WEST GLACIER – If you needed a sure sign that summer is rapidly winding down – and we’re guessing you didn’t – Glacier National Park has announced upcoming closing dates for everything from campgrounds and hotels, to boat tours and horseback rides.
On the upside: The park itself is open year-round. Fall is a favorite time to visit Glacier for many Montanans, who will find fewer tourists and the beauty of the changing colors of the season – along with cooler temperatures, of course.
But, first things first.
One of the key ending dates is Monday, Sept. 2. Labor Day will be the final day the park offers its free shuttle service over Going-to-the-Sun Road.
Visitors should be aware that the end of shuttle service does not mean the end of rehabilitation work on the road.
In fact, some of the work accelerates, particularly on the east side of the park.
On the west side, paving has been completed between Avalanche Creek and Logan Creek, but minor delays will continue as the road is striped and things such as rumble strips and signage are installed.
On the east side, rehabilitation work continues between Rising Sun and Siyeh Bend, with 20-minute maximum time delays and night closures after 9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays.
The last day to access Logan Pass by vehicle from the east side will be Sunday, Sept. 22. That makes Sept. 22 the last day the entire Going-to-the-Sun Road can be traversed.
Vehicle access to Logan Pass from the west side, however, will be available through Sunday, Oct. 20, weather permitting.
Some of Glacier’s closing dates come with asterisks.
The campgrounds close at noon of the date listed (note that a few campgrounds switch to primitive camping for part of the fall, which means pit toilets, no potable or drinking water available and a reduced number of camping sites. Camping fees are also reduced to $10 per night).
Also, ranger-led hikes and evening programs continue through September, and Red Bus Tours close on the same date that the hotels they operate out of close.
So here are the dates – you can almost feel summer slipping away with each passing one:
• Monday, Sept. 2: Fish Creek Campground closes. Apgar boat rentals and horseback rides, and Rising Sun boat tours, close. Jammer Joe’s Grill and Pizzeria at Lake McDonald closes after dinner. And, as mentioned before, it’s the last day of free shuttle service over Going-to-the-Sun Road.
• Tuesday, Sept. 3: Avalanche, Rising Sun and Sprague Creek campgrounds close.
• Saturday, Sept. 7: Bowman Lake Campground closes (primitive camping through Oct. 31, weather permitting); Kintla Lake Campground closes (primitive camping through Oct. 31, weather permitting).
• Sunday, Sept. 8: Two Medicine camp store, boat tours and rentals close.
• Monday, Sept. 9: Glacier’s two chalets, Sperry and Granite Park, close after breakfast. St. Mary, Two Medicine and Cut Bank campgrounds close (primitive camping at St. Mary through Oct. 31).
• Sunday, Sept. 15: Rising Sun Motor Inn and camp store close after breakfast. Many Glacier boat tours, boat rentals and horseback rides close.
• Monday, Sept. 16: Village Inn at Apgar closes after checkout. Swiftcurrent Motor Inn closes after breakfast and its camp store closes at noon.
• Sunday, Sept. 22: Many Glacier Hotel closes after breakfast. Lake McDonald boat tours and boat rentals close. Waterton Lake boat tours out of Goat Haunt Landing close. It’s also the last day to access Logan Pass via Going-to-the-Sun Road from the east side of the park.
• Monday, Sept. 23: Many Glacier and Logging Creek campgrounds close (primitive camping at Many Glacier through Sept. 30, weather permitting).
• Sunday, Sept. 29: Lake McDonald Lodge and camp store close after breakfast. Last day for horseback rides out of there as well.
• Sunday, Oct. 13: Apgar Campground closes (primitive camping in picnic area through Oct. 31).
• Sunday, Oct. 20: Last day to access Logan Pass via Going-to-the-Sun Road from the west side of the park (weather could force earlier closure).
• Thursday, Oct. 31: Quartz Creek Campground closes.
Fall brings a change of hours for mandatory boat inspections in Glacier, and the Apgar Back-Country Permit Office as well.
The permit office will be open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Labor Day through Sept. 30, and from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in October.
Beginning Sept. 8, boats entering through West Glacier can be inspected from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Apgar Back-Country Permit Office. Starting Oct. 1, the hours there are cut back to 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and from Nov. 1 through May 1 the inspections will be conducted at park headquarters Monday through Friday, and at the Apgar Visitor Center on weekends.
There are similar changes on the east side for boat inspections. Visit www.nps.gov/glac or call 888-7800 for more information.