Yellowstone National Park, on the south end of Montana, is a veritable three-ring safari and special-effects razzle-dazzle where, no matter what you’re taking in, there’s something else you’re missing. Glacier National Park, on the north end of Montana, is the same way.
* Winding along Going-to-the-Sun Road, a traveler’s head bobs from side to side ogling mountain goats grazing on the hillside, then Bird Woman Falls tumbling graciously down the cliff, then the parade of snowcapped peaks constantly vying to eclipse one another.
* On a road trip to Glacier from Yellowstone, the ability to juggle an array of stimuli comes in particularly handy, because Highway 89—which links the two parks—is a veritable cornucopia of geographic, cultural, visual and social contrasts. If variety is the spice of life, then Highway 89 is a habanero chili.
* The winding, narrow Kings Hill Scenic Byway portion of Highway 89 swoops through numerous tight sweepers, climbing and descending through small mountain valleys studded with rock formations. The highway reaches its pinnacle at 7,400 feet, crossing the Little Belt Mountains before descending in more tight sweepers along Belt Creek.
* Highway 287 continues for 18 miles alongside the glorious Rocky Mountain Front, hugging the contours of the land in short, straight sections interspersed with short twisties that climb up and over the numerous hills.
* Highway 287 converges with Highway 89 at the tidy, tree-lined ranching town of Choteau. From here the Rockies, ever-present on the western horizon, change from a wall of cliffs to a parade of peaks as you approach the crown jewel of the continent that is Glacier National Park. Here, the stunning vistas command your attention, so do the almost constant twists as the narrow, two-lane highway ascends into alpine heaven through stand after stand of quaking aspen trees.
* On Going-to-the-Sun Road, you’ll twist and sweep the entire way, but slowly, behind a line of cars and trucks and trailers and, yes, motorcycles steered by folks like you, people who love this planet enough to venture out and place themselves in it. So forget the thrill of the perfectly executed curve for now, and let yourself focus instead on the breathtaking peaks, waterfalls, the wildflowers, the bighorn sheep and, if you’re really lucky, the grizzly bears foraging for huckleberries in the alpine meadows of brilliant green.
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This article Great Roads: Montana was published in the June 2013 issue of Rider magazine. It is an excerpt from the article Paradise Found: Yellowstone to Glacier on Montana Highway 89, originally printed in the April 2006 issue.
- CLICK HERE to read the original story from June 2006.
- CLICK HERE to download a PDF of this Great Roads feature from June 2013.