Planning Ahead for a 2019 Trip to Glacier
Visitation in 2018 was the second highest on record
West Glacier, MT – The park has begun preparations for the 2019 summer season. Summer is not only the time when most of the public comes to visit the park, but also the opportunity to complete important maintenance projects on roadways and facilities. “A little bit of planning can help visitors maximize their time in Glacier and be prepared for some of this year’s projects they may encounter,” said Glacier National Park Superintendent Jeff Mow.
Pavement Preservation Project
This spring, the park will begin a two-year pavement preservation project on the Going-to-the-Sun Road, Chief Mountain Road, a portion of Camas Road, and in parking lots and other smaller roads throughout the park. Most work will occur before July 1 or after September 2, 2019 to avoid periods of extremely high visitation. The project requires warm, dry conditions for success which will be challenging given typical Glacier weather conditions in the late spring and early fall. Hiker and biker access along the Going-to-the-Sun Road is expected on weekends during the spring plowing season, unless weather conditions cause significant project delays at the beginning of the season. Hiker and biker access on weekday afternoons is not anticipated. Any adjustment to the schedule will be posted on the park’s road status website.
Significant pavement preservation work will occur on the following schedule:
- Spring 2019-June 22: Avalanche Creek to Jackson Glacier Overlook
- Spring 2019-June 30: Chief Mountain Road (night work with traffic control in place)
- Spring 2019-early July: West Entrance Station to Avalanche Creek (with traffic control)
- After September 3, 2019: West Entrance Station to Avalanche Creek (with traffic control)
- September 2-September 15: Avalanche Creek to Logan Pass (night work with traffic control)
- September 16-September 30 (likely): Avalanche to Logan Pass hard closure - Logan Pass will be accessible from the St. Mary Entrance.
The park will also conduct pavement preservation in other areas throughout the summer, including Apgar Campground, Apgar Loop Road, Apgar Visitor Center, Lake McDonald Lodge parking lot, Logan Pass parking lot, Rising Sun Motel parking lot, St. Mary Visitor Center parking lot, St. Mary Campground, and the Swiftcurrent area. Portions of parking lots and campgrounds will be temporarily unavailable while this work occurs.
This year, park waters will open on May 11 on the west side of the park, and on June 1 on the east side of the park. All hand-propelled watercraft are required to receive an aquatic invasive species (AIS) inspection and free permit prior to launch. Gas-powered motorized boats will be allowed on Lake McDonald following a 30-day “dry time”. Similar to last year, boaters can have their boat sealed to their trailer at the Apgar AIS Inspection Station or an inspection station run by the State of Montana, Whitefish Lake, Blackfeet Nation, or the Confederated Salish-Kootenai. Non-trailered boats with electric trolling motors <10 horsepower will be allowed on Bowman, Two Medicine, St. Mary, and Swiftcurrent Lakes. These vessels will not require a 30-day “dry time” because the non-water-cooled motors are classified as a lower risk, similar to hand-propelled watercraft. The park is currently developing plans to reopen additional lakes to gas-powered motorboats with a 30-day “dry time” later this summer. More details on the logistics of these opportunities will be released as they are developed.
North Lake McDonald Road
Following the 2018 Howe Ridge Fire, park and private landowner activity is anticipated to occur throughout the summer along North Lake McDonald Road. Significant portions of the road were impacted by the fire. Fire recovery activities, including restoring telephone service, installing electrical line, and removing logs and other debris will be ongoing, with trenching and heavy equipment moving in and out of the area. This work will begin in the spring. The park expects this minor road to be closed to visitor traffic for the 2019 summer. The park will update the trail status page with additional information about the Trout Lake Trailhead and Upper McDonald Creek Trail as more details, the timing of these activities, and potential local impacts to trail use are known.
The phase 2 rebuild for Sperry Chalet will continue once the snow melts. The bid opportunity for phase 2 construction is anticipated for release this spring. Phase 1 was completed by Dick Anderson Construction last fall. The second and final phase of this reconstruction effort will include stone masonry work and all other finishes necessary to complete the chalet. The Sperry Chalet dormitory building was badly burned during the 2017 Sprague Fire.
Similar to 2018 phase 1 construction, the park will mitigate possible impacts to grizzly bears during the construction season. A closure will be in place in the Snyder Lake and Lincoln Lake drainages from mid-July to the end of October to allow bears additional uninterrupted space to forage. The trail to Sperry Chalet may be intermittently closed while helicopter or mule trains deliver supplies to the construction site. Concessioner Swan Mountain Outfitters will offer guided horseback trail rides to Sperry Chalet on Saturdays and Sundays. The Sperry Chalet Dining Room is anticipated to begin operating in early July to serve construction crews and visitors to the area. Lunch and a la carte services will be available from 11 am - 5 pm. Breakfast and dinner will be available to the public via reservation with Belton Chalets, Inc. by calling (888) 345-2649.
Goat Haunt and Two Medicine
The park is experiencing a critical staffing shortage on the east side of the park, particularly for water utility operators. Frontcountry areas like St. Mary and Many Glacier are being prioritized for opening so that visitor and commercial services can begin operations.
Goat Haunt may not have an operational water or hydroelectric power system for a portion of the summer as a result of staffing shortages. Backcountry users can still hike through Goat Haunt. Until water systems and restroom facilities are operational, the Goat Haunt Shelters backcountry campground will be unavailable and tour boat landings may not be possible. These measures are being implemented to reduce human waste impacts while the water system is not operational.
Crews expect to have the Two Medicine public water system reassembled and operational by the end of May, which is later than last year due to staffing levels. Depending on snow conditions, the park expects that the Two Medicine Road will open to vehicles prior to that date. Visitors can expect to use available vault toilets in the early season. The Two Medicine Campstore will open May 27. The road to Two Medicine opened in its entirety on May 18 last year, and often opens in mid-May based on plowing conditions and staffing levels available to operate the area.
The park is actively seeking interim solutions by recruiting applicants for important utility operator positions. A job announcement with a $10,000 recruitment bonus is currently posted on USAJobs.
Glacier National Park has experienced extremely high visitation over the last several years, particularly mid-June through mid-September. 2018 visitation of 2,965,309 people was the second highest on record, despite wildfires and area closures on the west side of the park. Visitors to the park should plan ahead and identify several possible destinations in the event that they find an area already full and need to adjust their itinerary. The Going-to-the-Sun Road is currently closed from Lake McDonald Lodge on the west side of the park to the gate just past the entrance at St. Mary on the east side of the park. It typically opens between mid-June and mid-July each year, depending on spring snow and plowing conditions. This year, it will not open to Logan Pass before June 22 due to the parkwide pavement preservation project.