Biking the Going to the Sun Road
Looking for the ultimate adventure weekend in the crown jewel of the continent? If you’re excited by fresh mountain air, sweeping vistas, and crystal-clear rivers and lakes filled with rainbow rocks, Glacier National Park is the place for you!
For just a few weeks each year, Glacier’s iconic Going-to-the-Sun Road opens solely to hikers and bikers, leaving the normally crowded road vehicle-free. This rare opportunity occurs at the end of May and early June while snow is plowed from the road.
Does biking the high elevation road sound daunting? Electric bikes make the journey accessible to cyclists of all ability levels, or you can test your strength and stamina on a standard bike.
Glamping at ROAM Beyond
ROAM Beyond created an all-inclusive adventure package for those who are looking for adventure, but also don’t want to skimp on comfort. In addition to accommodation at their mobile cabins, ROAM Beyond covers all the logistics including roundtrip transportation to the Going-to-the-Sun Road, electric or hybrid/gravel bikes, chef-curated meals, and restorative yoga to end the weekend.
Backed by stunning mountains at the base of the Swan Range, ROAM Beyond Glacier is just twenty miles away from Glacier National Park’s West Entrance for an easy and scenic drive to the park in under thirty minutes. You’ll stay in private roaming cabin, thoughtfully crafted with all the necessities, including a kitchenette and bathroom, and extra touches of comfort like down comforters and heated mattress pads. Depending on your choice of bunk vs. dinette, your cabin will include a queen bed and two twin bunks or queen bed and a convertible dinette table.
The stunning twenty-acre Montana estate has a ton of gorgeous communal spaces. The Lodge boasts a sitting room with a bathroom open to all if you prefer a more spacious shower. The School House is equipped with fast WiFi to stay connected with comfy couches and a kitchen space to eat breakfast and pack lunches before heading out for adventures.
The Barn is decorated with string lights and the original ROAM cabin rests here on display. Long tables are surrounded by a fire pit and extra heaters for warmth. There’s even a small gym space tucked into the corner, equipped with a punching bag, weights, and assorted workout equipment.
Each cabin boasts their own personal fire pit, while there are several shared fire pits and grills to gather and mingle with other guests and the friendly ROAM Beyond staff, as well as their furry four-legged friends. Did I mention the property is pet friendly and allows your dogs and cats to ROAM as well?
A man-made pond reflects the surrounding mountains and makes for a stunning photo op, especially as the sun sets to paint the mountains a warm golden hue. Summer weather will provide the opportunity for swimming in the pond, which reaches a depth of seventeen feet on one end, and use of the property’s outdoor showers.
Biking the Going-to-the-Sun Road with Whitefish Outfitters
Eager adventurers were picked up on Saturday morning at ROAM Beyond by Whitefish Outfitters, a local tour company with bikes in tow. Riders have the option of top-of-the-line gravel/hybrid bikes or electric bikes. You are also welcome to bring your own bike.
By booking the package, we didn’t have to worry about making reservations for the Going-to-the-Sun Road to enter Glacier National Park, which is required after May 27, since the tour company handles the permit. We drove alongside scenic Lake McDonald, famous for its rainbow “Fruity Pebble rocks.” As is common in the morning, the lake was still and showcasing a mirrored reflection of the snowcapped mountains behind it.
Our driver pulled over so we could hop out of the shuttle and stroll to the shore of Lake McDonald to take in the awe-inspiring beauty before us. After riders snapped photos, we continued to Avalanche Campground to begin our bike ride.
We selected our Rad Power Bikes, adjusted our seats, grabbed our helmets, and hit the road! I was initially nervous about the bike ride being difficult as I am not an avid biker, and the road is notoriously long and difficult but riding the e-bike made the journey a breeze—I didn’t even break a sweat biking uphill and we biked a total of sixteen miles.
It almost felt like cheating as I cruised past people huffing and puffing on their mountain bikes or as I flew by others who had jumped off their bikes to push them instead. We gave them the chance to catch up as our group stopped nearly every five minutes (or less!) to admire the gorgeous mountain views. Of the eleven people transported together in the shuttle from ROAM Beyond, six of us stuck together on the road, enjoying each other’s company and conversations.
Biking the Going-to-the-Sun Road is a photographer’s dream, with the ability to stop anywhere on the road and not have to worry about watching out for oncoming vehicle traffic. When the road is open to cars, it is typically so crowded that the limited pull-out spots are often already occupied, causing you to miss out on many views, especially if you are the driver. Being on a bike grants you 360-degree views that are often obstructed when you are in a car, especially at the beginning of the road when the mountain views tower above you.
It wasn’t long into our ride that we came across a black bear cub on the road. We stopped as soon as we realized what was ahead of us, as you are advised to stay 100 yards away from bears. Thankfully we didn’t come across an angry mama bear as it ran off the road shortly after, but unfortunately it was too quick for any of us capture a decent photo. Carrying bear spray is a must in Glacier National Park (ROAM Beyond has spare spray if you don’t have one of your own). Be sure you know how to use it and that you are carrying it in an accessible place.
The Going-to-the-Sun Road can be open to bikers as far as Logan’s Pass, but when we visited it was only open to The Loop Trailhead, so we stopped there for our packed lunches before heading back down. If we hadn’t stopped so often, we might have made it to the bar at the Lake McDonald Lodge for a cold beverage, as another group in our tour party did, but we had no regrets with all the gorgeous footage we shot.
As the weeks go by, more and more of the road will be plowed and open to bikers and hikers, until it is finally completely open to vehicles in mid-to-late-June.
Farm-to-Table feast with Montana Craft Kitchen
All that adventuring will work up an appetite! Thankfully ROAM Beyond’s all-inclusive package includes delicious chef-curated meals. One night gourmet burgers are grilled, served with local beers from Tamarack Brewing. The Sip N’ Go Naked Apricot Ale is my personal favorite as the perfect beer to get your palette ready for summer.
The other night, Chef Chris DiMaio of Montana Craft Kitchen prepares an extraordinary farm-to-table meal in the barn. His cuisine is described as “thoughtful and elegant, inspired by his Sicilian heritage and his passion for nature.”
Chef DiMaio wild forages for his ingredients and works closely with local farmers and ranchers to curate a dining experience that is simultaneously luxurious and approachable. He places an emphasis on eating locally and seasonally.
Chef DiMaio’s meal began with Montana morel mushrooms he foraged himself on a crostini with truffled goat cheese, horse radish, and minor’s lettuce, a cool green that also came from the woods in Montana. Everyone helped themselves to seconds, some to thirds—my boyfriend included. I would’ve devoured the entire plate but didn’t dare spoil my appetite for the rest of the feast.
Smoked Bok Choy with ginger, scallions and cilantro, grilled cauliflower with a yogurt sauce, currants, pistachio, and harissa spice, and steelhead trout with sorrel pesto and roasted pepper relish were served alongside a refreshing green salad and a flavorful quinoa salad. I was blown away by the delicious flavors and fresh ingredients and will remember this meal as one of the tastiest I’ve had all year.
We ended our nights around the bonfire, losing track of time while making memories under the stars and over craft beers and gourmet s’mores. Take your pick of 1927 S’mores Company kits—you can stick to Classic S’mores, comprised of honey graham crackers, vanilla bean marshmallows, and bittersweet chocolate bars, or go wild with Moose Tracks S’mores, made of cocoa graham crackers, whiskey salted caramel marshmallows, and peanut butter packets.
Is Biking the Going-to-the-Sun Road Worth It?
I have been to Glacier National Park three times prior to this trip and each time I’ve been on the Going-to-the-Sun Road in a car in the summer or fall. Biking the road before it was open to vehicles in the spring was a unique and unforgettable experience that I would happily do again. It made me feel like I was visiting the park for the first time as I had a whole new perspective to admire the sheer magnitude of the beauty around me.
Whether it is your first or fiftieth visit to Glacier National Park, biking the Going-to-the-Sun Road is an experience you’ll forever cherish and appreciate.
Visiting the park before the Going-to-the-Sun Road opens also means you don’t have to wake up before dawn or go on a weekday to avoid the usual crowds.
There’s still availability to book Roam Beyond’s all-inclusive adventure trip over the weekends of June 9th-12th and June 16th-19th! Click here to learn more here and book your experience with the discount code KRISTA10 for 10% off your booking.
Remember to #RecreateResponsibly – leave no trace, plan ahead, and be wildlife-wise!
Have you ever been to Glacier National Park? Is biking the Going-to-the-Sun Road on your bucket list? Let us know in the comments below what you thought of the experience!
Krista has a passion for travel and outdoor adventures. She’s been to almost 50 countries and was traveling solo in Asia when the pandmeic hit, which brought her back home to Washington. She gained an even greater appreciation for exploring her beautiful backyard in the Pacific Northwest and road tripping around the western United states.