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Glacier National Park announces Spring operations

Going-to-the-Sun Road opened to Lake McDonald Lodge Friday morning after a long winter construction closure
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Posted at 6:27 AM, May 08, 2023

WEST GLACIER - Glacier National Park staff are getting ready for peak tourism season.

Park officials say that while full park operations are still a month off, visitors will see more recreational opportunities throughout May.

The west side of Going-to-the-Sun Road opened at 6 a.m. on Friday, May 5, 2023, to vehicle and recreational access up to Lake McDonald Lodge after remaining closed for the winter due to construction.

Construction will be continuing through September to mill, reclaim, and pave the road and visitors should drive and bike with caution. There will be waits of up to 30 minutes in each direction to pass through the construction zone. Nightly closures will begin June 1 from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. with opportunities for visitors to pass through at midnight, 2 a.m. and 4 a.m.

The east side of Going-to-the-Sun Road is currently open to vehicles approximately six miles from St. Mary to Rising Sun.

The park’s free spring hiker/biker shuttle will provide weekend service from May 13 until June 25, from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. running between Apgar Visitor Center, Lake McDonald Lodge, and Avalanche Creek. The shuttle operates on a first-come-first-served basis.

Full shuttle operations begin July 1 or when Going-to-the-Sun Road opens all the way, whichever comes first.

Snow removal on Going-to-the-Sun began the first week of April and will continue up to Logan Pass, which usually opens between mid-June and early July.

Park officials note that typical years see snowstorms and avalanches continuing through May, making it impossible to predict an opening date.

Hikers and bikers can travel on Going-to-the-Sun Road as far as posted closures.

Access beyond the closures is prohibited, and visitors who disobey the road closure signage are putting their safety, and that of rescue personnel, at risk.

North Lake McDonald Road is closed to public access including vehicles, hiking, or biking at the intersection with Going-to-the-Sun Road due to the Upper McDonald Creek Bridge replacement project. Parking at the intersection is also closed.

Additionally, hikers won't be unable to complete the Johns Lake Loop Trail and will need to turn around where trail closed signs are posted.

Due to bridge construction and road conditions, all roads in the North Fork area of the park are closed to vehicle traffic until May 25, 2023.

The Inside North Fork Road will remain closed between Logging Creek and Fish Creek in 2023.

For more information about construction in the park, visit the construction page on the Glacier National Park website.

Many Glacier, Camas, Quarter Circle Bridge, Two Medicine and Chief Mountain roads are open for the season.

The Chief Mountain Border Crossing remains closed until May 15. See Canada Border Services Agency website for details.

Vehicle reservations are required for all west-side park entrances starting May 26, and all east-side entrances starting July 1. Check the Glacier National Park website for details.

Wilderness Permit Offices

The Apgar Wilderness Permit office opened on May 1. Two Medicine, St. Mary, and Many Glacier offices open May 26, and Polebridge opens May 27.

The St. Mary and Polebridge permit offices are always accessible without a vehicle reservation. Apgar, Many Glacier and Two Medicine permit offices are inside the vehicle reservation areas. Once vehicle reservations go into effect for the season, these offices can be accessed without a reservation before 6 a.m. and after 3 p.m.

Permits will also be available at the Waterton Lakes Visitor Centre in Alberta for trips originating from the Belly River, Waterton Townsite and Goat Haunt trailheads. Waterton Lakes Visitor Centre hours are currently 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. For additional information on the wilderness permit reservation system, visit the park’s website. 

Campgrounds

Most frontcountry campgrounds will operate under a reservation system in 2023. Campground reservations can be made on Recreation.gov.

Most campsites are reservable approximately six months in advance and several campsites in each campground can be reserved four days in advance to accommodate visitors with more spontaneous itineraries. New four-day advanced reservations for campsites at Many Glacier will be reservable beginning June 6 at 8 a.m. beginning June 9.

Visitors with camping reservations within a vehicle reservation area can use their camping reservation in lieu of a vehicle reservation. For example, a camping reservation for Apgar Campground counts as a Going-to-the-Sun Corridor vehicle reservation on the days of the camping reservation.

However, the camping reservation may not be used to access other reservation areas including North Fork, Two Medicine and Many Glacier.

Campgrounds in the North Fork area will be assigned first come, first served at the Polebridge Entrance Station.

Frontcountry campgrounds scheduled to open in May include the following:

  • Apgar Campground: Advance camping reservations are required.
  • Fish Creek Campground: Opens May 26 and will require an advance camping reservation.   
  • Sprague Creek Campground: Opens May 26 and will require an advance camping reservation.  
  • St. Mary Campground: Currently open on a first come, first served basis. Beginning May 26  a camping reservation will be required.  
  • Bowman Lake Campground: Opens May 26 on a first come, first serve basis.   
  • Kintla Lake Campground: Opens May 26 on a first come, first serve basis.  
  • Cut Bank Campground: Opens May 31 to primitive camping on a first come, first serve basis.  

Other park campgrounds not listed above are expected to open in June and July. Visit the campground page for a complete list of dates.

Boat Inspections

Private boating will begin on May 14 for Lake McDonald with the opening of the Apgar AIS (Aquatic Invasive Species) inspection station.

Private boating for Bowman and Kintla lakes will begin on May 26 and AIS inspections will take place at the Polebridge Ranger Station.

Many Glacier AIS inspections begin May 26 at the Many Glacier Ranger Station.

The park anticipates operational AIS stations for St. Mary and Two Medicine lakes in 2023. Opening dates are still to be determined.

Concession Operations

All park concessions plan to operate this summer. Some concessioner services will open in May including lodging, tours, food service, and retail shops. Visitors can find links to each concessioner service through the Lodging, Restaurants, and Services webpage.

Visitor Centers

The Apgar Visitor Center is currently staffed on weekends, with daily operations beginning May 13. The St. Mary Visitor Center will be open daily starting May 26.

Much of the park is still snow-covered this time of year and travelers should be prepared for changing conditions.

Avalanches are still active on trails and along Going-to-the-Sun Road and higher-elevation trails can be dangerous and snow-covered until late June.

Park officials also note bears are emerging from their dens hungry, and visitors should take steps to travel safely in bear country.