Winter Opportunities Remain in Glacier, Flathead National Forest

By Beacon Staff

Don’t be fooled by the common misconception that Glacier National Park goes into hibernation during the winter.

It’s not true.

I found this out a couple years ago after an unforgettable day of snowshoeing. Ever since I’ve been anxious to appreciate the great Crown through these quiet months.

This week park officials announced that reduced entrance fees are now in effect until the end of April. The price for a seven-day pass for a vehicle is $15 and $10 for single entrants.

Yes, there are limited services and locations available in Glacier throughout the winter. But there are still adventures to be had among the million acres of land in our backyard.

The Apgar Visitor Center will remain open on weekends from 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. The National Park Service maintains the 10-mile stretch of road from West Glacier to Lake McDonald Lodge. The plows also clear the east side stretch from the St. Mary entrance to the campground. Access to Avalanche Creek is still available until Dec. 14 and Rising Sun can be accessed until Dec. 31, weather permitting. For updated park road access and condition information, visit the park’s website.

Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are popular and worthwhile activities in Glacier. Park rangers will lead free snowshoe trips in the Apgar area beginning in January. The walks leave the Apgar Visitor Center at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, Jan. 7-March 18. Local companies such as the Glacier Outdoor Center also offer guided snowshoe trips.

Free winter camping can still be done at the Apgar picnic area and St. Mary campground.

For those interested in overnight backcountry trips, permits (no charge) are required and can be picked up at the park headquarters in West Glacier or at the Apgar Visitor Center on weekends. Or call 888-7800.

Boats can still be launched, albeit into colder-than-usual waters. Call 888-7801 to have your boat inspected. Inspections protect the park from harmful species. Also, it’s a $500 fine if you don’t get inspected.

For those into motorized recreation the general snowmobiling season began in the Flathead National Forest on Dec. 1.

Glacier National Park and designated wilderness areas, like the Bob Marshall and Jewel Basin Hiking Area, are closed to snowmobiles, but roughly 800,000 acres of nearby public land remains open. Snowmobiles are required to be registered and include safety equipment. State law prohibits over-the-snow machines from being driven on plowed roads being used by other motor vehicles.

For access information and maps outlining forest routes and groomed trails, visit the Flathead National Forest office. Maps are also available on the forest’s website. Rangers are stationed across the forest throughout the winter and can provide trail, safety and weather information.

Winter recreationists are always encouraged to be vigilant about avalanche safety.

To gain a good awareness of safety and information, visit the Glacier Avalanche Center website or call 257-8402 to receive updates on conditions and advisories.

The Flathead National Forest is hosting a free presentation with specialist Stan Bones about early-season backcountry snow and avalanche conditions on Dec. 13.

The three-hour gathering will start at 6:30 p.m. at the Flathead National Forest office in Kalispell behind Glacier High School. The gathering will touch on topics ranging from how to understand weather conditions and patterns to interpreting that information.

Bones will talk about last season and what this winter’s situation looks like with another La Nina in the forecast. Bones will also explain how avalanche advisories are formulated.

For more information, call 758-5284, or visit the forest’s site, http://www.fs.usda.gov/flathead