Author Topic: Backside of Glacier??  (Read 672 times)

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Offline Tandem Tom

Backside of Glacier??
« on: March 13, 2024, 08:56:59 pm »
Would like to hear from anyone who has ridden  from Browning, Montana up to St.Mary's then down the Going to the Sun road. Is this a busy road? Or is most of the traffic basically go up and then back down Going to the Sun road.

Offline John Nettles

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Re: Backside of Glacier??
« Reply #1 on: March 13, 2024, 10:28:27 pm »
Tom, I can't give a first hand answer, mostly, but can maybe help.  About 3 years ago (during Covid times), I drove from Babb to Browning on MT-464 and it was a quiet road then with wide open country on semi-gently rolling hills.  As a note, after 45+ years of touring, I tend to look at each new road I am driving as "is this a touring road?" and so though MT-464 is definitely a touring road.  Other than no services, the road was fine. I haven't ridden US-89 between St. Mary and Browning in decades so can't give an accurate comment on that road. 

Also, maybe about 5 years ago, on a tour from Calgary to Spokane, I rode from St. Mary (and Babb) to Apgar via GTTS Road.  I have ridden it both ways and actually like the W>E a bit better.  It really seemed about twice the traffic was in between Apgar and Logan Pass than St. Mary & Logan Pass plus the climb is definitely easier.

Overall, I would say from Browning to Babb to St. Mary to Apgar is a decent ride.  Just be sure to carry enough water & snacks to get you through the 35 mile stretch between supplies.

Tailwinds, John

Offline jwrushman

Re: Backside of Glacier??
« Reply #2 on: March 14, 2024, 09:13:32 am »
Tom, which section are you concerned about traffic volume? At the beginning of July 2019, I rode from Browning to East Glacier on Rte 2, then north on 49 and 89 to Saint Mary before starting Going To The Sun.

From Browning to East Glacier, there was moderate traffic volume, but there was a good shoulder and a passing lane on the long uphills.

Route 49 heading north out of East Glacier was narrow, hilly, and winding, with little to no shoulder, but it was lovely.  If my memory serves me correctly, the road was closed to large vehicles, and it seemed that the locals took another route, so the traffic volume was not bad.

Going to the Sun road east of Logan pass had very light traffic at 10:00 in the morning and this was on July 4th.  But Logan pass was mobbed and the west side of the park had a moderate amount of traffic not all of which was courteous to bicyclists. Especially in the tunnels.  And you're probably already aware that the road from lake McDonald to West glacier is closed to bicyclists from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. due to traffic volume and lack of shoulders on the road.


Offline Tandem Tom

Re: Backside of Glacier??
« Reply #3 on: March 14, 2024, 09:30:22 am »
Our proposed route is
From Browning head north  on Rt.464 to Rt89
South on RT89 to St.Mary Visitor Center
Then down the Going to the Sun Road.

Offline gomojo

Re: Backside of Glacier??
« Reply #4 on: April 16, 2024, 01:40:00 pm »
Hi Tom,
I rode west to east 1.5 times. Fully in the 90s and last in August 2020.  The Montana visitor/population entering from W Glacier area is much greater than the east side. I did not ride the east side in 2020 because the Blackfeet reservation was blocked due to Covid. I would have had to go back up as St Mary's(and NP campground that summer) was effectively closed during that time. I had to change my Amtrak departure to the west side.   
The GttS road is closed only going uphill from Logan Creek(maybe it was Loop Trailhead) to Logan Pass. You can head downhill any time you want. A ranger gave me grief as I was still heading up at 11.10AM but let me continue another 15-20minutes up. Logan pass had plenty of filtered water. I do not know if there are time restrictions from St. Mary's uphill. I don't expect it. NP website will address that side too.
You can always ask the KOA near St Mary's. It was closed in 2020 so someone in a country store/gas station near St. Mary's gave me advice before I began my trip.
The Lake McDonald area was a zoo of autos that summer. Logan pass parking also had restrictions then. I met people who drove up at night since the moon was nearly full. Fish Creek camping was easy for the hiker biker sites while the car sites were fully booked. I(unreserved) was the second hiker biker of 8? sites.

Have a good journey.

Offline Tandem Tom

Re: Backside of Glacier??
« Reply #5 on: April 16, 2024, 04:05:10 pm »
We rode up the GTTSR and I remember that you had to be off the road at certain times. I thought it applied to both up and down.

Offline John Nelson

Re: Backside of Glacier??
« Reply #6 on: April 16, 2024, 04:43:38 pm »
Restrictions change in different seasons, but the following rules  apply when the road is open. You should always check the NPS website, however, for current conditions and restrictions. The following (somewhat contradictory) statements are direct quotes from (different) NPS Glacier web pages, as of today. No guarantees about what you might read tomorrow.

From Apgar turnoff to Logan Pass, bicycles are prohibited going both eastbound and westbound between 3 pm and 6 pm.

From June 15 through Labor Day, the following sections of the Going-to-the-Sun Road are closed to bicycle use between 11 am and 4 pm:
  • From Apgar turnoff (at the south end of Lake McDonald) to Sprague Creek Campground, both directions
  • Eastbound from Logan Creek to Logan Pass




Offline John Nettles

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Re: Backside of Glacier??
« Reply #7 on: April 16, 2024, 05:37:41 pm »
For decades I have thought they should but in a multi-use path at least between Apgar and Lake McDonald.  If not that, then a 3' shoulder.

Offline John Nelson

Re: Backside of Glacier??
« Reply #8 on: April 16, 2024, 06:56:39 pm »
Then down the Going to the Sun Road.
I realize that what goes up must come down, but it still sounds funny to me to hear someone talk about going "down" the Going to the Sun Road. There's just so much "up" before the "down" that it's hard to focus on the down.

Offline BikeliciousBabe

Re: Backside of Glacier??
« Reply #9 on: April 18, 2024, 10:06:28 am »
I have ridden up the west slope of GTS and back down 3 times.  Last time was 2017.  Post-pandemic, the crowds grew so bigh that the NPS has instituted a permit requirement during most of the day.  It's almost certainly going to be busy.  Lots of people drive up from St. Mary, discover that the parking lot at the pass is full, and head down the west slope.  One nice thing is that the west slope is not the sort of place where cars can speed.  You might even have to slow down for the vehicle traffic ahead of you.  When that happens, take the lane.  Start out as early as possible.  It gets light pretty darn early.

Here are two photos of the west side from 2017:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/105349603@N05/53661334497/in/dateposted-public/

https://www.flickr.com/photos/105349603@N05/53662206136/in/dateposted-public/

You can see a few cars,.  There were a lot more.  I timed the shots during breaks in the traffic.  This was early in the season.  Around the 3rd week in June.  The road had just opened fully to vehicles the pass fully morning.  When I left the park the next day, there was a long line of cars waiting to make the turn from U.S. 2 toward the west entrance to the park.

What I found to be the hairiest was the section where the road finally flattens and straightens out.  Most of the incredible views are gone, so people tend to speed.  I have always stayed at Sprague Creek.  Last time I was there, a guy got pulled over by a ranger.  He pulled into the campground.  The ranger issued him a warning speeding.

As noted, during much of the summer, you cannot ride west of Sprague Creek Campground between 11 am and 4 pm.  So if your plan that day is to go farther west, you should take into account that you might have to hang out at Lake McDonald Lodge or the day use area at Sprague Creek.  There are worse places in the world to hang out.

Offline MrBent

Re: Backside of Glacier??
« Reply #10 on: May 16, 2024, 06:36:57 pm »
We were pretty horrified by the afternoon traffic heading west on that afternoon closure section.  The good news (sarcasm) is that the traffic didn't decrease at all when we got back on the road.  Ugh.  Campground in West Glacier was wonderful, and the breakfast they cooked!  Bueno,