Going-to-the-Sun Road

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Going-to-the-Sun Road
Going to the Sun Road with Going to the Sun Mountain.jpg
Going-to-the-Sun Road is located in Montana
Going-to-the-Sun Road
Location in Montana
Location Glacier National Park, Flathead / Glacier counties, Montana, USA
Nearest city West Glacier, Montana
Coordinates 48°41′42″N 113°49′01″W / 48.695°N 113.817°W / 48.695; -113.817Coordinates: 48°41′42″N 113°49′01″W / 48.695°N 113.817°W / 48.695; -113.817
Built 1921-1932; dedicated 1933
Architect National Park Service; Bureau of Public Roads
Governing body National Park Service
NRHP Reference # 83001070
Significant dates
Added to NRHP June 16, 1983[1]
Designated NHL February 18, 1997[2]
Going-to-the-Sun Road is located in United States
Going-to-the-Sun Road
Going-to-the-Sun Road
Location in the United States

Going-to-the-Sun Road is a scenic mountain road in the Rocky Mountains of the western United States, in Glacier National Park in Montana. It is the only road that traverses the park, crossing the Continental Divide at Logan Pass. Completed in 1932 and dedicated the following year,[3] the park's fleet of 1930s red buses offer tours on the road.[4] Driven by drivers called "Jammers,"[5][6] they were rebuilt in 2001 to run on propane or gasoline.[7][8] The road, a National Historic Landmark and a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark,[5] spans 53 miles (85 km) across the width of the park.

The road is one of the most difficult roads in North America to snowplow in the spring. Up to 80 feet (24 m) of snow can lie on top of Logan Pass, and more just east of the pass where the deepest snowfield has long been referred to as Big Drift. The road takes about ten weeks to plow, even with equipment that can move 4000 tons of snow in an hour. The snowplow crew can clear as little as 500 feet (150 m) of the road per day. On the east side of the continental divide, there are few guardrails due to heavy snows and the resultant late winter avalanches that have repeatedly destroyed every protective barrier ever constructed. The road is generally open from early June to mid October, with its latest-ever opening on July 13, 2011.[9]

The two lane Going-to-the-Sun Road is quite narrow and winding, especially west of Logan Pass. Consequently, vehicle lengths over the highest portions of the roadway are limited to 22 feet (6.7 m) and that means no recreational vehicles or trailers in excess of this length restriction are permitted beyond two larger parking areas, each located at lower points dozens of miles below Logan Pass, on both the west and east sides of the parkway.

Prior to the construction of the road, it would take the earliest visitors 3–4 days to see the park.


The Road and Logan Pass

The road is named for Going-to-the-Sun Mountain, which dominates the eastbound view beyond Logan Pass. One mythological story tells of the deity Sour Spirit, who returned to the sun after teaching the Blackfeet to hunt, leaving his image on the mountain.[10]


Construction (1932) and Going-to-the-Sun Mountain

The Going-to-the-Sun Road is notable as one of the first National Park Service projects specifically intended to accommodate the automobile-borne tourist. The road was first conceived by superintendent George Goodwin in 1917, who became the chief engineer of the Park Service the following year.[11] As chief engineer, the new road became Goodwin's primary project, and construction began in 1921.

As the project proceeded, Goodwin lost influence with National Park Service director Stephen Mather, who favored landscape architect Thomas Chalmers Vint's alternative routing of the upper portion of the road along the Garden Wall escarpment. Vint's alignment reduced both switchbacks and the road's visual impact, at increased cost.[12] With Goodwin's resignation, Vint's proposal became the preferred alignment. The entire project was finally opened from end to end in 1933, at a cost of $2.5 million.[13]

Cinematic appearances[edit]

This road is shown in the opening credits of the 1980 film The Shining, as Jack Torrance's Volkswagen glides past Saint Mary Lake and up the road, underneath a small tunnel and onward, presumably going to the Overlook Hotel for his job interview as a caretaker. Leftover aerial shots from this footage were used for the closing moments of the original cut of the 1982 film Blade Runner.

This road is also seen briefly in the film Forrest Gump. As Forrest reminisces with Jenny he remembers running across the U.S. and remarks, "Like that mountain lake. It was so clear, Jenny. It looks like there were two skies, one on top of the other." The shots in the background are Going-to-the-Sun Road and Saint Mary Lake.[14]

Points of interest[edit]

The Road near Logan Pass

Points of interest along the road include:


Maintenance work near Logan Pass

Going to the Sun Road is currently undergoing a restoration project by the National Park Service (NPS) and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)[15] to repair damage from many avalanches and rock slides over the years. The repairs (started in the 1980s) include fixing retaining walls, replacing the original pavement with reinforced concrete, and work on tunnels and arches.


  1. ^ Staff (2007-01-23). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  2. ^ "Going-to-the-Sun Road". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved 2007-06-28. 
  3. ^ "Session due on Sun Road improvement". Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Washington). July 18, 1967. p. 6. 
  4. ^ Petterson, Roger (July 15, 2007). "Explore the northern Rockies in, around Glacier National Park". Ocala Star-Banner (Florida). Associated Press. p. 6F. 
  5. ^ a b Davenport, Tom (September 1, 2007). "Natural wonder". Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Washington). Handle Extra. p. 8. 
  6. ^ Reynolds, Christopher (June 29, 1997). "Glacier is scenic, nostalgic - and full of bears". Eugene Register-Guard (Oregon). (Los Angeles Times). p. 4F. 
  7. ^ Wille, Chris (May 5, 2002). "Classic jammers slowly returning to Glacier". Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Washington). p. H4. 
  8. ^ Siano, Joseph (September 1, 2002). "Parks take steps to clean air". Sunday Star-News (Wilmington, North Carolina). New York Times News Service. p. 9D. 
  9. ^ http://home.nps.gov/applications/glac/roadstatus/roadstatus.cfm
  10. ^ "Going-to-the-Sun Road FAQs". National Park Service. October 19, 2009. Retrieved 2010-05-11. 
  11. ^ Carr, p. 160.
  12. ^ Carr, p. 171.
  13. ^ Carr, p. 186.
  14. ^ http://montanakids.com/cool_stories/Movies/Forrest.htm]
  15. ^ Vanderbilt, Amy; Steve Moler (December 2006). "Saving a National Treasure". Public Roads FHWA. Retrieved 2007-08-28. 

Carr, Ethan (1998). Wilderness by Design: Landscape Architecture & the National Park Service. University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 0-8032-6383-X. 

External links[edit]