Sunday, March 25, 2012

Cycling the Going-to-the-Sun Road

With the arrival of spring, much of America is finally starting to feel a little warmer. Of course in Glacier winter tends to hang-on much longer, especially in the higher elevations. It will likely be another two more months or so before the Going-to-the-Sun Road is open to the public. In the meantime, as you clean your bike off and begin your spring training, now's the time to consider your plans for cycling in Glacier, and maybe even the ultimate challenge of climbing to the top of Logan Pass.

Although opportunities for cycling in Glacier National Park are somewhat limited, there are still a few places to enjoy Glacier’s spectacular scenery while on a bike. Although bicycles aren’t allowed on any of the hiking trails in the park, they are allowed on all roads, and the only paved trail in the park; the McDonald Creek Bike Path which runs from West Glacier to the Apgar Visitors Center.

One of the most popular routes for road cyclists is the Going-to-the-Sun Road. This epic ride climbs almost 3300 feet over the course of its 32-mile route from the Apgar Visitor Center to Logan Pass. Much of the climbing, however, occurs over the last 10 miles where the road tops out at the pass, at an elevation of 6646 feet. The average gradient for this section of the ride is roughly 5.7%. To put those numbers in perspective, L’Alpe d’Huez, one of the most famous and notoriously difficult climbs in the Tour de France, climbs roughly 3770 feet in 9.4 miles, has an average gradient of 7.6%, and tops out at an elevation of 6068 feet. It’s likely the Going-to-the-Sun Road climb would rank among the top 20 toughest climbs in the Tour de France, and would likely be a category 1 climb.

Cyclists should use extreme caution while riding this road: it’s narrow near the top, and is nothing more than a shelf carved out of the side of the mountain. Also be aware that the Going-to-the-Sun Road has little or no shoulder on the side, and is winding with many blind curves. You’ll need to watch for oncoming vehicles, and make sure your bike is in complete working order, especially your brakes.

Some cyclists prefer tackling the road going from east to west. From the town of St. Mary to Logan Pass, the road climbs roughly 2100 feet over the 18-mile route. However, as you might expect, most of that climbing occurs over the last 6.5 miles, and has an average gradient of roughly 5.6%.

For more information on road cycling and mountain biking opportunities in and around Glacier National Park, please visit our Glacier cycling page on

Our Going-to-the-Sun Road page provides additional details on services and what to expect along the road.

Hiking in


  1. Thank you for bringing back your readers to the memory lane by sharing one of the most popular bike routes. Kudos for this well-written post!

  2. Did the climb in 2010 both ways while on a 3 week solo tour and its a great ride


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