Going-to-the-Sun Road: it’s a feat of modern engineering. First opened in July of 1933, Going to the Sun Road is the only road that runs through the park. It crosses the Continental Divide at Logan Pass. The pass sits at an elevation of 6,646 feet and is the highest point on the road.
Each winter, the park gets as much as 15 feet of snow at high elevations, making Going to the Sun Road impossible to travel. In the springtime, road crews go in with massive snow equipment to plow the road open for use. If you’re visiting Glacier National Park in the near future, one of your biggest questions is probably “When does Going to the Sun Road open?”
If so, you’re not alone. The road doesn’t have a set open date each year. Instead, it relies on the conditions and how quickly workers can clear the road with snow plows.
Don’t worry, though, it’s still possible to plan your trip around being able to see this incredible roadway. Here’s what you need to know:
Going to the Sun Road Open Season
There’s no way to make long-term predictions about exactly when the road will open. That said, the alpine portion of the road typically opens in May or June. For more information, check out this list of past opening and closing dates for the road.
If your trip is scheduled for before then, you’ll still be able to enjoy the lower section of the road, which remains open year-round. This road section provides access to many popular locations, like the Avalanche Lake Trailhead.
In some cases, unexpected spring snow conditions can slow plowing efforts. As the above picture, courtesy of the Flathead Beacon illustrates, getting the road open again in the spring is a massive job. It requires time, care, and attention. For planning purposes, the Park Service maintains a plowing status page, where it updates visitors about how much of the road is clear, and how much has yet to go.
Even when the road is fully open, there are vehicle regulations visitors must abide by. The road is very narrow and busy, with minimal shoulders and steep drop-offs, so these regulations are designed to ensure visitor safety.
Here’s what the National Park Service says about vehicle restrictions:
“Vehicles, and vehicle combinations, longer than 21 feet (including bumpers) or wider than 8 feet (including mirrors), are prohibited between Avalanche Campground and the Rising Sun picnic area parking. Vehicle and vehicle combinations over 10 feet in height may have difficulty driving west from Logan Pass to the Loop, due to rock overhangs. Stock trucks and trailers are able to access Packers Roost on the west, and Siyeh Bend on the east.”
Your 2021 Going to the Sun Update: Sponsored by Great Northern Resort
Here at Great Northern Resort, Glacier Park Rafting, and Glacier Park Weddings & Events, we want you to enjoy your upcoming vacation to Montana, and this includes getting out on the iconic Going to the Sun Road.
Here’s the Park Service’s most current road conditions update:
GOING-TO-THE-SUN-ROAD is closed starting at Lake McDonald Lodge.
Visitors can drive 11.5 miles from the West Entrance to Lake McDonald Lodge.
The section of the road between Lake McDonald Lodge and St. Mary Entrance is closed due to the weather. The Quarter Circle Bridge Road, accessing Apgar Lookout, is closed to motor vehicles. Foot traffic is allowed.
COVID-19 operating requirements closed the east side entrances of Glacier National Park this past spring. All east side entrances remain closed at this time.