Route to the Sun Travels Through Much Snow

Education & Training with REAZO

Going to the Sun in Glacier National Park is all about Plowing Through the Snow again this spring.

This week snowplows began their annual effort of clearing a witnter's worth of snow from the road through Glacier Park. They have their work cut out for them.

Currently there is more than 10 feet of snow covering some of the road in higher elevations. Even at lower elevations, the snow is something more than a foot deep. 

Apparently, those snow levels are just about average.

According to a recent article in the Missoulian, the effort began on April 2 with snowplows encountering up to 30 inches of snow and six inches of ice at the lower elevations near the Lake McDonald Lodge.

It's a job that won't be finished anytime soon. More spring snowfall will undo much of the work currently being done. The earliest the road is expected to be open in its entirety is June 15. Many years it is something later than that before workers get the entire route passable.

Once the highway is open, it won't remain that way for long. Portions of the road are scheduled to close again  September 17. That gives toursts just three months to drive the 50-mile route between the park's east and west entrances. Traffic is limited to a top speed of 40 miles an hour and it typically takes about two hours to drive the road.

Considering how the road hugs the mountainside and seems to flirt with long falls back to the valley below, 40 miles an hour is plenty fast enough. 

The road also has prompted Park officials to prohibit vehicles more than eight feet wide or longer than 21 feet (including campers being pulled) from much of the road.

If conditions sound extreme, that is because the Going to the Sun Highway is a bit extreme.

The narrow two-lane road was built 75 years ago and hugs the mountainside as it snakes up to and down from Logan Pass. Ongoing remodeling efforts on the road also will slow access to it this summer. A five-year improvement project is underway on the road.

Despite the challenges, the road offers some of the most spectacular vistas to be found in the park or anywhere in North America. Wildlife is abundant, glaciers are visible and alpine scenery is everywhere.

Those who have never taken the drive should put this road on this list. And for those a bit intimidated by the road, it is possible to take tour buses over the road and to leave the driving to those who know the road well.



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Comments (2)

Mike Carlier
Lakeville, MN
More opinions than you want to hear about.

That drive has been on my list for years.  I think the route to the sun would be the main event on a Highway 2 road trip from Maine to Washington.

Apr 06, 2012 02:25 AM
Angela Lyons
REAZO - Missoula, MT for home buyers and sellers.

Mike. Thanks for commenting. What a great drive that would be from coast to coast. I imagine you'd see a lot of spectacular country along the way. And, yeah, the 50-miles on the Going to the Sun would be among the best. See ya there. (another drive to consider is the northern entrance to Yellowstone Park along the Beartooth Highway. This is a similar drive but much higher elevation than Going to the Sun. Parking lot at the top of the Beartooth is higher than the highest mountain peaks in Glacier).

Apr 06, 2012 02:29 AM

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