Visitation skyrocketed in Glacier National Park in June, shattering the previous monthly record and foreshadowing another unprecedented summer for attendance.
Nearly 621,000 people visited Glacier Park last month, roughly 136,000 more than last June, which held the previous monthly record, according to National Park Service statistics. Last month broke the June 2016 record by 28 percent and saw nearly twice as many visitors as five years ago.
“We had thought the park seemed much busier than last year, even before we saw the official numbers,” said Park Superintendent Jeff Mow. “In the past, much of our visitation has been attributed to the opening of the Going-to-the-Sun Road. However, this year the Going-to-the-Sun Road opened 12 days later than in 2016 and we still saw a dramatic increase.”
Through the first six months of 2017, Glacier has already attracted more than 869,000 people, a 12 percent increase over the first six months of 2016.
The booming attendance — and persistent congestion — does not appear to be letting up after three consecutive years of record-breaking pace. This summer park officials have been reporting full parking lots at Logan Pass, Avalanche, Bowman Lake and other popular locations between 9-10 a.m. throughout the week. Campgrounds at all corners of the park are similarly brimming with eager, and oftentimes out-of-luck, visitors.
Park rangers initiated a one-hour emergency temporary closure of the Many Glacier Valley for the first time over the Fourth of July weekend due to gridlock conditions in hotel and trailhead parking areas and access roads, according to the NPS.
In the North Fork area and other areas of the park, rangers are temporarily restricting traffic to ensure that roads and parking areas remain accessible to emergency vehicles and do not become gridlocked.
Park shuttle ridership has also increased, the NPS says. As of July 10, 10 days into the shuttle’s operational season, ridership had increased by 6,829 over 2016 levels, for a total of 30,644 riders.
If June’s trend continues, Glacier could attract more than one million people in just the month of July for the first time in history. More than 818,000 people visited the park in July 2016. It was the busiest individual month in the park’s history, followed by August 2016, which drew 748,565 people.
The West Entrance, the most popular entry point in the park, saw a 12 percent increase in visitors last month with 228,321 people. The St. Mary entrance was next with 175,325 people, a 61 percent increase over last year. Many Glacier drew 66,300 people, a 7.5 percent increase. Two Medicine drew 42,597 people, a 46 percent increase over June 2016.
Glacier has set annual attendance records for three consecutive years. Last year the national park drew 2.9 million visitors, a 24 percent increase over the annual record set in 2015.