Going Around The Going To The Sun Road

July 1, 2011 - Plowing the Big DriftImage via Glacier NPS

[twitter]You’d think that by June 30, it would be easy to drive across the mountains without fear of snow – you’d be right, but not in Glacier National Park.

Even thought plowing starts on April 1, the large dump of snow in 2011 made one of the best drives you’ll ever take still unpassable on the 1 of July (the photo at the top of this page is from the Glacier National Park Flickr account and was taken July 1.)

[You can check the latest Going To The Sun Road conditions here.]

So, with The Going To The Sun Road closed, you’ll need to go around. The Going To The Sun Road crosses the middle of Glacier National Park, the other road (the one that’s open 12 months a year instead of barely 3, skirts the outside of the park. It offers some of the views, but it is exactly what it sounds like: instead of going through the heart of something magical, you have to tiptoe around it.

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It’s not the same thing, but near Lower Two Medicine Lake, you climb over Looking Glass Road (Hwy 49) that has some of the precariousness of the “real” road, and while the views are magnificent, they’re not the same.

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The trip around the park is longer, but the actual time it takes to cross is about the same. The 115km/h downhill speed limits on Hwy 2 make up for the 40km/h speed limits up Logan Pass.

Still, even with the road closed, you can attack part of the drive from either side. We did 16 miles from Apgar to Avalanche along beautiful Macdonald Lake. It wasnt the same, but it was still beautiful.

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20110703 montana - 22The Going To The Sun Road is one of the best (and scariest) drives in the world. If it spooks you, and you’d like a little time to watch the scenery go by, you can hire one of the vintage Red Jammer roll top buses to make the trek.

They’ve been climbing the passes since soon after the road was opened in 1930. A variety of narrated tours are available for $25-$85. When you see the narrow passes that barely allow two cars to ride abreast over the peak, you’ll wonder how these beasts that seat 4 across can make it.

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