As Glacier National Park snowplows speed up for the annual spring task of clearing the 50 miles of Going-to-the-Sun Highway for hordes of summer visitors, the visitors themselves seem to have slowed down. At least, that is if the rate at which advance reservations are selling out each day is any indication.
For the second year in a row, motorists wishing to drive through the heart of Glacier National Park during the peak summer season will need a reservation to do so. Unlike last year, however, when park administrators kicked off the pilot program in a mixture of dismay and cautious optimism, this year’s advanced booking inventory is lasting longer.
“Last year, our advance reservations disappeared in less than five minutes each day, and that’s not the case this year,” said Gina Kerzman, public information manager for Glacier Park. “So either people aren’t as anxious, or they don’t feel like they need to get their reservations that early, or they don’t know they can get their reservations that early.”
Since March 2, vehicle reservations to access the Sun Road corridor are available 120 days in advance on a sliding window, which deviates from the advanced 60-day window that visitors became accustomed to last year. This means that on March 21, when this article was printed, visitors could book vehicles to access the Sun Road on July 18.
On most days since reservations went on sale earlier this month, hundreds of passes were still available by early afternoon.
“We’ve noticed that reservations aren’t selling out as quickly as last year, when they disappeared in just minutes,” Kerzman said. “And in part, maybe that’s because people don’t know they’re available 120 days in advance instead of 60 days in advance like last year.”
A 2022 reservation to access the Going-to-the-Sun route is valid for three days (compared to last year’s seven-day reservation window) and must be provided in addition to a pass for the Park. These passes can include any of the following: a $35 Glacier National Park pass purchased at the gate or online (valid for seven days); annual pass to Glacier National Park; or an America the Beautiful interagency pass, including annual, senior, military access, volunteer, or 4th grade passes.
Visitors with service reservations along the Going-to-the-Sun route corridor do not require a vehicle reservation. Valid service reservations include lodging, camping, and shopping tours to areas inside the West Entrance, Camas Entrance, and St. Mary Entrance. Proof of a valid service reservation will serve as the vehicle reservation for the day of the service reservation only.
Like last year, reservations are available through the park online portal at Recreation.gov and will be required at the east and west entrances of Sun Road. New this year, a separate reservation will also be required to access the North Fork area via the Polebridge entrance station. North Fork vehicle reservations are good for a single day and are much more limited due to space. According to Kerzman, those reservations sell out immediately every day, which is further evidence of the once-remote park’s newfound popularity.
“The North Fork was once Glacier National Park’s best-kept secret and it’s no longer a secret,” Kerzman said. “It is managed at a different level than the rest of the park and many visitors should adjust their expectations based on what they will encounter at North Fork. It’s primitive. It’s much rougher than the other sections.
A vehicle-by-vehicle reservation will be required to travel beyond the West Entrance Station and the Camas Entrance Station from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. from May 27 to September 11.
New this year, a vehicle reservation will not be required at the St. Mary entrance. Once snow clearing and road preparation is complete and Sun Road opens to vehicular traffic to Logan Pass, vehicle reservations will be required from the Rising Sun area, located 5 miles west of the St. Mary entrance, through September 11.
From May 26, reservations for additional vehicles will be available 24 hours before the effective date, allowing visitors to reserve the day before their visit.
Visitors will also have the option of driving the Sun Road without a reservation as long as they do so after 4 p.m. or before 6 a.m. morning visitors at the entrance to the West Glacier will encounter construction closures along Lake McDonald that may put the brakes on their alpine departure plans.
The utility project will require closures along the west side of Sun Road from mid-June through September, while crews replace seven miles of main sewer, electrical and telephone lines along Lake McDonald.
“These are long overdue improvements that need to be made and we were finally able to secure funding for the project,” Kerzman said. “As much as possible, the work will be carried out at night, then in the fall. Because it requires night work, and because it has just been awarded, we are still working out the details with the contractor. But it’s safe to assume that this may affect what time visitors can enter the park past Lake McDonald on the west side. As soon as we have more details, we will make them available. »
Although early morning access issues will likely hinder wildlife photographers and advanced baggers entering the park in the pre-dawn darkness, access to the Sun Road from the east side will still be possible .