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Going to the Sun Road at Glacier National Park

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Going to the Sun Road at Glacier National Park
Photo Credit: By twbuckner via flickr andCreative Commons

Glacier National Park straddles the continental divide, providing an epic crossing through Logan Pass, via the narrow twists and turns of the “Going to the Sun Road.”  As the only road which crosses the park, the Going to the Sun Road is known as a feat of engineering, and driving it will leave you very much in awe – as long as the shock of the kinks and bends doesn’t overpower you.

Going to the Sun Road is 53 miles long, cresting to 6,646 feet through the pass. It will take you the better part of a day to drive, including some stops to look around.  The road is only open during the summer, as Glacier National Park sees copious amounts of snow throughout the winter – sometimes as deep as 80 feet!  Vehicles are limited in length to 21 feet due to the sharp corners and narrow roadways.  Staying well under the maximum length is recommended.  If the Going to the Sun Road seems too intimidating to drive yourself, you can hop on one of the classic red tour buses, known as “jammers.”  Jammers are retrofitted 1930s buses operated by Xanterra Parks & Resorts (1-855-SEE-GLACIER).  You can also hop on and off of the shuttle system.

Glacier National Park is accessible on the west approximately 33 miles from Kalispell, MT. On the East there are three entrances, all close to Browning, MT.  The Going to the Sun Road offers spectacular vistas with entirely different appearances depending on your direction of travel, west to east and east to west.  For the budget traveler, Thronson’s Motel and General Store in Babb, MT is the place to stay when you need a hotel .  It is only fifteen minutes from the park entrance.  For dinner, head down to Babb Bar Cattle Baron Supper Club, a unique restaurant with gold flecks and loft layout for fine dining.  They have everything from garlic butter drenched escargot to steak and burgers.  If that’s not your style, you can pop across the street to the diner instead.

Wake up at the crack of dawn so that you catch the sun while on the road to the sun!  Pop in to Luna’s Restaurant in East Glacier to grab yourself some breakfast to go.  Enter the park and pay the fee, while picking up some maps from the St. Mary Visitor Center.  After that, go exploring!  There are many short trails to hike, including to waterfalls, as well as too many photo opportunities to count!  Wildlife, glaciers, rivers, waterfalls and more will greet you.  You may even pass an energetic cyclist or two, making the grueling trek.

For lunch, pack a picnic or visit one of the restaurants in Glacier National Park.  From Jammer Joe’s Pizza to The Ptarmigan Dining Room, there are choices for every budget.  Just make sure to check the hours before your arrival!

When you emerge on the far side of the park, having had your fill of lakes, beaches, mountains and more, stop for dinner at Three Forks Grille in Columbia Falls, MT.  Three Forks Grille has earned high praise from locals and tourists alike, thanks to their menu that focuses on fresh, local ingredients, including hand cut steaks and wild game.  Picture yourself tucking into an Italian Bibimbap full of shrimp, crispy pork belly, fried egg, kale, roasted garlic broth, scallions and organic faro, after a long day of exploring in the park.  It will be delicious and satiate your ravenous taste buds.

Push on a little bit further and spend the night at the Kalispell Grand Hotel, a turn of the century style hotel which has been updated to include modern amenities.  They offer competitive rates and character that can’t be matched by the chain hotels.  The entrance includes a grand oak staircase, extensive wood and brass work and antique furniture.  If you really need to unwind, opt for a Linderman Jetted Tub Suite, named after the Montana statesman Frank Bird Linderman – who also happened to be a writer amongst his other pursuits.   A stay here will put a lovely end cap on your cultural experience of historic Montana and drive on the Glacier National Park Going to the Sun Road.

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