There are RV bucket list destinations, and taking a trip down Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park is a top pick.
Known as one of the most scenic drives in the US, you need to plan before heading out as the route is not always open. The Going to the Sun road closes for seasonal weather and maintenance, leaving only a few months to experience the stunning scenery.
To help you learn more about this must-do adventure, I put together this guide to the best way to enjoy Going to the Sun Road. Inside, I include planning tips and locations of the nearest RV parks so you can take in all Glacier National Park has to offer during your stay.
So stay here to learn the ideal time to visit the park and take in the beautiful scenery only Going to the Sun Road can deliver!
What is Going to the Sun Road?
Known locally as the Sun Road, this 50-mile-long stretch of highway passes through Glacier National Park between the east entrance in St. Mary and the west entrance in West Glacier.
Near the center of the route, you reach Logan Pass, which is the highest section topping out at 6,646 feet.
You can stop at any of the numerous roadside pull-offs to take in the mountainous vistas, alpine lakes, and natural wonders this area of the park has to offer.
If you drive without stopping, it takes around 2 hours to cover the entire 50 miles of the Sun Road. However, with so many points of interest, attractions, and trails along the route, most visitors take several days to explore the area along the way thoroughly.
Please be aware that this road isn’t going to be a fun trip if you have a fear of heights or get easily stressed.
The narrow road has blind corners, tight turns, skirts the cliffside, and has sheer drop-offs in many sections. As a result, drivers need to have their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road ahead at all times to prevent accidents.
Planning Tips for Visiting Going to the Sun Road
Book Going-to-the-Sun Road Entry Ticket
To control traffic on Sun Road, park staff require advance tickets, which are available 60 days out for arrivals between May 28 to September 6, 2021.
Each year the dates for tickets vary slightly to accommodate weather or maintenance issues.
Only one ticket is necessary per vehicle or motorcycle, and they are valid for seven consecutive days from the date of reservation.
Check Vehicle Size Restrictions
If you plan to drive the Sun Road in your recreational vehicle, you must first check size restrictions, as many sections of the road don’t have the width or height clearance to fit all motorhomes, travel trailers, or fifth wheels.
In general, if your motorhome or travel trailer and tow vehicle combination exceed 21-feet in length, 8-feet wide with mirrors, or is over 10-feet high, you’ll have to find another way to experience the Going to the Sun Road.
Best RV Length for Fitting in National Park Campgrounds (Video)
Fuel Up Before You Start
You won’t find gas stations along the Going to the Sun Road, which means you should always have a full tank before starting your trip.
Food is also not sold along the Sun Road after you pass the Lake McDonald Lodge Complex and Rising Sun Motor Inn, so eat beforehand and have plenty of drinks and snacks for the day, with extras for emergencies.
While you may think the road is only 50 miles and you have enough fuel to get you through, you never know what issues you may encounter. Running out of gas will only compound problems for you and anyone who may be behind you on such a narrow and winding passage.
You can fuel up your vehicle at either end of the Sun Road in St. Mary or West Glacier, so top off your tank before you begin.
Have a Daily Itinerary
Planning out your day by choosing specific stopping points along the Sun Road is a great way to keep on track.
While there are dozens of amazing sites to see and trails to take, narrowing down your top choices will give you more time to enjoy each one fully.
Traffic delays are common, so add in an hour or so of buffer time if you plan to cover the entire road in one day. Construction, animal crossings, and people who slow down to take in the views are all part of the Sun Road experience.
Keep in mind that Sun Road pull-offs from the Loop to Siyeh Bend are primarily on the south side of the road, so stop at these as you are traveling east for the easiest access.
My advice is to always try to get an early start to beat the Going to the Sun Road crowds, which tend to become busier from 10 am onward. The road is much more enjoyable when there is less traffic to worry about, and the visitor center parking lot has plenty of open spaces.
Don’t Miss the Logan Pass Visitor Center
The Logan Pass Visitor Center sits where the Going to the Sun Road crosses the continental divide, and it’s a great place to rest and relax along the route.
The visitor center is open seasonally, typically from June through September, but weather conditions can alter those dates, so always check ahead.
Hours run daily from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm until September 6, but it closes at 4:00 pm September 7 through September 26.
The Logan Pass visitor center offers:
- Restrooms and water fountain
- Interior and exterior exhibits
- Trip planning info
- Ranger-led activities
- Trailhead for Highline and Hidden Lake trails
- Parking lot
- Shuttle service
If you want to park and hike a trail or take the shuttle to other sites, keep in mind that the parking fills up quickly each morning, especially during July and August when Glacier National Park tourism is at its peak.
Take the Less Stressful Direction
If you want to experience the fantastic views from Sun Road but are nervous about the elevation, start the route from St. Mary in the east.
Your vehicle will be along the mountainside instead of the outer lane near the cliff edges by traveling west. That little bit of extra pavement in the other lane can keep the heart palpitations under control!
Take Speed Limits Seriously
The Sun Road can be treacherous in areas with hairpin turns that need slow speeds to navigate safely.
Always follow the posted speed limits, and keep your attention on the road.
If you don’t have a co-pilot to aid with directions, study a park map beforehand to know the roads or stopping points you need to access, so you aren’t caught off-guard and need to stop suddenly.
Keep an Eye on the Weather
The weather can quickly change as you reach higher elevations, so keeping aware of the forecast can help you stay safer and avoid problems like rain, fog, sudden snowstorms, or high winds.
The Going to the Sun road is generally clear and sunny during the summer season. Still, conditions can change within an hour, especially during the earlier and later dates the road is open for traffic.
Early mornings and evenings after sunset are also times the weather can create problems for your ride, so do plan to have an accurate weather app on your phone to keep abreast of conditions.
Try the Free Glacier National Park Shuttle
The National Park Service at Glacier offers guests free shuttles up and down Going to the Sun Road, which can allow all your traveling party to enjoy the views without stress.
The shuttles run seasonally and are a hot ticket during peak tourist times, but if you have some patience or plan ahead, you can grab yourself a seat.
An excellent suggestion is to leave your car or RV in St. Mary or Apgar and catch the shuttle from there. As it’s at the beginning of the route, you’ll have an easier time than trying to get on at the Logan Pass Visitor Center.
In order to better manage the shuttle bus schedule to avoid passenger backups, Glacier has implemented the Ticket-to-Ride system that requires guests to book a spot in advance and check-in at the nearest visitor center.
Everyone in your party over age two will need a Ticket-to-Ride, and the reservation is good as a shuttle-bus day pass for unlimited stops and reboarding along the route.
Please take time to visit the Glacier National Park website to learn more about the rules surrounding the Ticket-to-Ride shuttle system if you plan to utilize this free service that runs from July 1 (if the road is open) through Labor Day.
Have a Hiking Pack Ready for Trail Exploration
If you plan to take in some of the many hiking trails along the Sun Road, always carry a backpack with essential items like water, snacks, bear spray, warm clothing, and other emergency gear.
While many of the trails are shorter and well-marked, being ready for any situation is the best way to stay safe when out in the wilderness.
It’s easy to forget you’re in rugged terrain with dangerous wildlife. Even the mountain goats and Bighorn sheep common around Logan Pass should not be bothered.
RV Parks and Campgrounds in Glacier National Park
You can find 13 campgrounds within Glacier National Park, with five of them along the Going to the Sun Road which are:
- St. Mary
- Rising Sun
- Sprague Creek
Each campground has specific regulations on whether or not they allow RVs and the size restrictions for parking. Visit the first-come, first-served campground webpage of Glacier National Park for more specific information about each camping option.
What you may not know is no RV campsites within Glacier National Park offer hookups. Therefore, you’ll need to be self-sufficient without water, sewer, and electricity during your stay if you want to camp onsite.
Camping fees range between $10-$23 per night during the summer, with no refunds given if your plans change.
The use of RV generators is permitted but is restricted to these hours:
- 8:00 am to 10:00 am
- 12 noon to 2:00 pm
- 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm
Individual campgrounds may have different generator-use rules outside of the ones listed above.
Always check Glacier’s campground status page for updates on what sites are open and available each day.
Camping in Glacier National Park between July 1 and Labor Day is limited to 14 days in total to allow more guests to enjoy the facilities.
RV Parks and Campgrounds Near Glacier National Park
If you want to enjoy a journey down Going to the Sun Road but want the comforts of a full-hookup RV camping experience, there are nearby campgrounds within a short distance to the park entry gates.
North American RV Park & Yurt Village
The North American RV Park in Coram, Montana, is only five miles from the west entrance to Glacier National Park. The campground offers stunning views of the Rocky Mountains.
The park boasts spotless campsites and facilities, friendly staff, and spacious campsites. Down the street in Coram, you’ll find fun places to visit and get a bite to eat.
Daily rates range from $75-$84 (includes tax) for full-hookup campsites. Contact the campground directly for information on reservations and months of operation.
West Glacier KOA
The West Glacier KOA is less than three miles from the west entrance to the national park, making it the closest RV campground with full hookups and comfortable amenities for checking out Going to the Sun Road.
The park offers easy access to other local sites and activities, including guided tours and tubing down the Flathead River during the summer.
Daily rates range from $65-$115 for full-hookup campsites. The campground is open May 1 through October 15.
West Glacier KOA (Video)
Mountain Meadow RV Park
The Mountain Meadow RV Park in Hungry Horse, Montana, is 15 minutes outside of the West Glacier entrance to the park.
With restaurants, activities, and the Flathead River for entertainment, this RV park is a great choice for a home base as you explore the Going to the Sun Road.
Daily rates range from $45-$50 for full-hookup campsites. The campground is open May 1 through October 1.
Rocky Mountain Hi RV Park & Campground
The Rocky Mountain Hi RV Park in Kalispell, Montana is 30 minutes from Glacier’s west entrance and is in a central location to many other local attractions.
This small, family-run campground is a hidden gem that fills up fast during the summer season, so make your reservation well in advance. You can book your stay starting on January 3, 2022, giving you plenty of time to plan the rest of your trip to Glacier and the Going to the Sun Road once it opens for guests.
Daily rates are $51 for full-hookup RV campsites, with weekly rates available. The campground website indicates it is open year-round but please call to confirm operational status.
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Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park is more than just a scenic drive. With so many sites to see and trails to hike, you can make a complete vacation out of this single 50-mile stretch of road.
I hope the tips and information in this guide help you plan an RV trip to Glacier National in the summer season to experience the one-of-a-kind Sun Road, and you try out a boondock RV campsite or book at a nearby campground with full amenities.
Going to the Sun Road is only open during a short window each year, so start planning now not to miss this exciting and memorable trip!
"Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore."
-- Andre Gide