WEST GLACIER — Longer days and warmer temperatures mean animals and visitors alike are becoming more active in Glacier National Park.
More park operations and services will be available than in 2020, although COVID-19 mitigations and resulting staffing limitations will reduce some services.
While full park operations are still a couple of months off, visitors will see increasing recreational opportunities throughout the months of April and May.
Road plowing began the first week of April and will continue until Going-to-the-Sun Road opens over Logan Pass, typically between mid-June and mid-July.
Road crews report that snow levels at lower elevations have been less than many years, allowing quick progress to The Loop, according to a news release.
Typical years see snowstorms and avalanches continuing through April and May, making it impossible to predict an opening date.
On the west side of the park, Going-to-the Sun Road is open to vehicles approximately 12 miles from the West Entrance to Lake McDonald Lodge.
Hikers and bikers may use the road approximately six additional miles to Avalanche Creek when the road crew is working and may go to The Loop on weekends or when the road crew is not working.
On the east side of the park, visitors may drive Going-to-the-Sun Road approximately six miles from St. Mary to Rising Sun.
Hiking and biking is allowed as far as the hiker/biker closure, which is determined by changing road crew activity and conditions.
Two Medicine Road is closed at the park boundary however, hikers and bikers may travel farther into the Two Medicine Valley.
Many Glacier Road is closed to all public access due to road construction. It will open for the season on May 28 with road construction necessitating possible 40-minute delays in both directions.
The Inside North Fork Road is closed between the Polebridge Ranger Station and Fish Creek.
Additionally, road access to Bowman and Kintla Lakes has not yet opened for the season. The dirt roads will open when conditions allow but are prone to intermittent closure in the spring.
The Camas Road is open for the season. Road construction on the Camas Road will require 30-minute delays in both directions beginning mid-May.
Check the Glacier National Park website for additional information on construction in and around the park.
Quarter Circle Bridge Road, accessing the Apgar Lookout trail, is open for the season.
The park’s free spring hiker/biker shuttle will not run this year due to COVID-19 social distancing requirements.
Park officials note they are moving forward with plans to operate a shuttle service during the regular season as COVID-19 mitigations allow.
More campgrounds will be open in 2021 than in 2020. However, St. Mary, Rising Sun, and Cut Bank campgrounds will not open this year due to staffing limitations in response to COVID-19.
Campgrounds scheduled to open in April and May include:
- Apgar Campground opening fully April 23 and currently open for primitive camping.
- Sprague Creek Campground opening May 7.
- Bowman Lake, Kintla Lake, Fish Creek (reservations only), and Two Medicine Campgrounds opening May 28.
All wilderness campgrounds (formerly referred to as backcountry campgrounds) except in the Goat Haunt area will be available in 2021 as conditions allow.
Approximately half of the wilderness camping permits were made available for advanced reservations on March 17.
Rangers are currently processing the record number of advance reservation applications received, according to park officials.
The remaining wilderness camping permits will be available for walk-in campers the day before or day of the trip start date.
The Apgar Backcountry Permit Center will open May 1 while stations at Two Medicine, St. Mary, and Many Glacier will open May 29.
All park concessions are expected to operate this summer but services have been modified to incorporate COVID-19 mitigations.
Early season openings include:
- Glacier National Park Lodges are scheduled to open Lake McDonald Campstore on May 7; Lake McDonald Lodge on May 14 with take-out food service; Village Inn at Apgar on May 19; and Two Medicine Campstore on May 28.
- Swan Mountain Outfitters horseback rides are scheduled to begin out of Apgar May 15 and from Lake McDonald Lodge May 22.
- Glacier Park Boat Company boat tours and rentals are scheduled to begin at Lake McDonald on May 15 and Two Medicine on May 29. Apgar boat rentals are scheduled to open May 29.
- Glacier Guides day hikes are scheduled to begin in May.
Private boating will begin on Lake McDonald May 8 with the opening of the Apgar AIS inspection station. Many Glacier AIS inspections will begin May 29. Also opening May 29 will be a new AIS station at Polebridge for Kintla and Bowman lakes.
The Apgar Visitor Center will be staffed on weekends beginning April 17, with daily operations beginning May 15. The St. Mary Visitor Center will be open daily starting May 28.
The new Going-to-the-Sun Road Ticketed Entry reservation system will take effect May 28 with reservations becoming available at recreation.gov April 29. Click here for details.
Face masks are required in all buildings on Federal Lands and outdoors in situations where appropriate social distancing is not possible.
Park officials note much of the park is still snow-covered this time of year and travelers should be prepared for changing conditions.