You know a trip is too long when your kid critiques Glacier National Park with a disinterested shrug, stating, “It’s just like more Banff.” First, how that could ever be construed as a negative is beyond me. And second, it’s actually “just like more Waterton”. Sheesh.
That is where we stood as we set up our trailer in St. Mary Campground for the final three nights of our magnificent Yellowstone trip in 2022. I doubt the sentiment was too heartfelt, but I understood where it was coming from. We’d seen and done a lot of amazing things and we were all dead tired by the time we arrived at Glacier National Park. Thankfully, a potent balm for our exhaustion and waning interest was readily available: Going-to-the-Sun Road.
This, ironically, brings us back to Banff. Icefields Parkway, which connects Banff to Jasper, is lauded by Albertans as one of the prettiest drives in the province, if not the country. Possibly the globe. And rightfully so. Mile after mile of stunning mountains and nature on either side of you.
Well, Going-to-the-Sun Road easily equals it in terms of beauty. If I may be so bold, it may even surpass it when one considers the sheer audacity of the thing. Whereas Icefields Parkway happily follows the valleys of the North Saskatchewan and Athabasca Rivers, Going-to-the-Sun Road is perched halfway up the sides of mountains for significant portions of its journey through Glacier National Park. It’s as magical as it is ridiculous.
So ludicrous are some parts of this magnificent road that there are vehicle size restrictions to travel it. And not just because of congestion. There’s literally no space for vehicle combinations longer than twenty feet or wider than eight feet. Surpass ten feet in height, and you’re forewarned of possible difficulty due to overhanging rock. God bless depression era engineering.
Needless to say, Going-to-the-Sun Road will reinvigorate the weariest of travelers with ease. Toss in a quick day trip to Many Glaciers and you’ll soon see why this park is so beloved even if it is just “more Banff.”
Much like our experience in Yellowstone, rather than pillaging my thesaurus for endless superlatives, I’ll let pictures do the bulk of the talking. Here’s what we saw during our three nights in Glacier National Park. Expect to want to stay longer!
Little Chief Boat Tours
You can take a boat tour on St. Mary Lake and in doing so get a closer look at Wild Goose Island than from the roadside viewing point.
Hike to St Mary and Virginia Falls
The hike to St. Mary and Virginia Falls is a relatively easy one, though it’s not without elevation gains. The first leg to St. Mary Falls is doable by most. It was the only genuine hike we did and well worth the effort. As you can imagine, there are many more hikes available at Glacier National Park, but if you only have time for one, I recommend this one.
One of the first stops we made on our inaugural drive on Going-to-the-Sun Road. Spent a few minutes exploring a little “glacier”.
Logan Pass in Glacier National Park
The highest point reachable by car in the park. There’s an interpretive center here with lots of parking, washrooms, and walking trails in the meadow behind the center. It gets very busy here but it’s worth a stop if you can find a spot.
If Logan Pass is too busy, you can always stop at Oberlin Bend which is just around the corner. It’s just a pullout with a short boardwalk but the views are terrific.
Red Rock Point
Sacred Dancing Cascades
Lake McDonald Lodge
We started our journey from St. Mary Campground at the east entrance to Glacier National Park. At the other end of the road is Lake McDonald Lodge. Here you can rent cabins or stay at the lodge (there’s a motel here as well). Or, if like us, you’re just dropping by for a look, there’s picnic spots, a gift shop, small store, and restaurants.
If you’re not too keen on driving the Going-to-the-Sun Road yourself, or your vehicle is too big, other options are available. There’s a shuttle that runs the length of the road with stops at various popular viewpoints. Or, you can purchase a tour on these funky red buses.
Many Glacier Hotel
Our entire trip lasted seventeen days and the only inclement weather we experienced was when we drove up to Many Glacier to see what all the fuss is about. This put a damper on our enjoyment of the place, not to mention it sullied our photographs.
Still, it wasn’t hard to understand why Many Glacier is so popular. It’s got a rustic Lake Louise vibe to it without the pretentious hotel. Plus, there’s plenty for short duration visitors like ourselves to enjoy including more boat rentals and tours.
All of the Rest
There’s just so much to see along Going-to-the-Sun Road. I can’t begin to remember everything I took pictures of. Such a fabulous place. Here’s a taste of the rest of the awe-inspiring views along this incredible road at Glacier National Park.
Flora and Fauna of Glacier National Park
We saw plenty of wildlfowers in early to mid July. Also some critters, both big and small. And the thing is, we weren’t even trying. This is only an appetizer from Glacier’s menu of plants and animals.