Going-to-the-Sun Road was conceived as a way to permit visitors a glimpse of Glacier National Park’s mountainous interior without the need to travel by foot or horseback. Completed in 1932 after 11 years of work, this engineering and scenic marvel accounts for only one day of our spectacular Glacier-Waterton Loop!
From Whitefish, Montana, we’ll visit Fernie, British Columbia, then head east and crest the Continental Divide at Crowsnest Pass before rolling through Alberta prairies en route to Waterton Lakes National Park. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the cross-border Glacier-Waterton International Peace Park features unmatched splendor.
"Glacier National Park is a must-see for anyone. I've been on Going to the Sun Road three other times in a car or van, and it’s nothing like the beauty of being open to the whole grandeur of the road."
Day 1. Whitefish, Montana, 0 miles
We’ll gather in the late afternoon in Whitefish, where we’ll stay for the night. If you arrive early, you might consider renting a mountain bike at the nearby Whitefish Mountain Resort and trying out some of the mountain’s 20 miles of mountain biking trails. You can ride to the top of the mountain in a chairlift and enjoy 2,200 vertical feet of gravity-powered fun!
Day 2. Whitefish to Eureka, 64 miles
Today’s ride is the longest of the entire trip. You’ll pedal over gently rolling terrain with the Whitefish Range rising to your right and the Salish and Purcell mountains on your left. We’ll head for Eureka by way of the heavily timbered valleys of the Stillwater and Tobacco rivers. In Eureka, the Tobacco River Historical Village brings to life this long-isolated area’s Native American culture and railroading and logging industries.
Day 3. Eureka to Fernie, British Columbia, 50 miles
We’ll enjoy rolling terrain today as we pass into Canada. About 20 miles into the ride, you’ll have the option of detouring onto the Jaffray-Baynes Lake Road, following a stretch of the Canadian extension of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route to the town of Elko. It’s a few miles longer than the main route, but the superior scenery and lower traffic make it worth the additional effort. Fernie is a bustling resort town with good bike shops and all kinds of activities.
Day 4. Fernie to Blairmore, Alberta, 43 miles
Today we’ll tackle the 32-mile-long gradual ascent from Fernie to the 4,457-foot summit of Crowsnest Pass and the Alberta border. Lucky for us, what goes up must come down, so the long climb is followed by a great downhill ride. You may be tempted to zip through the town of Coleman, but it’s definitely worth applying the brakes long enough to visit the Crowsnest Museum, with its exhibits on mining, wildlife, and pioneer life.
Day 5. Blairmore to Pincher Creek, 31 miles
Out of the mountains we go and into big ranching country, formerly the domain of the Blackfeet, Peigan, and Kootenai nations. The terrain is rolling and the wind considerable, which explains why wind turbines are becoming more common in the area. Today’s relatively short mileage should leave plenty of time to explore Pincher Creek’s fine Kootenai Brown Pioneer Museum, named in honor of the trapper who was key to the establishment of Waterton Lakes National Park and served as its first superintendent.
Day 6. Pincher Creek to Waterton Village, 36 miles
The first 10 miles or so of today’s ride entail long, rolling hills, which give way to more level terrain that will take us into Waterton Lakes National Park. Before hitting our lodging for the night, you might want to detour into the historic Prince of Wales Hotel to view its immense lobby, relax with a drink, and take in the gorgeous views of expansive Upper Waterton Lake and the mountains beyond. America’s Great Northern Railway built this iconic, grand hotel during the Prohibition era as a way of luring Americans north of the border, where they could still legally imbibe.
Day 7. Layover day in Waterton Village, 0 miles
Waterton Lakes is a wonderful place for a rest day. There’s hiking, mountain biking on singletrack trails, the boat ride to Crypt Lake, fishing, movies at the Opera House, horseback riding, and kayak rentals at Cameron Lake. Or you could simply perch on a rock like a marmot, admiring and meditating on your incredible surroundings.
Day 8. Waterton Village to St. Mary, Montana, 47 miles
Today’s ride involves a considerable amount of climbing as we summit Chief Mountain pass. Just south of Babb, Montana, the dead-end Many Glacier Road runs about 12 miles to the magnificent Many Glacier Lodge, perched on the equally spectacular Swiftcurrent Lake. If you have the time and energy, don’t miss this side trip.
Day 9. St. Mary to Apgar, 50 miles
Today you’ll go up the big hill and down the spectacular Going-to-the-Sun Road. The steady, gradual climb to the summit begins about 10 miles inside Glacier National Park. From the summit, the descent is noticeably steeper than the climb. Whether you’re going up or down, don’t forget to stop and look around now and then because you’ll be riding in one of the most beautiful places on Earth.
Day 10. Apgar to Whitefish, 30 miles
The tour ends back in Whitefish after an easy ride. It includes four miles of the unpaved Blankenship Road, which we take in order to avoid busy U.S. Highway 2 between Hungry Horse and Columbia Falls. At the end of the day, we’ll hold a celebration lunch and toast to a ride well done!
Know before you go
Glacier Cyclery in Whitefish, Montana, can provide a rental bicycle and equipment for your tour. RESERVATIONS ARE RECOMMENDED, especially during the peak rental season of July–August. Glacier Cyclery has a wide variety of bikes for rent, including full suspension and hardtail mountain bikes, touring road bikes, and fat bikes. Touring bikes come equipped with a rear rack. Given advance notice, Glacier Cyclery can install a rear rack on their hardtail mountain bike. B.O.B. trailers are also available and can be installed on hardtail bikes if desired.
Contact Glacier Cyclery for more information:
Glacier Cyclery, 406.862.6446, glaciercyclery.com