WEST GLACIER — Glacier National Park has announced it will implement a Going-to-the-Sun Road temporary ticketed entry system for the 2021 season.
Park spokeswoman Gina Kerzman tells MTN News the ticketed entry will be in place to help the park manage difficulties with overcrowding issues and COVID-19 mitigations.
“We just felt like the ticketed entry would get us a couple of things, one, we would reduce the congestion in the park, and it would also prevent us from having backups on Highway 2, and it would allow our visitors to have a more quality visit and also allow us to protect resources since we expect a high number of visitors this summer,” said Kerzman.
The entry reservation tickets will be available at www.Recreation.gov starting April 29, barring any unforeseen delays.
The system will require visitors to set up an account and obtain a vehicle entry reservation ticket to enter the 50-mile long Going-to-the-Sun Road (GTSR) corridor at the West Glacier and St. Mary entrances between 6 a.m. and 5 p.m. between Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend. Park officials note there is a $2 nonrefundable fee.
Entry reservation tickets will not be required for those with lodging, camping, transportation, or commercial activity in the GTSR corridor. Additionally, landowners with property within the GTSR corridor and affiliated tribal members are also not required to have an entry reservation ticket.
Glacier National Park saw record numbers of visitors in the last few years with park officials noting that this season is predicted to be one of the busiest on record.
“We have the making of a perfect storm this season,” said Park Superintendent Jeff Mow. “Not only do we have ongoing COVID-19 mitigations and reduced staffing, but we are also facing construction delays inside and around the park.”
Park officials implemented temporary closures 29 times in 25 days at the park’s West Entrance in 2020 which at times resulted in backups along Highway 2. The ticketed entry system offers visitors increased certainty that they will be able to enter the park while reducing or eliminating the need for closures at the park’s west entrance.
“The goal is to maximize access while avoiding congestion that results in temporary closures of park entrance gates,” says Mow.
Numbers will be tracked each day and additional entry reservation tickets will be available if there is additional capacity. There will be fewer entry reservation tickets available prior to the full opening of the Going-to-the-Sun Road, but once the road opens, the number of entry reservation tickets available will increase.
The park plans to start plowing the historic road on April 5, however, the date for full reopening isn't known at this time and is subject to weather and plowing progress.
Approximately two-thirds of the entry reservation tickets will be released for 60 days advance purchase on a rolling window, and the remaining entry reservation tickets will be released for 48 hours advance purchase, also on a rolling window.
For example, on June 2 a visitor could purchase entry reservation tickets 48 hours in advance for entry on June 4. They could also purchase an entry reservation ticket 60 days in advance for entry on Aug. 2.
- The entrance fee for Glacier National Park is $35.00 per vehicle ($30 for motorcycles) and is good for seven days. The nonrefundable $2.00 GTSR entry reservation ticket is in addition to the entrance fee and is also valid for 7 days. Both are required to drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road. If you hold a valid Interagency Annual/Lifetime Pass or a Glacier National Park Annual Pass, you will only have to purchase the $2.00 nonrefundable GTSR entry reservation ticket.
- Visitors only need one entry reservation ticket per vehicle which will be valid for 7 days.
- Visitors who purchase a GTSR entry reservation ticket will receive an email confirmation from recreation.gov with an attached entry reservation ticket. Print out a copy of your entry reservation ticket or download on your mobile device or on the www.Recreation.gov mobile app prior to arriving at the park. All reservations are non-transferable and considered void if the reservation holder is not in the vehicle upon entering. A photo ID will be required by the reservation holder. If a visitor claims to have a valid Interagency Annual/Lifetime Pass or a Glacier National Park Annual Pass when making the reservation, the pass must also be shown at time of entry.
- GTSR entry reservation tickets are not required for any other portions of the park (for example Many Glacier, Two Medicine, North Fork, Cut Bank, Chief Mountain Highway), but visitors are still subject to the per vehicle entrance fee.
- Vehicles that arrive with reservations within the GTSR corridor such as at a campground, Lake McDonald Lodge, or a chalet do not need a GTSR entry reservation ticket for the dates listed on the reservation, but are subject to the per vehicle entrance fee Visitors who have reservations for commercial services such as a horseback ride, boat ride or guided hike or other permitted special use and commercial use also do not need a GTSR entry reservation ticket but are subject to the per vehicle entrance fee. Visitors must provide a copy of their reservation, along with a photo ID, as proof at the time of entry.
- If a visitor arrives at the West Glacier or St. Mary entrance without a GTSR entry reservation ticket, they will be turned away but can go online at www.Recreation.gov to see if an entry reservation ticket is available for that day. This may be possible if entry reservation tickets are not sold out.
- GTSR entry reservation tickets will not be sold at the park, and are only available online at www.Recreation.gov. Visitors will still be able to pay per vehicle entrance fees at the park.
- A GTSR entry reservation ticket does not guarantee a parking space. Parking will continue to be in demand at popular locations such as Avalanche, Logan Pass and St. Mary Falls areas.
In February, to protect the health of those who live, work, and visit national parks and National Park Service (NPS) facilities, and in support of President Biden’s Executive Order on Protecting the Federal Workforce and Requiring Mask-Wearing, the NPS implemented a mask requirement for employees, visitors, partners and contractors. At Glacier National Park, face masks are required in all park buildings and facilities. Masks are also required on NPS-managed lands when physical distancing cannot be maintained, including narrow or busy trails, parking lots, pull-offs and overlooks.
Park officials add in a news release that park visitors should follow local area and federal health orders, maintain social distance, and avoid high-risk outdoor activities. Please do not visit if you are sick or were recently exposed to COVID-19. Park staff will continue to monitor all park functions to ensure that visitors adhere to CDC guidance for mitigating risks associated with the transmission of COVID-19 and take any additional steps necessary to protect public health.
Additional information can be found on the Glacier National Park website.