Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Going to the Sun (and the Snow)

Going to the Sun
(and the Snow)
The Going-to-the-Sun Road
Glacier National Park, Montana
Sunday, August 28th, 2011

The Going-to-the-Sun Road runs 52 miles across the center of Glacier National Park.  The only purpose of this road is to allow the general public access to the awesome scenery located in the center of the park.

The road took over 20 years to construct and is a maintenance nightmare.  In principal, I am against the construction of roads like this.  But since it is here, I might as well take advantage of it.

Due to the extreme winter weather, the higher elevation sections of the road is only open 3-4 months out of the year.  This winter, the area received about four times the normal snowfall and the road was not able to open up until July 13th which is the latest ever in the history of this road.

The first 15 miles is fairly level as the road runs along the shores of Lake McDonald and then gradually gains elevation alongside McDonald Creek.  We explored this section the previous day so we didn't make any stops until we started getting to the higher elevations.

View from the Going-to-the-Sun Road

Amy at the Heavens Peak Overlook

There was still a good number of snow patches on the higher peaks.  As a result, every where you looked you could see waterfalls coming down the mountainside.  Normally by late August, these are all just trickles, but we got lucky and picked a good year for a late August visit!

The Going-to-the-Sun Road

Many waterfalls coming down the mountainsides

Waterfall alongside the Going-to-the-Sun Road

 Waterfall alongside the Going-to-the-Sun Road 

View from the Going-to-the-Sun Road

During the summer when it is open, the Going-to-the-Sun Road is the most heavily visited area of the park, but since we got an early start on the day, the traffic and crowds were not too bad.

There are several spots along the road where you can see some Glaciers.  I am not really sure how to tell the difference between a Glacier and spots of snow left over from the previous winter, but some of the overlooks had signs.  This overlook was labeled "Jackson Glacier View" 

Jackson Glacier

The last part of the road runs alongside Lake St Mary where we stopped at a few of the many lake view overlooks.  
Lake St Mary and Wild Goose Island

 We made a few stops along the road for some hiking, but I will write about the hikes in separate posts.

After a full day in the park, we checked into our Cabin at Johnson's of St. Mary

Jack and Amy at the "Flat Top" Cabin

Johnson's has a nice full service campground, a small motel, a restaurant, and several rental cabins.  Our cabin was very nice and had a good view of Lower Lake St. Mary.  Our "Flat Top" cabin is named after the mountain that can be seen from the front porch.

view of Lower Lake St. Mary and Flat Top Mountain
Coming up tomorrow:  Jack and Amy hike the Hidden Lake Trail from Logan Pass


HemlockMan said...

I'm waitin' to hear about any Griz sightings! Nice that the water was still flowing there so that you got rushing falls instead of trickles.

Brenda W. said...

What a wonderful year to be in this park with all the snowmelt!! Great pictures!