Sunsets along Going-to-the-Sun Road, Glacier NP

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You can’t ask for a better place to watch the sunset, than along Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park.  Experience the shadows creeping up the walls of the Continental Divide, and the silhouette of the distant peaks, as the day ends.  I’ll give you some tips for making the best of these fleeting moments.

Location

To access Logan Pass, it’s best to drive your own vehicle up Going-to-the-Sun Highway.  If driving, you can park at the Visitor’s Center at the pass (if you’re able to find a parking spot — parking availability improves late in the day) or at some smaller turnouts along the road.  Shuttle vans also service Logan Pass, but they stop running around 7 p.m.  Since sunset in the summer doesn’t occur until after 9 p.m., shuttles are not a good option for visiting at sunset.  I’ve outlined Glacier’s transportation issues on a separate page.

My Visit

At the end of my first full day in Glacier National Park, I was exhausted.  I had just finished a 15-mile hike on the Highline Trail, and I was more than ready to hit the road for the long drive back to my motel room in East Glacier Park (about an hour away from Logan Pass).  But, I convinced myself that the sunset would be worth waiting for.

I started scouting for a photo location at Logan Pass.  At this time of day, it’s finally possible to snag a parking spot there.  I checked out the view down the valley towards St. Mary…

… and the view to the northwest, towards West Glacier.  Shadows were slowly creeping up the sides of the knife-edge mountains along the Continental Divide.  But to get a view of the sun itself…

Going-to-the-Sun Road

… I knew I’d need to head down Going-to-the-Sun Road, westbound, just a short distance beyond Logan Pass.  It’s not easy to park along this part of the road, but I found a notch in the rock wall that was just big enough for my car.

Fortunately, that parking spot was in just the right place to align the setting sun with the middle of the mountains to the west.  I set up a tripod on the side of the road, took a seat on the guardrail wall, and watched a bright orange ball plunge gracefully behind the hills.

That’s nice, you might say, but it could be better.  I agree!

Two nights later, there were more clouds over Glacier National Park — just enough to make the sky more interesting.  I returned to the exact same spot…

… to capture the exact same photo, except with a much more beautiful sky.

The show seemed to go on forever.  Even after the sun was gone, the clouds glowed with colors that changed from minute to minute.  It was spectacular.

Is there a better place to watch the sunset in Glacier?

I doubt if it’s better, but the Wild Goose Island Overlook might be pretty good.  This overlook is at the side of Going-to-the-Sun Road.  From here, tiny little Wild Goose Island is perfectly centered in Saint Mary Lake.  This might also be a good sunrise spot at certain times of the year, given the alignment of the lake with the rising sun.  It’s also a great place for some astrophotography, as I found out on the next night.

I also stopped here two nights later — when those clouds were moving in, but I decided to move on up to Logan Pass.  Another photographer had set up there and was determined to capture the sunset from that spot.  He seemed disappointed when I packed up and left.  But, the weather was too breezy, and the lake was too choppy.  Once I saw the sunset at Logan Pass, I knew I had made the right decision.

If you’ve shot the sunset at a different location in Glacier National Park, please provide a tip in the comments below!  I’d love to know some good places, for the next time I’m there.

Drivelapse Video

Here’s a look at the drive up to Logan Pass, on Going-to-the-Sun Road:

The Bottom Line

Going-to-the-Sun Road provides some great spots to capture photos of a nice sunset.  I’d suggest you scout for a location near Logan Pass, by figuring out where the sun will set.  If you’re there in late July, like I was, you can drive down the road slightly from Logan Pass and squeeze into a spot at the side of the road.  You’ll also get some nice views of the shadows moving across the mountains at the pass itself, and on the east side of the pass.

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