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Going to Sun Road

Old 10-26-21, 07:48 AM
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waterfish_21
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Going to Sun Road

Helo cyclists,

As title says I'm looking to try this route for the first time in the spring. Anyone here have any experience with it? How hard is it, what type of bike should I bring(I'm not planning to rent or use an e-bike)? Do I need an 11-34 cassette? I'm average/below average road cyclist, doing 10-12k miles a year.
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Old 10-28-21, 03:56 PM
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I’ve ridden up and back down the west slope 3 times and up the west and down the east (fully loaded) once.

Spring? When in spring? Mid-June is almost certainly the earliest it will be open.

Heading east, you have to reach Logan Pass by 11 am or risk a fine. Heading west, you cannot ride between Sprague Creek Campground and Apgar between 11 and 4. Same heading east.

IIRC, the ruling grade on the west slope in under 8%. But the climb can be long depending on where you plan to start. Can’t hurt having low gears. Where do you plan to start?

Definitely bring foul weather gear. Start extremely early to beat as much car traffic as possible. It’s also the best time to possibly see wildlife, including bears.

Bring plenty of nutrition. There is none available between Rising Sun at Lake McDonald Lodge, which is a must-see.

If you provide more details of your plan I may be able to offer more advice.

Last edited by indyfabz; 10-28-21 at 04:01 PM.
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Old 11-15-21, 10:07 AM
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Old 05-31-22, 10:59 PM
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Still going?

I went last year and I want to do it again this year.

I plan to Amtrak into Whitefish with my bike and arrive on either June 16th or 23rd depending on the weather (Last year I got soaked on the ride between White Fish and West Glacier).

With the pandemic there were lots of campsites available last year. Both bicycle sites and regular campsites.

This year the regular campsites are completely booked starting early June even though most of the roads are still closed. I am hoping that other cycle tourists will be welcoming and willing to share the bike campsites. Otherwise it is going to be a big complication. Last year I camped at Apgar. This year I would like to camp at Sprague Creek. I'm an old guy and the extra miles to Apgar took a toll on me even though it is flat along the lake shore.

Last year I spent a couple nights in Whitefish State Park after 2 nights in Glacier. I will probably do the same this year. The downside of the State Park is that there are freight trains all night long. If you go to the State Park bring your swimsuit. I didn't have one last year.
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Old 06-02-22, 04:39 AM
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Originally Posted by kevmcd View Post
I went last year and I want to do it again this year.

I plan to Amtrak into Whitefish with my bike and arrive on either June 16th or 23rd depending on the weather (Last year I got soaked on the ride between White Fish and West Glacier).

With the pandemic there were lots of campsites available last year. Both bicycle sites and regular campsites.

This year the regular campsites are completely booked starting early June even though most of the roads are still closed. I am hoping that other cycle tourists will be welcoming and willing to share the bike campsites. Otherwise it is going to be a big complication. Last year I camped at Apgar. This year I would like to camp at Sprague Creek. I'm an old guy and the extra miles to Apgar took a toll on me even though it is flat along the lake shore.

Last year I spent a couple nights in Whitefish State Park after 2 nights in Glacier. I will probably do the same this year. The downside of the State Park is that there are freight trains all night long. If you go to the State Park bring your swimsuit. I didn't have one last year.
Sprague Creek doesn’t have individual biker sites. You camp in the infield of the loop. There are several tent pads and picnic tables. If the pads are taken the host will almost certainly allow you to pitch on the ground. Bonus is that you can walking to the lodge. I love Sprague Creek.

BTW...You should check Glacier's official website. Sounds like plows are still encountering 30' drifts at Triple Arches on the west slope, and bad weather has been slowing operations. Word 'round the campfire is that the road may not open fully (at least to cars) until late June or even early July. I definitely think the middle off June would be too early if you are looking to ride up all the way. As of a couple of days ago there was a hard closure at The Loop for hikers/bikers due to avalanche concerns and bear activity.

Assume you are following the ACA routing between C-Falls and W. Glacier rather than taking U.S. 2 through Hungry Horse. If not, I can show you the way.

I stayed at Whitefish Lake State Park in 2017 and 2019. Great hiker/biker amenities. Rail traffic was minimal to non-existent at night, but trains did start up at dawn. At least they no longer blow their horns at the grade crossing on the road leading to the park entrance. What's known as a "quiet zone" was established. That town has undergone a large expansion. I first rode through there in 1999 and then again in 2000. Returned in 2009 for a loop tour. When I rode into town in 2017 I could not believe what I saw. So much development on the west side of town. I am virtually certain that the golf course and that housing along/just off U.S. 93 was not there in 2009.

Last edited by indyfabz; 06-02-22 at 07:28 AM.
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Old 06-02-22, 06:44 PM
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I am glad to hear that Sprague uses a common area for bike campers. I wish bike camping in every park was configured this way. Not sure why the Visitor's Center told me to camp in Apgar last year because Sprague might be full.

I've been watching the Glacier website for road conditions and I won't buy my train ticket until I am sure the road will be open. There is always a chance that an avalanche will close the road again before I get a chance to ride up the road but it should be a fun trip anyway.

Instead of taking the train directly back to Portland I think I will go through the Seattle area (Edmond Station) and take the ferry and spend the night on Bainbridge Island and visit the bicycle museum at Classic Cycles.
Classic Cycle Bainbridge Island Bike Shop

Maybe go by the Bainbridge BARN and take a tour of their woodshop (if I am there on a Monday)
https://bainbridgebarn.org/
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Old 06-03-22, 04:15 AM
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BITD 14 if us camped at Sprague Creek during a group cross country tour. The employee who told you that probably didn’t know how the hiker/biker area works there. Parks like Glacier don’t like to turn away people on bikes or foot because they might end up wild camping. That can spell trouble in bear country. The number of regular sites there is relatively small. In the 20’s, IIRC. But the infield is quite large.

When I was there in 2017 the long-time host was really nice. His wife gave me some fresh baked cookies. They also had some amenities for non-motorized campers, like an axe for chopping wood and a couple of camp chairs.

If you have the time, Fort Worden Stste Park in Port Townsend, WA was neat. It was a major filming scene for An Officer and a Gentleman. I believe they have some hiker/bikers sites as well.
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Old 06-22-22, 08:55 PM
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Bought my train ticket this morning. Leaving for Whitefish at 4pm tomorrow afternoon and arrive at 7am Friday morning.

The road probably won't be open to the top this weekend but I want to go before the 4th of July crowd arrives. The Going to the Sun Road was the highlight of my trip last year but the whole trip was fun (except sleeping in my seat on the train). It should be a good trip even if I can't go to the top. This year I will remember my swimming suit so I can swim in Whitefish lake.

The trains from Whitefish to Edmonds were sold out so I will skip Bainbridge Island this trip and maybe just do it as a 3 day trip on its own.
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Old 06-24-22, 04:34 AM
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Check the park website. The road status page will tell you where the hiker/biker closure point is on the weekend. They got up to 2’ of new snow near the summit within the last week that created avalanche danger.

Swimming in Whitefish Lake? Brrrrr! Expect shrinkage.
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Old 06-24-22, 07:31 AM
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Originally Posted by kevmcd View Post
Bought my train ticket this morning. Leaving for Whitefish at 4pm tomorrow afternoon and arrive at 7am Friday morning.
Here you go. Doesn't look like you are going to make it all the way up, but you can get beyond the Loop:

Directions, Transportation, & Road Conditions - Glacier National Park (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov)

The red pin is where you can cycle Friday through Sunday, when crews are not working.

Ride very early. Avalanche danger increases as the day goes on, especially if it is sunny. A couple of years ago some riders who went up late in the day got trapped by an avalanche that blocked the road behind them. They had to wait for hours until crews could clear the road.

https://www.nps.gov/glac/learn/news/19-23.htm

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Old 06-24-22, 05:44 PM
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Latest word from the NPS is that GTS will not open fully by the July 4th weekend due to spring/summer storms that have delayed road clearing operations.

Recent photo from the park’s Facebook page.


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Old 06-29-22, 10:28 AM
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Got home on the train yesterday morning. 2 nights in Apgar campground and 1 night in Whitefish State Park and 1 night each way in my seat on the train. I decided to stay in Apgar vs Sprague because of all the road construction and timed road closures between Apgar and Sprague and I didn't like the idea of being trapped at Sprague for most hours of the day and night. Actually I would have been fine at Sprague but access to restaurants and stores is much better at Apgar and I knew I wasn't going to be allowed to ride to the top so I wasn't concerned about the extra miles from Apgar to Logan Pass. Plus it was nice to socialize with a couple doing a cross country trip I met riding from Whitefish to Glacier. One of the highlights of the trip was a 2 hour talk in the Apgar Amphitheater by one of the rangers on the geology of Glacier Nat'l Park. There are probably ranger talks at all the campgrounds and it is worth checking the schedule on your way into the park.


Checking today's plow progress I see that they have made it over the pass from the west side. I would not be surprised if the pass is open to bicycles this weekend. There was more snow beside the road than last year but up to Big Bend (about a 1/2 mile below triple arches) there was nothing taller than 2 feet and no patch along the edge of the road continued for more than about 20ft.


I have only visited Glacier twice but I like doing it in June when the road is still closed to motor vehicles because there are no mosquitos and the campground is not crowded. The campground was fully booked but the ranger said they had a 20% no-show rate.


It was surprising how many more electric bikes there were this year. I think maybe 10 electric bikes for every non-motorized bike. The electric bike rental business is exploding at Glacier and I think that is probably a good thing. Not so many non motorized bikes probably because the road wasn't open to the top.

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Old 06-29-22, 03:08 PM
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Assuming you took the “back way” to W. Glacier (Blankenship, Belton Stage and Lake 5, what’s are the roads like these days? My first time going that way was in 1999. By 2017 more of the miles had been paved, and there were signs about additional improvements coming. Wondering if more has been paved.

Back in ‘99 there was no road sign for Lake 5. The ACA cue was something like right at telephone junction box whatever. I and the woman in our group who I was riding with missed it and ended up staying straight on Belton Stage, which eventually takes you where you want to go. But we stopped a local motorist to ask for directions. He told us we were on a major bear route and asked if we had bear spray. When we responded “no” and said we would be ok he shook his head and said “Suit yourselves!” as he drove. Kept our heads on swivels until we got back to U.S. 2.
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Old 06-29-22, 07:30 PM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
Assuming you took the “back way” to W. Glacier (Blankenship, Belton Stage and Lake 5, what’s are the roads like these days? My first time going that way was in 1999. By 2017 more of the miles had been paved, and there were signs about additional improvements coming. Wondering if more has been paved.

Back in ‘99 there was no road sign for Lake 5. The ACA cue was something like right at telephone junction box whatever. I and the woman in our group who I was riding with missed it and ended up staying straight on Belton Stage, which eventually takes you where you want to go. But we stopped a local motorist to ask for directions. He told us we were on a major bear route and asked if we had bear spray. When we responded “no” and said we would be ok he shook his head and said “Suit yourselves!” as he drove. Kept our heads on swivels until we got back to U.S. 2.
My previous reply to this message apparently didn't post but excuse me if it is a repeat post.

The reason I didn't worry too much whether the Going to the Sun Road was open to the top is that I enjoy the complete experience including the ride from Whitefish to West Glacier and in particular the Belnap Stage Road and Blankenship road portions of that ride. Those roads still have a lot of gravel but the gravel is not deep and there is no washboard. I am sure there are bears on these roads as they say there are bears in downtown Whitefish. But there are ridiculous amounts of wealth in these areas and you won't see any rustic cabins other than quaint "faux rustic" ones. Much of the ride from Whitefish to West Glacier could pass for a ride near a far suburban country club.

Last year I got verbal instructions on the route from Whitefish to West Glacier from a local bike shop and since then I have just ridden it from memory. I know I missed Lake 5 road on my way back this year and it was no problem. Just now I looked at Google maps and I see the Lake 5 route is longer so I assume it has less gravel or less hills but Belnap Stage was no problem.

It would be nice if Columbia Falls benefited more from the wealth in the area. I wanted to eat breakfast there but instead opted for 2 teriyaki chicken drumsticks and a grapefruit from the Smith's FoodKing.
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Old 06-30-22, 03:36 AM
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Heh. I stopped at Smith’s the last time I left the park on the way to Bigfork.

Saw this on either Blankenship or Belton Stage.


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Old 07-01-22, 04:43 AM
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Now the NPS says not before July 13th.
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