Glacier National Park was established over 100 years ago. At the time, the fastest way to get anywhere was by train. Eastern tourism was anchored by passenger ships sailing from the northeastern seaboard to Europe. At the same time, the American public had become romanced with the west, its wild ruggedness, adventure, and unforgettable beauty. Louis Hill and the Hill railroad family pressed forward with an ambitious plan to reroute tourism from Europe to National Parks.
Glacier became a summer destination for upper-middle-class travelers who could pay for train fare and services on a multiweek National Park vacation. The idea boomed and soon there were droves of visitors, more accommodations were built, and a network of horseback trails connecting travelers to Mountain chalets. But the Hills soon learned that not everyone can ride a horse, and the automobile industry was growing faster than roads could be built.
In 1921, Congress agreed to provide appropriations to the park to build a "Transmountain Road" through the heart of Glacier Park. Engineering a road through the mountains with 1920's technology was a challenge and a blessing. The park achieved its vision by an engineering feet that still stands today. Please read more of the history of the Going to the Sun road on the Glacier NPS website.
Glacier's famous highway can be accessed from the west side of the park located in the town of West Glacier. Those entering from the eastern side of the park will find the east entrance in the town of St. Mary, located on the Blackfeet Indian reservation.
Locals would advise a very early morning start or late afternoon/early evening start to your trip. The road usually opens for the season in mid-June but can be as late as the 4th of July. Before you visit the park you can check the NPS website to find out the status of the annual clearing of the road.
A trip over the road usually takes 2 hours to an entire day. Traffic can be very slow so it is always best to accept this fact before you enter the park, you will enjoy the ride and scenery if you do. Vehicles stop frequently to admire wildlife, take a photo op, find a picnic, hike a trail, and or to watch a grizzly cross the road. Whatever the delay may be, the environment is stunning, breathtaking, and awe-inspiring. Your time in the park will be amazing and taking your time is highly recommended.
You can access the road through the parks hiker shuttle, it is FREE and takes visitors to a variety of hiking and scenic stops. You can find information about schedules and accessibility on the Glacier NPS website.
National Park Central recommends booking a RED BUS tour during your visit. You can make reservations for the famous open top Red Bus tours on the current operator's website. The Red Buses were refurbished by the Ford Motor Company at the end of the last century. Today the drivers provide a Guided Interpretive tour of the park, its lodges and provides a Glacier treasure trove of facts and history. Don't miss this once in a lifetime experience.
Please visit Nationalparkcentral.com to find more National Park adventure ideas, listing for; lodging, tours, local dining, campgrounds & RVs. You will also find Local experts like Leon Stiffarm, who wrote this article. Leon is a Montanan, he has lived and worked in the park for over 20 years. National Park Central provides insights to National Parks through its local expert and travel blog community. Subscribe to Nationalparkcentral.com and find benefits for all travelers, recommendations from recent visitors, chatbot answers, and local expert knowledge...but most importantly, visit a National Park and Free Your Soul!