Content Produced in Partnership with Whitefish, Montana
Glacier National Park is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful places on the planet. The rocky, snow-capped mountains, emerald lakes, abundance of wildlife, and seemingly endless trails make Glacier one of the most popular national parks in the country. On top of that, Going-to-the-Sun Road is one of the most popular and talked about 50 miles in the entire national park system, in part, because the drive is the only road that traverses the park over the Continental Divide through Logan's Pass.
There's only one problem: While the park is open year-round, the alpine road is only open for a very short part of every year, making it very popular during the summer months. But we’re going to let you in on a little secret: every spring, once the snow has started to melt and crews have started to plow, the National Park opens up the road to hikers and bikers. For roughly two months a year, this coveted road is open only to two wheels or your feet and it’s a sight and experience you need to add to your bucket list.
Get there early. It was around 8am when we walked into Montana Coffee Traders for a tall coffee and a to-go chicken wrap. We grabbed two bottles of water each and made our way over to Glacier Cyclery and Nordic to get fitted for our road bikes and helmets. After loading up the bikes, we hopped in the car for the 30-minute drive to Glacier National Park. The weather was supposed to be sunny, with a 10% chance of rain. By the time we parked our car, we had already been rained on and it was cold enough for snow. We bundled up, grabbed an extra pack of gloves and a beanie and took off on the ride of a lifetime.
Get a Fresh Perspective
The difference between biking up Going-to-the-Sun Road and driving up is your perspective. With driving it is all about the destination; you want to get to Logan’s Pass and over to the eastern side of the park. With biking, however, you are able to enjoy all the little moments that you’d miss if you were just watching out of your window with your radio on.
We were able to take lots of breaks (many of which we due to my lungs not expanding quick enough) as we biked to snap photos and take in the scenery. We put the kickstand up on our bike as we stood on the ledge of the road, overlooking the forest and river below us. We could hear the rushing water even though we were hundreds of feet above it. The stillness that happens when you only hear the wind and the water is worth the whole trip. I can still close my eyes and remember what that stillness felt like at the time. My whole body shook as I took it all in, one deep breath after another. We stopped by several waterfalls that formed from the melting ice, we biked through snow (hey, 10% chance of rain? more like 100%) and finally, at our stopping point, we unpacked our chicken wraps and ate them on the parking spots just under the pass.
Join the Crowd
We had what seemed like the entire park at our vantage point — and we weren’t alone. Other bikers and hikers who had made the voyage up the mountain that day greeted us. There were 70 year-old grandfathers with their grandsons, and mothers and fathers who had strapped their young children to adjoining bikes so they could have a really unique family bonding experience. There were best friends and locals, international visitors, and repeat enthusiasts. Everyone was there for the same reason, yet we were all experiencing the park in our own way.
A Ride that Stays with You
The ride down is super fast, and as your bike coasts you now see the park from a different angle and new things start to jump out to us. We take note of the colors of certain trees and how the river water flows so fast at one point that it makes a whirlpool in the center. Yet again, the only sounds were from Glacier herself, bouncing off my own heartbeat that felt like it wanted to jump out of my chest.
My legs were sore for three days following that bike ride and my jacket got a small rip in the pocket from where I picked up the bike. When I wore the jacket a few days later, I accidentally slid my finger into the hole and was immediately transported back to Glacier and biking Going-to-the-Sun Road. The trip left a mark on me that I won’t soon forget, and it’s one I think everyone should experience if they can.