WEST GLACIER — Following guidance from the White House, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and state and local public health authorities, Glacier National Park is increasing recreational access and services on a limited basis on June 8. The park has been closed to visitors since March 24 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The park announced its decision to reopen on Tuesday.
Glacier released their phased reopening plan last week. This limited opening approach will allow the park to continue coordinating with the Blackfeet Tribe while they maintain restrictions through June 30, help the park and internal business partners improve and refine mitigation actions with lighter levels of visitation, and allow for an assessment of how returning visitors affect COVID-19 curves within surrounding gateway communities.
“We understand the economic importance that Glacier has to our gateway communities,” Superintendent Jeff Mow said in a media release. “Our goal is to gradually provide visitor access and to mitigate for and respond quickly to any new infections should they occur.”
The park’s reopening priorities center on protecting the public and employees from transmission risks through a variety of mitigation actions consistent with local, state, tribal, and federal guidance.
The park will actively monitor changing conditions (in the park and in surrounding counties); and will maintain flexibility to expand, adjust, or contract operations as conditions warrant. The park has developed a range of mitigation actions that include: providing protective barriers where needed, encouraging the use of masks or facial coverings when social distancing cannot be maintained, increasing cleaning frequency of facilities, adding signage on boardwalks and other public spaces, and messaging to visitors through a variety of methods.
Areas that will be open June 8:
- On Monday, June 8, the park will open the west gate entrance at West Glacier. The gate will be open until 4:30 p.m. each day until operations are extended.
- Visitors will be able to access Apgar and Going-to-the-Sun Road as far as Lake McDonald Lodge.
- Going-to-the-Sun will open to hiker/biker traffic as conditions allow. Check the park website for updates.
- Visitors will be able to access restrooms and trails that are accessible from open park roads.
- Private businesses in Apgar Village may decide to operate.
- The park is targeting to have personal boating on Lake McDonald and aquatic invasive species inspection stations open. Check the park website for updates
Areas that will remain closed until the later phases of the plan:
- East entrances from the Blackfeet Reservation will remain closed. The park is consulting with the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council to establish reopening dates for entrances from the reservation.
- Visitor Centers and Ranger Stations will remain closed until later in the season.
- Overnight accommodations will be unavailable until later in the season.
- Campgrounds, backcountry permits, additional stores, expanded tours, takeout food service, and visitor centers will remain closed. These services and/or facilities will open when safe and appropriate mitigation measures are in place.
- Hotels, full-service dining, commercial tour buses, and ranger programs will remain closed. These services and/or facilities will reopen when health conditions allow.
- Visitor Transportation Service (shuttles) will not be offered this season due to social distancing requirements in according with Center for Disease guidance on transit.
Visitors should come prepared and follow all CDC and local health guidance by practicing good hygiene and social distancing. Face coverings are recommended where social distancing is not possible. People who are sick should stay home and not visit the park. The CDC has provided specific guidance on visiting parks and recreational facilities.
Previously-scheduled road construction projects on both sides of the park will continue in the spring and summer. Many areas of the park are still experiencing winter conditions and plowing is in progress on Going-to-the-Sun Road. As in previous years, Going-to-the-Sun Road over Logan Pass is expected to open in late June.