Glacier National Park officials on Tuesday morning announced the entire 50-mile length of the Going-to-the-Sun Road is open to motorized traffic between West Glacier and St. Mary, marking the iconic alpine byway’s earliest opening date since 2005.
The decision to open the Sun Road in its entirety comes after nearly two-and-a-half months of roadwork that included clearing snow up and over Logan Pass on the Continental Divide, a daunting annual task aided this spring by a historic low snowpack in northwest Montana. Today’s announcement occurs a full month earlier than last year’s season opener, which matched the latest opening date on record since the famed mountain corridor first debuted to the public on July 15, 1933.
Until today, vehicles entering the park at the west entrance could only drive as far as Avalanche Creek, while east-side motorists were stopped at Jackson Glacier Overlook; Tuesday’s opening means visitors can traverse the Sun Road’s full route up and over Logan Pass on the Continental Divide, although vehicle reservations are required.
The full opening might have occurred even earlier this season, but heavy rainfall late last week triggered rockslides that clogged culverts and drain grates with rocks and other debris, causing water hazards to spill across upper sections of the narrow two-lane asphalt highway.
Today’s opening also prompted the release of additional vehicle reservations into an online queue, both through a one-time release that occurred at 6 a.m. Tuesday as well as daily releases that will occur each day at 8 a.m.
As of 9:15 a.m., hundreds of reservations were still available at the online portal recreation.gov, whereas the passes had been selling out within minutes since the reservation requirement took effect on the Sun Road’s entrances May 26.
Advanced vehicle reservations are exclusively available on Recreation.gov and not available at the park.
For the east side of the park, vehicle reservations will not be required at Many Glacier, Two Medicine, and St. Mary (at Rising Sun) entrances until July 1. Visitors with lodging, camping, or commercial activity reservations (e.g., boat tours and horseback rides) do not need a vehicle reservation and can use their confirmation email to access the portion of the park for which their activity is booked.
The park is open 24/7 and visitors may enter the park before 6 a.m. or after 3 p.m. without a vehicle reservation.
Additional vehicle reservation information and frequently asked questions are available on the park’s vehicle reservation page.
The park’s free shuttle service along Going-to-the-Sun Road will begin operating July 1 on a first-come, first-served basis with stops at the Apgar Visitor Center, Sprague Creek Campground, Lake McDonald Lodge, Avalanche Creek, the Loop, Logan Pass, Siyeh Bend, Gunsight Pass, St. Mary Falls, Sunrift Gorge, Sun Point, Rising Sun, and the St. Mary Visitor Center. Check the park website for additional information on shuttle stops.
Services at Logan Pass include restroom facilities and potable water. Visitor information services will be provided at the Logan Pass Visitor Center from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily starting June 13. The Glacier National Park Conservancy bookstore will be operating inside of the Logan Pass Visitor Center.
Motorized traffic will encounter multiple construction zones on the Going-to-the-Sun Road this summer, with traffic lights controlling a single lane of traffic through the construction area along Lake McDonald. Visitors should expect up to 30-minute delays in both directions as well as rough and dusty driving conditions.
The park previously messaged that nighttime closures would be in place starting June 1. The contractor for the project has since determined that nightly closures are not necessary at this time; however, traffic control will remain in place for nightly work. There is a possibility that a nighttime closure will be implemented in the construction zone later in the season. Updates will be posted on the park’s construction page two weeks in advance of a nightly closure. Visitors should check the page before visiting as this may affect their visit. Visitors are encouraged to enter Going-to-the-Sun Road from the St. Mary entrance on the east side of the park to avoid construction congestion.
Due to rockfall damage, a temporary traffic light is in place just past the Loop, where the Sun Road cuts a dramatic switchback on the west side. Visitors should expect up to 10-minute delays. While driving along the road, particularly through the Rim Rock area (approximately one mile west of Logan Pass), visitors should be aware of potential rockfall and should not slow down or stop in this section, park officials warned. Rocks and other debris continue to fall throughout the summer, requiring daily clean up.
Vehicles and vehicle combinations longer than 21 feet, and/or wider than 8 feet, are prohibited on Going-to-the-Sun Road between Avalanche Campground and Rising Sun. Vehicles over 10 feet in height may have difficulty driving west from Logan Pass due to rock overhangs.
The Highline Trail and a portion of the Grinnell Glacier Trail remain closed due to hazardous snow conditions and emerging vegetation. For up-to-date information on trail conditions and clearing activities, visit the park’s trail status webpage. The Hidden Lake Trail will be closed June 15 to Aug. 7 from the overlook to Hidden Lake due to bear activity near the lake outlet while fish are spawning.
Bicyclists are reminded that bicycle safety restrictions on Going-to-the-Sun-Road are in effect through Labor Day, Sept. 4. Bicycles are prohibited in certain areas between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Information on bicycle restrictions may be found in the park newspaper available at park entrance stations, or online on the park’s bicycle information webpage.
Visitors are encouraged to limit vehicle idling to no more than two minutes in Glacier in parking lots, at scenic viewpoints and trailheads, and while stopped in traffic lines and road construction to benefit the health of both the public and the park resources.
Visitors should not throw food waste, including apple cores, orange peels, sunflower seeds, unwanted drinks (coffee, tea, soda) etc., out car windows while waiting in lines. This attracts wildlife to the roadways which increases wildlife fatalities. Discard garbage in bear-proof garbage cans.
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