During spring, the wilderness of Montana begins to come out of hibernation, and summer adventures are right around the corner. But the so-called “shoulder season” is anything but an afterthought in Northwest Montana’s Glacier Country. Inside Glacier National Park lies one of the most extraordinary spring adventures of all.
The famous Going-to-the-Sun Road is closed to vehicle access between October and the end of June, when the annual snowpack can average 16 feet at the high point of Logan Pass. But as the snow thaws in spring, bicyclists can enjoy pedaling to the great heights of the park without public vehicles in their way while plow crews clear, experiencing this wonder in a way few others will. Here’s how to get in on the action on your own Going-to-the-Sun Road ride.
Even though spring may be springing at the lower elevations in the park, nearly 3,500 feet in elevation higher at Logan Pass, winter is often still in full force well into May and June—or even later. Plow crews work during the week, so the road is only open its entire length—or up to where the snow allows—on evenings and weekends.
To start your ride, you’ll want to enter through the West Entrance of the park and park your vehicle at the Lake McDonald Lodge to hop on your bike. The road begins to climb in earnest from Packer’s Roost to The Loop, and then it’s a slow grind up to the pass. The road is 50 miles in total length, though your road ride from Lake Mcdonald Lodge to the pass is only 25 miles, and it’s “just” 16 miles from the Avalanche Campground up. So depending on where the road closures are, you have a fun-filled ride ahead of you, flush with natural beauty and the definition of panoramic views.
You can bring your own bike along, or rent or buy it when you arrive. Mountain bikes will do well if you encounter patches of snow along the ride, and road bikers can enjoy smooth pavement and less friction. Base Camp Bigfork offers rentals right in town, Sea Me Paddle is another easy stop for rentals in the warm weather months, and Glacier Outfitters can get you geared up inside the park at Apgar Village.
Keep in mind; you’re heading out into the backcountry when you’re biking past the road closure in the park. So be sure to pack the ten essentials, along with these other important items.
Bears are waking up at this time of year, so be sure to bring your bear spray and have it in an easy-to-access spot on your body or your bike. It doesn’t do much good buried at the bottom of your pack! It’s also a good idea to shout out a hearty “Hey, bear!” as you round the road’s winding curves.
Before you head out, scope out the Park Service website to see what the road status is. They offer up-to-date information on where road closures sit. You’re also going to be traveling in avalanche terrain, so check out the risk level on the Flathead Avalanche Center’s forecast and be prepared. Weather can change quickly in the mountains, take a look before you leave, and be sure to plan accordingly.
Temps may be comfy down by Lake McDonald Lodge, but 3,000 feet higher, it can get much chillier. And the cold breeze you create as you speed down the road will make you grateful for packing gloves and extra layers.
You will be working hard, so bringing snacks and backup water bottles is a good idea when you take on this adventure.
When you’re ready for your Montana biking escapades to start, book your stay at a Highline Adventures property for the maximum in relaxation and amenities.