Glacier Visitation Up Despite Wildfire Closures

More than 434,000 people visited Glacier in September

By Justin Franz
Visitors snap selfies at the Oberlin Bend overlook in Glacier National Park. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

Despite wildfire-related closures and travel restrictions on the beloved Going-to-the-Sun Road for part of the month, visitation in Glacier National Park was up 11.7 percent in September.

Approximately, 434,600 people visited Glacier in September, up from 389,137 people in September 2017.

Major wildfires have impacted the west side of the park for the last two years and at times significantly suppressed visitation. In August and September 2017, the Sprague Fire torched 17,000 acres, forcing the evacuation and closure of a large part of the park, and destroyed the historic Sperry Chalet. In August 2018, the Howe Ridge Fire torched more than 14,500 acres and forced the evacuation of a large part of the Lake McDonald area. It also closed the Sun Road for most of August and into September. Limited shuttle access between Apgar and Logan Pass resumed Sept. 7 and 10 days later the entire road reopened to private vehicles.

Although September visitation was up when compared to the previous year, total year-to-date visitation is still down by 11.2 percent. From January to September 2017, 3,192,182 people visited the park. From January to September 2018, 2,947,230 people came to Glacier.

Visitation to the Essex and Goat Lick area of the park, along U.S. Highway 2, was up 42.9 percent, from 19,402 visitors in September 2017 to 27,728 in September 2018. Visitation to Many Glacier was up 10.9 percent, from 58,045 in September 2017 to 64,367 in September 2018. Visitation to Polebridge was down 3.4 percent from 13,399 in September 2017 to 12,943 in September 2018.

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