How to prepare for biking the Going to the Sun Road

June 28, 2017

Ahh Glacier, one of my most favorite places on the planet. For those of you who have been around for a bit, you may recall last year when we biked up Glacier National Park’s Going to the Sun Road. We must have done a great job of talking it up, because this year we (and be “we” I mean Kyle) helped organize another ride up one of our country’s most scenic roads.

This year, in lieu of giving you another run-down, I want to talk about preparing for a ride like this, especially for beginners. Kyle and a few of his teammates from the Coeur d’Alene Bike Co. are currently training for the STP (Seattle to Portland) and were already in great shape for Glacier. But for those of us that are relatively new to road riding, or haven’t quite built up the endurance for hills, even the modest 30-mile ride option can feel a bit daunting.



When to Go

Each year before the Going to the Sun Road opens to traffic, Glacier opens it to hikers and bikers. There’s a period each spring when road crews are still clearing the road and doing maintenance, usually in late May or the first couple weeks of June – depending on weather conditions. Things that play a big factor in opening the road to bikers/hikers include weather, avalanches, maintenance progress, and wildlife. Because this is also around the same time bears become more active, they are often a hindrance in opening the road to the public.

Things to watch:



Training

I’m no bike expert, and I won’t pretend to be, but I am very fortunate to be surrounded by extremely knowledgeable enthusiasts and have access to a great shop for support. Last year, in order to help me get acquainted with my new bike, I signed up for a training group at the shop that rode three days a week throughout most of the summer. By the time the Coeur d’Fondo (the September ride I was training for) came around I felt more than ready to conquer the many hills in between Coeur d’Alene and Harrison.

Fast forward to this spring with just a few short rides under my belt, and I felt nowhere near ready to tackle a 15-mile hill. Prepare for the Going to the Sun Road ride by getting several, 15-30 mile rides under your belt. Be sure to include some good hills in there. That being said, take it slow, pack plenty of food and hydration and even a new rider can conquer the Avalanche to Logan Pass distance.

Tips:

  • Get involved with your local bike shop or group rides
  • Challenge yourself and know how your body handles various distances and how long it takes you to complete them
  • Be sure to keep your energy up with proper nutrition/hydration
  • Don’t push yourself to the point of injury – it’s ok to take a break or turn around



What to Pack

This year’s ride was the complete opposite from last year and has convinced me more than ever to prepare for just about every weather type. Because the park’s weather can change in a moment due to clashing air fronts, it’s important to bring layers and be prepared for wet conditions.

Last year, just a week before our trip this year, the weather was rainy, cold and windy. This year, it was a sunny and (almost) too hot 80 degrees with chilly evenings. You never know what you’re going to get, which is why it’s vital to check the weather reports and then also pack a contingency outfit just in case.

Bike essentials to consider bringing:

  • Bike (make sure it is mechanically sound)
  • Flat repair kit
  • Headlight/Taillight
  • Several pairs of gloves and socks
  • Nutrition (Gu, Shot blocks, Gatorade, etc)
  • Lunch
  • Bear Spray
  • GoPro or other camera
  • Waterproof Jacket (and a fleece layer)
  • Hand warmers/ foot warmers
  • Waterproof booties

Want a complete Glacier gear list? Join our mailing list to get a free PDF.

As I said last year, if you love being on your bike, or you’re looking for a fun, unique way to see some of Glacier’s most beautiful views, this is definitely a trip to put on your list.

Questions, comments or suggestions? Please leave a comment below! I’d love to hear about some of your Glacier experiences and questions.

More about Andy

I'm a north-Idahoan, a WSU grad, local writer, content marketing specialist and photographer with a passion for where I live. I love the outdoors, animals, good food, wine, and time spent with my husband, family and friends.

2 Comments
    1. Hi Andy,

      Great post! Glacier National Park is stunning.

      I have been reading your blog for about a year, and I really enjoy your perspective and humor, not to mention your gorgeous photos.

      I have a question for you. My husband and I will be moving to North Idaho in a couple of years. We are avid hikers along with our dog Dusty. We would also like to learn to snowshoe. But bear encounters are not our cup of tea. How do you and Kyle and Juneau stay safe?

      Thank you!

      1. Thank you so much Julie! We really enjoy having a place to share stories and connect with people across the region. We’ve been very fortunate in that we haven’t come across too many bears. We primarily have black bears around here, and they are often pretty timid. We put a bear bell on Juneau to give them some warning that we’re coming and always carry bear spray just in case. If I know we’re going to an area that has a denser bear population, I would recommend checking in with Fish and Game on recent activity. And as always, there’s safety in numbers. I think I may need to do some additional research for a future post :)

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