Bicycling Going-to-the-Sun Road, Glacier National Park

Glacier’s Going-to-the-Sun Road ranks high on bucket lists of most cyclists. The ride dishes up a challenge along with a heavy dose of big scenery. Biking offers a way to intimately savor all of the detail that created the country’s only road that is a National Historic Landmark and National Civil Engineering Landmark. Arches and tunnels access natural wonders of waterfalls, wildlife, and glacier-carved peaks.

In summer, early or late daylight hours offer riding with fewer cars on the road.
In summer, early or late daylight hours offer riding with fewer cars on the road. Photo © Becky Lomax.

Riding the Sun Road requires stamina. Depending on launch points, it demands 16-32 miles of pedaling to reach Logan Pass. The western climb from Avalanche packs in 3,273 feet in elevation. The eastern ascent from St. Mary is less demanding at 2,185 feet. But either direction crams most of the uphill pedaling into 12 miles at a steady six-percent grade. It’s relentless enough to make the incline a contender with some of the Tour de France climbs.

To compound the difficulty, the road throws obstacles at riders: grates, debris, wildlife, water, and sometimes ice. Vehicles can also be a threat as most drivers are gawking at the scenery rather than watching for cyclists. Cars whiz by rider elbows with the shoulderless road affording no place to veer to the side.

The bicycle season launches mid-April when plows dig down to free the Sun Road of snow.
The bicycle season launches mid-April when plows dig down to free the Sun Road of snow. Photo © Becky Lomax.

Bicycling Going-to-the-Sun Road Through the Seasons


The bicycle season launches mid-April when plows dig down to free the Sun Road of snow. Locals throng up the road during the two-month or so season when the gate bars vehicles. As spring plowing progresses further into the alpine, riders push higher and higher each week. By late May or early June, cyclists can usually reach Logan Pass. In upper segments, intimidating stretches lack yet-to-be-installed seasonal guardrails. Snow bordering the road creates a refrigerator effect for a chilly descent.

Once the west vehicle closure bumps to Avalanche Creek, a shuttle helps parking congestion by carrying bikes and riders from Lake McDonald Lodge to Avalanche. Spring riding cranks up on weekends with Mother’s Day bringing out scads of families, parents pulling Burleys, and kids on trikes. To help with planning, find daily plowing reports and biking restrictions online at

Biking along Glacier National Park's Weeping Wall.
Biking along Glacier National Park’s Weeping Wall. Photo © Becky Lomax.


In summer, cyclists and vehicles jockey for position on the Sun Road. The narrow roadway squeezes with cars mid-day, forcing a ban on bicycles on two west side sections. Between 11am and 4pm, July 1 to Labor Day, bikes cannot go either direction along Lake McDonald nor climb uphill from Logan Creek to Logan Pass. For that reason, most cyclists leave Lake McDonald Lodge by 6:30am to be able to grind up to the pass before the daily bike closure.

In summer, early or late daylight hours offer riding with fewer cars on the road. Cyclists can pedal from one side of the Sun Road to the other and return via shuttles that can haul bikes.


After Labor Day, bicycling restrictions disappear, and vehicle congestion diminishes. Cycling takes on the golden season with cottonwoods and aspens turning yellow. Riding continues until mid-October when the road closes again to vehicles. As long as snow permits, bikers can still push as far as possible.

Sunset along Going-to-the-Sun-Road.
Sunset along Going-to-the-Sun-Road. Photo by Tim Rains/National Park Service.

Full Moon Rides

A local tradition, riders head up the Sun Road on full moon nights. Bikes must be outfitted with lights, but surrounding mountains glow by moonlight. The ride requires caution; at least one fatality has occurred.

Bicycle Rentals and Services

In summer, several shops in Apgar and West Glacier rent bikes. In spring and fall, find rentals only in Whitefish, about 35 minutes west of the park. To use your own bike when flying into the area, ship it to Glacier Cyclery (2406/862-6446), where they will put it together for your arrival.

Map of Going-to-the-Sun Road
Going-to-the-Sun Road

Becky Lomax

About the Author

As a professional travel writer, Andrew Hempstead spends as much time as possible on the road, traveling incognito, experiencing the many and varied delights of each destination just as his readers do. He looks forward to spending every second summer at home in the Canadian Rockies, traveling mountain highways and hiking trails, exploring new places, and updating old favorites.

Since the early 1990s, Andrew has authored and updated more than 60 guidebooks, and supplied content for regional and national clients like Expedia and KLM. His photography has appeared in a wide variety of media, ranging from international golf magazines to a Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Museum.
Andrew and his wife, Dianne, own Summerthought Publishing, a Canadian regional publisher of nonfiction books. He is a member of The Diners Club World’s 50 Best Restaurants Academy. Andrew has also spoken on travel writing to a national audience and has contributed to a university-level travel writing textbook. He and his family live in Banff, Alberta.

Becky Lomax was three years old when her parents first took her to stay with friends who worked as rangers at Two Medicine Lake in Glacier National Park. During college, Becky worked two summers in the historic Glacier Park Lodge, an easy hop to Two Medicine. She spent her days off hiking, backpacking, and climbing throughout the park.

After teaching high school writing and speech outside Seattle, she and her husband moved to Whitefish for quick access to Glacier. She worked in the park for a decade as a hiking and backpacking guide, leading many first-time visitors to Gunsight Pass, Fifty Mountain, and Iceberg Lake. She also served on staff at Granite Park Chalet, spotting wolverines and bagging nearby peaks in her off time.

Today, Becky maintains her strong link with Glacier by using her full-time writing career as an excuse to keep hiking in the park. In magazine stories, she lauds the park’s trails, historic lodges, scenic drives, wildlife, and wildflowers. She tags along with biologists in the field to radio-collar bighorn sheep and grizzly bears. She also treks annually to Grinnell Glacier to write about how climate change is melting the park’s ice fields.

Becky serves as the western writer for On the Snow, a website that provides snow reports for ski resorts. She also writes stories for regional newspapers and national magazines such as Smithsonian and Backpacker, and is the author of the bestselling Moon USA National Parks.

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©NPS photo by Alex Stillson