Biking Glacier’s Sun Road

Biking along Glacier National Park's Going-to-the-Sun Road.

Biking along Glacier National Park’s Going-to-the-Sun Road.

The first person we passed was wearing blue jeans and cowboy boots, and was pedaling a cruiser bike.

He wasn’t taking pictures for Instagram, tracking his ride on Strava or surrounded by a peer group encouraging him to get out on a Friday night and ride.  He was simply out to enjoy Glacier National Park at its finest by biking along the Going-to-the-Sun Road before it opened to vehicles.

Pacing my group was a good friend on a Tour de France-ready road bike. We were traveling light, in full spandex, on bikes especially suited for the rigorous climb ahead.

Despite our surface level differences, my friends and I and the gentleman in jeans were out for the same reason  — a chance to ride the Sun Road and experience Glacier before the crowds arrive.

We all took in the scenery and hoped to see some wildlife, depending on the species, ideally from a distance.

A big horn sheep along Glacier National Park's Going-to-the-Sun Road.

A big horn sheep along Glacier National Park’s Going-to-the-Sun Road.

The Sun Road is a modern marvel right in Whitefish’s backyard. As locals, we are treated to this bike route each spring, which rivals any other in the world. Highlights include views of Bird Woman Falls, getting misted by the Weeping Wall, and the roar of Haystack Creek as it cascades to the valley floor.

Round-trip to Logan Pass from Avalanche Lake is 32 miles with an elevation gain of 3,738 feet. It takes the average cyclist about 2 1/2 to 3 hours to ride, depending on fitness level, snack breaks and photo opportunities.

Attaining the pass is amazing, but the road offers grand vistas starting at The Loop. An even shorter option is to stop at McDonald Falls or along McDonald Creek where you can spy the elusive and rare harlequin duck. I was lucky enough to spot a pair last spring.

The beauty of the road and a chance to ride it in the spring rests in the cool realization that my friends and I, pushing to reach the pass, had no more fun nor a greater experience than the gentleman in jeans.

The Sun Road typically stays closed to vehicles each spring through June while plows clear a winter’s worth of snow and Park crews prepare for a busy summer.

You can still bike to Logan Pass after the road opens to vehicles, but take note of the Park’s cycling restrictions that are in effect from June 15 through Labor Day.

From Apgar to Sprague Creek bicycles are prohibited both directions from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. From Logan Creek to Logan Pass uphill bicycle travel is prohibited from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Local’s tip: Bring an extra layer, a jacket, and gloves — it’s always chilly at the pass. Fenders will keep water from spraying your back and face on the descent.  Sunscreen is always a good idea, as is plenty of water.

— Jason Forrest / This Week Whitefish