Glacier National Park Visit Limits Start Friday, But There are Options
It's not going to be the summer for a spontaneous visit to Glacier National Park, as the park's full-on reservation system goes into operation this weekend.
But there are some options if you're willing to drive a little further or stay a little later.
The park's reservation system, which has been used the past couple of seasons for the Going-to-the-Sun Road, is expanding this year to include all the park's most popular entrances. That means even destinations like Many Glacier, Two Medicine, and the historically-remote North Forks will require a pass during the height of the summer season.
Those vehicle reservations for the entrances on the west side of the park, by car, RV, or motorcycle will be required starting Friday, May 26th, and continuing all the way through September 10th. That includes access at West Glacier-Lake McDonald, Camas, and the North Fork up to Bowman and Kintla Lakes.
However, you can still enter the park and visit Many Glacier, Two Medicine, and St. Mary, at Rising Sun until July 1st. So if you don't mind the long drive, those are options for a quick, spur-of-the-moment day trip, at least for the first part of the summer.
Here's the best advice for 2023
If you're a local, Montana resident, the inside tip for the past several years as the park has gotten busier is to take advantage of the fact that the park is open 24/7. If you enter the park before 6 in the morning, or after 3 pm, you don't need a reservation. That's always been a way to dodge the peak crowds, even before reservations, because frequently travelers are coming from a distance on their overnight stop, and takes a while to reach the park. Or, they have to leave by mid-afternoon to make a hotel reservation.
Also, park managers are reminding visitors that if they already have lodging or camping reservations, or a reserved spot for a tour boat, or horseback ride, they don't need a vehicle reservation. You just have to show your confirmation email at the gate.
And if missed getting a reservation for a peak time, a limited number of additional 24-hour reservations are released each morning at 8 am on Recreation.gov for the following day. You can only get those by using the website.
Still road construction to dodge
The park is continuing a two-year project to replace bridges, and that could mean some delays on several routes.
The west side of Going-to-the-Sun Road won't open before 6 am because of the ongoing construction along Lake McDonald. Starting on June 1st, the road will be closed nightly from 10 pm to 6 am so that work can be completed, with that schedule into the fall.
The park has posted additional information on the park’s Vehicle Reservation page.