Posted: Jun 20, 2012 5:02 PM by Laura Wilson - KPAX/KAJ News
Updated: Jun 21, 2012 9:30 AM
WEST GLACIER- Glacier National Park crews were able to open all 50 miles of Going-to-the-Sun Road on Tuesday afternoon after getting hit with some post-Memorial Day snow.
While it may not look like summer, for many local businesses in the area, summer is underway now that access to Logan Pass is open.
Heavy rain and cold weather didn't stop thousands of tourists from heading into Glacier Tuesday to be some of the first to explore the entire span of the park this season.
"It's beautiful country here, and it's definitely wet!" said visitor Jeanne Byquist.
Another traveler, Bryan Brah, said, "I'm just completely blown away. Even with the drizzle, it's still wonderful."
Randy Gayner, owner of Glacier Guides and Montana Raft Company said everyone was crossing their fingers Going-to-the-Sun would open as soon as possible.
"This is just a little bit later than the earliest they thought they could do it this year, so I think we're all pretty pleased," Gayner said.
Glacier Public Affairs Specialist Denise Germann said the park's role in drawing tourists to northwest Montana is huge.
"We understand that access to Logan Pass is a big deal to a lot of folks," Germann said.
This year's opening of the entire 50 mile stretch comes almost a month earlier than it did last year, which boosts revenue to area businesses.
"People now think that the park is open, even though it's open year-round," Gayner said.
Glacier said twice as many visitors come through Glacier once Going-to-the-Sun opens, which means more people spending money on trips and activities.
One of the park's visitors that day, Byquist, said she found great places to stop. "There's some great places to eat, There's some great shopping in the area, certainly," Byquist said. "We've had a good time in spite of the rain."
More tourists are expected to visit the park as the weather warms.
Park officials want to remind people to dress in layers, though, in anticipation of winter-like conditions at higher elevations of the park.
Cyclists are reminded that bicycle restrictions are in effect on Going-to-the-Sun road due to traffic congestion now through Labor Day.