The snow is melting, the plows have started their work and hiker/biker season on the Going-To-The-Sun Road is right around the corner. Before you head out, take a look at some of the recent rules and changes Glacier National Park is implementing for visitor safety. They also cover campgrounds that require advanced reservations, the vehicle reservation system, backcountry permits and more.
“Road plowing began the first week of April and will continue until Going-to-the-Sun Road opens over Logan Pass, usually between mid-June and mid-July. Typical years see snowstorms and avalanches continuing through April and May, making it impossible to predict an opening date.
With rising visitation during hiker/biker season and an increased amount of avalanche near misses, the park will incorporate additional safety measures around avalanche zones and hazardous trail conditions. This spring, there will be hiker/biker closure signage on Going-to-the-Sun Road that visitors will not be allowed to pass. A road crew hiker/biker closure will be in place Monday through Thursday where plow crews are currently working to clear the road. In order for heavy equipment to be safely used to open the road, the area needs to be clear of bicycles and pedestrians, similar to a construction zone. A hiker/biker avalanche hazard area closure will usually be determined by avalanche monitors and put in place Thursdays when road crews are done with their work and maintained throughout the weekend as conditions allow. Closure locations will be based on an evaluation of the potential avalanche hazard above the road. This approach will allow more of the road to be opened progressively through the season as the avalanche hazard decreases. Visitors who disobey the road closure signage are putting their safety at risk and could face up to a $5,000 fine and six months in jail.
Trail conditions in some areas may require a closure due to conditions such as ice and snow in locations with high consequences/risk. This season, Grinnell Glacier Trail will be managed similar to Highline Trail and closed during early spring due to steep trails covered by snow immediately above cliffs. These trails will open once exposed areas are melted out.
The park’s free spring hiker/biker shuttle returns this year. The shuttle will provide weekend only service from May 7 until June 26, from 9 am to 5 pm, and runs between Apgar Visitor Center, Lake McDonald Lodge, and Avalanche Creek. The shuttle operates on a first come-first served basis.
On the west side of the park, Going-to-the-Sun Road is currently open to vehicles approximately 12 miles from the West Entrance to Lake McDonald Lodge.
On the east side of the park, visitors may currently drive Going-to-the-Sun Road approximately six miles from St. Mary to Rising Sun.
Two Medicine and Many Glacier Roads are closed at the park boundary. Hikers and bikers may travel farther into the valleys. Hiker/ biker traffic currently ends at the intersection for the Many Glacier Hotel while road crews are plowing.
The Inside North Fork Road is closed between the Polebridge Ranger Station and Fish Creek. Road access to Bowman and Kintla Lakes has not yet opened for the season. These dirt roads will open when conditions allow but are prone to intermittent closure in the spring due to muddy conditions.
The Camas Road is currently closed between Apgar and the park boundary until the snow has melted out.
Quarter Circle Bridge Road, accessing the Apgar Lookout trail, is currently closed until the snow has melted out.
A vehicle reservation is required to access Going-to-the-Sun Road (GTSR) and the North Fork area via the Polebridge Entrance Station from May 27 to September 11, 2022. Most advance reservations have been available on Recreation.gov since March 2, and additional reservations will be released within 24 hours of the visitation date. Other areas of the park can be accessed without a reservation. Check the Glacier National Park website for details.
Apgar, Fish Creek, Sprague, and St. Mary Campgrounds will operate under a reservation system beginning May 27 for most of the summer. Campsites at Apgar (group sites), Fish Creek, and St. Mary sites can be reserved on recreation.gov. Reservations for the rest of Apgar and Sprague Creek will be available beginning April 20. Reservations are only available online. Other park campgrounds not listed below are expected to open in June.
Frontcountry campgrounds scheduled to open in April and May include:
• Apgar Campground will open fully April 25 on a first come-first serve basis and is currently open for primitive camping. Beginning May 27 advance reservations will be required.
• Bowman Lake Campground opens May 17 on a first come-first serve basis.
• Fish Creek Campground opens May 27 and will require an advance reservation.
• Kintla Lake Campground opens May 27 on a first come-first serve basis.
• Sprague Creek Campground opens May 10 on a first come-first serve basis. Beginning May 27 advance reservations will be required.
• St. Mary Campground is currently open for primitive camping on a first come-first serve basis and will switch over to non-primitive on May 14. Beginning May 27 advance reservations will be required.
• Two Medicine Campground opens May 27 on a first come-first serve basis.
Campgrounds in primitive status have vault toilets available and fees are reduced. No campground reservations are issued at primitive campgrounds and all camping is first-come, first-served. Visit the park’s campground page for additional camping information.
All wilderness campgrounds (formerly referred to as backcountry campgrounds) except in the Goat Haunt area will be available in 2022 as conditions allow and require a permit year-round. Almost 4,000 requests for advance reservations were submitted on March 15, 2022. The wilderness permit office will begin processing the requests for advance reservations April 17. The remaining 30% of wilderness camping permits will be available for walk-in campers the day before or day of the trip start date. The Apgar Backcountry Permit Center will open May 1 while stations at Two Medicine, St. Mary, and Many Glacier will open May 28, and the station at Polebridge will open May 27. Visitors can go straight to the other permit offices where no vehicle reservations are required if they do not have a Going-to-the-Sun Road reservation, which will be required to access the office in Apgar after May 27.
Private boating will begin on May 8 for Lake McDonald, Bowman Lake, and Kintla Lake with the opening of the Apgar and North Fork AIS (Aquatic Invasive Species) inspection stations. Inspections for North Fork-bound watercraft will still be available at the Apgar inspection station.
Many Glacier, St. Mary, and Two-Medicine AIS inspections begin May 28.
All park concessions are expected to operate this summer. Some concessioner services will open up throughout May including lodging, tours, food service, and retail shops. Visitors can find links to each concessioner service through our Lodging, Restaurants, and Services webpage.
The Apgar Visitor Center will be staffed on weekends beginning April 16, with daily operations beginning May 14. The St. Mary Visitor Center will be open daily starting May 28.”
If you still have questions, shoot us an email and we can help point you in the right direction. To stay up to date on park conditions, take a look at our page here that has webcams, road conditions and weather.