This journey across Glacier National Park scenic roads will take your breath away in more ways than one.
By Donna B. Ulrich
Photos by Larry Ulrich
Going-to-the-Sun Road through Glacier National Park always makes me feel like I’m touring a real-life version of Jurassic Park—but without the dinosaurs. It’s that scary, exhilarating and breathtaking.
If the steep, narrow hairpin turns above intimidating guardrail-free drop-offs don’t take your breath away, the northwest Montana vistas along the scenic roads will. Spectacular vistas, waterfalls flying off mountaintops, a riot of summer wildflowers and a feast of fall colors make your heart pound for a different reason. Beauty like that, especially when you feel you’ve earned it, can be almost overwhelming. We actually once saw a fellow step out of his car, throw his arms out and yell, “I’m on top of the world!”
Glacier became a national park in 1910, but the 50-mile two-lane dirt road across the park didn’t officially open until 1933. My husband, Larry, and I have traveled the highway dozens of times looking for photographs. We have been there when the bear grass—which blooms only once every seven years—dots the trails like exclamation points. We’ve photographed purple fireweed draping the valley walls and scarlet paintbrush nestled in the verdant high meadows. In autumn, we’ve caught the aspen and cottonwood flashing their golden leaves in a farewell to summer.
We’ve also attempted three times to capture the glittering first snowfall on the mountains, and we have failed three times. The park always closes the road before we get there. The road is scary enough in the best of conditions, and snow depth at the infamous Big Drift on Logan Pass has been measured at more than 98 feet!
Glacier also supports a vast and varied wildlife population, including Rocky Mountain elk, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, cougars, wolves, moose and grizzly bears. Just knowing that these animals are living out there barely beyond the tree line is part of the park’s exceptional charm. Like the Sun Road, the park is very wild, sometimes scary and always unforgettable.
Going-to-the-Sun Road is one of Country’s 2013 Best Scenic Roads. Click here for the full list.