Going to the Sun in Glacier National Park

posted in: Motorcycling, Outdoors, Travel | 2

Shivering with cold, soaked through to the skin and dripping water all over the floor, I asked the lady behind the counter in A&W for whatever was their most popular meal. I was so cold and wet that I had lost any ability to make basic decisions, and the happy lady and her work experience teenager seemed to realise I wasn’t being silly when I said I just wanted food with a root beer. We were on our way to Glacier National Park and the famous Going to the Sun road when we rode into what I can only describe as torrential rain. Apart from the short sharp shower we’d had in the Rockies a couple of weeks previously, we were incredibly fortunate on our motorcycle road trip to stay dry. Until now.

Glacier National Park - Splodz Blogz

View over Saint Mary Lake, Glacier National Park.

We could see the rain ahead of us as we rode out of Missoula towards the mountains in the distance. The Going to the Sun road that winds its way over the mountains of Glacier National Park was one of our “absolutely must do” places on our map-with-a-thousand-pins, but it turned out we’d picked a pretty shocking day weather wise to attempt it. As we got closer to the National Park the mountains disappeared into cloud, the rain fell, and the temperature dropped. And, tucking into our burgers and fries, we made the inevitable call. There was simply no point attempting the mountain pass today. There would be no views and no wildlife anyway, and the road would be no fun.

Glacier National Park - Splodz Blogz

Glacier National Park. The day after the rain.

We headed directly to the Super 8 Motel we’d booked in Cut Bank, about an hour the other side of the National Park, taking the more direct road that took a lower route around the bottom of the park. It was still a nice road, but not quite what we’d hoped for. We stopped at the Roosevelt memorial at which point the rain stopped, but the wind remained and the temperature barely got into double figures.

After using the motel laundry facilities to wash and dry everything, we sat in Pizza Hut, where not only did we have a pizza but also discovered Hershey’s Smores Cookie, a pizza sized dessert that was simply the yummiest thing we’d eaten all day, and looked at the map. We’d already got somewhere to stay in Calgary the next night, because we’d booked in with the Triumph and BMW motorcycle dealer there to get some badly needed new rubber on the bikes. After such a horrible day on the bikes and missing out on what we’d been told would be one of the best views on the road trip, we decided to back-track. We couldn’t afford to miss that appointment for new tyres, so we decided to make it a long day instead and head back to Glacier National Park so we could at least yet a taste of what it had to offer. And you’ll be pleased to know it was absolutely worth it.

Glacier National Park - Splodz Blogz

Our bikes in Glacier National Park. 

Glacier National Park

After drying out and looking at our route we decided to head back from Cut Bank towards Glacier National Park and do a little bit of the Going to the Sun road we missed out on because of the rain the previous day. It took us an hour from our motel to get to the Park entrance, a fairly straight road through farmland to begin with but then some lovely winding sections over hills, along a lake, and through several open ranches.

Glacier National Park - Splodz Blogz

Bike = useful podium for taking photos of bears. 

Almost as soon as we were in the park we came across a wildlife jam, much smaller than the ones we’d experienced in Yellowstone but only because Glacier first thing in the morning is much less busy. Looking around we soon spotted what the random parking was in aid of – a grizzly bear, wandering through the long grass not far from the road. There was a small turn out which was full so we pulled up on the side of the road and got off the bikes, grabbed the camera, and stood and watched the bear wander along. What an awesome sight. A few cars moved along and the Ranger who had turned up to help keep visitors safe, allowed us to scoot the bikes into the layby so we were off the road and could have a better look. The fact we were watching a grizzly bear, who potentially could see us as dinner, meant we kept our lids on while we watched and took photos, and made sure the keys were in the ignition. The Ranger was encouraging those in cars to stay inside, but naturally we couldn’t do that so we just made sure we could be a quick escape in the unlikely event it became necessary. It was an amazing sight, and was worth back tracking just for those short few moments.

Glacier National Park - Splodz Blogz

Grizzly bear in Glacier National Park.

Glacier National Park - Splodz Blogz

From there we headed along the Going to the Sun Road, which starts off in forest and woodland before heading up into the mountains. We stopped at the Logan Visitor’s Centre, which is the highest point in the park, and is well above the snow line. We saw mountain goats and big horn sheep, and took a very short walk in the deep, squeaky snow to take some photos of the mountains.

Glacier National Park - Splodz Blogz

The view from Logan Pass Visitor’s Centre, Glacier National Park.

Glacier National Park - Splodz Blogz

Snap in the snow.

Not wanting to end our Glacier National Park experience just yet we continued along the Going to the Sun Road, past the Weeping Wall, and stopped in a large turn out where there was the most stunning mountain view over towards the west. We sat there and ate leftover pizza and the rest of the pimp-my-snack sized cookie from the night before – definitely the best place I’ve ever eaten a picnic! What a difference a day makes; this time yesterday we were soaked through to the skin, and today we were sat on top of a mountain enjoying the sunshine and the scenery.

Glacier National Park - Splodz Blogz

How’s this for a picnic view? Quite a place for lunch! And that’s the Pizza Hut Cookie!

Glacier National Park - Splodz Blogz

That view in all its glory.

From here we had to give in to the time and turn around, heading back down the way we’d come, stopping a few more times for photos but ultimately leaving Glacier National Park and heading north towards Canada. We were both so pleased we made the call to return to Glacier as it was such a great place to visit. I know this National Park has so much more to offer (the other half of the Going to the Sun Road for a start…), and you can be sure it is on the list of places to return to someday.

Glacier National Park - Splodz Blogz

The snow is melting!

Glacier National Park - Splodz Blogz

Seriously, those views!

I have been asked a few times if I would do this road trip any differently in hindsight. Our experience of Glacier National Park, having to bypass it on one day and then squeeze it in the next day is quite a good example. Naturally I’d have preferred it if the weather had allowed us a whole day to explore Glacier, and again it would have been better if my motorbike tyres didn’t need replacing so we didn’t need to get to a big city for an appointment. But things like that are what made this trip an adventure. It wasn’t just any road trip, it was our life for those few short weeks. Making decisions on where to go and what to see, and switching things around at the last minute, was part of the fun. I’m so pleased we made that decision to get up super early the day after the rain so we didn’t miss Glacier out completely, as that would have been much worse.

Glacier National Park - Splodz Blogz

Just stunning. So pleased we went back to see this.

Next stop… Canada!

See All the Posts > Our #Zartusacan Road Trip

2 Responses

What do you think? Comment below...