Glacier National Park
I’m often asked which national park, destination or road trip is my favorite. This is a really difficult question to answer since there are so many amazing places in the west that I travel to. However, I have to say that I really enjoy driving on scenic mountain roads. Roads like Bear Tooth Highway, San Juan Skyway including the Million Dollar Highway, and Mirror Lake Highway in the Uinta Mountains. At the top of my list of favorite mountain drives is the Going-to-the-Sun Road at Glacier National Park.
In September of 2016 we visited Glacier National Park on a 9-day tour that also included visits to Salt Lake City UT, Park City UT, Bear Lake UT, Jackson Hole WY, Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone, Red Lodge MT, Kalispell MT, Salmon ID, Sun Valley ID, and Twin Falls ID. The highlight of the tour was our day at Glacier National Park driving the Going-to-the-Sun Road from Saint Mary Montana to Lake McDonald Lodge and back. Our original intention was to go one-way from Saint Mary to West Glacier but our Mercedes Van was too long (24 ft.) to take on the road. Vehicles longer than 21 ft. are not permitted on the road so we had to rent a smaller van in East Glacier Park Village. Seeing the park from this scenic drive in both directions turned out to be a bonus.
The full length of the road is 50 miles, we drove 39 miles of it from Saint Mary to Lake McDonald Lodge. Logan Pass is the highest point on Going-to-the-Sun Road at 6,646 feet, where we stopped to enjoy the views and do some walking. There is a large parking lot that fills quickly so go early if you can. The visitors center has clean restrooms. Logan Pass is 32 miles from the west entrance and 18 miles from the east entrance where we started. There is no cost to driving Going-to-the-Sun Road other than the park entrance fee.
Jackson Glacier Overlook offers the best opportunity to see a glacier from the road. Jackson Glacier Overlook is located on the east side of the Going-to-the-Sun Road between Logan Pass and St. Mary.
Tip: If you go to Lake McDonald Lodge, take the boat tour with Glacier Park Boat Company. The tour is one hour and in a boat with an inside cabin and upper deck viewing area. The cost is $18.25 for adults and $9.25 for kids (4-12 yrs); under 4 is free.
Interesting Factoid: Glacier National Park is the headwaters for streams that flow to the Pacific Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and to Hudson’s Bay. What happens at Glacier affects waters in a huge section of North America.