WEST GLACIER — Earlier this week, Glacier National Park Assistant Supervisor Eric Smith thought there might be a small chance that visitors would be able to squeeze in one more scenic drive up the Going-to-the-Sun Road before it closed for the winter.
The photographs he was shown early Wednesday afternoon have changed that point of view.
The roadway had 6 to 8 inches of snow and, perhaps even more telling, the streams in the high country were beginning to freeze in the photographs taken Wednesday.
“That shows me that it’s staying below freezing during the day,” Smith said. “The likelihood the road will reopen to Logan Pass is getting less and less.”
The popular scenic drive that begins at West Glacier has been closed for more than a month at the foot of Lake McDonald due to the Sprague fire, which continues to smolder.
The roadway was scheduled to close anyway on Monday, Oct. 9, to facilitate a large culvert construction project about four miles up Lake McDonald. The current culvert washed out several times over the past five years, including twice last year and once this year. The washouts caused temporary road closures.
Going-to-the-Sun Road is scheduled to reopen Oct. 21 to Avalanche for the fall season. At that point, hikers and bikers can use the road above the gate until Dec. 15 when the closure moves from Avalanche to Lake McDonald Lodge.
Smith said the park had been receiving numerous inquiries over the last month on when the road would reopen, but those queries have dropped considerably over the past few weeks.
If road conditions allow it, people can still drive to Logan Pass from the St. Mary entrance until Oct 15, which is the third Monday of the month and typically the day that access to Logan Pass ends for the season.
Smith said that portion of the road has been closed due to snow during times this week. Anyone interested in making the trip from the east side should visit the park’s website first to see if the road is open.
“Those alerts pop up on the first page of the website,” Smith said. “That is the best way to know for certain.”
Up until now, Smith said the snow that has fallen on the road has melted within 24 to 48 hours, but that appears to be changing as temperatures drop below the freezing mark.
Even with the closures, the park is still getting a fair number of visitors on days when the sun is out.
“This time of year, visitation is more weather-dependent,” Smith said. “In the spring and fall on bad weather days, we don’t see as many people. When the weather is good, we see those numbers increase by quite a bit.”