The Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park is now open for the season. And no, it’s not your imagination — the road did open late this season.
“Historically, Going-to-the-Sun-Road had late openings on July 13 in both 2011 due to snowpack and 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Gina Kerzman, public affairs officer, said in a statement. “These are the latest recordings of the road opening, besides its original opening on July 15, 1933. This year the late opening [on July 13] has been attributed to late winter weather, making it difficult for road crews to clear the road during continued avalanche danger.”
While Going-to-the-Sun Road can now be accessed from both the West Glacier and St. Mary entrances, it’s important to remember that vehicle reservations are needed. The $2 timed entry reservation fee is in addition to the $35 per vehicle park entry fee.
If you’re planning a trip to Glacier National Park this summer, here’s what you need to know.
Why There’s A Need For Vehicle Reservations
Glacier National Park, which the National Park Service (NPS) calls the “Crown of the Continent,” is known for its rugged mountains, spectacular lakes, and more than 700 miles of trails. One of the park’s most popular attractions is Going-to-the-Sun Road, an almost 50-mile scenic road that makes its way through the park — and even crosses the Continental Divide at Logan Pass.
The challenge for park management is that attendance at Glacier keeps growing. For instance, last year, just more than 3 million visitors traveled to Glacier. That number makes 2021 the second-highest year for attendance at Glacier, following only behind 2017 — when a record 3.3 million people visited the park, the NPS notes.
Glacier used a reservation system to limit traffic on Going-to-the-Sun Road last year to reduce congestion. That system was deemed successful.
“The 2021 pilot of the ticket system successfully reduced traffic on Going-to-the-Sun Road during peak hours and circumvented the need to fully close access to the road due to congestion an estimated 35 times,” Kerzman explained. “This was a major accomplishment despite 2021 visitation numbers boasting the second highest on record for the park. Avoiding gridlock also ensured access to emergency vehicles and prevented severe vehicle back-ups onto Highway 2 outside the park.”
How The Vehicle Reservations Work
Vehicle reservations for timed entry are needed to enter the Going-to-the-Sun Road corridor at the West Glacier entrance, Camas entrance, and Rising Sun checkpoint from 6 a.m. until 4 p.m. each day. Vehicle reservations are also required to limit congestion in the North Fork area of the park between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.
Reservations are released at 8 a.m. Mountain Time the day before each effective date on Recreation.gov.
Keep in mind though that reservations are not required for any other portions of the park, however, visitors must still pay the per vehicle entrance pass fee.
You can find all the details about the Going-to-the-Sun Road reservation system here.
Finally, visitors who have service reservations along the Going-to-the-Sun Road corridor and in the North Fork area of the park do not need a vehicle reservation. Instead, valid service reservations such as those for lodging, camping, or commercial tours will serve as a vehicle reservation for the day.
You can learn more about valid service reservations here.
How To Ride The Shuttle
Glacier also provides free shuttle service along Going-to-the-Sun Road on a first come, first served basis. The shuttles, which are wheelchair-accessible, typically have bike racks.
You can learn more about the shuttle and its stops here.
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