WEST GLACIER – The opening of Glacier National Park’s Going-to-the-Sun Road was pushed back until the middle of next week after recent snowstorms hampered plow crews working to clear the road.
Park officials said Tuesday that a weekend storm dumped 10 inches of snow on the park’s upper reaches, causing snow slides and delaying progress. Since Memorial Day weekend, an estimated 35 inches of snow has fallen on the Sun Road’s higher elevations.
Officials had hoped to open the road to Logan Pass this Friday, June 15, but said a June opening is still better than last year’s endless winter, which kept Logan Pass off limits to vehicles until July 13.
“Our goal has been to open access to Logan Pass by mid-June, and we believe we can accomplish that by the middle of next week, weather dependent,” Glacier Park Deputy Superintendent Kym Hall said. “The weather has been challenging the past couple of weeks, but the plowing crew has put in extra time and done an exceptional job to provide mid-June access.”
Plowing continues as crews work to clear the Big Drift, a massive obstacle that towers approximately 30 feet high this year and is located about a quarter-mile east of the Logan Pass Visitor Center. Once crews plow through the Big Drift, they will likely encounter a foot of ice on the road that will require clearing, Hall said.
The crews are also removing snow and debris from recent snow slides, clearing snow along the road edges for two-lane travel, and plowing the parking lot at the visitor center. Some sections of the road had to be plowed again after the weekend snowfall, and trail and campground crews are pitching in by hand shoveling around the visitor center, restroom facilities and walkways at Logan Pass.
“In addition to all the snow removal, crews have to install hundreds of guardrails along the road,” Hall said.
Installation of the removable guardrails is time consuming but necessary, Hall said. The rails are removed each fall because avalanches can destroy them during the winter.
Currently, 29 miles of the Going-to-the-Sun Road are open to vehicle travel. Visitors can drive 15 1/2 miles from the West Entrance to Avalanche on the west side, and 13 1/2 miles from the St. Mary Entrance to Jackson Glacier Overlook on the east side.
This weekend, hiker/biker access will likely be limited to Bird Woman Falls Overlook on the west side and Siyeh Bend on the east side. That access may change on a daily basis depending on the progress of snow removal and road rehabilitation work, and Hall encouraged visitors to check current conditions at the park’s website at home.nps.gov/applications/glac/roadstatus/roadstatus.cfm.
Hikers and bikers should always be on alert for construction hazards and avalanche danger, she said.
Information on the website is updated as conditions change. Visitors may also visit the park’s Facebook page or call park headquarters at (406) 888-7800 for current road and weather conditions.
Flathead Valley Bureau reporter Tristan Scott can be reached at (406) 730-1067 or at email@example.com.