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Glacier National Park details 2024 spring operations

Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park
Posted at 7:00 PM, May 11, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-11 21:00:22-04

Glacier National Park continues to get ready for tourism season.

While the park won't be fully operational for another month, visitors will be able to take part in more recreational opportunities throughout May.

The west side of Going-to-the-Sun Road will undergo the last phase of construction work that began in May 2023. The last 2.8 miles of construction will focus on paving Going-to-the-Sun Road, starting west of Sprague Creek Campground up to North Lake McDonald Road.

Construction resumed in April 2024 and is expected to be completed in late May to early June 2024, weather permitting. Construction will cause delays along Going-to-the-Sun Road, including weekends through Memorial Day weekend.

Visitors should anticipate up to a 30-minute wait. Visitors should drive and bike with caution.

Snow removal on Going-to-the-Sun began the first week of April and will continue until the road is open to Logan Pass.

In previous years, the road opened between mid-June and early July but the road may open a little earlier this year.

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

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. The parking at the intersection is also closed.

Hikers won't be able to complete the Johns Lake Loop Trail and will need to turn around where trail closed signs are posted.

Visit https://www.nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/projectwork.htm for more construction information.

Many Glacier, Camas, Quarter Circle Bridge, and Chief Mountain roads are open for the season. The road into Two Medicine remains temporarily closed at the park boundary. The Chief Mountain Border Crossing remains closed until May 15. Vist https://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/do-rb/offices-bureaux/657-eng.html for details.

Vehicle reservations are required for all west side park entrances starting May 24, and at the Many Glacier entrance starting on July 1. Vehicle reservations are not required for St. Mary and Two Medicine entrances in 2024. Click here for more information.

The vehicle reservation checkpoint on Going-to-the-Sun Road for eastbound traffic will be located at the turn-off for Apgar Loop Road. Visitors without a vehicle reservation or service reservation [nps.gov] will be required to take a left turn onto Apgar Loop Road and circle back through Apgar Village.

A news release notes that service reservations originating east of Logan Pass cannot be used instead of a vehicle reservation for access past the Apgar Check Point heading east on Going-to-the-Sun Road.

The park’s free spring hiker/biker shuttle will provide weekend service from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. starting May 11 and ending on June 30, or when Going-to-the-Sun Road opens all the way, whichever comes first.

The shuttle will run between Apgar Visitor Center, Lake McDonald Lodge, and Avalanche Creek. The shuttle operates on a first-come-first-served basis. Daily shuttle operations begin July 1.

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.

For safety purposes, from May 24 through September 8 whatever portion of Going-to-the-Sun Road that is open to motor vehicles will be closed to bicycle use in both directions between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. from Apgar to Logan Pass due to increased traffic.

The Apgar Wilderness Permit office opened on May 1. St. Mary, and Many Glacier offices open May 26, and Polebridge opens May 27. Wilderness Permits will not be available at the Two Medicine Ranger Station in 2024.

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

Most frontcountry campgrounds will operate under a reservation system in 2024. Campground reservations can be made on https://www.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.

Visitors with camping reservations within a vehicle reservation area do not need a vehicle reservation to enter that area. For example, a camping reservation for Avalanche Campground counts as a Going-to-the-Sun Corridor vehicle reservation on the days of the camping reservation. The camping reservation may not be used to access other reservation areas including North Fork and Many Glacier.

Park officials are asking visitors not to make a camping reservation solely for the purpose of gaining access to a reservation area.

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: Currently open. Advance camping reservations are required. 
  • Fish Creek Campground: Partially open on May 17 and fully open on May 24. Advance camping reservations are required.   
  • Sprague Creek Campground: Opens May 24. Advance camping reservations are required. 
  • St. Mary Campground: Currently open on a first come, first served basis. Fully open on May 24 and advance camping reservations are required.   
  • Bowman Lake Campground: Opens May 24 on a first come, first serve basis.   
  • Kintla Lake Campground: Opens May 24 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 https://nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/camping.htm for a complete list of dates.

Private boating will begin on May 12 for Lake McDonald with the opening of the Apgar AIS inspection station. Private boating for Bowman and Kintla lakes will begin on May 24 and AIS inspections will take place at the Polebridge Ranger Station.

Many Glacier AIS inspections begin May 26 at the Many Glacier Ranger Station and May 25 at St.Mary. The park anticipates an operational AIS station for Two Medicine in 2024. Opening dates are still to be determined.

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 here.

The Apgar Visitor Center is currently staffed on weekends, with daily operations beginning May 11. The St. Mary Visitor Center will be open daily starting May 24.

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. Higher elevation trails can be dangerous and snow-covered until late June.

Bears are emerging from their dens hungry, and visitors should take steps to travel safely in bear country.

Parking at Logan Pass, Apgar Village, and other areas may be congested or temporarily unavailable.

Visitors are encouraged to take advantage of free shuttles for hiker access to Logan Pass although waits for shuttles may be long depending on the time and location.

Visitors can visit https://www.nps.gov/glac/index.htm for updates and additional information.