Earliest Opening Since 2005 for This Popular Glacier Road
It's been almost 2-decades since sightseers were able to stop and take in the view at Logan Pass before June hits the mid-way mark.
But that's exactly what happened Tuesday morning when the legendary Going-to-the-Sun Road opened to motorized traffic for the Summer 2023 season between West Glacier and St. Mary in Glacier National Park.
It's the earliest opening of the road since 2005, and a stark difference from the past few summers when heavy snows kept the plow crews from finishing up until after the 4th of July. Last year, the road didn't open until July 13th, tying the mark for the latest opening due to snow in 2011, and COVID in 2020. The all-time latest opening is still the first year of the road's operation in 1933.
This early opening does come with restrictions
This year, Glacier National Park is one more using a reservation system, meaning all cars and motorcycles need a pass between 6 am and 3 pm coming through the westside entrances. On the east side at St. Mary, reservations won't be required until July 1st and passes will be needed through September 10th.
Reservations are only available online at www.recreation.gov, and not at the park entrances. However, now that Going-to-the-Sun is open, a limited number of passes will be released each day, starting at 8 am on a first-come, first-served basis.
Passes will also be expanded this summer to include other entrances, such as Many Glacier, Polebridge, and Two Medicine. Visitors who have already booked lodging, campsites, boat trips, and horse rides don't need an additional vehicle reservation. But they need to show a confirmation email of that reservation upon entering.
Photo courtesy of DEA / G.SIOEN/De Agostini/Getty Images
The park remains open 24/7, and the requirements for reservations have been eased in the afternoon and evenings, which should allow locals more chances to access the park without trying to schedule a reservation.
The park's free shuttles will also start operations on July 1st. And bikes are still welcome on the road but are prohibited in some congested areas between 11 am and 4 pm.
Some construction delays
Construction means slow traffic on Going-to-the-Sun Road this summer, as crews continue work on a big infrastructure project along Lake McDonald. Traffic lights will control cars along the lake, with up to 30-minute delays. Rockfall near the Loop also means additional 10-minute delays. There are no construction planned on the east side.
Trail closures too
The famous Highland Trail and part of the Grinnell Glacier Trail remain closed because of snow drifts that present safety hazards. The Hidden Lake Trail will be closed from June 15th through August 7th because of bears trying to catch spawning fish at the lake's outlet.