The showcase of Glacier National Park is Going-to-the-Sun Highway. This highway over Logan Pass is not a “traditional” MTB route but it certainly is worthy of consideration as one of the most beautiful places to ride in the northwestern United States. Established in 1910 by President Taft as the Nation’s 10th park, Glacier National Park is called the Crown of the Continent. Although its glaciers are getting smaller each year Glacier National Park still holds the remnants of the park’s namesakes of which at least one of them, Jackson Glacier, can be seen from Going-to-the-Sun Highway. Even though there are over two million visitors each year, it is still possible to find solitude in over 1 million acres of valleys and mountains.
Glacier National Park boasts a trail system of over 700 miles of which only one trail is open to bicycles. This is a short flat paved trail near the park headquarters in West Glacier, Montana. Do not dismay because just by walking a few miles the eye can see many things that the average motorist on Going-to-the-Sun Highway never sees.
Incredible mountain vistas overwhelm the eye in every direction and riding up the Going-to-the-Sun Highway will certainly invoke respect for the men that carved this road way out of the cliffs below the “Garden Wall”. History of the park and Going-to-the-Sun Highway is provided by the National Park Service.
In 2006 Glacier National Park began a massive restoration project on the Going-to-the-Sun Highway and all travelers can expect delays while traveling the highway.
Glacier National Park also offers lesser known options such as the Inside North Fork Road as well as numerous options for biking in the Glacierview Ranger District of the Flathead National Forest just West of Glacier National Park.
There are also good areas to ride on the southeast edge of the park in the National Forest near the Continental Divide on Highway 2 near Marias Pass West of East Glacier, Montana. Much of this area is closed due to the Skyland Fire of 2007. Please check local travel restrictions prior to biking in this area. Keep in mind though that much of this area is part of the Great Bear Wilderness area and is designated closed to motorized and non-motorized travel. This means horses and hiking only. The famed Bob Marshal Wilderness can also be accessed from this area.
The Going-to-the-Sun HighwayPossibly one of the Nation’s most amazing roadways. This miracle of engineering cuts a 50 mile swath through the middle of Glacier National Park. In addition to crossing the Continental Divide it also travels along the shores of Lake McDonald on the west side and St. Mary’s Lake on the eastern side of Logan Pass. Bicyclists have numerous opportunities to stop and enjoy the views.
The Going-to-the-Sun Highway route officially begins in two separate places. The long route begins at Apgar Campground and ends at the top of the Continental Divide at Logan Pass. The shorter route begins at Logan Creek and also ends at Logan Pass. This is the section that the Going-to-the-Sun Highway truly begins to wind its way up through the valley to “The Loop” which is actually a switch back and along the Garden Wall to hundreds of feet of exposure on your right shoulder. Views of Heaven’s Peak, Bird Woman Falls and Logan Pass itself will keep your eyes focused on the scenery instead of the road. Generally motorists are courteous and there is usually ample time and space to be safely passed by cars.
Moon Light Rides on full moons in the summer are incredible. Many cyclists enjoy the "ride" from Logan Pass down the Going-to-the-Sun Highway. The Park Service recommends that a headlight and helmet be used.
Other Glacier National Park Options for those who aren't into pavement and want to see remote areas of the park include:
Especially of interest is the road from Polebridge to Kintla Lake that is 14 miles in length. An optional 6 mile side trip to Bowman Lake gives another peek into Glacier's northwest side.
While you are in the North Fork make sure you stop at the Polebridge Mercantile and get a t-shirt. Visit in July because the Fourth of July parade is incredible.
The Inside North Fork Road also presents unique views for bikers as it travels the 28 miles between Apgar and Polebridge. In the spring there are great opportunities to see wildlife up close. Check on road closures with the ranger headquarters at Apgar prior to taking this route.
See the Interactive Glacier National Park Map to look at optional hiking side trips.
Other Mountain Biking Options Outside of Glacier National ParkThe North Fork is located on the west side of Glacier National Park. The “North Fork” is thus named because the North Fork of the Flathead River enters the United States from Canada and flows down along most of Park’s western boundary then on to Flathead Lake and then through various rivers systems to the Pacific Ocean. The North Fork is currently at risk from a mining development on the North side of the border. Hopefully cooler heads will prevail and this development will not continue.
The North Fork could be called an undiscovered dream for mountain biker’s. With numerous National Forest Service roads (both gated and open) as well as numerous single track trails options for rides that could never end. This area is loaded with bears and wolves. In August there are lots of places with wild mountain huckleberries, a true treasure of Montana. It is not unusual to ride over trails that are littered with grizzly scat that is loaded with purple huckleberries, quite exciting!?
The Marias Pass Area located on the Continental Divide on Highway 2 is also quite wild and remote by most standards. It is possible to get lost here for a few days and never ride the same trail. Check local National Forest Travel restrictions and be sure you are not biking in closed or restricted areas. This area also has a high concentration of grizzly bear that have been seen directly from the main highway. Elk and deer are also found here in high numbers at certain times of the year.
By Car: Access by car is on Montana Highway 2, there are entrances in both West Glacier and East Glacier, Montana. It can also be accessed from Browning, Montana on Highways 17 and 89 from the North depending upon your desired destination. National Forests are accessed on the East and West sides of Glacier National Park.
By Air: Northwest Montana is served by Glacier Park International Airport in Kalispell, Montana. Don't let the international fool you it is a small airport. Glacier National Park is a 30 minute drive from the airport. There are car rentals available at the airport as well as shuttle services.
By Rail: Regular Amtrak service stops right in both West Glacier and East Glacier. Passenger service arrives from both Seattle and Minneapolis.
Glacier National Park began offering a free Shuttle Service in 2007. This is a great option for exploring the park without your bike.
Cyclists in Glacier National Park must observe all traffic regulations.
Other safety considerations from the Park Service include:
• Keep well to the right side of the road and ride in single file only.
• Pull off the road if four or more vehicles stack up behind you.
• In fog or after dark a white light in front and a red reflector on the rear of your
bicycle are required.
• Be visible!
• Helmets are strongly advised.
• Attach a bright flag on a pole and wear light-colored clothing.
• Watch for falling rocks, drainage grates, and ice on road.
Restrictions are in place for cycling sections of the Going-to-the-Sun Road, from June 15 through Labor Day.
Bicycles are prohibited from Apgar Campground to Sprague Creek Campground between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. East-bound bicycle traffic is prohibited between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. from Logan Creek to Logan Pass.
Approximate time requirements are 3 hours from Logan Creek to Logan Pass and 45 minutes to ride from Sprague Creek to Logan Creek.
Respect all travel restrictions while traveling in the Flathead and Lewis & Clark National Forests.
Please Note: This area is bear country. As with all wild animals use caution and practice common sense. Carry a bear deterrent, such as Counter Assault, don’t bike alone and make some noise. For more information please go to the Park's website for Bear Information. The U.S. Forest Service also has helpful information on Grizzly Bear Management.
Where to Stay
There is camping available in Glacier National Park. According to the National Park Service: A limited number of sites at Apgar, Fish Creek, Sprague Creek, Avalanche, Many Glacier, Rising Sun, Two Medicine, and St. Mary campgrounds are held until 9:00 p.m. for bicyclists, pedestrians, and motorcyclists. Sites are shared and have a capacity of 8 people; larger groups must split up. The fee is $5.00 per person. If hiker/biker sites are full, campers must use regular unoccupied campsites.
There are numerous Flathead National Forest Campgrounds and Lewis & Clark National Forest Campgrounds scattered across Northwest Montana check them out before planning your visit.
Numerous options for lodging can be found in and around Glacier National Park. The Flathead Valley 35 West of Glacier National Park on Highway 2 has numerous hotels and restaurants.
One of the Local Residents
LinksOffical Glacier National Park Site
Amtrak Home Page
Glacier National Park in Pictures
Flathead National Forest