Going-to-the-Sun Road is the premier throughway spanning Glacier National Park—from West Glacier to St. Mary. The road snakes from valley floors to the height of Logan Pass and back down into the opposite valley. Along the way are awesome waterfalls, dramatic cliffs, no shortage of massive glaciers, and plenty of wildlife. We encountered both mountain goats and big horned sheep, which only leaves “grizzly bear” on our great outdoors bingo cards.

Goose Island cradled in the heart of Glacier National Park.
Goose Island cradled in the heart of Glacier National Park.

The mountains of Glacier National Park are only 170 million years old, their spiny outcrops have not yet been weathered down to the dignified humps like the Smokey Mountains. They are the wild and unbridled teenagers of mountain ranges. Clear striations can be seen in the cliff faces where lush, green forests have not yet found purchase and give way to solid rock. Glacially fed creeks and rivers have worn paths through the cliff faces, carving out dramatic waterfalls and winding waterways.

Waterfall descending through Glacier National Park.

The road may be paved, but it is still a thoroughfare that divers approach with caution. When the road was completed in 1932, cars were smaller. Today, no vehicle longer than 21 feet or wider than 8 feet is allowed along the road.* Drivers carefully pass each other, attempting to maximize the distance between themselves and the two foot tall guard rail that blocks their cars from sheer cliffs. Oncoming traffic allows as much space as possible, within limits. They, after all, are closely flanked by a wall of rock. Perhaps the resulting accelerated heart-rate only contributes to the awe that all drivers share while peering into the plunging valleys and striking peaks.

While descending from Logan Pass, we spotted a mountain goat in the distance. Fun fact about Mountain Goats: they are really good at traversing mountains. The goat made good time along what seemed like a sheer cliff. It walked right above us, only to turn it’s back to Dodgy and kick small rocks down at the vehicle. We took the hint and moved on.

Mountain goat travels along a ledge above the main road.

The big horn sheep are quite the challenge for park rangers. Visitors may notice the occasional park ranger with a Border Collie or Australian Shepherd roaming about. The pup’s job? Why, what it has done for centuries: round up sheep. In this case, the collies have been trained to handle big horn sheep in areas with a high density of people, such as the Logan Pass Visitor Center parking lot.

Ranger trained dog alert and ready to manage big horn sheep that come too close to the visitors parking lot.
Ranger trained dog alert and ready to manage big horn sheep that come too close to the visitors parking lot. Also, super cute.

Mountain goat reclining on an overlook above Going-To-The-Sun road.

While the collie was keeping a close eye on the parking lot, big horn sheep were running amok less than a mile below. We had stopped to gape at a waterfall. I charged ahead to take pictures but my driver lingered on the side of the road. When we met up, I wasn’t the only one with an interesting shot. My driver had caught something of note on the phone’s camera: a big horn sheep. I was indignant: I wanted to see the sheep! So we returned to the parking lot. Unfortunately, that sheep had wandered further up the road, where I could see it shamelessly flaunting itself for the amusement of other photographers. Fortunately, another ram emerged right across the street and struck a pose. The ridge might as well have been a cat walk as he strutted along, voguing every few steps.

Eventually, he crossed the street to pose by a different Ram, Dodgy, before hopping the fence to scrounge for an early supper.

Big horn sheep strikes a pose along a rise in the land.

Standing between one ram and another.
Going-to-the-sun Road map in Glacier National Park
Going-to-the-sun Road map in Glacier National Park

*We only discovered that Dodgy II is 21.5 feet long after we had already driven through.

Lexi lives in a truck camper down by the river.

post a comment