Biking to the Sun

As cycling Going-to-the-Sun Road gains popularity, Glacier Guides offers first interpretive bike tours

By Justin Franz
Biking Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park on May 23, 2017. Justin Franz | Flathead Beacon

WEST GLACIER – Sweat is beading down your forehead. Your calves are on fire. Your breathing is heavy.

Biking up Glacier National Park’s Going-to-the-Sun Road is not for the faint of heart. As you pedal your way toward Logan Pass — each wheel rotation a little bit harder — you think, “Why am I doing this? I can see the same scenery from a car in just a few weeks.”

But when you pull up alongside a deer eating lunch or spot a mountain goat spying on you from the rocks above, it all makes sense.

Any trip on the 50-mile trans-mountain highway is a special experience, whether you’re in a car or on a bike. But without the hum of revving engines and squeal of brakes, exploring the Sun Road in spring before it opens to automobiles is a particularly rewarding experience. That’s why in recent years, bikers of all abilities have been flocking to the road in May and June.

In late May and early June, the Sun Road is usually open as far as Avalanche. From there, bikers and hikers can explore the road as far as their feet or pedals can take them. During the week, when plow crews are busy trying to clear the road to Logan Pass, access is restricted at The Loop, but on weekends you can go right up to where the plows have been working.

Perhaps the only thing harder than biking the steep mountain road is finding a parking spot at Avalanche. To alleviate that issue, Glacier Park is working with the Glacier National Park Conservancy to run shuttles between Apgar, Lake McDonald Lodge and Avalanche. The shuttles haul a bike trailer to transport both you and your ride.

Glacier Park officials remind bikers and hikers on the Sun Road to bring bear spray, water and food, just like you would for any other activity in the park. They also ask that visitors be aware of avalanche conditions prior to starting their trip and to avoid known avalanche paths.

For visitors who want to learn more about the park while burning those extra calories, Glacier Guides and Montana Raft in West Glacier are now offering interpretive biking tours on the road. Marketing director Courtney Stone said the raft company is the first ever to get a commercial-use authorization permit for such tours in Glacier.

The interpretive tours cost $110 per person and start at the Glacier Guides’ facility in West Glacier. From there, participants pick their bike, which is then loaded on a shuttle and taken into the park. The entire trip lasts about six hours. Along the way, guides point out interesting wildlife and ecological facts. Stone said it’s an ideal way to explore the park in a whole new way.

“People always ask, ‘What can you do when the Sun Road is closed?’ But the road is never really closed,” she said. “You can always access it on snowshoes, skis, bikes or your own two feet.”

For information on biking and road restrictions, visit www.nps.gov/glac. For information on the interpretive tours, visit www.glacierguides.com.