ATTENTION Montana residents and those wanting to visit Glacier National Park this summer!! The park is instituting an online reservation system (ticketed entry) for the Going-to-the-Sun Road corridor between the park’s West and St. Mary Entrances from May 28 to September 6, 2021.
This means that we will no longer be able to simply enter the park through the West Glacier park entrance without this ticket. So it’s crucial you know the details before hopping in the car on a beautiful summer day in hopes to hang out along Lake McDonald, camp in the first come first served campground at Apgar, or even just drive the shortcut along Camas Road to Polebridge.
Entering the Going-to-the-Sun Road (GTTSR) at either West Glacier or St. Mary, or via the Camas Road (where they will be building a new staffed entrance gate) will require two things… the new $2.00 Entry Reservation Ticket for Going-to-the-Sun Road AND a Park Pass. Your options for park passes are a Private Vehicle 7-day permit for $35, a Glacier National Park Annual Pass for $70, or we highly suggest purchasing the America the Beautiful National Park Annual Pass for $80. This allows you a full year’s access to over 2000 National Parks (including Yellowstone.) Any of these 3 passes can be purchased right at the gate upon your arrival.
Online Entry Reservation System (Ticketed Entry)
Day-use visitors who arrive at the West and St. Mary Entrances, or via the Camas Road, between 6am and 5pm MDT must have a $2.00 Entry Reservation Ticket. Entry Reservation Tickets are valid for seven consecutive days per vehicle. They may be used anytime within that seven day period. Visitors arriving before 6am or after 5pm can enter without a GTTSR ticket. Also, those arriving on foot or bicycle do not require a GTTSR ticket.
Entry Reservation Tickets are limited. Approximately 3/4 of the Entry Reservation Tickets will be available up to 60 days in advance with the remaining 1/4 of Entry Reservation Tickets being released two days in advance. Prior to the full opening of the Going-to-the-Sun Road there will be fewer tickets available each day.
• Entry Reservation Tickets can be secured at www.recreation.gov beginning at 8 am MDT on April 29, 2021. Be sure to make an account prior so you have everything ready when the tickets become available.
• Visitors entering the park at Many Glacier, Two Medicine, Polebridge, or along Highway 2 do not need an Entry Reservation Ticket. But access to these areas will be temporarily limited during times of peak visitation. And remember, to get to Polebridge you have to drive the outside North Fork road via the Blankenship Bridge route because you can not enter the park in West Glacier if you do not have a GTTSR pass.
• Day-use tickets to drive GTTSR are automatically given as part of the boat tour reservations if you take a Glacier Park Boat Company tour on either Lake McDonald or St Mary lake. Book at: https://reserve.glacierparkboats.com/
• A GTTSR ticket is also automatically included with any overnight lodging and service reservations along the Going-to-the-Sun Road corridor between the West and St. Mary Entrance Stations for the days you have lodging only.
Here are a few examples to help those who may still be confused.
• If you’re hoping to enter the park via West Glacier anytime between May 28 and June 28, you should log on and try to get your ticket as soon as they go on sale at 8am on April 29. With that ticket, you can enter the park on the day you purchased the ticket for and again for the next 6 days following.
• If you’re wanting to enter the park any time between June 28 and September 6, be sure to log on and try to get your ticket at 8am exactly 60 days prior to when you want to enter. Again, your ticket will be valid the day you chose and then the following 6 days.
There is also quite a bit of planned construction happening this summer. Be sure to check out the details in the link below so you don’t find yourself unknowingly stuck in traffic. For example, two sections of the Many Glacier Road will be under reconstruction in 2021. The section from Babb, MT to the Park Boundary and the section from the Park Entrance Station to the Many Glacier Hotel will be worked on. Expect delays of up to 40 minutes through these sections of the road. And because this is one of the few entrances that does not require a GTTSR ticket, it will likely be especially crowded and very possibly closed due to over congestion at peak times. We know from previous experience, if you wait in construction just to be turned around at the gate, you’ll not only be super bummed that you can’t enter the park, you also may be stuck waiting again for construction delays on your way back to Baab.
If you’re like us and feeling not super excited about these new changes, please know you are not alone. Glacier is experiencing record setting attendance every year and after being in West Glacier last summer when the East Side of the park was closed, it often hurts our hearts to see such a beautiful slice of Montana being overrun with people seeking that ultimate Instagram photo or marking experiences off their bucket list. We are definitely not against tourists visiting, but we just are not used to this many people! (Hence why we live in Montana LOL.) Lodging accommodations in and around the Park are typically full an entire year in advance, and we recently learned that there are literally no more rental cars available in Kalispell the entire 2021 summer. Glacier was busy before the Covid-19 pandemic, so you can imagine what it’s like now with so many people traveling via vehicle/camper and others ready to fly somewhere open and scenic. If last summer was any indication of the increasing popularity of Glacier, I’m nervous to see what it’ll be like in years to come. Even with all of the tourists and the changes to the Park, we hope every Montanan who wants to can still get out and enjoy this treasure. Be sure to get your GTTSR ticket this year and enjoy Glacier, fellow Montanans!