Making the Most of a “Forced Vacation”: Going to the Sun Road, Montana

Since the Epic Journey came to an end and I settled down in my house, there is nothing more enjoyable to me than being in my house. Whenever a friend/customer/random person on the street (it’s a really small town) inquires whether I have plans for my days off, I always suppress a feeling of “If I had plans, then it wouldn’t be my days off, dammit“. So when we realized that importing Ed’s car to Canada involved bringing it to the US for at least 72 hours, maybe longer, I was furious. I have to take time off work to leave my house. Uggg. Forced vacation!

Then again, I have always wanted to see Montana. “Home on the Range” was one of my favorite songs as a kid. (I think the song is actually about Kansas, but the images in the lyrics would fit what photos I had seen of Montana. Wouldn’t mind seeing Kansas too, though.)

Willing or unwilling, we eventually found ourselves in Glacier National Park in front of this:

If you look carefully, you can see a road crossing the park map from west to east. This is Going to the Sun Road.

Our first day at the park, we opted to try one of the lesser physical effort attractions (especially for me since I wasn’t the one driving for once), Going to the Sun Road. We were actually quite lucky with our timing. The Road is closed during snowy times and had only opened for the season a few days before.

We started at the West Side Visitor’s Center (actually called Apgar Visitor’s Center). You can line up to talk to the rangers about planning hikes, sightseeing points and stuff like that, but the line is LONG! We just took a picture of the map and left.

The park extends into Canada (but we didn’t go there) which is why there’s a Canadian flag in the middle. Also, person in pink jacket looks very excited.

The road starts off as a pretty but also pretty boring drive through the forest. We even had a “Why is this road an engineering marvel? Our mountain park is so much better than this mountain park.” talk. It picks up, though, and you quickly see how back in 1932, building this road was an incredible feat.

Starting off slow (and this is actually about 30 minutes in), but it gets better.

As the scenery gets more dramatic, there are pullouts where you can stop to take photos. Most of them were packed, but we managed to find a few decent spots.

Most of my pictures are just taken from a moving car with the window down, all of them were taken with my phone. Phone cameras have come a long way since my little Nexus 4. Obviously, not enough for real photography folks, but innocent, lazy me LOVES my phone camera. And despite Ed’s complaining, having him drive was the perfect scenario. When I drive, he’s either deathly sick (apparently my driving is just that crazy) or sleeping. When he drives, I collect nice souvenirs (or proof of holidays, if that’s how you prefer to look at it) to show loved ones (mainly, my parents).

This spot was so crowded. Was very hard to get through. I believe it was also the site of a deadly fall a few days before I type these lines. Remember to be careful when visiting mountains! The water makes the rocks extra slippery and Mother Nature is not merciful.

I like this peak. It’s pointy.

The road behind us.

By now you understand why the road is referred to as an “engineering marvel”

The highest point on the Road, Logan’s Pass feels like a halfway point. It’s buzzing with cars and people, making parking a nightmare. There was also a news crew taking up a lot of space, probably talking about how the Road was now opened for the season.

Before our trip to the park, we had stopped at an outdoors store and bought these 40$ ultra light, ultra tiny, ultra comfy chairs. Best purchase ever! While everyone else was eating stuffed in their cars or on the ground fending off ants, we held our picnic in luxury, totally able to concentrate on admiring the views.

Near me, there was this great sign. They should share these signs with our mountain park.

There are a number of trailheads around Logan’s Pass, though many of the hikes were still impassable due to the earliness of the season. We wanted to make it to the end of the Road and back before collapsing from exhaustion, so we saved hiking for another day.

This gorgeous lake is east of Logan’s Pass.

We did eventually make it to the other side (in case you doubted us)>

A very cool thing about Glacer National Park is that the two sides of the Divide look totally different. The West Side is reminiscent of British Columbia with its big tall trees and rainforest layout. The East Side is all prairie, with few trees and plenty of grasses and short shrubs.

The West Side (St Mary) Park Entrance

See? Totally prairie.

Then we turned around and went back to our hotel. It was a lot of driving, but with plenty of scenery and interesting things to discover. I look forward to bringing my (still unborn, unconceived) children, though I think we would camp/lodge in the park instead of in one of the surrounding towns because doing the Road in both directions, plus the to-and-from the park is a lot of driving.

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2 Responses to Making the Most of a “Forced Vacation”: Going to the Sun Road, Montana

  1. grimmtooth says:

    I have traveled across much of the American West, but Montana is not one of the places on my ‘visited’ list. I am much jelly over your good fortune in having visited there. I hope some day to make my way there. That’s some stunning imagery!

    • Ophelie says:

      It’s definitely worth a visit! I’m not sure how Glacier measures up to other american national parks (there are some really incredible ones, I hear), but we really enjoyed it. Would have liked to camp in the park to have more time there and maybe actually see some of their glaciers. I’m told the winter season has great skiing too.

      Outside the park, Northern Montana (I don’t know about the rest of the State) felt very laid back. Great customer service everywhere, lots of creative restaurants, plenty of artists and craftsfolk showcasing their work and beautiful scenery everywhere (I saved my photos for another post, hopefully). It’s a bit far south for me, but if I had to live south of the border, I would consider Montana as an option.

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