Western Montana sets the stage for unmatched motorcycling with stunning landscapes among scenic byways, open highways and backroads of discovery. Late Summer and early fall foliage only adds to the jaw-dropping beauty of our region, plus cooler temperatures and shoulder-season pricing make it an ideal time to hit the road. You’d be hard-pressed to not take a scenic route here. Today we’re sharing one of our favorite rides from East Glacier Park to Philipsburg, Montana, that’s gorgeous any time of the year. Add it to an established itinerary throughout the region or make it a weekend cruiser.
Beginning in East Glacier Park, depart early and take State Highway 49, aka Looking Glass Highway, named after a historic Nez Perce leader. Looking Glass Highway is one of the most scenic drives on the east side of Glacier National Park with gorgeous views looking west—it’s a twisty and narrow road, only 10 miles long, so take it slow. Bonus: If you arrive in East Glacier Park the evening before, plan to eat at Serrano’s Mexican Restaurant, a popular establishment specializing in Mexican and Southwestern cuisines.
Connect with State Highway 89 and continue to St. Mary Village. Stop at Park Cafe for a slice of pie (you’ll thank us for this hot tip) before making your way to the St. Mary Entrance of Glacier National Park. Note, vehicle reservation tickets are required the end of May through mid-September. They must be purchased online, and additional tickets become available the day before the effective ticket date.
Between St. Mary and West Glacier, ride from one side of Glacier National Park to the other on the 50-mile-long Going-to-the-Sun Road, an engineering marvel and National Historic Landmark. You’ll see jagged mountain peaks, alpine lakes, cascading waterfalls, expansive valley views and, chances are, wildlife. Crest the Continental Divide at Logan Pass, known for wildflowers, mountain goat sightings and the rocky cliffs of the Garden Wall. You’ll find a visitor center and a short 1.5-mile/2.4-kilometer hike to Hidden Lake Overlook here, too. This route—one of the most spectacular in the country—offers plenty of places to pull over and take in the breathtaking vistas or hit the trail. You’ll experience steep elevation changes and some hairpin turns.
Leave the park and ride to Coram for dinner at Packers Roost, if you are into a classic roadhouse bar with a cast of characters. Or consider a stop at Glacier Distilling Company to sample small-batch whiskeys and fine spirits. Remember to always drink responsibly. Overnight in one of the nearby towns of Columbia Falls or Kalispell.
Depart from Columbia Falls and begin to make your way to Flathead Lake. Take in the beautiful, crystal blue waters of the Flathead River outside Columbia Falls. Find State Highway 83 near the storybook village of Bigfork. MT-83 stretches through the picturesque Seeley Swan Corridor following the Swan River with stunning views of the Mission Mountains and the Swan Range, plus dozens of lakes, two rivers, lush forestland, expansive meadows and steep mountain walls just beyond the boundaries of the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex. You’ll find some nice sweepers on this route and only a few tight turns.
In the charming little resort town of Seeley Lake you’ll find great restaurants and locally owned shops. Time it to arrive for lunch and grab a Bayburger at Lindey’s food truck situated right on the edge of the lake. Save room for dessert and head up the street to The Ice Cream Place for a scoop or two of classic ice cream creations. When you’ve had your fill, continue on to Ovando, stopping at the large cow statue for a selfie, located at Clearwater Junction where State Highway 200 meets MT-83.
In Ovando, stop for drinks or an early dinner and enjoy mingling with the locals at Trixi’s Antler Saloon or The Stray Bullet. Choose either State Highway 141 or State Highway 271, both scenic rides to Philipsburg. The MT-141 route is easy driving with small sweeping turns and hills through the Garnet Mountain Range, and it passes by Nevada Lake. MT-271 is a lesser-known roadway with little traffic, wide turns and rolling hills, and features mountain views and stunning fall foliage. Arrive in Philipsburg for an overnight. Fill your sweet-tooth cravings at The Sweet Palace or find a nightcap at the Philipsburg Brewing Company.
Pro tip: Add a day or two to your trip and drive from Philipsburg to the West Yellowstone entrance of Yellowstone National Park. If you need additional itinerary information between Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks we’ve got you covered with this Glacier to Yellowstone itinerary.
If you need further information or itinerary help for motorcoaches, FIT or additional motorcycle routes, drop us a note or visit our tour operator website for more itinerary suggestions.
DP & AS
October 6, 2022
Related: Cycling Tours, East Glacier Park, FIT, Glacier National Park, Itinerary, Kalispell, Motorcycle Tours, Seeley-Swan Valley, West Glacier