We’ve seen and heard just about everything in our ten years in Glacier. So, we have compiled some of our most frequently asked questions about biking Going-to-the-Sun Road to help you with your planning.
Glacier Outfitters rents high quality E-Bikes and Hybrid Bikes (which is a cross between a mountain bike and road bike). We also have kids bikes and pull behind trailers for the little ones. Keep reading to see our most frequently asked questions about biking the road and then head over HERE to make your reservation before we sell out!
Glacier receives lots of snow every Winter, so Going-to-the-Sun Road is typically covered in snow until road crews begin plowing in late April. Typically, you can bike GTTSR from late April or early May, until late June or early July. Plowing takes time though, and there is usually more than one setback each year due to additional Spring snowfall or avalanches while they are plowing.
In 2023, "bike season" will begin on May 16th and will continue until the road has been completely cleared, usually in late June or early July. Once they complete plowing, the road will then open up to cars and we do not recommend biking GTTSR with cars. While we can't predict where road openings/closings will be on any given day, we recommend planning your trips for biking GTTSR sometime between late May and Mid June.
It’s been years since I rode a bike/I had knee surgery/I’m older, will I be able to do this bike ride?
Everyone has different ability levels and should know their own body and limits. That said, Biking Going-to-the-Sun Road isn’t a cakewalk. But, if you take your time and have patience with yourself, you can likely succeed at it. It is also not unusual (or shameful) to walk your bike up a hill if you need to from time to time. Also, renting an E-bike will help you quite a bit on the more difficult uphill sections. Ultimately, every person is different and everyone has different ability levels, so consult with your doctor before riding if you have concerns.
That depends on where the biker road closure is the day that you ride. Our best advice, is to take your time and make a day of it. This isn't a race, this ride is meant to be done at a slow enough pace for you to enjoy the views. Plan for lots of picture breaks, pack a picnic and plan to make a fun day of it! Our bike rentals are full day rentals, you can pick them up as early as 7am and they need to be returned before 6pm. We recommend allowing yourself a minimum of 4 hours to bike, but also keep in mind that our shop is located 15 miles from the Avalanche Creek parking area where the ride begins, so you'll need 45 minutes on either end for driving to/from our shop, which will put you closer to 6 hours.
This answer varies depending on when you are here. Typically in late April and into mid May the plow trucks are just beginning to work, so usually you are biking from McDonald Lodge to possibly Avalanche Creek, which is about 10 miles round trip. The Avalanche Parking area usually opens in mid to late May, after all of the ice has melted from the parking lot. Once that happens, you will want to start your bike ride from Avalanche. How far you are able to bike on any given day depends on where the plow trucks are working, how far they have plowed, and Avalanche conditions.
For those hoping to bike all the way to Logan Pass…good luck! There are typically about 2-4 days a year that the road is completely plowed and open only to bikers all the way to Logan Pass, so you need to have really good luck and impeccable timing! If GTTSR is open all the way to Logan Pass, the total ride from Avalanche to Logan Pass, and back, is about 32 miles. But, honestly if you can bike even just a few miles of the road without cars, it is well worth your time and effort!
Typically you drive to the parking lot for Avalanche Trailhead/Campground and start your bike ride there. However, in early season when the road is just starting to be plowed, it may only be open to cars to Lake McDonald Lodge and you will park there and begin your ride from there. Our shop is 10 miles from McDonald Lodge and 15 miles from Avalanche Trailhead, we highly encourage you to rent a bike rack or take a shuttle to get to these starting points. Cars are allowed on the road to these points and there is no bike lane, or shoulder. If you choose to bike from our shop, you are adding up to 30 miles round trip to your ride, and biking on the road with cars the entire way. Wherever you begin your ride is also where you will end your ride.
No, you can bike 7 days a week usually. How far you can bike varies daily throughout the season, though. While this changes day to day, and even year to year, typically speaking, you can expect to bike to a “Road Crew Closure” Monday-Thursday, while plow crews are working. This usually means you can bike to a point that is a safe distance away from where the plow crews are currently working that day. On days when the plow crews are not working, Friday-Sunday, you can bike to the "Avalanche Closure" which is the determined furthest/safest point for that weekend. This location changes due to plowing progress and weather conditions. The location of this closure is determined by an Avalanche Expert every Thursday evening.
Ultimately, there is no way for anyone to predict how far you will be able to bike on any given day. Just know that no matter how far you are able to bike, you are getting to experience an amazing once-in-a lifetime bike ride and any distance you can ride is going to be memorable! For road closure points, check the GNP road status page. the morning of your ride.
We don't recommend starting the ride from our shop in Apgar Village. We are located 10 miles from Lake McDonald Lodge and 15 miles from Avalanche Trailhead. If you start from our shop, you are adding 20 to 30 miles extra round trip to your ride and those miles are biked on the road with cars. There is no bike lane or shoulder on Going-to-the-Sun Road, so you should be a highly skilled road bikers that is used to biking narrow roads with lots of traffic.
We rent two types of bike racks to make it easy for you to drive your bikes from our shop to McDonald Lodge or Avalanche. Our car bike rack attaches to most vehicles and can hold 2 E-bikes or 3 Hybrid Bikes. Our hitch rack, attaches to your trucks/SUVs that have a receiver, they can hold 3-4 E-bikes and up to 5 Hybrid bikes. We also offer a shuttle for guests who don't want to drive or are renting more bikes than the carriers will hold, the shuttle is $35 per person and reservations are required. You can learn more about our shuttle on our Shuttle Page. Usually on weekends, the park service will also run a free hiker/biker shuttle, for hours and info on their shuttles please visit their website here
No. No cars, trucks or shuttles are allowed past the road closure, only hikers and bikers. You will be biking uphill from Avalanche (or Lake McDonald Lodge) and then will need to turn around and bike back to where you started. No cars, trucks or shuttles are allowed past the road closure, only hikers and bikers. We do however offer a shuttle for you and your bikes that starts in West Glacier and drops you off at Avalanche. Learn more about our shuttle HERE, then text us to reserve seats.
Because of the uncertainty with when GTTSR will be fully plowed, trying to schedule a time to bike GTTSR in its full entirety from Avalanche to St Mary and back, is REALLY hard--if not impossible! There is usually a 2-4 day window where GTTSR is plowed all the way to Logan Pass and down to St Mary, trying to plan a trip around that is impossible, as it could be anywhere from mid-June to mid-July. Unless you live here and have the ability to bike the road at the drop of a hat, we wouldn't bet on being able to bike from Avalanche to St Mary.
The incline varies throughout the ride, but in total from Avalanche Creek to Logan Pass, you gain about 3,200 ft in almost 16 miles. To further break that down:
For some people…yes! Everyone has different fitness levels and only you know your body and what it is capable of. It is important to note that you still have to pedal an E-bike, it is not a throttled bike, so you are still putting in the work. In its highest setting an E-bike is essentially going to give you one ‘free’ pedal for every pedal you make, so it will help you significantly when going uphill. It isn’t going to make it effortless by any means, but it will get you up the hill quicker than if you were riding a regular bike. If you don’t bike or workout regularly, you may want to consider an E-bike. All that said, it is not impossible to do the ride without an E-bike either, you just may ride a bit slower and need to take a few more breaks.
Our E-bike batteries typically have a range anywhere from 15 to 60+ miles, but it all depends on the rider and how they are using their E-bike. If someone is riding in Turbo the entire time, their battery is going to die much quicker than someone who is riding in Eco or Sport mode. Furthermore, a rider's weight factors into battery use as well.
Keep in mind that you really only need enough battery to make it to the top/road closure, which at most is 16 miles to Logan Pass. Once you reach Logan Pass (or the road closure for that day) you will then turn around and be biking downhill, which won't require any battery until you reach the flats a few miles from Avalanche.
In all of our years in business, we have only had a handful of guests each season come back and say they ran out of battery before reaching the turn around point. Just remember to turn off your E-bike when you take breaks and to conserve the battery when on flat or downhill sections, and you should be good to go!
Weather changes frequently in the mountains, especially in Spring and early Summer. Generally, we recommend that you wear pants that are easy to bike/hike in, not jeans. We also suggest wearing wool socks, as cotton is not very insulating or wicking. Our bikes have flat pedals, so any tennis shoe or hiking boot will work on your feet, we don’t recommend open toed shoes. Lastly, bring a backpack and be prepared for all 4 seasons! Have a rain jacket, gloves, balaclava, extra pair of socks, sunglasses and extra warm layers in your backpack. It could be cold when you start in the morning and then warm up 30 degrees as you ride, or it may be sunny to start and then rain or snow half way through the day–so just be prepared for anything!
Glacier National Park is home to 71 species of mammals, and sometimes it may be easier for them to walk the clearly plowed roads than trudge through snow in the woods. You may see black bear, grizzly bear, mountain goats or bighorn to name a few common critters of bike season. We highly encourage you to have bear spray on your body at all times, not on your bike or in a backpack, you want it easily accessible. And remember to keep proper distance from all wildlife. You should keep 100 yards away from bears or wolves, and 25 yards from any other animals. If your presence is causing the animal to behave differently, you are too close. Remember, we are biking/hiking in their home, so be respectful of them.
There are some bike racks at Avalanche Trailhead parking for you to lock your bikes and go for a walk on The Trail of the Cedars, or all the way to Avalanche Lake. You can also group your bikes together to a tree if the racks are full. If you are renting bikes from Glacier Outfitters we have bike locks that you are welcome to borrow for the day. Be sure to check trail status before planning your day, some trails may not be open yet due to snow coverage. You can view trail status on the GNP website HERE.
Vehicle Reservations for the West entrance are required in 2023 starting on May 26th. You will need a vehicle reservation to enter through the West Entrance to get to our shop in Apgar Village, and to the Avalanche Trailhead where the bike ride begins. However, if you are renting bikes from us at Glacier Outfitters, your bike reservation will serve as your vehicle reservation for that day. Just show your confirmation email at the gate with your Annual National Park Pass or Glacier 7-day Pass.
You can learn more about Vehicle Reservations on our Vehicle Reservations FAQ Page.
To buy an annual National Park Pass or a Glacier 7-day Pass, CLICK HERE
Every child is different, but typically children have much more stamina and energy than adults! Depending on your child's activity levels at home, this may be a breeze for them or they may complain the entire way to the top. We like to encourage families with children to try it, bike as far as the family can go together and celebrate how far your kids are able to make it, then turn around when they can’t go any further. Do make sure that your children know how to properly brake on downhill sections, as they will pick up quite a bit of speed coming back downhill.
We require that all E-bike riders be 16 or older. We also do not allow anything to be attached to our E-bikes, so if you need a pull behind trailer for a little one, you will need to rent a Hybrid Bike for that.
Glacier Outfitters rents children's bikes in sizes 16in, 20in and 24in and we have XS hybrid bikes. We also rent pull behind trailers for the small ones that can't bike, allowing the adults to attach the trailers to their hybrid bike and pull them along for the adventure!
You'll want to be sure to have a backpack that you are comfortable wearing while you bike, as our bikes do not have baskets or anyplace to strap down items that you bring.
In your backpack, you should have:
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