Glacier Guides and Montana Raft

Glacier During a Government Shutdown

Winter Edition: What to Do In Glacier During a Government Shutdown

Right now, the federal government is shut down, and yes, that is affecting Glacier National Park. Here’s what we know, and what we suggest if you’re visiting our gorgeous park over the holidays.

Lake McDonald Glacier During a Government Shutdown

NPS Photo / Bill Hayden

The Official Word on What To Do In Glacier During a Government Shutdown

As per the park’s press release:

Park roads and trails in Glacier National Park will remain accessible to visitors, but emergency and rescue services will be limited. There will be no NPS-provided visitor services at Glacier National Park, including public information, restrooms, trash collection, and facilities and roads maintenance. Vault toilets may still be available though will not be maintained. Plowing will be limited to areas that serve residential areas. Because of the federal government shutdown, NPS social media and websites are not being monitored or updated and may not reflect current conditions.

For updates on the shutdown, please visit www.doi.gov/shutdown.

In Real Life: What To Do in Glacier During a Government Shutdown

What does this mean in real life? Honestly, not much is really all that different in Glacier during this shutdown. Most roads in Glacier are usually closed to vehicle traffic during the winter months. Access into Glacier during the winter is typically via ski or snowshoe. Services in Glacier are normally fairly limited this time of year.

Snowshoeing in Glacier During a Government Shutdown

NPS Photo / Jacob W. Frank

With this shutdown, only essential / emergency services will be provided. So, backcountry permits won’t be issued, roads won’t be plowed, toilets won’t be cleaned, and trash cans won’t be serviced. But the activities we love most in Glacier in the winter are cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. As long as the road is plowed to the access point that you have in mind, you won’t be affected.

Caveat: during the shutdown, the park isn’t updating its website or social media. And it’s not plowing most roads. So, if the road to Lake McDonald Lodge, for example, becomes impassable, it probably won’t be reflected digitally. (Although you can be sure that if we know of specific conditions in the park, we’ll post an update on our Facebook page.)

Takeaway: let’s be extra vigilant if you’re recreating in Glacier during a government shutdown. If there appears to be too much snow or ice on a road for safe passage, exercise common sense and good judgment and turn around BEFORE you need help. If you’re headed over to the east side, get a guesstimate of conditions by checking the Montana Road Conditions Map, which is not affected by the federal shutdown.

Montana Road Conditions Map

Montana Road Conditions at 9:23am, Thursday, December 27, 2018

But Should You Go to Glacier During a Government Shutdown?

Ok, so we’ve established that you CAN recreate in Glacier during a government shutdown. Next question: should you?

We say yes, as long as you can be responsible for yourself and practice Leave No Trace principles. Pack it in, pack it out. No bathrooms and no trash service mean that whatever you bring with you, you’ll need to be prepared to take it back with you. If you need a refresher on best winter time Leave No Trace practices, check this out. If you’re not prepared to practice winter Leave No Trace practices in Glacier, then recreate elsewhere. Here are our suggestions:

What Else Is There to Do in Near Glacier During a Government Shutdown?

Wintertime in our area of Montana is the stuff Hallmark Christmas movies are made of. Think sparkly snow, roaring fires, delicious hot beverages, and a quieter pace than summertime. There is fun to be had all over the Flathead valley. In no particular order, here are our Top 10 picks for winter activities outside of Glacier National Park.

  1. Downhill Skiing and Snowboarding at Whitefish Mountain Resort
  2. Sleigh Riding with the great folks and gorgeous horses at the Bar W Ranch
  3. Snowmobile touring with Swan Mountain Outfitters
  4. Dogsledding in absolutely charming Bigfork, Montana – Christmas Central, if you’re into that sort of thing
  5. Savoring hot drinks at the Snug Bar in the Khandahar Lodge on Big Mountain – and if you can get a dinner reservation with their James Beard nominated chef, we bet you’ll remember your meal forever!
  6. Cross country skiing at the Glacier Nordic Center
  7. Also: cross country skiing at the Izaak Walton – explore the Flathead National Forest
  8. Ice-skating under Montana’s famous Big Sky at Woodland Park in Kalispell
  9. Biking — yep, try out the fat tires at the Whitefish Bike Retreat
  10. Load up the sleds and head to Columbia Fall’s famous Thrill Hill for sledding — and then walk downtown for dinner at North Fork Pizza, Vaqueros, Three Forks, Tea Kettle Cafe, or the new Gunsight Bar and Grille

Questions? Feel free to shoot me an e-mail.

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Glacier During a Government Shutdown

NPS Photo / Jacob W. Frank

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