The Complete Guide to Going-to-the-Sun Road

View of McDonald Valley from Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park

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Going-to-the-Sun Road is one of the top scenic drives in the country. It’s also the main road through Glacier National Park. Open from late June to October this scenic drive is a must-see (or must-drive in this case!). 

This 50-mile long drive has scenic viewpoints, pull-offs, and hikes along the way. This is your guide to every point of interest on Going-to-the-Sun Road. The guide also comes with a printable companion map to take with you on your trip to Glacier National Park.

Before diving into the details, here are a few tips on navigating Going-to-the-Sun Road.

General Information

  • Going-to-the-Sun Road runs through Glacier National Park, so you must pass through the park entrance station. Here you’ll pay the standard national park entrance fee per vehicle. Or show your park pass with valid photo ID to enter.
  • Vehicles longer than 21 feet or wider than 8 feet are prohibited between Avalanche Campground and Rising Sun Picnic Area. The road through the Logan Pass area of the park is too narrow and winding for larger vehicles.
  • There are no gas stations within the park or along Going-to-the-Sun Road, so fill up on gas before starting your drive. There are gas stations at both ends of the drive, in West Glacier or St. Mary. 
  • 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.

Important Tips

  • Driving Going-to-the-Sun Road straight through will take you roughly 2 hours. But you should budget at least 3-4 hours to include plenty of time to stop and take in the views. 
  • Parking in Glacier National Park can be difficult to come by in the busy season. Start early in the day (before 8 am) or later in the afternoon (after 3 pm) to avoid crowds. 
  • Unless you plan to stop for a meal at Lake McDonald Lodge, pack some snacks for the drive
  • As a general rule for Glacier National Park, bring layers. Elevation changes throughout the park and along Going-to-the-Sun Road. You’ll want a jacket at the higher elevations when walking around or getting out at viewpoints.
  • There’s no cell service in most areas of the park. Download everything you need, including Google Maps and this road trip guide, offline before you leave. GPS navigation will still work if you’ve downloaded the map ahead of time. For the full details on how to make Google Maps available offline, check out Step 9 in my Travel Planning Guide.

The Guide to Going-to-the-Sun Road

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.

1. 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. 

2. Glacier National Park Welcome Sign: Mile 0.4

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.

Entrance sign to Glacier National Park at the western entrance

3. Glacier National Park Entrance: Mile 1.0

You’ll drive another half a mile to reach the park entrance. Here you’ll pay a fee or show your pass (with valid ID) to enter the national park. The park rangers will also give you a park map.

4. 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 souvenir shop, talk to park rangers, or use the restroom before continuing on your drive.

5. Lake McDonald Viewpoint: Mile 8.2

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.

6. Lake McDonald Lodge: Mile 11.0

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

Boats are docked at the Lake McDonald Lodge

7. McDonald Falls Overlook: Mile 12.8

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. 

8. Avalanche Creek: Mile 16.6

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. 

9. 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 western tunnel cuts through rocky mountainside on Going-to-the-Sun Road

10. 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. 

11. Viewpoint of Logan Pass Region: Mile 28.0

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

A view of a stream flowing into the McDonald Valley in Glacier National Park

12. Weeping Wall: Mile 29.2

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.

13. Big Bend: Mile 29.4

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. 

14. 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. 

15. Logan Pass Visitor Center: Mile 32.2

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 2-hour hike out-and-back to Hidden Lake.

16. East Tunnel: Mile 33.3

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.

A tunnel in the highway cuts through the mountain on Going-to-the-Sun Road

17. 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.

18. Jackson Glacier Overlook: Mile 37.6

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.

19. St. Mary Falls Trailhead

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.

20. Sun Point: Mile 40.3

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.

21. 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. 

Sunset at Wild Goose Island along Going-to-the-Sun Road

22. 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.

Finish your drive across Going-to-the-Sun Road with a meal in St. Mary or continue your scenic drive on Highway 89. Drive north to visit Many Glacier or south to visit Two Medicine.

A Quick Recap on Going-to-the-Sun Road

This guide shares all the scenic stops along Going-to-the-Sun Road, from west to east. Budget around 3-4 hours for this scenic, more if you’re planning on stopping for a hike or two. The perfect introduction to the park, I recommend doing this drive at the start of your trip to Glacier National Park.

Start your drive either early in the morning or in the late afternoon to avoid crowds and ensure you’re able to find parking at the pull-offs and visitor centers. And don’t forget to bring a jacket!

More Tips for Your Trip to Glacier

My goal at Well Planned Journey is to help you plan epic national park adventures with detailed guides and itineraries!

Check out some of my other resources to help you plan your trip to Glacier National Park!

>> More Ideas for Glacier National Park:

>> More National Park Inspiration:

>> Pack the Right gear:

Have questions?

Let me know in the comments below!

Don’t forget to download your free, printable guide to Going-to-the-Sun Road!

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Hi, I’m Julia! I’m a national park lover and avid planner on a mission to visit every U.S. national park. My goal is to empower you to visit America’s national parks by providing super-detailed national park guides and the tools to grow your hiking and camping skillset so you can feel confident outdoors.

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Hi, I’m Julia! I’m on a mission to see every United States national park and I’m happy to have you along for the ride. Here I share super-detailed itineraries and guides to help you plan the national park trip of a lifetime.

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