is ridiculous!

                  1. Hi Paula! Sorry to hear how much trouble you’ve been having – I definitely agree that the system implemented for this year has been difficult for everyone.

                    Like you mention, you can enter the park before 6 AM to drive Going-to-the-Sun Road for the day without a reservation. Other alternatives include booking a tour service in the park (I recommend Glacier Park Boat Company) or reserving a shuttle ticket to board at either Apgar or St. Mary Visitor Center, depending on where you’re staying and if there’s availability on your date(s). You can try booking a shuttle ticket here: https://www.recreation.gov/ticket/facility/10087424

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