Sunday, August 26, 2012

Going-to-the-Sun road trip day one

MONDAY AUGUST 20th, 2012

The primary purpose of this relatively short road trip was to drive the famed Going-to-the-Sun Road in Montana's Glacier National Park. It's a stretch of road that I have wanted to drive for quite some time and it was well worth the wait.

The first part of our journey took us down familiar roads south from Calgary to Nanton on Highway 2, the major north/south route in Alberta. We headed west from Nanton along highway 533 to join up with Highway 22, also known as the Cowboy Trail, at Chain Lakes Provincial Park. From there we continued south to Highway 3, the Crowsnest Highway and then west again to Crowsnest Lake Bible Camp where we dropped off our daughter for 10 days. After a short visit we turned east on Highway 3 back through Crowsnest Pass where we ran into some heavy rain and then south through Pincher Creek towards the Canada/US border along Highway 6.

The scenic drive from Pincher Creek to the border.


We crossed into the US at Chief Mountain Border Crossing. This is one of the smaller crossings that's only open from mid-May to the end of September. 

Chief Mountain and its namesake border crossing from the Canadian side.

Once across the border we were welcomed to Montana and then proceeded to St Mary, the eastern gateway to Glacier National Park.

Welcome to Montana

Map of the Going-to-the-Sun Road

At the Glacier Park visitor center

We spent some time at the visitor center gathering up some info on the drive and possible stops along the way. The first of our stops in the park was at Sunrift Gorge. After finding a parking spot we took a very short trail to see the gorge which looks as if someone just took a very long knife and cut a swath into the rock to allow the creek through.

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At Sunrift Gorge

I and E at Sunrift Gorge

E, me and I at Sunrift.

At Sunrift

Next stop... St Mary Falls. Only a short drive further up the road we stopped to take the short hike up to these spectacular falls!

On the road between Sunrift Gorge and St Mary Falls

E leading the way up to the falls

Me and my growing boys!

Sharon at St Mary Falls

While on our way to and from the falls we heard a lot of thunder but were spared any rain... until we headed off to our next stop, Logan Pass Visitor Center. Here's were the road started to get interesting with some drop-offs to the left and rock faces on the right. Throw in a tunnel and a waterfall and we are now getting a taste of what's to come!

Between St Mary Falls and Logan Pass

Between St Mary Falls and Logan Pass

Coming out of the East Tunnel.

As you can see in the pictures it started to rain, in some spots quite heavily, as we made our way up to the Logan Pass visitor center. This made the drive even more interesting! I initially missed the turnoff to the visitor center so I did a quick u-turn and found the entrance. Parked the car close to one of Glacier National Park's "red jammer" tour busses.

Hard to choose from so many awesome views.

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A Logan Pass Visitor center with a "red-jammer"

The Hidden Lake trailhead.

After a tour of the visitor center we continued our westward trek. First around the Oberlin Bend, across the Triple Arches, then the Big Bend past the Weeping Wall to the Bird Woman Falls Overlook.

We're going down there? Just before the Oberlin Bend.

Just wide enough.
Aim carefully.

Drop off just past the Triple Arches.

Bird Woman Falls
At the Bird Woman Falls Overlook

E. enjoying the view

We were all getting a bit hungry so our next stop would be Avalanche Creek Picnic area. After the Bird Woman Falls Overlook we went around "The Loop", the only switchback on the entire route! After that the road drops into the tress and follows McDonald Creek.

The West Tunnel just below "The Loop"

On the way down.

I. on the shores of McDonald Creek after our picnic supper.
Almost down... as is the sun.

We finished our meal and continued along the shores of Lake McDonald as the sun set behind the mountains. The end of this spectacular 50 mile drive came too soon as we passed through the gates of the west entrance to Glacier National Park. The rest of the day's drive was fairly typical Montana highway fare as we made our way to our hotel in Columbia Falls.

To close off this post I will say that we will be back! The driving was a lot of fun and the views simply stunning. There is so much along the route we would like to do so rather than say good-bye I will close off with see you later.

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