Glacier National Park – Saint Mary Visitor Center – August 8, 2022

Monday, August 8, 2022 we were on a mission.

One of the highlights of visiting Glacier National Park is to drive on the Going-to-the-Sun Road. I had done so when I visited here several years ago while working in Montana and I really wanted Cindy to experience that drive as well. There is ONE big difference that has arisen over the intervening years. In order to better regulate the heavy traffic on the Going-to-the-Sun Road you now have to register your vehicle for specific days. Most of those registrations are sold months in advance. However, the park system holds back a certain number of those registrations for visitors who may not have known they were going to be there on those dates. Like us.

So, they allow you to go online at 8 am they day before you plan to visit and try to get your $2 registration. It is the luck of the draw as to whether you will get the registration for the following day. If you DO get it, the registration is good for three consecutive days to drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road. If you don’t (and you have the time) you can either try again the next day at 8 am for the following day or you can pay to ride the shuttle service. We preferred to drive it ourselves and have the flexibility to stop along the way as we desired, but if we couldn’t get a pass for Tuesday we decided we would try the shuttle.

However, our campsite in the Flathead National Forest (like many in the National Forest system) had absolutely NO cell or Internet service. SO, we had to get up Monday morning and drive approximately 30 miles to Browning, Montana to get a usable signal and connection. We sat in the parking lot of a Taco John’s restaurant at 7:50 am and at 8 am Cindy was clicking away. Within a moment…SUCCESS! We had our vehicle registration to drive on the Going-to-the-Sun Road for Tuesday and Wednesday!

We also decided since we were more than halfway there already to go ahead and drive to the Saint Mary entrance Visitor Center so we could gather some more information on the park and our planned visits. That would have been an effortless drive except for the fact that they were doing extensive road construction on 15 miles or so on that section with 5 miles of it being reduced to single lane flow escorted by a pilot vehicle.

Shades of Canada and Alaska!

But we finally got there and enjoyed checking out all the displays and information they have. Cindy also picked up a very helpful booklet that we ended up using several times during our time at Glacier National Park.

On the way back to our campsite we stopped at a roadside informational display about the origins of the area, its Blackfeet tribe history and why it was named Saint Mary by non-native explorers.. They had a couple of metal replicas of teepees and some stupendous views of the mountains, valleys, and lakes to enjoy.

We were also immensely surprised on our drive back to see what looked like a juvenile Black Bear crossing the road in front of us. It quickly loped across all lanes and made its way into the trees behind a fence on our side of the road. It seemed that it had probably used that spot in the wire fence to get in (or out) before as it knew right where it was going. Cindy was excited.

Then, because we like to plan ahead so much, we decided to drive past our campground and see how long it would take us to get from there to the West entrance since we were going to drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road from West to East the next day to see the sunrise as we drove into it (and then reverse our direction on Wednesday evening to see the sunset as we drove to it) and it would be dark when we arrived for the 6 am gate opening. Now we felt properly prepared for our drive the next two days.

Next up; driving the Going-to-the-Sun Road from the West Entrance of Glacier National Park.

Thanks for following the Wandering Wetheringtons.

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