Montana on My Mind is a really cool video with music performed by the Scioto River Band, Columbus, Ohio. Lead singer is “Cat” Leigh. A woman with a wonderful voice for sure. In the video “Cat” yearns for a trip to the West with hopes of experiencing, wildlife, a mountain pass, wild rivers, huckleberries, aspen larch and pine, wheat fields, horse culture and so much more.
After watching and listening to this one, you’ll want to pack your bags and leave yesterday. Montana has adopted an official state song, not this one. But Montana on My Mind is the first and only one you’ll want to listen too. Enjoy.
The song Montana on My Mind is available for download from iTunes. The Video is hosted on YouTube.
Get in the mood for Montana travel
Listen and watch “Montana on My Mind“ performed by Scioto River Band (Columbus, Ohio) and sang by Catherine “Cat” Leigh. Version re-mastered by Abbey Road Studios, London, England.
Okay, so you are going to Glacier National Park. Your journey will take you through the center of the park on Going-to-the-Sun Road, an iconic mountain highway. Going-to-the-Sun Road runs west to east from the town of West Glacier to Saint Mary, Montana, over a distance of about 53 miles. The road passes through America’s most spectacular wilderness country.
Glacier is a land of mountains. Pushing up toward the clouds, mountain peaks near Going-to-the-Sun Road reach elevations as high as 10,014 feet (Mount Siyeh) and are often in view. That gorgeous mountains, pristine alpine lakes, and alpine valleys and meadows are all bundled together is a huge part of the allure of Glacier National Park.
Going-to-the-Sun Road was constructed in the early part of the 20th century, and it opened for the public in 1933. After eleven years of construction, 1921-1932, the road was completed. Drivers will experience a narrow, winding road, with some hairpin curves along the way. This is a two-lane and paved road, an engineering masterpiece.
Going-to-the-Sun Road features spectacular scenery in every direction, mountains, forests, waterfalls, alpine lakes, rock walls, and alpine valleys. Mountain goats, bighorn sheep, bald eagles, grizzly bears, and other wildlife live here and can often be seen not far from the road.
Historic lodges and engineering marvels, such as tunnels and bridges, add to the wonder of it all. Many scenic outlooks along the road allow motorists to stop, take pictures, and simply enjoy.
From the Park’s entrance near the town of West Glacier (3,198 feet in elevation), Going-to-the-Sun Road follows McDonald Valley for several miles in a northeasterly direction, gradually gaining in elevation until the road reaches about 3,572 feet in elevation.
At this point, the road veers sharply to the northwest toward an area called the Loop. Here the road runs northwest for a short distance before it abruptly turns back to the southeast and continues in a southeasterly direction toward Logan Pass.
At the beginning of the Loop (elevation 3,572), the road starts its ascent up the side of the mountains. Along a path of several miles, Going-to-the-Sun Road increases in elevation, as it hugs to the side of the mountains, until it reaches Logan Pass at 6,646 feet elevation.
From the head of the Loop, going in a southeasterly direction, Going-to-the-Sun Road starts to get scary for some drivers. Along the shoulder of the road (passenger side of car), a steep cliff goes down slope, several hundred feet in many areas.
On the driver’s side is the rock face of the mountains. Drivers need not worry as a low speed limit and guardrails protect vehicles from going off the road. However, as if anyone needs a reminder, drivers must keep eyes centered on the road. Passengers can enjoy the awesome scenery.
At Logan Pass, Going-to-the-Sun Road starts a gradual descent to Saint Mary Lake at about 4,718 feet in elevation. The road runs along the north shore of Saint Mary Lake for about 9.9 miles before ending near the Park’s Saint Mary Visitor Center at an elevation of 4,495 feet.
Logan Pass is not unusually high in elevation by Montana standards. Near Red Lodge in south-central Montana, the Beartooth Highway starts from Red Lodge at 5,568 feet in elevation and ascends into the mountains until the highway reaches Beartooth Pass at an elevation of 10,947 feet.
Some have suggested that Going-to-the-Sun Road is less scary if driven from east to west. If this is the case, the face of the mountains is on the passenger side of the car and the steep cliff side (the drop-off) is one traffic lane over from the driver and thus seems less worrisome. Regardless, drivers must be extremely careful and keep eyes on the road ahead.
Accidents occasionally happen on the road. In July 2018, a two-vehicle collision snarled traffic for hours west of Logan Pass, near Triple Arches. No personal injuries in this one, but traffic from the West Entrance was stopped from entering the Park, and traffic that had reached Logan Pass in the east was turned back.
The wonders along Going-to-the-Sun Road are almost endless. A short list of things to experience and enjoy, traveling west to east, over the distance of 53 miles, includes:
START OF ROUTE: Apgar Visitor Center at west entrance to the park
Mile 3.0: Fabulous Lake McDonald, a 10-mile long glacial lake
Mile 10.9: Historic Lake McDonald Lodge
Mile 12.8: McDonald Falls
Mile 16.2: Avalanche Creek Campground
Mile 20.8: Start of The Loop at Goose Curve where the road veers sharply left to the northwest
Mile 23.3: West Side Tunnel, cut some 192 feet through a mountain
Mile: 23.9: Head of The Loop where the road bends back and continues in a southeasterly direction toward Logan Pass
Mile 29.8: Triple Arches, a 65 foot long stone bridge built across a gap in the mountain side
Mile 32.0: Logan Pass Visitor Center on the Continental Divide at 6,646 feet elevation
Mile 32.9: East Side Tunnel, a 408 feet long structure cut though a mountain
Mile 39.2: Saint Mary Lake, a 9.9-mile long glacial lake
Mile 43.0: Wild Goose Island in the middle of Saint Mary Lake
END OF ROUTE: Saint Mary Visitor Center and the town of Saint Mary
Due to deep snow blocking the roadway, a section of Going-to-the-Sun Road is closed during the winter months. A few reports say the snow can get over 80 feet deep at Logan Pass.
Officials at the Park do not give an exact date when the full length of the road will be open. They say opening is typically late June or early July. Usually the road remains open until the third Monday of October. However, portions of the road at lower elevations are open year-round giving travelers access to some locations and activities inside the Park. In alpine environments all depends on the weather which can change quickly, causing officials to close the road at any time.
Visitors flock to Glacier, some 3,049,839 came in 2019 alone. Many who travel on Going-to-the-Sun Road spend a half-day or longer to drive the full distance of the road. So much to see and do. When the journey is over, visitors take home memoires that will last a lifetime.
Lodging is limited along Going-to-the-Sun Road inside Glacier National Park. Guest rooms are available at Lake McDonald Lodge, Apgar Village Lodge and Cabins, and Motel Lake McDonald on the west side of the Park. Rising Sun Motor Inn and Cabins offers rooms near Saint Mary Lake on the east side of the Park.
Campgrounds are another option on Going-to-the-Sun Road inside Glacier National Park. Three campgrounds are on the west side of the Park: Apgar (194 sites); Sprague Creek (25 sites); and Avalanche (87 sites). The east side of the Park has two campgrounds: Rising Sun (83 sites); and Saint Mary (148 sites).
On any journey surprises are always best. However, in this case a quick read in advance is recommended. The book is Going-to-the-Sun Road: Glacier National Park’s Highway to the Sky, by C.W. Guthrie.
Lose of a Young Person’s Life in Glacier NP
A tragedy occurred on Going-to-the-Sun Road on August 12, 2019. A car was traveling westbound from Logan Pass when rocks from the face of a mountain broke loose and fell to the road below hitting the car. A 14-year-old girl was killed and four others in the same vehicle were injured. NPS reported that the rockfall would have filled the bed on a small pickup truck.
Safety is always first on the minds of Park officials, but nothing could have averted this catastrophe. Of the sorrow and pain felt by the family, no words can convey.
The speed limit on Going-to-the-Sun Road is 45 miles per hour at lower elevations, 25 miles per hour at higher elevations (alpine areas).
There are no gas stations on Going-to-the-Sun Road. So, fill up in small towns near the west or east entrances to the Park: village of West Glacier or village of St. Mary.
Cabins come in many vintages, so it is a good idea to do some research before you go. Location and setting may be the most important.
The three cabins for rent by Montana Cabin Rentals are about 20 miles northwest of Big Timber, in south-central Montana. The town of Big Timber is about mid-way between Billings and Bozeman on Interstate Highway IH-90. Starting from Billings or Bozeman it takes is a little over one hour to drive to the cabins.
The cabins are built in Big Timber Canyon, a beautiful valley that runs in a westerly direction up into the Crazy Mountains. Big Timber Creek runs down the valley and passes near the cabins. Renters have access to 1.5 miles of stream-side frontage along Big Timber Creek. A very scenic setting for sure. Best of all the cabins have a remote feel, away from civilization yet are very accessible.
These cabins come with extra nice amenities. Grizzly Cabin has two bedrooms. Guests enjoy a hot tub, sauna, HDTV, fireplace, washer/dryer, plus stainless appliances. A RV hookup is available too. From $189 per night.
Fisher Cabin, with two bedrooms, has a rustic vibe, the cabin being built from logs, and it has log furniture. The cabin has a loft, fully equipped kitchen, washer/dryer, a hot tub, WIFI, and more. From $169 per night.
Creekside Cabin has a large master bedroom. The living room in this cabin is arranged in such a way so it can be used as a second bedroom. This cabin has a fully equipped kitchen, washer/dryer, a hot tub, and WIFI. From $169 per night.
Fisher and Creekside Cabins are separated from one another by mature vegetation, so privacy is not an issue.
By any standard, all three cabins come close to luxury. Guests enjoy amenities of modern life all the while staying in a remote, quiet, beautiful mountainous setting, with the best of nature out the front door.
A huge plus, dining out is only a few minutes away at The Grand Hotel in Big Timber. The Grand serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Dinner is from 5:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m., daily. Enjoy great food in two nice dining areas in The Grand Hotel. For upscale dining, guests at the cabins can drive to Livingston, a short 35 miles west of Big Timber, and dine at the 2nd Street Bistro in the Murray Hotel.
The cabins are available for rent year-round. There are many great cabins for rent in Montana. These three cabins rank among the best. (406) 599-6772.