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Changes coming to Glacier National Park in 2024

The Crown of the Continent is becoming quite the tourist destination in Montana
Glacier National Park Winter Businesses
Posted at 9:09 AM, Jan 02, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-02 11:09:34-05

WEST GLACIER — It's Montana's hidden gem no longer.

The Crown of the Continent is becoming quite the tourist destination and last year's visitation numbers prove it. But Glacier National Park is also going through some growing pains trying to accommodate the people who want to enjoy everything the park has to offer.

We take a look back at 2023 — from construction to the reservation system — while also looking ahead to everything 2024 could offer.

Last year was an average one for Glacier, with around 3 million visitors — all of whom used the vehicle reservation system while also dealing with construction on the park’s most iconic road. But in 2024, Going-to-the-Sun Road's construction will be complete — just in time for the vehicle reservation system to change.

“Construction on Going-to-the-Sun Road was very inconvenient, and we all suffered through it. The construction in the spring [will] finish that last mile-and-a-half on Going-to-the-Sun-Road,” Glacier National Park spokeswoman Gina Icenoggle explained. “Once that finishes up in the spring. We shouldn't have any construction on Going-to-the-Sun Road.”

That also means visitors will be allowed to enter the park before 6 a.m. and after 3 p.m. without reservations. Reservations will not be necessary to access Apgar and that portion of Lake McDonald for people entering from West Glacier. In fact, the checkpoint will be past the Apgar Campground.

“One of the comments that we received often from visitors was the inability to access our free park shuttles on the west side because they would have to have a vehicle reservation to get past the entrance point to be able to get to the Apgar Visitor Center to jump on the shuttle,” Icenoggle said. “This summer this coming season, people will be able to access those shuttles without a vehicle reservation.”

Meanwhile, on the eastern side, vehicle reservations will not be required at the Two Medicine and St. Mary’s entrances which will open access to Going-to-the-Sun Road from the east.

“We expect those areas to fill up pretty fast when our season comes into full swing — and especially before Going-to-the-Sun opens all the way for the springtime,” Icenoggle said. “We may need to manage those in a more old-fashioned way. And that is restricting traffic for a few hours during the day.”

There is one more reservation change at Glacier National Park. Vehicle reservations will be available at 7 p.m. the night before the reservation is valid. That's different from last year when reservations were available at 8 a.m. the day before people could enter the park.

“So. for example. on July 1st you could get online at 7 p.m.,” Icenoggle said. “And coming to the park the next day.”

Advanced vehicle reservations will become available starting January 25, 2024. However, there are some changes to this system as well. Visit https://www.nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/vehicle-reservations.htm for additional information.