Looking Glass Road (Hwy 49): Grand Vistas, Wildlife & Flowers | Montana
Best Times of the Day for Viewing
5am-10am and 7 pm until dark although Grizzly Bears can and often are active all day long in the spring and fall months
Head west from East Glacier like you're going up the Two Medicine Valley. Several miles up the road, it will fork. The right fork is Hwy 49, or the Looking Glass Road, the left fork will take you up the Two Medicine Valley and into Glacier National Park.
Follow Looking Glass for about 8 miles to Kiowa junction and Highway 89. A right turn at 89 takes you back to Browning, a left takes you on to Saint Mary's.
This road is not recommended for long vehicles or trailers.
Overview of this Wildlife Watching Landscape
Before the Going-to-the-Sun Road opens over Logan Pass, the best scenic drive along the east side of Glacier Park is Looking Glass Road. This twisty road with gorgeous vistas, Highway 49, lies completely within the Blackfeet Reservation.
The Looking Glass Road gets its name from an historic Nez Perce leader, "Looking Glass," born in western Montana around 1830.
This winding, narrow, steep road starts at the aspen prairie edge near East Glacier, MT and climbs though timber to the sub-alpine and back down - all within 10 miles.
But as fun as the road is to drive, it’s best known for its grand mountain views, unique geology, and access to viewing the park's abundant wildlife. While you wont be brushing up against mountain goats like you can on Logan Pass, you are a very safe distance for viewing bears and other big game animals in their natural habitat and unabridged by roads and people. Keep in mind, that no matter where you are along the park's eastern edge, you are in grizzly bear country - period. I think of grizzly bears as being anywhere and everywhere which means I'm always on the lookout; and as "safe" as it is to view bears on Spot Mountain from the Looking Glass Road while you're parked, you are in their habitat and they can show up at any time - just use your head and never approach a bear in the wild.
Driving the road is encouraged, but getting off the road right of way will require a Blackfeet Recreation Permit, which can be purchased at the Bear Tracks gas station in East Glacier Park for $10. The permit allows you recreation access to tribal lands. The Tribe doesn't have special rules for driving the road, only for hiking from it.
Places and Pointers for Viewing
Numerous pullouts along the length of the road. The best ones from which to possibly see bears are the three on the highest section of the road. Pull off, and with your binoculars search the mountain to the west (spot mountain).
If you're there in the spring, keep your ears open and alert for the drumming of Blue Grouse. I don't need to describe the sound more than to say listen for the drumming because when you hear it you'll know what I'm talking about.
Type of Wildlife Often Seen
From any one of the several pull outs along the Looking Glass Road, every species of Glacier Park fauna can be spotted on and around Spot Mountain. I have personally watched wolves, coyotes, grizzly bears, black bears, elk, moose, mule deer, and whitetail, bighorn sheep and goats all grazing the east and south faces of Spot Mountain.
In my view, June is the best month to spot grizzly bears as they are very active. The males can often be spotted traveling in search of females - June is the breading month for grizzly bears so if you spot a grizzly you should keep your eyes pealed for a second bear, it might often be the tired, and resting male!
Best Seasons and Months for Viewing
May, June, and September