Located in Montana, Glacier National Park is known for its scenic views and the gorgeous hikes you can do among the glaciers. But when it comes to driving, can you actually visit Glacier National Park by car? Can you drive through Glacier National Park?
You can totally drive through Glacier National Park thanks to Going-to-the-sun road, a 50 miles-long scenic road in the middle of the National Park. Some parts of the road can be closed during winter because of snow and it is usually crowded during summer, which is why it costs $25 to enter Glacier National Park during winter and $35 to enter the park in the summer.
Driving Glacier National Park: The Full Experience
Driving in Glacier National Park on going-to-the-sun road is such a unique experience. The highest point of the road is Logan Pass, culminating at 6,645 feet above sea level (or roughly 2,000 meters). We will discuss later Logan Pass because it is definitely a stop you need to make.
The experience of the sun road is a little bit like The Loop Road in Badlands National Park. It ables travelers to view the whole park by car. Except that here, the views look more like the ones you can see in the Grand Teton National Park.
How to prepare for Going-to-the-sun road?
Let’s now learn about what to see, where to stop, and what to do when traveling in Glacier National Park on the going-to-the-sun road. The first thing to learn about is road conditions. This is what you will learn about in the next video.
As mentioned in this video, there are several points you should know about before driving to Glacier National Park. The first one is that vehicles longer than 21 feet or wider than 8 feet are not accepted on the road because there are places on the road where it is narrow.
If this is your case, you can take the free shuttle. It runs every 30 minutes and it is free. So if you have any fears about driving on this road, the best is simply to relax on the passenger seat of the shuttle.
However, if you are brave enough to drive, you should respect the speed limits and turn on your headlights because there are several tunnels on the road. You should also retract your tow mirrors to avoid cyclists. There are lots of cyclists all year long.
If you have a fear of sight, you should seat on the driver’s side of the vehicle when ascending from the West. When descender from the East, you should seat on the passenger’s seat.
It is also important to know that there are not many car parks in the area. There is a big one in Logan Pass. But it is very full in mid-morning. You should head for this parking in the early morning and in the late afternoon. During the peak time of the day, you may be waiting for a parking space in Logan Pass.
You should also being some snacks in your vehicle because there is no food service on Going-to-the-sun road in Glacier National Park.
While driving, watch out for wildlife along the way: you may encounter lots of animals in Glacier National Park! This is because the ecosystem in the area is very developed. You may encounter mountain goats, sheep, bighorn sheep, bears, eagles, and moose just like in Grand Teton National Park.
Finally, you should be prepared for big weather variations. It is not because it is sunny at the beginning of the road that it will be sunny all the way long. The elevation gain is pretty big and the weather can vary.
Where to stop on Going-to-the-sun road?
There are two types of places where you can stop on Going-to-the-sun road:
- Hiking trails
There are lots of viewpoints all the way along sun road. Indeed, since the road is at a relatively high altitude, you will usually have scenic views of the valley. The highest point of the road is reached at Logan Pass, and there are great viewpoints at this place.
However, there are also viewpoints at other places such as on the Continental Divide Trail, the Ptarmigan Tunel, or the Highline Trail.
Finally, if you want to see waterfalls in Glacier National Park, you should see the three following waterfalls:
- Red Rock Falls
- St Mary Falls
- Virginia Falls
There are lots of hiking trails along the road. Some of them are more famous than others, and for good reasons. The best views you will get from the Glacier National Park are located at Logan Pass (where it is the most crowded). Indeed, Logan Pass is the highest point of the going-to-the-sun road and there is a car park there.
After stopping in this car park, you can do the hidden lake trail, a 5.4 miles roundtrip with a 1325 feet elevation gain that is definitely worth hiking. The views you will get at the end of it are just amazing and it is a very easy trail to follow.
You can also do other trails. For example, you can hike around Lake McDonald. This is a lake you will pass by when driving on sun road.
You can also hike the Highline Trail. This trail starts at Logan Pass and it delivers everything the park is known for: views and wildlife. It is 11 miles through the park and exposed to sunlight. Make sure to bring water, a hat, and suncream.
You can also hike the Continental Divide Trail. It is a 3,100 miles-long trail. 110 miles of those 3,100 are in Glacier National Park and hiking them is a great idea.
Glacier National Park Things to do
Glacier National Park is not only about driving, hiking, and enjoying the wildlife. Of course, those are the main activities you should definitely do if you choose to visit Glacier National Park, but there are also other things to do!
One of them is sleeping in the Many Glacier Hotel. Indeed, there is one hotel in Glacier National Park next to the Many Glacier areas. This hotel is a great hub for tons of activities, such as kayaking, horseback riding, renting boat tours, and great other ways to experience Glacier National Park.
Camping in Glacier National Park is not really an option at this elevation and with so much wildlife around, so maybe lodging in this hotel is a great idea. Also, since there are restrictions for big RVs, there are not a lot of RV parks in Glacier National Park.
Basically, the Glacier National Park is easy to drive by car in one day, and this is what most people do.
If you want more reasons to visit Glacier National Park, I recommend that you check the following video by Rock the Park.
Glacier National Park by car: is it the best choice?
Just like for every other trip, it all depends on where you start and what you have. If you are living close to Glacier National Park, in Columbia Falls (Columbia Falls is the nearest city to Glacier National Park), and you have a car, the best is to drive to Glacier National Park by car.
However, if you are planning a road trip, or something different from a city that is further away, it is interesting to discuss it.
Road trip from Yellowstone
Lots of people like to combine Yellowstone on road trips in the West. This is totally possible, but it is important to know that those two parks are not really close to each other.
It is a 8 hour-drive from Yellowstone to Glacier National Park. So you should make sure to plan your trip accordingly.
From NYC to Glacier National Park (or other big cities)
If you want to get to Glacier National Park from NYC or other big cities, the best is to take a plane and to rent a car in the area. Glacier National Park is in Montana, so you should look for the nearest airport in the area.
The nearest airport to Glacier National Park is Glacier Park International Airport. It is not a huge airport so you should make sure to plan your trip accordingly.
Glacier National Park from Canada
It is very easy to drive from Canada to Glacier National Park. The border is open if you have the right paper and in fact, Calgary is closer to Glacier National Park than Seattle for example. It will take you 3 hours to join Calgary and Glacier National Park to have an order of ideas.
That’s all for this article. To end it, here is a little shot of the kind of landscapes you can enjoy there. See you!