Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park

Going to the Sun Road

The Going-to-the-Sun Road is truly an engineering marvel. One of the most beautiful pieces of mountain road in the world, it meanders through the heart of the Glacier National Park, up the steep slopes of the Continental Divide, and over 2,026-meter (6,646-foot) Logan Pass. 

The Going-to-the-Sun Road is truly an engineering marvel. One of the most beautiful pieces of mountain road in the world, it meanders through the heart of the Glacier National Park, up the steep slopes of the Continental Divide, and over 2,026-meter (6,646-foot) Logan Pass. 

The Sun Road, as it is also known, was built mostly between 1921 and 1937, is a National Civil Engineering Landmark. Thomas Vind, the landscape engineer, designed a road that abandoned construction norms of the time and embraced a newly adopted NPS policy that stressed the importance of harmonizing park improvements with the landscape. He proposed a road carved directly into the Garden Wall, a 4.8-kilometer (3-mile) section of nearly vertical cliffs near the summit of Logan Pass. The design replaced 15 switchbacks and hairpin turns with flatter grades, less environmental impact, better panoramic views, more sun exposure for faster spring snowmelt and only one switchback—The Loop.

The high-mountain section over Logan Pass was built into the sides of near-vertical cliffs using a network of stonemasonry bridges, tunnels and arches. A series of 130 retaining walls support the roadbed along the steepest sections, and more than 11 kilometers (7 miles) of guard walls and guardrails help guide motorists and keep them on the road. These stonemasonry guard walls give the road much of its historic character and architectural aesthetic appeal.

Seventy years of rockslides and avalanches, severe weather, heavy traffic and inadequate maintenance left the road in urgent need of repair. Without aggressive action, the historic structures for which the Going-to-the-Sun Road is so admired might have been lost forever.

The National Park Service (NPS) and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) have begun a rehabilitation project of epic proportion to save this national treasure. While the most urgent structural repairs have been completed, the remaining repairs to damaged and deteriorating stonemasonry retaining walls and guard walls, inadequate drainage systems, crumbling pavement and tunnels and bridges could take another 10 years. Safety improvements will be made at high-priority rock fall locations and at pullouts, overlooks and parking areas, all while limiting impacts on visitors. 

If you are delayed as you take in the park's spectacular scenery—glacier-carved peaks, deep blue lakes and lush forests—remember that you'll be seeing a project of unprecedented scope and magnitude. Indeed, you'll be witnessing history remade!