Biking Glacier National Park: What You Need to Know

Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park, a popular destination for bikers.  Source;  National Park Service

Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park, a popular destination for bikers.

Source; National Park Service

Biking Glacier National Park can be an unforgettable experience.

The Crown of the Continent encompasses 1,583 square miles brimming with wildlife, alpine lakes, and above-timberline terrain.

Bicycles are allowed in approved areas in Glacier, giving visitors an opportunity to savor the park at a slower pace. In fact, we recommend biking in Glacier as one of the best fall activities in the park.

If you plan on biking Glacier National Park anytime soon, there are a few rules and tips to keep in mind before you do so.

Biking Glacier National Park: General Tips

Visitors can bike all accessible roads in Glacier National Park. This, of course, means that bikers should be prepared to share the road with vehicles and pedestrians—even on more narrow roads like Going to the Sun Road.

The National Park Service recommends a three-foot distance between bikes and vehicles at all times.

Source: National Park Service

Source: National Park Service

While Glacier Park is positively bursting with hiking trails, bicycles are only officially allowed on three trails:

  • Fish Creek Bike Path

  • The old Flathead Ranger Station trail

  • The path from Park Headquarters to Apgar Village (paved)

When the Inside North Fork Road is closed to vehicles, bikers are more than welcome to take this route. In fact, this 28-mile stretch of unpaved road takes mountain bikers through some of the park’s most pristine wilderness! The road culminates in Polebridge, a small town famous for its bakery & mercantile.

Mountain bikers also frequently bike the 14-mile gravel road from Polebridge to Kintla Lake. located in the northwestern portion of the park, very close to Canada.

Going-to-the-Sun-Road is the most popular biking route for cyclists. You can bike Going-to-the-Sun from Apgar or Sprague Campgrounds to Logan Pass or approach the Pass from the east side of the park, beginning at St. Mary.

If you travel from St. Mary to Logan Pass, the trek is slightly easier. Bikers ascend 2,100 feet over eighteen miles, with the steepest portion of the trek occurring at the end.

Summer Limitations

Most people plan to visit Glacier National Park in the summer (peak season). During this time, the park’s roads can by highly congested. After all, over 3.3 million people visit Glacier Park each year!

If a summer at Glacier is in your forecast, be aware of summertime biking limitations before you go.

Between June 15 and Labor Day, bicycles aren’t allowed in these areas between 11:00 AM and 4:00 PM every day:

  • Between Apgar Campground and Sprague Creek Campground

  • From Logan Creek to Logan Pass east-bound (traveling up-hill)

What does this mean for Glacier Park bicyclists in the summer months? If you plan to bike Going-to-the-Sun Road, start as early as possible. The National Park Service recommends four hours to cycle from Apgar to Logan Pass.

Biker Etiquette in Glacier National Park

When biking Glacier, practice basic biker etiquette. This will keep everyone safe, especially you!

Bikers cycle past the iconic Weeping Wall in Glacier National Park.  Source: National Park Serivce

Bikers cycle past the iconic Weeping Wall in Glacier National Park.

Source: National Park Serivce

Stay close to the right side of all roads to permit traffic flow. If you notice more than four vehicles behind you, pull over to allow them to pass. This can ease congestion during the park’s busiest months: June, July, and August.

Use appropriate rear and front reflectors to ensure visibility at all times. Wear a helmet and light-colored clothing. During hotter months, be sure to carry plenty of water.

Just because you’re riding a bike doesn’t mean you’re safe from bears! Always carry bear spray and familiarize yourself with basic wildlife safety before you start your bike tour of Glacier Park. Some roads may be exposed to falling rocks, too, so be aware of your surroundings as you bike.

Biking & Camping

Yes, there are campsites in Glacier National Park open only to hikers and bikers! These hiker/biker campsites are open to all non-motorized traffic.

Some of the most enjoyable Glacier Park getaways involve a long day of biking and an evening at a campsite. It truly can’t get better than this!

Find hiker/biker sites at the following campgrounds:

Keep in mind that campers have to pay a fee per person to stay at one of these sites. This fee is between $10 and $23 (depending on whether or not the site takes reservations). Non-reservation sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

If you plan on staying at a hiker/biker campsite in Glacier Park, be sure to make your reservations (if applicable) early. These slots go fast in the summertime.

Amenities

Be mindful of the fact that certain amenities may be limited on biking routes and during certain seasons. If visiting Glacier National Park in the fall, for example, recognize that many in-park lodging and restaurants may be closed (or soon to close).

Biking Going-to-the-Sun Road can also be strenuous, especially during hotter months. Hydrate accordingly and bring plenty of snacks if you plan on making this trek.

While theft is rarely an issue in Glacier Park, stow your bike(s) properly if left overnight, preferably with an effective lock.

If you need any bike servicing, we recommend Glacier Cyclery. It’s also possible to rent bikes at Swan Mountain Outfitters or Glacier Outfitters.

Biking Glacier National Park in the Spring

Bikers who don’t wish to navigate the summer traffic congestion have another option: Glacier National Park in the spring!

Typically in mid-May, bikers have the opportunity to enjoy a leisurely cycle along the plowed portions of Going-to-the-Sun Road. This iconic road that takes visitors up to Logan Pass and beyond does not fully open to vehicles until June or July. It’s also possible to hike the cleared portions of the road.

The distance of these cleared portions always varies depending on the season and the plows’ progress. Bikers can visit the park’s Road Status page for up-to-date details about hiker/biker openings and closures with Going-to-the-Sun.

If you bike Glacier National Park in May, dress accordingly. It may very well still be winter in the park at this point, and bikers must often navigate significant run-off. Bring layers!

The Weatherwood Homestead welcomes all spring, summer, and fall visitors to Glacier National Park.

The Weatherwood Homestead welcomes all spring, summer, and fall visitors to Glacier National Park.

Biking in Glacier Park

Even the most casual cyclist can find something to enjoy in Glacier. When biking Glacier National Park, be aware of road and trail access. It’s possible to bike all Glacier Park roads during peak season; however, keep in mind summertime biking limitations, especially with Going-to-the-Sun Road.

One of the best times to bike in the Park may be spring-time, when Going-to-the-Sun is partially open to pedestrians and bikers. Autumn can also be a great opportunity for bikers seeking more open roads.

Whatever you choose, Weatherwood will always be waiting to help you begin your journey. Located only twenty minutes outside of the West Glacier entrance, Weatherwood Homestead invites all park explorers to luxuriate in mountain comfort. Inquire now to make your reservation.