This aptly-named highway in a remote and inaccessible area of Montana is famous for the epic, far-ranging views of the road, the surrounding plains, and the seemingly endless sky. The vast wilderness panorama should come as no surprise to visitors to “Big Sky Country”, as Montana is lovingly known.
However, this road is full of wonders all its own, as riders will see, at the edge of a gently sloping bowl of fields, the road disappearing into a soaring distance, making cars and bikes alike look as if they’re lifting off to the horizon and into the heavens. This one-of-a-kind optical illusion began with the Blackfoot Indian tribe native to Montana, who named the nearby Going-to-the-Sun Mountain, along with this corresponding natural optical effect on the surrounding plains, hence the name “Going-to-the-Sun Road”.
The name “Going-to-the-Sun Mountain” was originally coined by the native Blackfoot Indians of Montana regarding the story of a deity, Sour Spirit, who came down from the heavens to teach their braves the basics of hunting, and who, open departing back to the sky, left his image on the mountain to inspire future braves.
When officials opened the two-lane road to the public in 1933, they settled on “Going-to-the-Sun Road” both for its unique optical phenomenon, and for the name of this nearby mountain, to replace the original, and less-inspired, name of “Transmountain Highway”.
This unbelievably beautiful 50-mile stretch of road dishes out a roller-coaster ride’s worth of twisties, switchbacks, rises and drops through a ruggedly pristine range of peaks, valleys and passes – the perfect getaway for serious riders eager for a challenging route. Use caution while riding, though, even in the best weather – due to the ravages of the freeze-and-thaw cycle in this forbidding landscape, the road is in a constant state of repair, and large cracks, potholes, drop-offs and repair crews are all potential hazards to keep in the back of your mind.
The route takes you through Glacier National Park, rising 3,000 feet from your starting point at Lake McDonald to the summit of Logan Pass at 6,646 feet, providing endless opportunities for fantastic mountain panoramas on every side. You’ll ride through some of the most majestic scenery in the country, including the regal “Crown of the Continent”, a name which reflects both the grandeur of the scenery you’ll encounter, and the high-altitude peaks you’ll cross to get there.
You’ll want some extra time to take photos of the mountain goats, bighorn sheep, bald and golden eagles, moose and American bison that call this stretch of Glacier National Park their wilderness home. Don’t expect to be able to see them at close range, however – bring your binoculars or crank up the camera zoom for the best effect.
Take a cruise through this craggy and formidable wilderness to experience fresh and frosty mountain air, brilliant sun washing over unforgettable landscapes, and overall, a ride you’ll never forget.
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