Glacier Park Visitation Up in November

Recreational visits remain below the 3 million mark as winter arrives in earnest and all but 17 miles of Sun Road are closed

By Tristan Scott
A group of snowshoers pause along Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park. Beacon File Photo

Visitation in Glacier National Park was up nearly 32.5 percent in November, when more than 20,650 people passed through its gates compared to about 15,600 visits during the same month last year.

The November figures bring the total year-to-date visitation to 2,960,035, which is 10.52 percent fewer than last year at this time, when 3,308,026 visitors had already come to Glacier despite the smoky skies of another destructive wildfire season.

Major wildfires have impacted the west side of the park — by far the busiest entrance — 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.

Visitors to Glacier via the West Entrance totaled 16,195, while visitors to Saint Mary totaled 989. Visitors to Camas totaled 2,726, while 585 entered the park at Polebridge.

While Glacier enjoys visitors during the winter months, all but 17 miles of its famed Going-to-the-Sun Road are currently closed, and its unlikely that December’s visitation is going to carry the park above 3 million visitors.

Visitors can drive 11.5 miles from the West Entrance to Lake McDonald Lodge, and 5.5 miles from the St. Mary Entrance to Rising Sun.

The section of the road between Lake McDonald Lodge and Rising Sun is closed due to the weather.

Hiking, skiing, snowshoeing and ice skating remain popular activities throughout the winter season to those who brave the snow and frigid temperatures.

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