With a name like Glacier National Park, one would expect to show up and see a ton of glaciers everywhere. The truth of the matter is a little more complicated. For starters, the park is so named for the way that it was formed as giant glaciers carved out the peaks leaving amazing mountain formations and sweeping U-shaped valleys. Now, most of the glaciers are all tucked away high up on the north faces of peaks… shadows of their former selves. These glaciers have been disappearing quickly, but more are visible from your car than you think.
The only glacier that is officially labeled with a sign by the National Park Service is Jackson Glacier at the overlook, but here we’ll discuss the six glaciers that are easily seen from your car while driving Going-to-the-Sun Road and two more that are visible with a short walk.
West Side of Logan Pass
As you drive up towards Logan Pass from the west side, the first glaciers that become visible are in the Livingston Range. The Livingston Range’s most famous peak is Heaven’s Peak, but, despite all the snow on it, there is no glacier. Further north you have three that are visible. Two of them are on Vulture Peak as Vulture Glacier and Two Ocean Glacier as well as Rainbow Glacier on the south side of Rainbow Peak and Mount Carter. As you gain elevation from the Loop, these glaciers become more and more visible until just before Logan Pass.
As you get close to Logan Pass, if you look north, you can see Haystack Butte with Mt. Gould towering above it to the east with a little patch of snow poking its head around the corner of Gem Notch with the Gem Glacier saying hello. Once part of Grinnell Glacier, this little guy holds on, but will probably not be visible for much longer.
East Side of Logan Pass
As you drive down from Logan Pass, you’ll reach Siyeh Bend. If you park there, you can look south and see Blackfoot Glacier. Blackfoot Glacier used to span all the way across from Blackfoot Mountain to Mount Jackson, however, as it shrunk, it became two separate glaciers.
Speaking of Jackson Glacier, this one is probably the easiest to spot as there is a big sign that has a camera on it and says something to the effect of “Jackson Glacier Overlook”. Stop right by the sign and take in the blue ice!
Other Glaciers to Mention
While technically visible from the road, Sexton Glacier (on the back of Going-to-the-Sun Mountain) is so obscured by trees right by Sun Point, that it didn’t really make the cut for me. That being said, if you drive to the Sun Point parking lot and get out on the actual point, Sexton Glacier is very visible. (besides, it’s a beautiful spot anyway!)
If you want to get a look at Sperry Glacier without a helicopter or a hike from Sperry Chalet over Comeau Pass, head on out to the Hidden Lake Overlook where a sign will point you in the right direction.
Some odds and ends…
So next time you’re in Glacier National Park, take a peek at these glaciers. With a couple of short walks, you can see eight glaciers while visiting the park. I’ve heard rumors that you can see Sperry Glacier from the road, although I was unable to. Another glacier that someone might get me on a technicality is the Pumpelly Glacier which is right on the other side of Blackfoot Mountain. Since it’s attached to the Blackfoot Glacier, I’m not sure where one stops and the other starts. Perhaps you know.
Did I get all of them? Let me know in the comments!
9 responses to “Glaciers Visible from Going-to-the-Sun Road”
thank you so much for the info. frederica
Thanks Jake. It has been five weeks since I returned home from GNP. I miss it. Your blogs (vlogs) keep me going. Just took a break from battening down the hatches for hurricane Isaac to read the glaciers from the Sun Road blog.
Well sounds like you need to plan on getting back up here! How are you doing with the Hurricane?
Jake, you have a great site. Just got back started at Packers Roost up to Flat Top ,Fifty Mountain then up and over Stoney Indian camping at Mokowanis then on to Elizabeth lake for two nights then out thru Ptarmigan Tunnel. I’ve been reliving the trip through your site THANKS
Sounds like a fantastic trip! Let me know if you post any pics!
Thank you Jake. I have been in love with Glacier since working there for 3 summers in the mid ’80’s. For 15 years I have had a timeshare in the area. I have never backpacked but if a trail can be day-hiked I have done it. I have a 12 year old son who has had little interesting in hiking the park. He is a bit of a computer gnome so when he found hike734 he was able to make a connection between computers and Glacier. Last week he and I hiked 47 miles, most of it he planned. Thank you for your part in getting him around that corner.
Wow. That’s humbling and exciting! I’m a nerd too and know how adding technology to the outdoor mix can help enhance the trip but still allow you to be unplugged. Glad to get others interested for sure!
He was very excited when he saw that you had hiked Swiftcurrent Lookout the same day we had done Cracker Lake.
Thanks Jake. If you are driving west on the Road, to Lake McDonald Lodge from the Loop, right before Avalanche Creek campground, then looking up the very top of Sperry Glacier will be visible to the left of the Little Matterhorn. Try looking for it next time you’re driving that section. Great site. Doug J