Going-to-the-Sun Road Opens to Avalanche Creek

Hiker-biker shuttle available on the west side of Glacier National Park

Visitors can now drive more than 15 miles of Going-to-the-Sun Road to Avalanche Creek in Glacier National Park.

The National Park Service opened a larger section of Sun Road to vehicle traffic as plow crews continue to make progress in the high country of Glacier Park.

The plows, which began clearing snow off the iconic thoroughfare in April, have made it 29 miles from West Glacier and recently passed Weeping Wall. They will spend a few days working at Big Bend, according to the NPS, before tackling the final stretch of road and landing at Logan Pass. Plows are also approaching Logan Pass from the east side and are near Siyeh Bend.

On the east side, vehicles can travel from the St. Mary Entrance to Rising Sun.

On the west side, hikers and bikers can access as far as Logan Pit, approximately 10 miles past the vehicle closure, while the road crew is working. On the east side, the hiker/biker closure is at St Mary Falls, approximately 5 miles past the vehicle closure, while the road crew is working.

Beginning May 13, the spring hiker-biker shuttle that began last year will once again be available on the west side of Glacier. The shuttle will run on the weekends — and Memorial Day — and will stop at the Apgar Visitor Center, Lake McDonald Lodge, and Avalanche Creek.

The hiker-biker shuttle will operate every 30 minutes, beginning at 9 a.m. at the Apgar Visitor Center. The last shuttle of the day will depart Avalanche Creek at 5:15 pm. It will operate until the Going-to-the-Sun Road opens fully to vehicles.

The hiker-biker shuttle debuted last year with the support of the Glacier National Park Conservancy. The park continues to evaluate this pilot program by monitoring shuttle ridership and shuttle impacts on reducing parking congestion, according to the NPS.

The shuttle emerged as a solution to the increasingly popular activity of cycling the Sun Road. On sunny spring weekend days, it is not uncommon for parking lots to completely fill with people hiking and biking up the portion of the Going-to-the-Sun Road closed to vehicle traffic.

Donations from the Glacier National Park Conservancy support the free shuttle. A portion of those funds came from last year’s Glacier Ride, a six-day fundraising bike ride in the park organized by Climate Ride. These funds will support shuttle operations and bicycle trailer acquisition. This year, the park purchased one additional bike trailer, and each trailer will be enabled to carry up to two tandem or recumbent bicycles. Additional bike racks will also be purchased this year.

Hikers and bikers may travel as far as conditions allow on weekends when plow crews are not working. During weekdays, hiker-biker restrictions are in place to allow road crews to work safely.

»»» Click here to view the road status updates in Glacier Park.

Visitors hiking or biking beyond closed gates should be alert for snowplows and other heavy equipment on park roads as well as areas of ice, slush, avalanche zones and falling rock. On the weekends, it’s possible to travel many miles beyond the closed gates, and well beyond cellular service. The nearest public phone with emergency dialing capabilities is located outside of the Lake McDonald Lodge. Visitors should prepare and take similar precautions as they would when undertaking a backcountry hiking trip. Visitors are asked to report wildlife activity and sightings.

Volunteer bike patrols will be riding the roads during core weekend hours, providing information and visitor services.

This year, the park is continuing research work with the University of Montana to monitor bicycle use within the park during the shoulder and summer seasons via bicycle traffic counters. The research is being funded by the Glacier National Park Conservancy, and will help the park better understand and prepare for this emerging activity, the agency said.

If you enjoy stories like this one, please consider joining the Flathead Beacon Editor’s Club. For as little as $5 per month, Editor’s Club members support independent local journalism and earn a pipeline to Beacon journalists. Members also gain access to www.beaconeditorsclub.com, where they will find exclusive content like deep dives into our biggest stories and a behind-the-scenes look at our newsroom.