Major Repairs Planned for Rugged Many Glacier Road in 2020

Visitors are ‘encouraged to explore other areas of the park’ during overhaul that includes weeks-long road closures

By Andy Viano
A view of the Many Glacier Hotel and Swiftcurrent Lake. Beacon file photo

One of Glacier National Park’s most infamous thoroughfares is scheduled for a much-needed facelift next year.

Many Glacier Road, which provides access to the popular Many Glacier Hotel and some of the park’s most well trafficked hikes, will be closed to vehicles from April 1 to May 17, 2020, and again from Sept. 21 to Dec. 16. During the intervening months, construction projects on the road are anticipated to cause delays of at least 40 minutes and as long as three hours each way from the nearby town of Babb to the Many Glacier Hotel. The construction project is expected to continue in 2021.

For years, travel on Many Glacier Road has been an unpleasant adventure for park visitors. The road runs along the Sherburne Reservoir, and the waters of the artificial reservoir have contributed to instability underneath the roadway, causing massive potholes and dramatic undulations that slow most vehicle traffic to between 10 and 15 miles per hour. Large cows from private land adjacent to the park have also been known to take up temporary residence in the middle of the road, breaking through fences meant to contain them and creating their own hazard. Cow mitigation is not part of the upcoming road construction project.

Glacier Park announced the project on Friday, Dec. 13, and urged visitors to “plan accordingly” if and when they decide to visit the Many Glacier Valley in 2020. In an effort to reduce congestion in the area, the entire Many Glacier Campground will transition to reservation only for duration of the construction project. Reservations will be $23 per night and can be made at www.recreation.gov. Half of the sites are currently available and the other half will be released in March 2020.

Commercial visitor services in the Many Glacier Valley will not be affected by the road closure, with all lodging, food and beverage, and other services scheduled to operate as normal. Non-motorized boating will still be allowed in the Many Glacier area, although boaters are “encouraged” to boat on waters in other areas to avoid adding to the anticipated congestion. Backcountry campers are likewise asked to avoid beginning or ending their hikes in the Many Glacier area, and are encouraged to pick up their advance or walk-in backcountry permits at one of the four other locations where permits are issued — Apgar, St. Mary, Two Medicine and Polebridge.

Despite its remote location, the Many Glacier Valley is one of the busiest areas of the park every summer. Hikes like Iceberg Lake, Grinnell Glacier and Cracker Lake are extremely popular, and the area has seen record visitation in line with the rest of the park in recent years.

For more information on the closures, visit www.nps.gov/glac and the new Visiting Many Glacier page at www.nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/manyglacier.htm.

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