Going to the Sun Road is one of the best, most scenic drives we have experienced in a national park. Starting at the West Glacier Railroad Depot, visitors enter the park and drive past the Apgar Visitor Center, Lake McDonald, and McDonald Falls. Stop at McDonald Falls to get a close-up look at the crystal-clear stream and crazy-colorful rocks in the stream bed. See photos at the bottom of this post. The drive continues through a wooded valley until the ascent begins, by Packers Roost, around the Loop, and by the Weeping Wall, a steep embankment where water is forced through cracks in the rock. Pull off along the road to see waterfalls, huge rock mountains, and glacial ravines. Logan Pass Visitor Center is a destination for many and expect mid-day crowds. Continue past the visitor center to see Going-to-the-Sun Mountain, Sunrift Gorge, and the enormous glacial St Mary Lake. To complete the drive, Saint Mary Visitor Center is at one of the East Glacier entrances.
West Glacier is the most popular side of the park and most visitors start their trip here. The Apgar visitor Center is a great place to gather information, review maps and set plans. Gift shops, huckleberry stands, restaurants, a distillery, and other attractions line the roads outside the West Glacier entrance. While touristy, many of these are worth a stop. A unique food of Montana is the huckleberry and local restaurants serve huckleberry breakfast, jams, and even huckleberry ice cream.
We drove to Logan Pass Visitor Center, a busy but beautiful stop in the middle of the park. From Logan, we hiked to Hidden Lake, one of the most recognizable photographs in the park. Our trip was in late June but snow still covered much of the trail on the way to the lake. Again, this summer snow hike is an experience unique to Glacier. See photos below.
The drive from the West Glacier NP entrance to Logan Pass Visitor Center takes about an hour without stops. With plenty of scenic overlooks, plan for at least a couple hours of round trip driving.
See the official park map here
Here is a terrible dark story we heard from a local guide over a loudspeaker at one of the West Glacier gift shop entrances. I have not verified any of the details as true or accurate but am merely passing it on as a story:
A woman was hiking on a trail in East Glacier and turned a corner to surprise a mother Grizzly Bear. The Bear, protecting her cubs, attacked the woman and tore off her arm from the shoulder. After a short time, other hikers discovered the woman, who was still alive, and contacted rangers. The detached arm was placed in a bucket of ice and the woman transported to a flat area where a helicopter could land.
The medi-vac team loaded the woman who somehow remained conscious and thankfully survived the ordeal. After she was on the helicopter, the team went back to grab the bucket and arm but saw a group of boys had grabbed the bucket and were going down the trail. The team ran after the boys and were able to get the bucket onto the chopper before it took off. The boys were detained until police arrived. They were then taken to the local police station and charged with armed robbery…
Tips for Your Trip:
Here are a few of our photos:
Hike photos from Logan Pass Visitor Center to Hidden Lake: