Going-to-the-Sun Road Opens Early in 2013

Going-to-the-Sun Road June has been an exciting month for the folks at Glacier National Park. On the 22nd, they celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Glacier Park Lodge–which is just amazing. And the day before that, on the 21st, they were able to announce that all 53 miles of the Going-to-the-Sun Road were open to the public. It was definitely an awesome weekend up in Glacier.

The Going-to-the-Sun Road is a spectacular drive (or gorgeous and energetic bicycle ride!) that has been a hugely important part of the park for the past 80 years.


More and more visitors come to Glacier solely because of the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Add to that the fact that it’s open much earlier this year than usual, and you’ve got an equation that equals big summer success at Glacier National Park in 2013.

The Making of Going-to-the-Sun Road

View from Going-to-the-Sun Road
Conceived in 1917 and begun in 1921, construction on the Going-to-the-Sun Road was finished in 1933, and is one of the National Park System’s first projects focused entirely on accommodating visitors traveling by car. Before Going-to-the-Sun, guests had to rely on hiking boots and trails to see the park.

Some drama developed over the road’s design when the building crew reached the upper portion of the route, at the Garden Wall. Big wigs bickered, people lost their jobs, but eventually the kinks were ironed out and a new design was used, created by landscape architect Thomas Chalmers Vint, which scrapped many of the proposed switchbacks and hugely decreased the visibility of the road from far away, turning a potential eye sore into a nearly invisible line on the mountainside.

After 12 years of death-defying construction (imagine hauling equipment up there before there was an official route!) the Going-to-the-Sun Road was finally finished, to the tune of $2.5 million–pocket change for today’s construction companies, but a very big deal for wallets 80 years ago.

How It’s Maintained Today

Plowing the Going-to-the-Sun Road
Going-to-the-Sun Road isn’t easy to keep tidy. With high altitudes, fierce wintertime weather, and narrow passages, the road doesn’t get a clean sweep every Tuesday morning like city streets do. When the heavy snows fall, the road gets shut down. For the rest of the season. Period.

Plowing the road is a treacherous job. The road is so narrow and precarious in places that not even recreational vehicles or trailers are allowed to drive the whole route, even in perfect weather. So getting plows and crews up there to clear the way for a new season takes time. Especially when you’re talking about clearing snow falls up to 50 feet high.

Going-to-the-Sun Road opening up on June 21st is a pretty amazing feat and definitely a good thing for the park. Many travelers like to wait until the road is completely open before they visit Glacier, so they can get the full experience. (And I don’t blame them! It’s an unforgettable drive.) So when the road gets opened up earlier than usual, it means a lot more visitors can be expected. Which makes the NPS a troupe of super happy campers.

Aside from being cleared and plowed every year, Going-to-the-Sun Road is also undergoing 24-hour construction to restore portions that have been affected by rock slide and avalanches. But this work won’t get in the way of your 53-mile trip along the whole road.

Why You Need to Visit Going-to-the-Sun

Plowing Going-to-the-Sun Road It would be a lot easier to tell you why you SHOULDN’T drive Going-to-the-Sun Road, because there isn’t a single reason to avoid it.

It’s beautiful, it’s convenient, it gives you a fairly comprehensive view of the park, and it doesn’t take 3-4 days to see Glacier, like it used to before Going-to-the-Sun was built.

Going-to-the-Sun Road is a landmark that no one visiting Glacier should miss. If you were waiting to visit the park until it was totally clear, you can quit you’re waiting.

It’s open, it’s ready, and it’s absolutely worth it. Check it out!


Photo Credits: HistoricTamarackLodge.com, NPS, and GlacierNPS Flickr Page.

Like this article?

Like This Site?

Speak Your Mind