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.
What is the weather like in Glacier National Park? How crowded is the park? And when do visitors arrive? Savvy visitors usually weigh all three factors when timing their visit to Glacier. Data in the charts below is useful for planning a trip to Glacier.
Data in this chart is for West Glacier, Montana, at 3,200 feet in elevation. This weather station is at the west entrance to Glacier National Park. At Logan Pass, along Going-to-the-Sun Road, inside the park, the elevation is 6,647 feet. Expect much cooler temperatures at Logan Pass, as temperatures decrease with increasing elevation.
During July and August, the weather is very pleasant with comfortable, warm, daytime highs and cool nights. As can be expected for northerly latitudes, average daytime highs are still nice in June and September. In May and October, however, it’s time to wear cold weather clothing.
With average low temperatures in the 40s or less in every month, extra clothing is always a necessity.
Most visitors to the park arrive from May through September. The peak months are July and August, with somewhat fewer visitors in June and September. Earlier and later in the season, the number of visitors is low. The park’s opening and closing, plus the weather are big factors in the number of visitors going to the park. And, of course, mid-summer is when many Americans and others hit the trail.
During the peak tourist season, Glacier National Park gets very crowded. Only one road, Going-to-the-Sun Road, runs through the Park. In a word, think traffic. It’s not uncommon for NPS to report that Apgar parking lot near Lake McDonald is full early in the day. NPS on its Website says, “Expect crowding and congestion in many areas of the park. Plan accordingly.”
Data in the chart show visitors to Glacier National Park in 2019. The table provides statistics for categories of use and by month. Annual totals for each category of use:
Recreation visitors (3,049,839)
Non-recreation visitors (13,103)
Concession lodging (119,960)
Tent campers (118,181)
RV campers (126,099)
Concession camping (0)
Backcountry campers (34,759)
Misc. campers (926)
Total overnight stays (399,924)
Many visitors choose to stays in tents or RVs. This arrangement puts visitors close to nature. The National Park Service provides wonderful campgrounds to accommodate. Tents and RVs are expected as regular lodging is limited inside the park. And the lodging, such as Many Glacier Hotel and Lake McDonald Lodge, may be too expensive for some family budgets.
Some Facts About Glacier (source: NPS)
number of glaciers: 26
number of lakes: 762
number of species of mammals: 71
number of species of birds: 276
number of mountains: 175
number of class A campgrounds: 8; 943 sites
number of class B campgrounds: 5; 61 sites
number of backcountry campgrounds: 65; 208 sites
number of trails: 151; total length, 745.6 miles
As for size of Glacier National Park, measured on Google Earth, east-west distance is about 35 miles; from north to south, distance is about 60 miles.
Millions of people will visit Yellowstone National Park this year. And why not? This park is America’s Wonderland.
Most come to see nature in all its glory at Yellowstone. As for wild animals: elk, black bears, grizzly bears, gray wolves, buffalo, moose, mountain goats, and bald eagles live and thrive in Yellowstone’s wild ecosystem. To see these magnificent creatures in a natural setting is stunning.
Be patient and observant if you are eager to experience wildlife. Wildlife come and go on their own schedules and are found in different areas of the park. Their lives and activities reflect seasonal patterns of nature. It’s good to have a pair of quality binoculars for best viewing.
Then there is the landscape. The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River rivals the Grand Canyon in Arizona. The canyon of the Yellowstone River is a huge slice cut out of the earth, caused by action of the river over millions of years. When you see it close-up, it’s hard to imagine how the forces of nature were able to create the canyon.
One feature along the canyon is nothing short of spectacular. This is the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River. It’s magical, the waterfall and canyon converge in space, making the Lower Falls one of the most photographed scenes in America.
Panoramic landscapes in Yellowstone are uncommonly beautiful and inspiring. Hayden Valley (central Yellowstone) and Lamar Valley (northwest Yellowstone) are the stuff of travel posters. Yellowstone Lake (southeast Yellowstone) is another huge attraction.
Other features found on Yellowstone’s landscape are very different from anything found elsewhere in America. Features on the landscape such as geysers, fumaroles, hot springs, and mud pots are significant attractions. In part, Yellowstone owes its appearance to volcanic activity deep below the surface of the land. Emblematic of it all is Old Faithful geyser near the western edge of the park.
Yellowstone is also a mecca for outdoors activities, such as camping, hiking, boating, and fishing. Some visitors take guided trips while others take part in programs led by park rangers. Yellowstone officials like to say they have something for everyone.
Yellowstone National Park is unrivaled for its natural bounty, a sensory experience cherished and remembered by all who come. Outdoor activities in nature are a bonus. Memories are made in Yellowstone.