December 1, 2022

Glacier institutes ticketed entry system to mitigate summer surge

Officials at Glacier National Park are bracing for a “perfect storm” as ever-increasing visitation meets a series of major construction projects inside and out of park boundaries that could snarl traffic on its roads this summer. In an effort to mitigate the impacts of those challenges, the National Park Service is doing something it has never done in Glacier: instituting a ticketed entry system for the iconic Going-to-the-Sun Road for the summer. 

Visitation to Glacier Park has dramatically increased in the last decade, and even the pandemic didn’t slow the flow of tourists during what park officials called “a summer like no other” in 2020. This year, as the country slowly emerges from the depths of the pandemic and starts to travel again, park officials are bracing for what they predict to be one of the busiest summers 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.”

To handle the anticipated influx of traffic, the park will start requiring that people who want to drive Going-to-the-Sun Road from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day obtain a vehicle entry reservation ticket that will cost $2. The tickets will be available at recreation.gov starting April 29. The number of tickets available each day will be based on road capacity and campground and lodging reservations (people with reservations will not need a ticket). About two-thirds of the tickets will be released for purchase 60 days in advance, and the remaining tickets will be released for purchase about 48 hours ahead of specific dates. Tickets will not be required to enter the park before 6 a.m. or after 5 p.m. The $2 ticket is required in addition to the standard per-vehicle entry fee. Visitors who have an annual park pass will still need to purchase a vehicle reservation ticket. 

The system will be used only along the Going-to-the-Sun Road corridor, and tickets will not be required to enter other areas of the park, including Many Glacier, Polebridge and the Two Medicine Valley.

Officials hope the ticket system will reduce the number of temporary area closures this year. In 2020, the park was forced to close the West Entrance at West Glacier 29 times in 25 days because there were too many people in the park, resulting in traffic jams on U.S. Highway 2. 

Since the system was first announced on March 31, the park’s social media accounts have buzzed with comments from worried visitors and frustrated locals who may no longer be able to take a spur-of-the-moment drive up Going-to-the-Sun Road this summer. 

The system will be used only along the Going-to-the-Sun Road corridor, and tickets will not be required to enter other areas of the park, including Many Glacier, Polebridge and the Two Medicine Valley.

Officials hope the ticket system will reduce the number of temporary area closures this year. In 2020, the park was forced to close the West Entrance at West Glacier 29 times in 25 days because there were too many people in the park, resulting in traffic jams on U.S. Highway 2. 

Since the system was first announced on March 31, the park’s social media accounts have buzzed with comments from worried visitors and frustrated locals who may no longer be able to take a spur-of-the-moment drive up Going-to-the-Sun Road this summer. 

This article was originally posted on Glacier institutes ticketed entry system to mitigate summer surge

Sydney Boles