Should you ever get the chance to drive Going-To-The-Sun Road, you’ll be rewarded with outstanding peaks, sun-glittered valleys, and views that will make you feel tiny—in the best of ways, though. There’s a reason why it’s crowned one of the most beautiful drives in the world! This blog post will include the best Going-To-The-Sun Road stops that you absolutely MUST plan to see, AKA the stops that don’t “suck”—not every stop is worth seeing!
And don’t worry, As we continue talking about this scenic drive, I’ll give you a map and some final tips for your trip, so you can go to the road prepared and ready to enjoy.
I also wrote up a whole 3 day Glacier National Park itinerary you should totally check out next. It’ll help you learn more about the park and plan your trip there!
So let’s begin! I’ll start with some of the must-know information, then we’ll dive right into the best stops.
ALERT: If you plan on visiting the park in 2022 and want to drive Going-To-The-Sun Road, you will need a Glacier National Park Vehicle Reservation. More on the NPS site.
Disclaimer: This blog contains affiliate links!
The Must-Knows About Going-To-The-Sun Road
- What is Going-To-The-Sun Road? A unique drive in Glacier National Park that stretches 50 miles from end to end, with epic waterfalls and hikes along the route. It’s extremely scenic.
- How Long Does It Take To Drive Going-To-The-Sun Road? You should probably allow for 2 hours to get the most out of your drive.
- When is Going-To-The-Sun Road Open? Going-To-The-Sun Road is open anywhere from late June to early July. Usually, the road will close sometime in October. However, if the weather is terrible earlier in the season, the road will close early!
- Is There a Fee to Drive Going-To-The-Sun Road? Yes. In ADDITION to your park entry fee, you will also need a Vehicle Reservation to drive Going-To-The-Sun Road. You can see a list of Glacier National Park entrance fees on the National Park Service site.
- What Time of Day is Best for Going-To-The-Sun Road? Going-To-The-Sun Road can be enjoyed all day!
My suggestion is to check the conditions for Going-To-The-Sun Road on the official NPS site.
What Are Hotels Near Going-To-The-Sun Road?
To give you an idea of some of the amazing Vrbo properties you can stay in, check these out:
- Lakefront Cabin on Lake McDonald – This charming AF shorefront cabin offers views from just about every window and a private deck you can enjoy using to enjoy the lake. Imagine waking up here with a hot cup of coffee and watching the sunrise. OOf.
- Boathouse on Lake McDonald – Similar to the above property, this beautiful lakefront home offers your own private deck and view of Lake McDonald that will have everyone else in Glacier thinking you’re park royalty.
- Pet-Friendly Lodge – This pet-friendly property is located in the North Fork area of Glacier and has some AMAZING mountain views. Sleeps 8, so an excellent option for groups!
Where to Start Your Drive
You can begin your Going-To-The-Sun Road drive on the East or West Entrance of Glacier National Park. Scott and I found ourselves going in and out of the West Entrance more. Check out the coordinates below:
- St Mary Visitors Center Entrance (East): 48°44′51″N 113°26′21″W
- Apgar Visitor Center (West): 48.5231° N, 113.9885° W
Going-To-The-Sun Road Map
Below is a map of Going-To-The-Sun Road stops! You can click here to see a live map.
The Best Stops Along Going-To-The-Sun Road
- Lake McDonald
- McDonald Falls
- Trail of the Cedars
- Avalanche Lake
- The Loop
- The Weeping Wall
- Big Bend
- Logan Pass Visitor Center
- Highline Trail
- The Garden Wall
- Grinnell Glacier Overlook
- Granite Park Chalet
- Hidden Lake Overlook Trail
- St. Mary Falls
- Virginia Falls
- Sunrift Gorge
- Wild Goose Island
- St. Mary Visitor Center
Now it’s time for the fun part! Below is where we’ll discuss the best stops along Going-To-The-Sun Road. Please note that this route starts west.
#1 Lake McDonald
Lake McDonald is one of my absolute favorite places for sunrise and sunset, and lucky you, you’ll get to make a pit stop here during your drive up Going-To-The-Sun Road—should you enter from the west, that is. Therefore, you can’t miss the lake since it is one of the first places you see along Going-To-The-Sun Road.
There are picnic sites, boat docks, and canoe rentals available around Lake Mcdonald’s shore, too. Anddddd, the Apgar area has gift shops plus an ice cream shop for you to enjoy! On our first visit to the lake, Scott and I made pancakes and ate them on the shore! It was so much fun. It’s also an excellent place for a swim if you can brave the chilly water.
I suggest hitting the lake for sunrise or sunset. During sunrise, you’re more likely to get a reflection because the water will be still! Then, as the day goes on, folks take boats out and cause a bunch of ripples.
#2 McDonald Falls
For a quick pit stop, check out McDonald Falls! The falls are also one of the first stops on Going-To-The-Sun Road. You can’t miss it since there is a large parking lot to make a stop there as well as a viewing platform. NEGATIVE IONS OOOOOO. It features multiple tiers of water that all come cascading down into an otherworldly blue pool, oo la la.
I would visit midday -there are better places to see sunset and sunrise! You can also make a hike out of this Going-To-The-Sun Road stop. The hike for McDonald Falls is considered family-friendly with just about 30ft of elevation gain. The total distance sits at .7 miles.
#3 Trail of the Cedars
If you’re looking for a leisurely scenic hike to enjoy along Going-To-The-Sun Road, go for Trail Of The Cedars. The trail is known for its ease and beauty, making it another popular option for families visiting Glacier National Park.
There are various scenic stops along Trail Of The Cedars. And did you know that some of the trees along the trail are over 500 years old? Talk about crazy! If you don’t feel like walking anymore, opt to hang out on the benches along the trail. I mean, it’s an extremely peaceful stop along Going-To-The-Sun Road. Trail Of The Cedars would be another great spot for a picnic.
#4 Avalanche Lake
Avalanche Lake Trail can be accessed from Trail of the Cedars and is considered one of the easiest hikes in Glacier National Park. PLUS, it comes with a fantastic view, making it one of the best spots along Going-To-The-Sun Road.
The trail is only 4.5 miles and takes you to a lake nestled in the mountains. Have your camera ready because you’ll want pictures!
#5 The Loop
Stay alert when driving The Loop—it’s pretty tight, and there is a parking lot as well as a shuttle stop here, which means there can be a lot going on at once. It’s called The Loop because it’s a hairpin turn on Glacier National Park’s Going-To-The-Sun Road.
When you park at The Loop, you can hike to the Chalet or past the Chalet and go to Grinnell Glacier Overlook. You can also keep going and complete the Highline Trail. Otherwise, The Loop offers some great mountain views you can enjoy.
It is also a good place to park when you don’t want to park at Logan Pass Visitor Center. Note that you will have to ask a stranger for a ride up Going-To-The-Sun Road (yes, that’s a thing), or you will have to wait for the shuttle to take you up.
#6 The Weeping Wall
Have you ever seen a wall cry? Haha, well, you’re about to! Weeping Wall refers to a section of cliff that has quite a bit of snowmelt flowing down it. The Wall quite literally looks sad, LOL, but in the best of ways because it’s a beautiful sight.
Sometimes when there is heavy rainfall, you’ll see people in their Jeeps splashing through the water build up on the road.
#7 Big Bend
If you need a sunset spot, drop all of your plans and head to Going-To-The-Sun Road’s Big Bend. It’s easily my favorite spot for sunset in Glacier National Park. Scott and I were shocked by how many wildflowers there were when we went there!
The golden hour you get at Big Bend will blow your mind – you’ll pretty much be convinced that everything in life would be better if it had a hint of gold in it.
The Bend is located right before the Logan Pass Visitors Center when you’re driving eastbound, so you can’t miss it. However, if you find the small trail across from the parking area, you’ll get a top-down view of the Weeping Wall and the surrounding area! I especially love this part of Going-To-The-Sun Road when there are wildflowers out!
#8 Logan Pass Visitor Center
Not really a “best” stop, but more like a potty break/ parking area/ hub for adventure. The Logan Pass Visitors Center will most likely be where you end up should you choose to do some hiking around Glacier National Park, one of the most popular being the Highline Trail! You can also go here to take in the 360 views the Visitors Center is surrounded by – they’re jaw-dropping.
BUT my favorite stop here was the Hidden Lake Overlook Trail. Not only is the trail incredibly easy, but it’s also incredibly beautiful. If anything, stop at Logan Pass Visitors Center to get a bathroom break in or a park map before continuing on your drive through Going-To-The-Sun Road. If you plan on hiking near the Logan Pass Visitors Center, plan on being there early—it gets very busy!
#9 Highline Trail
The Highline Trail is most likely the most popular trail in Glacier National Park, and for a good reason. Once you begin your hike, you’ll get to see ALL the dramatic peaks you would have a view of on Going-To-The-Sun Road but from a higher perspective.
It’s pretty incredible. While Scott and I were in Glacier National Park, we hiked the Highline Trail from Logan Pass, stopped at Grinnell Glacier Overlook, stopped again at the Chalet, and then returned to our van, which was our van we parked at The Loop.
#10 The Garden Wall
The Garden Wall is a sharp ridgeline in Glacier National Park. As a matter of fact, it is a part of the continental divide! In the summer, the Garden Wall gets smothered with wildflowers. The name is pretty appropriate if you ask me!
So here’s the deal with The Garden Wall: From the Logan Pass area, you’ll hike the Highline Trail for about 7 miles, then you’ll come to The Garden Wall Trail. Once you reach Garden Wall Trail, you’ll hike about a mile with 900ft in elevation gain to get to Grinnell Glacier Overlook. The Highline Trail, in general, is long and relatively flat, so it won’t be TOO difficult to get to! I promise.
#11 Grinnell Glacier Overlook
Another popular destination along the Highline Trail. It features a view of the almighty Grinnell Glacier. I can’t really put into words how pretty this overlook is, so I’ll let the picture above do the talking for me, ha! Hiking from Logan Pass to Highline Trail to Garden Wall to the Overlook to The Loop is about 11 miles.
#12 Granite Park Chalet
If you choose to hike over to Grinnell Glacier Overlook, your next stop will be Granite Park Chalet! It’s a historical backcountry lodge nestled all cute in the mountains. Had I known about it before, I would have totally booked a stay here just for the experience!
#13 Hidden Lake Overlook Trail
I don’t have the words to describe how gorgeous this hike is. If you have time to do one trail in Glacier National Park, make it Hidden Lake Overlook! I would consider it to be the most beautiful hike in the park.
I loved going here for sunset – the peaks turned the most fantastic pink you have ever seen! There are also marmots and mountain goats you will most likely see along your hike. They tend to hang out very close to the trails, so hike cautiously and never approach wildlife as it could end badly.
If you’re looking for views to photograph, make sure you turn around a couple of times during your hike, or else you might miss the mountains behind you! Hidden Lake Overlook sits at 700 feet of elevation gain and a distance of 1.5 miles. I would consider Hidden Lake one of my favorite spots along Going-To-The-Sun Road.
#14 St. Mary Falls
St Mary Falls is an extremely popular waterfall in Glacier National Park, and the easiest way to get there is hiking from the St Mary Falls Cutoff Trailhead. You can also choose to make this a longer hike by starting at the Sun Point Parking lot, which will put you on the St. Mary Lake shoreline.
The falls are 35 feet high. There are three tiers to it, but the lower two are the easiest to spot. Get off the shuttle at the St. Mary Fall shuttle top to find the trailhead.
#15 Virginia Falls
Virginia Falls is a 3.6mi round trip hike. It includes a multi-tiered waterfall that will not disappoint. Virginia Falls is said to be about 50ft or so. You can make a little trip out of this stop by using the connecting trails to visit St. Mary Falls too.
#16 Sunrift Gorge
Sunrift Gorge looks like it belongs in Oregon or something, haha! It features a green hike with beautiful rushing water that gives you all the negative ions.
Most folks choose to hike .7 miles to Baring Falls when they’re here. So you have a lot of waterfalls to choose from on this trip, LOL!
#17 Wild Goose Island
Wild Goose Islands is a photographer’s spot along Going-To-The-Sun Road if I’ve ever seen one. You’ll have a view of the island sitting pretty in the middle of St. Mary Lake. And oh man, the mountain views are something else! During our trip, we stopped at the picnic area here to enjoy a bite to eat before heading off on another adventure.
For the best light, come back here at sunrise or sunset! I should mention, however, that there is a chance you will have a crowd. Since the island is a popular stop along Going-To-The-Sun Road, photographers usually try to come back when the light is better.
#18 St. Mary Visitor Center
I was shocked that Glacier National Park had a Visitor Center as beautiful as this one. Scott and I debated working here for the day because it was an incredible view, it was the only place we had cell service during our entire visit, and there were bathrooms there. Haha. We could have also gone into the Visitor Center for free wifi—a nice bonus.
This is the last stop along Going-To-The-Sun Road if you’re heading eastbound. Otherwise, this is where you will start your journey going east to west!
FAQ for Your Drive
Here are some questions you might have about driving Going-To-The-Sun Road!
What are the Best Places for Sunset Along Going-To-The-Sun Road?
You have plenty of options for catching the sunset on Going-To-The-Sun Road. Here are some spots to consider:
- Hidden Lake Overlook Trail
- Lake McDonald
- Goose Island
- Big Bend
What are the Best Hikes Along Going-To-The-Sun Road?
If hiking is your thing, I suggest checking out one of these trails along Going-To-The-Sun Road:
- Avalanche Trail
- Trail of the Cedars
- Highline Trail
- Grinnell Glacier Overlook
- Hidden Lake Overlook
- Virginia Falls
Why Is It Called Going-To-The-Sun Road?
Going-To-The-Sun Road got its name from the nearby Going-To-The-Sun Mountain. Apparently, that mountain got its name when a spirit came down to teach Native Americans about hunting. You can read more about the legend on Google.
Who Built the Road?
Going-To-The-Sun Road was built by the National Park Service from 1921 to 1932.
What is the Elevation of the Road?
6,646 feet which is how high the Logan Pass Visitors Center is.
Should I Be Worried About My Car Size?
Glacier National Park limits vehicles along Going-To-The-Sun Road to 21 ft (6.4 m) long, 8 ft (2.4 m) wide, 10 ft (3 m) tall. Going-To-The-Sun Road can get extremely narrow at times. For these reasons, Glacier National Park has set restrictions on vehicle size. You must adhere to these guidelines during your visit! It is hazardous and highly illegal to do so otherwise.
Is there an Alternative to Driving Yourself?
Should you need a place to park your vehicle before driving up Going-To-The-Sun Road, you can park almost anywhere! However, the Apgar and St Mary visitor centers might be your best bet. The visitor centers have ample parking. Therefore, you shouldn’t have trouble finding a spot. Another alternative is to book a Red Bus Tour, which will take you along the road and to other destinations in the park.
Is Wildlife Present?
Wildlife is present along Going-To-The-Sun road! Animals are most visible in Glacier National Park during the early mornings and the evenings. So come to Going-To-The-Sun Road with the expectation that you may or may not see wildlife along the way.
Final Tips for Driving Going-To-The-Sun Road
After driving up and down this road about a gazillion times, here are some of my best tips for driving Going-To-The-Sun Road.
Be Prepared to Take Pictures
Have a camera handy. You’re going to want to snap photos along the way. In fact, some of my favorite images from Glacier National Park were taken along Going-To-The-Sun Road!
Use The Pullouts
Should you see a view you, want to take a photo of, use the pullouts to avoid stopping traffic in the middle of the road – something you can get a ticket for.
Have a Map Handy
There will be no cell service along the road, so make sure you come prepared. Snag a Glacier National Park map from a visitors center or download a Google Map of the area—like the one I provided above!
Glacier National Park varies in temperature throughout the day. Therefore, you’ll want to make sure you pack layers during your stay! Below are some I brought with me:
- Lightweight Hiking Socks—Smartwool Hiking Light Crew Sock (women’s); Darn Tough Standard Issue Crew Light Sock (men’s)
- Comfy Leggings—Eddie Bauer Movement Leggings (women’s); Beyond Yoga Legging (women’s)
- Hiking Pants—Prana Halle Pant (women’s); Prana Stretch Zion Pant (men’s)
- Warm Fleece—Patagonia Better Sweater (women’s); Patagonia Better Sweater (men’s)
- Cozy Jacket—Patagonia Down Sweater (women’s); Patagonia Down Sweater (men’s)
- Rain Jacket—REI Co-op Rainier Rain Jacket (women’s); Patagonia Torrentshell (men’s)
Going-To-The-Sun Road will forever be one of my favorite places. Period. I know you’ll love it, too, and I hope this blog gives you the inspiration you need to give this epic drive the time it deserves!
To help you plan an epic trip to Glacier, make sure you read my Glacier National Park 3 day itinerary write up!