How to Visit Going-to-the-Sun Road (Vehicle Reservation 2024)

With the constantly increasing interest in Glacier National Park, the main question is not whether you should or shouldn’t visit the scenic Going-to-the-Sun Road, but how to actually visit the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

Last updated: May 29, 2024

Top Stops to See along the Going-to-the-Sun Road - Roads and Destinations
How to Visit the Going-to-the-Sun Road: Vehicle reservation in 2024

What Is the Going-to-the-Sun Road?

So what is the Going-to-the-Sun Road and how to visit it? We’ll get to the second part of the question a little bit later. The first query has to be dissected right here and now. One of the popular sections of Glacier National Park, the Going-to-the-Sun Road is a 50-mile scenic corridor that stretches from the West Glacier entrance to the St. Mary entrance.

This paved, two-lane highway connects the eastern and western sides of Glacier and presents almost every type of terrain that exists in the park. From lush alpine meadows to towering glaciers and cascading waterfalls, a visit to the Going-to-the-Sun Road corridor allows you to see some of the best places and natural wonders of Glacier National Park. 

READ MORE: The 21 Best Stops along Going-to-the-Sun Road

History in a Nutshell

The scenic route was completed in 1932. Its addition to Glacier National Park meant two things.

First, the untamed beauty of the park was put on display. Simultaneously, a larger number of panoramic trails, roadside waterfalls, and alpine lakes and valleys became available for avid outdoor enthusiasts to explore.

Second, the construction of the scenic drive shifted perspectives. While before 1932 Glacier’s guests had favored the Two Medicine area, they switched to the Going-to-the-Sun Road that for many quickly became the only section to explore in the entire park.

It was only a matter of time before even larger audiences and eventually national historic societies noticed the panoramic route. In 1983, the Going-to-the-Sun Road was included in the National Register of Historic Places. Two years later, it was recognized as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark. Today, millions of people visit the Going-to-the-Sun Road to admire and explore some of Glacier’s most astonishing landscapes.

Visit Going-to-the-Sun Road, Entry Ticket - Roads and Destinations
Lake McDonald | How to visit Going-to-the-Sun Road
Visit Going-to-the-Sun Road - Roads and Destinations
Roadside waterfalls along the Going-to-the-Sun Road

Should You Visit the Going-to-the-Sun Road?

Thanks to its pristine surroundings, the scenic drive alway comes to your rescue when you ponder what to do and see in one of the largest national parks in the country. Whether you look for the most beautiful places to photograph in Glacier or crave solitude among secluded shores of alpine lakes, the panoramic corridor provides all of these and more.

So the question of whether you should visit or skip the Going-to-the-Sun Road disappears on its own. The next thing to consider is when is the best time to visit the Going-to-the-Sun Road and make the most of your trip.

The Best Time to Visit the Going-to-the-Sun Road

Some sections of the scenic drive welcome visitors all year round, offering a plethora of exciting activities in summer and winter. The alpine portion of the Going-to-the-Sun Road usually waits until late June or early July to let you explore its pristine wilderness. The exact time of the opening of this section depends on snowfall and plowing progress.

Normally, you can drive along the entire Going-to-the-Sun Road from late June until the third Monday of October. Yet again, in Glacier National Park, the opening and closing dates depend on weather conditions. So be sure to check road status updates on the official Glacier National Park’s website.

Visiting the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Summer

July and August are the most reliable times to visit the entire Going-to-the-Sun Road. On the other hand, the place gets overcrowded. Every outdoor adventurer seems to go to Glacier National Park at this time to see its coveted jewels before the snow buries them until the next summer.  

READ MORE: The Best Time to Visit Glacier National Park: Seasonal Activities

Visit Going-to-the-Sun Road, Entry Ticket - Roads and Destinations
Alpine sections of the Going-to-the-Sun Road
Visit Going-to-the-Sun Road, Entry Ticket - Roads and Destinations
Visiting the Going-to-the-Sun Road in late June

How to Visit the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park

The increased visitation of the Going-to-the-Sun Road became such a serious issue that the park couldn’t ignore it any longer. The major change in how to visit the Going-to-the-Sun Road was first introduced before the summer season of 2021. As a result now all visitors must make a separate vehicle reservation along with having a Glacier entrance pass to enter the Going-to-the-Sun Road. 

The introduction of the ticketing system has significantly improved the situation, but hasn’t eliminated the problem altogether. The crowds and limited parking spaces are still a big issue to consider when planning your trip along the Going-to-the-Sun Road in summer. 

Note: The exact dates of the summer season and the opening of the entire scenic route vary depending on the weather conditions. During the summer season of 2024, the vehicle reservation is required between 6:00 a.m and 3:00 p.m. from May 24 through September 8.

TIP: If you plan to visit the Going-to-the-Sun Road in summer, be sure to get your vehicle reservation in advance. The reservations are limited. No car can enter the scenic corridor without a vehicle reservation even if you already have a Glacier entrance pass. 

Visit Going-to-the-Sun Road, Entry Ticket - Roads and Destinations
Lower sections of the Going-to-the-Sun Road are open all year round
Visit Going-to-the-Sun Road, Entry Ticket - Roads and Destinations
Alpine sections of the Going-to-the-Sun Road are open only from late June through mid-October

Vehicle Reservation

In 2024, vehicle reservation is required in three of the five main sections of Glacier National Park: the Going-to-the-Sun Road, Many Glacier, and North Fork. The vehicle reservations are valid for one day. They have a process fee of $2 and can be made on recreation.gov. Be sure to have your printed or digital reservations before you approach any of these three areas.

Dates When Vehicle Reservations Are Required

  • Going-to-the-Sun Road: May 24 through September 8 from 6:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
  • North Fork: May 24 through September 8 from 6:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
  • Many Glacier: July 1 through September 8 from 6:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Good to Know: You don’t need a vehicle reservation to access the Going-to-the-Sun Road from the St. Mary entrance and Rising Sun.

Glacier National Park is open 24 hours a day. Visitors can enter the vehicle reservation areas before 6:00 a.m. or after 3:00 p.m. without a vehicle reservation.

A portion of vehicle reservations is released 120 days in advance starting on January 25, 2024. The remaining will be available at 7:00 p.m. MDT the day before the effective date.

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Glacier National Park - Roads and Destinations
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St. Mary Lake | How to visit Going-to-the-Sun Road

Who Doesn’t Need Vehicle Reservation to Visit the Going-to-the-Sun Road?

Travelers that stay or reserve some services along the scenic drive don’t need a vehicle reservation to enter the Going-to-the-Sun Road. These reservations serve as the required passes for the dates when the services are used. You must present proof of reservation upon arrival. No entry to the Going-to-the-Sun Road is allowed without it.

Here are some specific examples of the services that allow you to visit the Going-to-the-Sun Road without a vehicle reservation.

  • Glacier National Park’s guests that have overnight reservations at Fish Creek Campground and Apgar Campground don’t need to worry about the Going-to-the-Sun vehicle reservation.
  • This also applies to visitors that have reservations at any lodges, motels, or chalets located within the scenic corridor. Thus, if you stay at the Village Inn, Lake McDonald Lodge, Rising Sun Motor Inn, Granite Park, and Sperry Chalets, and some in-park private lodging, consider your trip to the Going-to-the-Sun Road a done deal.

Going-to-the-Sun Road on a Tour

  • Similarly, you can have reservations for horseback rides, guided hikes, bikes, or boat tours in the Going-to-the-Sun Road area, you can visit this part of Glacier without the vehicle reservation.
  • When it comes to boat rides, reservations with Glacier Park Boat Company at either St. Mary Lake at Rising Sun and Lake McDonald at the Lake McDonald Lodge guarantee your entry to the corridor. You can visit the Going-to-the-Sun Road only on the day of your scheduled tour. Visitors must make an additional reservation or have a vehicle reservation to assess the area the following day.

TIP: Many park’s guests book guided hikes or boat tours as an alternative to be able to visit the Going-to-the-Sun Road in case the vehicle reservation is unavailable. Keep in mind, though, boat passes get sold out very fast as well. Thus, if it’s your last resort, book your tour as soon as possible. 

Visiting Going-to-the-Sun Road with no Vehicle Reservation by Car, Shuttle, Bicycle, or on Foot

  • Similarly, you can reserve a Red Bus tour that serves as your ticket to visit the Going-the-Sun Road corridor.
  • Tribal members, private landowners, including their guests, business owners, and employees don’t need vehicle reservations to enter the Going-to-the-Sun Road.
  • Visitors arriving on foot or by bicycle are also exempt from obtaining the Going-to-the-Sun Road vehicle reservation.

NOTE: Reserving a service or tour or staying inside other two sections that require a vehicle reservation can also be qualified as an entry pass for the days when the services are rendered.

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Avalanche Lake | Hot to visit Going-to-the-Sun Road
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Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to drive along the Going-to-the-Sun Road?

It takes 2 hours to drive along the entire Going-to-the-Sun Road from the West Glacier entrance to the St. Mary entrance. Plan to spend at least an extra 3 to 4 hours hiking to scenic waterfalls and alpine meadows and lakes, such as Avalanche Lake, Virginia Falls, and the Hidden Lake Overlook

Can I see wildlife in the Going-to-the-Sun Road area?

The Going-to-the-Sun Road corridor abounds with Glacier’s wildlife. From mountain goats to bighorn sheep, bears, marmots, pikas, and chipmunks, different species of big and tiny creatures and birds are found in the area. 

When is the Going-to-the-Sun Road open?

You can visit some sections of the Going-to-the-Sun Road all year round. The alpine areas open only from late June – early July through mid-October. The opening and closing dates vary depending on the weather conditions.

Read More


Visit Going-to-the-Sun Road, Entry Ticket - Roads and Destinations
How to visit Going-to-the-Sun Road (Vehicle reservation)

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