Glacier Park

Glacier National Park Announces Spring Operations

Park officials announced start of hiker/biker shuttle, opening dates for frontcountry campgrounds and new Apgar traffic patterns

By Beacon Staff
E-bikers along Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park on June 19, 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

While full park operations are still a month off, Glacier National Park staff is preparing for the busy summer season and have announced a number of recreational opportunities for visitors throughout May.

Along the west side of Going-to-the-Sun Road, construction crews are finishing the final phase of a pavement reconstruction project between Sprague Creek Campground and North Lake McDonald Road. The construction is expected to finish in late May or early June depending on weather. Visitors should anticipate delays of up to 30 minutes, including on weekends through Memorial Day.

Construction is ongoing to replace the Upper McDonald Creek Bridge, and the North Lake McDonald Road will be closed to all public access this year. This includes hikers on the Johns Lake Loop Trail.

Currently the Sun Road is open to Avalanche for vehicles, and hikers and bikers are permitted past that point to any posted closures. While road crews are actively plowing the alpine stretches of Going-to-the-Sun Road, the hiker/biker closure is in place at the Loop. After road crews are done for the day, hikers and bikers can venture further until the avalanche hazard closure sign. Violating closures is a safety risk and could lead to fines up to $5,000 and up to six months in jail.

The park’s free spring hiker/biker shuttle began running on May 11 and offers service between Apgar Visitor Center, Lake McDonald Lodge and Avalanche Creek on weekends between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. The shuttle operates on a first come, first served basis and will continue until June 30 or when Going-to-the-Sun Road opens. Daily shuttle operations will begin July 1.

For safety purposes, from May 24 through Sept. 8 whatever portion of Going-to-the-Sun Road that is open to motor vehicles will be closed to bicycle use (both directions) between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. from Apgar to Logan Pass, due to increased vehicle traffic expected in the afternoon when vehicle reservations are no longer required for entrance to the park.

Many Glacier, Camas, Quarter Circle Bridge, and Chief Mountain roads are open for the season. The road into Two Medicine remains temporarily closed at the park boundary. The Chief Mountain Border Crossing remains closed until May 15. See Canada Border Services Agency website for details.  

Vehicle reservations are required for all west side park entrances starting May 24, and Many Glacier entrance starting July 1. Vehicle reservations are not required for St. Mary and Two Medicine entrances in 2024. Check the Glacier National Park website for details.  

The vehicle reservation checkpoint on Going-to-the-Sun Road for east-bound traffic will be located at the turn-off for Apgar Loop Road. Visitors without a vehicle reservation or service reservation will be required to take a left turn onto Apgar Loop Road and circle back through Apgar Village. Congestion is expected in Apgar Village and Apgar Visitor Center with limited parking. Only emergency vehicles will be allowed to take a left turn from Apgar Loop Road onto Going-to-the-Sun Road (see map). Service reservations originating east of Logan Pass cannot be used instead of a vehicle reservation for access past the Apgar Check Point heading east on Going-to-the-Sun Road.

At the four-way intersection of the West Entrance, Camas Road, Apgar Transit Center Loop, and Going-to-the-Sun Road, a text box reads, “Only turn right on Going-to-the-Sun Road from the West Entrance if you have a vehicle reservation or a service reservation for Going-to-the-Sun Road.” There is another text box at the Apgar Check Point, located at the intersection of Going-to-the-Sun Road and Apgar Loop Road, that reads, “Vehicle reservations will be checked at the Apgar Check Point. A park ranger will check to see if you have a vehicle reservation for Going-to-the-Sun Road or a qualifying service reservation.” There is another text box along Apgar Loop Road, and Going-to-the-Sun Road, that reads, “A left turn at Apgar Loop Road will not be permitted to turn left on to Going-to-the-Sun Road, at the Apgar Check Point. Left turns will only be authorized for emergency vehicles.”

Additional Spring Operations

Visitor Centers
The Apgar Visitor Center began daily operations on May 11, and the St. May Visitor Center will be open daily starting May 24.

Wilderness Permit Offices
The Apgar Wilderness Permit office opened May 1. St. Mary and Many Glacier offices open May 26, and Polebridge opens May 27. Wilderness permits will not be available at the Two Medicine Ranger Station in 2024. The St. Mary, Apgar and Polebridge permit offices are always accessible without a vehicle reservation. Many Glacier permit office is inside the vehicle reservation area. Once vehicle reservations go into effect for the season, this office can be accessed without a reservation before 6 a.m. and after 3 p.m.  

Boat Inspections 
Private boating will begin on May 12 for Lake McDonald with the opening of the Apgar AIS (Aquatic Invasive Species) inspection station. Private boating for Bowman and Kintla lakes will begin on May 24 and AIS inspections will take place at the Polebridge Ranger Station.   

Many Glacier AIS inspections begin May 26 at the Many Glacier Ranger Station and May 25 at St. Mary. The park anticipates an operational AIS station for Two Medicine in 2024. Opening dates are still to be determined.  

Most frontcountry campgrounds will operate under a reservation system in 2024 utilizing recreation.gov. Most campsites are reservable six months in advance, with several spots in each campground set aside to be reserved four days in advance.

Visitors with a camping reservation do not need a vehicle reservation to enter the section of the park where they will be staying. Park officials ask that visitors not make camping reservations for the sole purpose of gaining access to the park. Reservations can be canceled online and released to other visitors.

Campgrounds in the North Fork area will be assigned first come, first served at the Polebridge Entrance Station.  

Frontcountry campgrounds scheduled to open in May include the following:  

  • Apgar Campground: Currently open. Advance camping reservations are required. 
  • Fish Creek Campground: Partially open on May 17 and fully open on May 24. Advance camping reservations are required. 
  • Sprague Creek Campground: Opens May 24. Advance camping reservations are required. 
  • St. Mary Campground: Currently open on a first come, first served basis. Fully open on May 24 and advance camping reservations are required.   
  • Bowman Lake Campground: Opens May 24 on a first come, first serve basis.   
  • Kintla Lake Campground: Opens May 24 on a first come, first serve basis.  
  • Cut Bank Campground: Opens May 31 to primitive camping on a first come, first serve basis.

Other park campgrounds not listed above are expected to open in June and July. Please check the campground page on the park’s website for a complete list of dates.