Glacier Park

Glacier National Park Seeks Public Input to Help Shape Visitor Access

Park officials are in the third summer of piloting a vehicle reservation system for major park entrances and is gathering feedback to inform next summer’s strategy

By Beacon Staff
Visitors and traffic in West Glacier on Aug. 8, 2023. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Glacier National Park administrators will host a trio of upcoming civic-engagement sessions to gather public input about its vehicle reservation system and help inform their strategy for summer 2024.

Park officials will host a series of virtual and in-person public meetings in late August to provide information from the past vehicle reservation pilot programs and answer questions. They will continue to collect public input through Sept. 30.  

Over the past two decades, annual visitation at Glacier National Park has increased from approximately 1.5 million to over 3 million. Much of this use is concentrated along the Going-to-the-Sun Road corridor and other front-country destinations during the peak season of June through September, creating severe congestion at the park’s most popular entrances.

The park is in the third summer of piloting a vehicle reservation system for major park entrances. The pilot projects were initiated in summer 2021 as a response to increasing issues with traffic congestion including backups onto U.S. Highway 2, infrastructure capacity, and impacts to park resources from high concentrations of people in the most popular areas of the park, according to a news release Wednesday. Ongoing pilot reservation systems in summers 2022 and 2023 have provided opportunities to learn more and explore their viability in achieving desired conditions in the park.

Since the park initiated the pilot, it has collected and analyzed visitor use data, as well as feedback from the local community and others, to refine the parameters of the reservation system and continue to improve the visitor experience.

“We have learned a lot from the last three years of pilot reservation systems,” Glacier Park Superintendent Dave Roemer said in a prepared statement. “We’d like to hear from the public about what has worked, what hasn’t worked, and what ideas they have for managing high visitation at Glacier for 2024. We are listening, and truly need that input before we begin to develop a strategy for next summer.”

There are several opportunities to learn more about this public engagement process and ask park staff questions. Scheduled meetings include:

Wednesday, Aug. 23 — Virtual meeting from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Join by following the link at https://parkplanning.nps.gov/MeetingNotices.cfm?projectID=118357

Monday, Aug. 28 — Open house from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the St. Mary Visitor Center on the east side of the park.

Tuesday, Aug. 29 — Open house from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Cedar Creek Lodge in Columbia Falls.

“The goal of this effort is to provide the best possible access while protecting the park and ensuring visitors have meaningful and enjoyable experiences,” Roemer stated. “This work is central to the National Park Service mission, and we are looking forward to continued engagement with our partners, communities, tribes, and park friends to make sure that happens.”

The project website provides a summary of key issues, the history of visitation and visitor use management in the park, and instructions for how to formally submit comments.