Glacier Park Sees Second Busiest July on Record

Visitation dips slightly from the record-shattering totals of 2017

By Madeleine Lamon
A line of visitors wait for the shuttles at Logan Pass in Glacier National Park. Beacon file photo

After a year of record-shattering visitation at Glacier National Park, total attendance at the park has dipped slightly in July, according to the latest statistics from the National Park Service.

Last month, 905,959 people entered the park, a 10.3 percent decrease in visitation from July 2017 when the park ushered more than 1 million visitors through its gates — the highest monthly total in the park’s history.

The NPS started collecting monthly visitation totals in 1979.

This dip in visitation rates follows a similar drop in June, when 556,304 people entered the park — a 10.4 percent decrease from the same month last year. There were 1,731,611 visitors to the park in the first seven months of 2018, an 8.6 percent decrease from the more than 1.89 million who passed through its many entrances by July last year.

While last month’s visitation statistics represent a dip from 2017, they still represent the second highest all-time July attendance record for Glacier.

As is typical, the highest volume of visitors — 401,312 people — passed through Glacier’s West Entrance in July, a 2.2 percent decrease from 2017. The Walton/Goat Lick area saw a surge in visitation from the same month last year — a 37.4 percent increase — with 49,889 travellers, while Polebridge drew 22,965, a 34.1 percent decrease from last year.

With the increasing number of summer visitors, the high concentration of people in the park has created issues with traffic and congestion. Park officials have been reporting full parking lots at Logan Pass, Avalanche and other popular locations. Campgrounds throughout the park are also filled with eager, if sometimes, out-of-luck visitors. In May of this year, Superintendent Jeff Mow told the Beacon that the park advises summer visitors to “have a back-up” plan for their Montana trips.

To better counter the surging rates, NPS officials provide real-time updates regarding closures and restrictions in the park through Glacier’s social media channels. Park officials have also converted parking spots in the Logan Pass lot to short-term spaces of one or two hours to cycle visitors in and out.

The summer months of June, July and August are historically the busiest time of year for the park — a trend that remains true so far this year. The growing wildfires currently blazing throughout the park, which have forced the closure of a portion of the iconic Going-to-the-Sun Road from Lake McDonald to Logan Pass, could help keep this year’s August attendance records lower than the same month in 2017 when the park welcomed 908,479 visitors despite fire activity and construction.

Glacier, which has consistently hosted at least 2 million visitors since 2012, has broken annual attendance records for the past four years. The park, however, is not on track to surpass last year’s numbers when total visitation exceeded 3 million for the first time ever.

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