Scenic overlooks, cascading waterfalls, pristine lakes, and some of the best hikes in Glacier National Park… These 21 must-see stops along the Going-to-the-Sun Road can impress even a Grinch.
Top 21 Stops to See along Going-to-the-Sun Road
The Going-to-the-Sun Road must be on every Glacier National Park’s visitor’s itinerary. In fact, it is, or at least on almost every. Running through Glacier’s diverse terrain, the 50-mile scenic road is rightfully considered the crown jewel of the park. From the panoramic lakes, to the alpine meadows, and the roaring waterfalls, the Going-to-the-Sun Road entices with a myriad of epic stops and overlooks.
Hiking is another feature that makes the panoramic corridor the most popular section in Glacier National Park. Whether you stop by the side of the Going-to-the-Sun Road, march down a narrow trail to a wooden deck observing a series of cascades, or set off on a day journey along the 11.6-mile Highline Trail, the area takes your breath away and inspires to see more and more of it.
No wonder, the panoramic stops along the Going-to-the-Sun Road provide a serious competition to Many Glacier, another must-see area in Glacier. Snuggled mostly by the side of the road, these places ensure that you can enjoy the natural beauty without walking too far or too much.
On the other hand, the convenient locations of the majority of the must-see stops along the Going-to-the-Sun Road don’t imply that avid hikers should skip this area altogether. Quite the opposite! The farther you wander off the Going-to-the-Sun Road, the more remarkable stops and intriguing places you find along the way.
How to See the Best Stops along Going-to-the-Sun Road
The Going-to-the-Sun Road with its dozens of astonishing stops runs from West Glacier to East Glacier. Two entrances, the West Glacier and St. Mary entrances, allow to access the scenic route and see all the natural wonders it has to offer.
Depending on where you’re heading from, you can start your journey of exploring these 21 stops along the scenic Going-to-the-Sun Road at either of these entrances.
We drove on the Going-to-the-Sun Road twice. As we were coming from Idaho, the West Glacier entrance was the closest for us to access the park.
It turned out that driving west to east had a few advantages. The most important of them was easy accessibility to the Sun Road’s natural wonders. With that said, some of the most popular stops along the Going-to-the-Sun Road sit on the right hand side of the route. Thus, driving east ensures quick access to a myriad of pull-offs and panoramic landmarks scattered in the scenic drive area.
Yet even the eastbound visitors must swing to the left and cross the road to explore a number of remarkable stops along the western part of the Going-to-the-Sun Road. A plethora or must-see waterfalls, cascades, and secluded coves dwell on the shore of or near Lake McDonald.
Pulling over here becomes slightly inconvenient. This, it its turn, forces the majority of the visitors of the Going-to-the-Sun Road to skip these stops altogether.
On the other hand, when you drive from East Glacier to West Glacier along, these westmost stops of the Going-to-the-Sun Road area become your primary destinations. Pulling over is easy. Crowds are almost absent. Consequently, plenty of spaces to stop even at the smallest parking lots along the Going-to-the-Sun Road are guaranteed.
The westbound travelers, however, have fewer options for easy pull-offs on the eastern side of the scenic drive. Furthermore, a tall cliff wall on their right limits the views and prevents from taking good pictures from the car.
TIP: The best options to see and fully enjoy the majority of the scenic stops along the Going-to-the-Sun Road is to drive the route twice, in the opposite directions. We were fortunate to do just that. If I had only one chance and had to choose how to get to these roadside stops, I’d stick to our first trip and drive on the Going-to-the-Sun Road from the West Glacier entrance to the St. Mary entrance.
THE BEST STOPS IN GOING-TO-THE-SUN ROAD AREA: NATURAL LANDMARKS AND HIKES
So what can you see and explore while driving along the Going-to-the-Sun Road. A simple answer is more than you can expect. The area is dotted with the spectacular cascades and waterfall, roadside overlooks and creeks. Yet don’t limit your Glacier experience by just admiring the Going-to-the-Sun Road and its prominent stops from the car. Get out and explore. The corridor is home to some of the favorite hikes in Glacier National Park.
If you read this far without skipping the section on how to drive along the scenic route, you know that moving from the west entrance to east entrance is preferable. (Although, it can be subjective.)
Therefore, these 21 must-see stops along the Going-to-the-Sun Road are listed in similar order, starting from the westmost places and ending with the favorite destinations on the eastern side of the route. Without further ado, here are the best stops to explore while driving along the Going-to-the-Sun Road.
1. Apgar Village
Apgar Village is the first place to stop at in the Going-to-the-Sun Road area. Home to several shops and in-park lodges, it’s a place to get social and soak in a vibrant village vibe before looking for solitude in nature.
It doesn’t mean that you won’t see other people on the trails along the scenic corridor later. Truth be told, with the ever increasing popularity of Glacier National Park, finding solitude might be one of the biggest issues while exploring the popular stops along the Going-to-the-Sun Road.
Nevertheless, it’s still enjoyable to dive into the Apgar Village’s activities and load up on food and snacks (if you haven’t done it already) before you drive off.
TIP: If you have only one day to explore more than 20 favorite stops along the Going-to-the-Sun Road in summer, don’t spend too much time in the heart of Apgar Village. The earlier you start your drive, the easier is to find parking spaces at the most coveted places along the Sun Road.
2. Lake McDonald
You can never miss Lake McDonald, one of the most recognizable stops along the western side of the Going-to-the-Sun Road. The largest lake in Glacier National Park, this natural attraction spans 10 miles in length and a mile in width. Moreover, at 472 feet deep, it’s also one of the best places to boat in the Sun Road corridor.
Frequent visitors of Glacier National Park insist that the best views of Lake McDonald open up from its shores near Apgar Village, Lake McDonald Lodge, and the Fish Creek Campground.
I can’t attest to the validity of these statements. Ample secluded stops and roadside pull-offs along the lake’s shore, however, allowed us to take in the gorgeous surroundings and explore this section of the Going-to-the-Sun Road without the maddening crowds around.
TIP: We stopped by Lake McDonald while driving from West Glacier to East Glacier and then on our way back from the St. Mary entrance to the West Glacier entrance. Going from the east to west was easier in terms of parking. Moreover, as our second trip happened in the late afternoon, there were just one or two small groups of people exploring the serene stops along the westmost side of the Going-to-the-Sun Road corridor.
3. McDonald Falls Overlook
One of the easier and prettiest stops along the Going-to-the-Sun Road, the McDonald Falls Overlook nestles a stone’s throw away from Lake McDonald. Although the waterfall, cascading down MdDonald Creek, is hard to spot while driving, its roaring water unveils the presence of the fall right away.
Unlike some other easy stops on the Going-to-the-Sun Road, McDonald Falls gathers fewer spectators. The fact that we had the whole overlook to ourselves on an early morning further confirms this. Yet it’s hard to understand why many travelers skip this scenic place as the McDonald Falls Overlook is an indisputable dream destination of any waterfall photographer.
4. Sacred Dancing Cascade
One of the frequently overlooked stops along the western side of the Going-to-the-Sun Road, Sacred Dancing Cascade amuses with its swirling water flows over rocky “stairs” on McDonald Creek. The stunning natural landmark indeed looks like a dance performed by nature. The powerful water streams down the rocks, creating such a drastic contrast to the serene surroundings.
TIP: Pull over and walk down a narrow path to take in the stunning views and explore a few other must-see stops located within a walking distance from this section of the Going-to-the-Sun Road. If you have time, linger at a bridge across the creek to photograph the cascade or hike to Johns Lake.
If chasing the least visited stops in the Going-to-the-Sun Road area is of most interest to you, then Redrock is exactly what you need. The roaring water rushing down and submerging a series of massive rocks on its way looks too good to miss. Yet with the abundance of other incredible places scattered across the Going-to-the-Sun Road area, it hardly gets its deserved glory.
Those who stumble upon this little gem, don’t hesitate to go down to the creek to dip their feet in the water, though. At the same time, a hidden in the woods observation deck set right by the road welcomes the Glacier’s guests that feel safe and comfortable enjoying the views from the dry ground.
TIP: The alluring stops on the Going-to-the-Sun Road located between Redrock and Lake McDonald are best to see while driving east to west.
6. Trail of the Cedars
The number of the most visited stops along the Going-to-the-Sun Road increases starting with the Trail of the Cedars. Located 16.8 miles away from the West Glacier entrance, this 0.7-mile loop runs through the dense forest of tall cedars.
The trail begins as a paved path and continues along raised boardwalk all the way to Avalanche Gorge. Here, you find stunning vistas of the water rushing past moss-covered rocks and streaming down Avalanche Creek.
Overall, the hike is easy and can be done any time of the day, given that you can find a parking space in the afternoon – the busiest time to explore some the popular places in the Going-to-the-Sun Road area.
7. Avalanche Lake – One of the Must-See Stops along Going-to-the-Sun Road
If you’ve succeeded at securing your spot at the Trail of the Cedars’ parking lot, spend a few extra hours in this section of the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Another must-visit destination here is astonishing Avalanche Lake. The place sits at the end of the 2-mile Avalanche Lake Trail that forks from the Trail of the Cedars. Having barely any significant ascents, the hike asks on average 2-3 hours of your time.
8. West Tunnel
Bored through 192 feet of mountain, West Tunnel is one of the iconic stops you stumble upon while driving along the western side of the Going-to-the-Sun Road. The place came to life between 1926 and 1927.
The almost 100-year-old member of the popular scenic route, however, hasn’t lost neither its functionality nor its attractiveness. Festooned with window ports overlooking Heavens Peak and the Upper McDonald Creek Valley, it’s one of the most photographed places in Glacier.
A small waterfall right next to the tunnel provides a cool spot to take a break while exploring the area on foot.
9. The Loop
The Going-to-the-Sun Road is indeed remarkable. It’s loaded with the epic landmarks and breathtaking landscapes that you can see right from the window of your car. Popping up on the right or left sides of the route (depending where you’re heading to), these places called stops for a reason. The Loop is here to prove it.
The only switchback on the Going-to-the-Sun Road, the area offers unobstructed views of Heavens Peak, the highest of four peaks that divide Camas Creek and McDonald Creek. If enjoying the vistas from the side of the road doesn’t satisfy you, hike down the strenuous, 4-mile Granite Park Chalet Trail.
10. Bird Woman Falls Overlook
The Bird Woman Falls Overlook is one of the best stops to admire the tallest waterfall in the Going-to-the-Sun Road area. Perched between Mount Oberlin and Mount Cannon, the 492-foot fall cascades down from a hanging valley, offering plenty of stunning photo opportunities.
TIP: Don’t feel disheartened if you can’t find a parking spot at the overlook. Delighting the visitors from a distance, Bird Woman Falls comes into view at many other stops along the Going-to-the-Sun Road.
11. Weeping Wall
Feel droplets of refreshing water on your skin as you pass by the Weeping Wall. Dropping from the mountain wall on the left (for eastbound visitors), the place is the closest waterfall you can drive to in the Going-to-the-Sun Road area.
The roadside attraction consists of a series of gushing waterfalls, which are the most powerful in spring. Yet even in summer, the waterfalls store enough force to offer a free “car wash” for the passing by vehicles. By August, however, the Weeping Wall usually exhausts its water supplies, turning into a trickle.
12. Big Bend
Big Bend falls into the category of the most photogenic stops along the Going-to-the-Sun Road. A place where the scenic route bends itself, creating a dramatic U-shape, entices with some of the best views of the valley below and Glacier’s giants: Cannon Mountain, Mount Oberlin, and Heavens Peak.
13. Triple Arches
As you drive along the Sun Road towards Logan Pass, keep your eyes peeled for the Triple Arches. Regarded as an engineering marvel, the place is one of a few stops on the Going-to-the-Sun Roads that you don’t actually stop at. If you do, you’ve already missed it. The best view of the Triple Arches opens up from the road as it curves from afar and eventually passes through the landmark.
While the inartistic architecture may surprise you, its history will make you appreciate the place even more. The Triple Arches Bridge was built in the 1920s to cover a gap in the mountain terrain.
14. Logan Pass – One of the Most Beautiful Stops on Going-to-the-Sun Road
Logan Pass is unquestionably one of the most remarkable stops on the Going-to-the-Sun Road. The place is famous for its alpine meadows filled with yellow wildflowers, abundant Glacier’s wildlife, and jaw-dropping scenery.
A few picturesque hikes intersect the area, bringing closer to you some of best places and vistas in the Going-to-the-Sun Road corridor. The trails range from short hikes, such as the 3-mile, round-trip Hidden Lake Overlook Trail, to longer endeavors. Stretching for more than 10 miles one way, the Highline Trail tops the latter category, requiring a whole day to complete it.
At the same time, Logan Pass is one of the trickiest places to explore on the Going-to-the-Sun Road. With that said, being the highest point in the area, it sits right by the scenic route, perched 6,647 feet above see level. It even has its own parking lot and visitor center. Yet the shortage of parking spaces seems to be the biggest problem at Logan Pass during the summer season.
TIP: The parking lot gets packed quickly. When it reaches its full capacity, rangers turn away all other visitors. Midday is often too late to stop at this section of the Going-to-the-Sun Road corridor. Plan to arrive early in the morning to avoid the crowds and secure a parking spot. In the worst-case scenario, drive a little bit farther down the road in the hope of finding a space at an overflow parking.
15. Lunch Creek
The Going-to-the-Sun Road is dotted with the iconic stops such as Lunch Creek, another gorgeous landmark not to miss in the area. Known as a historic rising point, the scenic stream with stair-like cascades has been a resting place for Continental Divide hikers for years.
Although you can easily see Lunch Creek from the side of the road, exploring this stop on foot allows you to feel at one with nature. The absence of official hiking trails along with the hordes of visitors wishing to see the creek up close are, however, to blame for often disturbed fragile vegetation around one of the irresistible stops on the Going-to-the-Sun Road.
16. East Tunnel
East Tunnel sits farther down the road. The 408-foot structure was cut through Piegan Mountain in 1931. Though easy to drive through today, it was one the challenging stops during the construction of the Going-to-the-Sun Road.
17. Siyeh Bend
I kept starring at the road in the hope of spotting Siyeh Bend, a place that makes the transitions between the subalpine vegetation and the forest on the eastern side of the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Still, I somehow managed to miss this stop.
The difference in the vegetation, however, was noticeable right away. I don’t believe we even stopped here, preferring to to enjoy the views from the windows. But for those who dreams of the best hiking stops along the Going-to-the-Sun Road corridor, Siyeh Bend is home to Piegan Pass and Siyeh Pass trailheads.
18. Jackson Glacier Overlook
The seventh-largest glacier in the park is yet other reason to stop by the side of the Going-to-the-Sun Road. The only glacier visible from the scenic drive, Jackson Glacier, or to be precise the Overlook, sits just 2 miles away from Siyeh Bend.
Alluring the travelers with its ice-covered plateau atop a mountain, the site once again reminds of severe damages climate change has brought. According to signage at the overlook, Jackson Glacier has receded tremendously for the past few years. And the dwindling hasn’t stopped. Every year, Glacier National Park loosing a part of this one-of-a-kind stop in the Going-to-the-Sun Road area.
19. St. Mary Falls
The waterfalls have been among the most alluring stops near the Going-to-the-Sun Road for years. From the roadside, unnamed falls to the biggest stars such as St. Mary Falls and Virginia Falls, the scenic route spoils its visitors with the best places to see the cascading water.
Unlike Bird Woman Falls, you can’t see St. Mary Falls from the road. Hiking is required. Yet fear not, the 1.7-mile, road-trip trail is a piece of cake even for kids.
If you want to make your hiking game a little bit more challenging, continue on past St. Mary Falls toward Virginia Falls. Arguably one of the best waterfall-stops near the Going-to-the-Sun Road, Virginia Falls sits at the end of an approximately 1.8-mile trail.
20. Sun Point
Sun Point once attracted the visitors with its popular Sun Point Chalet. Today, the site is gone. A large parking lot along with a picnic area still faithfully serve the Glacier’s guests, offering plenty of stops to relax and hike around.
Not another hike… I hear you. Yet you can’t skip St. Mary Lake with its aquamarine water and secluded coves a short walk from the parking lot. Even if for whatever reasons, you missed St. Mary and Virginia Falls, Sun Point comes to your rescue.
Packed with the trailheads to a number of short and longer hikes, such as the 1.2-mile, out and back Baring Falls Trail and the 5.6-mile, round-trip Three Falls Trail, which takes you to St. Mary Falls, Virginia Falls, and Barring Falls, the place makes sure you don’t leave the eastern section of the Going-to-the-Sun Road without exploring its signature stops.
21. Wild Goose Island
One of the most photographed stops along the eastmost side of the Going-to-the-Sun Road, tiny Wild Goose Island rises only 14 feet from the surface of St. Mary Lake. Its surrounding areas with majestic backdrop of mountains , however, far exceed this size.
The most popular place to feast your eyes on the favorite island is marked by a designated overlook with a small parking lot in front of it. Yet you can stop anywhere along the eastern part – past Sun Point – of the Going-to-the-Sun Road and admire the site from different angles.
The Best Stops along Going-to-the-Sun Road: Map
Places to Stay in Going-to-the-Sun Road Area
If you plan to spend more than one day and explore as many of these scenic stops as you can, find a place to stay inside the Going-to-the-Sun area. The best and most convenient places to spend a night here include the following:
- Lake McDonald Lodge
- Village Inn
- Rising Sun Motor Inn
- Granite Park Chalet
- Sperry Chalet
Tips for Visiting Favorite Places on Going-to-the-Sun Road
Arrive early. The Going-to-the-Sun Road gets especially busy during the summer season. The parking lots fill up quickly. Arriving before 8:00 a.m. significantly increases your chances to check out all the favorite stops along the Going-to-the-Sun Road.
Fill up your tank. No gas stations are available within Glacier National Park, including the Going-to-the-Sun Road.
Pack your lunch. Food can be found at a few popular stops along the Going-to-the-Sun Road, such as the Lake McDonald Lodge, Rising Sun, and Apgar Village. Better yet, plan ahead and pack snacks and meals for the whole day while exploring the remarkable places near the Sun Road.
Protect your skin. Wear sunscreen and hats and be sure to reapply sunblock every two hours.
Never approach Glacier National Park’s wildlife. The Going-to-the-Sun Road is one of the best places to see bears, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, marmots, pikas, and other animals. Disturbing the wildlife, however, is prohibited and can be dangerous. It’s recommended to keep a safe distance of 100 yards from the bears and wolves, 25 yards from all other animals.
Beware of bears. Bring along bear spray in case of a bear attack. You can also attach small bells to your backpack or clothes to make noise and keep the bears away. Although popular, this method, however, is no the most effective.
Use binocular for watching wildlife at a safe distance. Again, it comes back to being vigilant and never approaching the wildlife. With that said, Logan Pass is one of the best stops to see the mountains goats and bighorn sheep in the Going-to-the-Sun Road area.
Leave no trace. Pack out your trash and don’t harm the animals or plants. Strive to keep the pristine places along the Going-to-the-Sun Road better than you find them.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to drive along the entire Going-to-the-Sun Road?
It takes 2 hours to traverse the entire Sun Road from the West Glacier entrance to St. Mary entrance. Plan to spend at least extra 3 to 4 hours and hike to the waterfalls, alpine meadows and lakes, and other favorite stops along the Going-to-the-Sun Road.
Can I see the wildlife on the Going-to-the-Sun Road?
The Going-to-the-Sun Road area abounds with the wildlife. From the mountains goats, bighorn sheep, and bears to the cute marmots and quick pikas and chipmunks, different species of mammals and birds are found in this section of Glacier.
When is the Going-to-the-Sun Road open?
You can visit some places along the Going-to-the-Sun Road all year round. The alpine areas usually open in the late June – early July and welcome the visitors until mid-October. The opening and closing dates, however, vary depending on the weather conditions.
- GUIDE: The Ultimate Glacier National Park Travel Guide: Visit 5 Main Sections
- PHOTOGRAPHY: 8 Iconic Photo Spots in Glacier
- WILDLIFE: 5 Best Places to See and Photograph Wildlife in Glacier National Park
- MANY GLACIER: First-Timer’s Guide to Visiting Many Glacier in Glacier National Park
- WATERFALLS: The 14 Most Photographed Cascades and Waterfalls in Glacier National Park
- HIKES: The 9 Best Trails for Hiking with Small Kids (ages 4-6) in Glacier
- LANDMARKS: 10 Incredible Places not to Miss in Glacier National Park
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