Bulldozers clear snow from Going-to-the-Sun Road near Haystack Creek Falls in Glacier National Park on April 24, 2023. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon
Glacier Park

Snowplowing Begins on Glacier National Park Roadways

Road crews began clearing snow in the Two Medicine Valley this week and will start plowing Going-to-the-Sun Road on April 1

By Micah Drew

It’s no joke; April 1 marks the official start of the monumental task for Glacier National Park road crews to begin clearing the park’s iconic Going-to-the-Sun Road. The fleet of snowplows and excavators revved to life this month begin clearing outlying roads before forging a pathway through a winter’s worth of snow on the park’s main thoroughfare.

On March 15, crews started plowing Chief Mountain Highway between U.S. Highway 89 and the U.S.-Canada border, and began work on the first of the park’s main entrances this week. Starting March 25, crews began clearing Two Medicine Road from Running Eagle Falls to Two Medicine Lake on the park’s east side. Work on the Many Glacier Road and Going-to-the-Sun Road beginning at the gate closure at St. Mary is expected to commence next week.

On the west side, the road crew will start clearing Camas Road and Fish Creek Campground on Monday and then move to Going-to-the-Sun Road starting from Lake McDonald Lodge and working towards Avalanche. Crews cannot start past Avalanche until April 15, according to Glacier Park spokesperson Gina Icenoggle.

The annual rite of opening the park’s alpine thoroughfare, which includes installing safety barricades along the road’s upper stretches, takes roughly three months. The west side’s 12-person crew, which includes two U.S. Geological Survey avalanche technicians, utilizes excavators, front-end loaders and dump trucks that can move thousands of tons of snow an hour. The most intensive part of the road to work through is the Big Drift, a colossal snowbank just east of Logan Pass that often towers 80 feet above the roadbed.

In addition, changing weather conditions can lead to avalanches and mud slides, especially throughout the upper stretches of the Sun Road, which can lead to additional days of work as road crews backtrack to clear new debris.

The full 50-mile length of the Going-to-the-Sun Road usually open to motorized traffic in late June. Last year’s June 13 opening date was the earliest since 2005.

“Every year people like to guess, but no one really knows when it’ll open,” Icenoggle said. “We have a long way to go before we can predict anything.”

Blue dots indicate annual opening dates for Glacier National Park’s Going-to-the-Sun Road. The red line represents the rolling 10-year average. Beacon graphic


Road crew closures are in place Monday through Thursday during plowing. Visitors may advance to the Avalanche Hazard Closure when road crews are not working. An Avalanche Hazard Closure is in place at all times. Progressive closure locations are determined weekly on Thursdays. Visitors are not permitted to go beyond hiker/biker closures. Visitors who disobey the signage are putting themselves and park rangers at risk. Violators could face a hefty fine.

For road status and plowing updates, as well as additional information about hiker/biker road crew closures, visit the park’s website at https://www.nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/directions.htm.

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