Glacier Park and Montana's Bitteroot region

The way back down on the Going to the sun Road Sure is fun...but


The cyclist is well advised to visit America's national parks with caution, for roads are narrow and drivers impatient to find packed campsites. Still no cycling trip in America would be complete without a few Parks on the route. In my opinion the nost highly recommended are Yosemite, North Cascades in Washington State, Yellowstone/Teton, and perhaps most of all this gem in Montana, Glacier National Park. Only one paved road climbs up to Logan Pass and beyond. This shot shows the road as it descends from the pass toward McDonald Lake, still not visible beyond the intervening peaks. The road is in solid conditon, but narrow; and the sense of confinement is made ever more palpable by a rock wall of moderate height which is your sole barrier, from time to time, between the road and an abyss. The climb is steep, but in no place unmanageable; a touring cyclist well trained should find it of minimal challenge. The scenery is specatcular, of mountains, glaciers, and forests. The park has been scoured by numerous forest fires over the decades and attentive climbers will notice, as they sweat their way up the pass, areas with different vegetative patterns on distant ridges. The weather is usually pretty good by midsummer; even midday temperatures stay brisk at the summit. Nightime temperatures are chilly especially under clear skies. Riders northbound from Missoula Montana can take the road that skirts east of Flathead Lake and enter the park at West Glacier. The park has rules that uphill riders must reach the summit by 11 AM; to comply with this rule, get on your way by 8 or 9 AM at the latest from below. Its the best time to climb anyway, as the sun climbs the Garden Wall on one side, flooding the valley below with sunlight; while you climb the Garden Wall in reasonable shadow. After your descent to McDonald lake you can continue north to Waterton Park on the Canadian border. By the way the Park's glaciers are in a state of retreat, due in part to global warming perhaps, but in any case retreating; and may well disappear by the middle of the next century.


But before you get there, enjoy the scenery on your morning climb, too.

Montana is often called 'big sky' country, and it really is appropriate. Something about this state is very big. The air is clear and crisp, especially in the morning, even in midsummer. The rock walls of the Bitteroot range, and here in Glacier Park, seem not so smooth and weathered as in other parks. In Glacier, where the only road--and a narrow one at that--winds thru the park proper, the rest of the park appears so unspoiled and untouched. I recommend you begin the climb from the McDonald Lake side by 8 AM so that you can arrive at the summit by noon. Bicycles are not allowed going uphill on this section between 11 AM and 4 PM, though this is not often enforced and I doubt they would push the issue even if they could. The idea of closing parks to bicycles while allowing oversized vehicles through on a regular basis--which they DO--is absurd. In any case, enjoy the scenery. Pay special attention to the different ages of the forests below you as you climb: fires have devastated the park in the past, and restoration plantings can be clearly seen.