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UPDATED: Glacier National Park extends ticketed entry for 2022

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jeff mow

Glacier National Park Superintendent Jeff Mow checks visitation numbers for the park's second-busiest summer on record at the park's West Glacier Headquarters. Nearly 3 million people entered Glacier Park in 2021 as of October, and November and December numbers still haven't been tallied.

Motorists will need tickets for both the Going-to-the-Sun Road and Polebridge when visiting Glacier National Park this summer.

Between May 27 and Sept. 11, 2022, park gates on the west side of the Continental Divide will require the entry tickets in addition to the regular national park entry fee. Motorists entering from eastern St. Mary entrance to the Going-to-the-Sun Road won’t need a ticket until the mountain route is fully open, usually in late June. Once passage through Logan Pass has opened, visitors will need tickets at both the east and west ends of the road.

The 2022 tickets will only provide a three-day entrance window, rather than the seven-day window used in 2021. Polebridge tickets will be single-day only.

As in 2021, visitors will be able to request entry tickets in advance through the reservation website starting sometime in March. After that portion has been claimed, a limited number of tickets will be released on a rolling basis. In 2021, those late tickets were offered by lottery 48 hours before entry. The timing for late tickets in 2022 has not been determined.

For example, someone wishing to drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road on June 6 could either seek a reservation when the first batch of tickets become available in March, or take a chance on getting one of the leftover tickets starting on June 3. The tickets have a $2 processing fee.

Anyone with a reserved activity inside the park, such as a hotel stay, campground reservation or tour boat ride can use that in lieu of the online entry ticket at the West Glacier and St. Mary gates. Polebridge, which does not have any reservable amenities, will still require daily entry tickets during the busy season.

Using ticketed entry significantly reduced traffic congestion inside the park, according to Glacier spokesperson Gina Kerzman.

"Despite our visitation numbers being second-highest on record, we were still available to avoid gridlock and we prevented severe backups on Highway 2 during construction," Kerzman said. "We were able to reduce traffic on Going-to-the-Sun during peak hours, and that prevented us from having to fully close access to the road."

Without the entry limits, the park would have hit traffic capacity and closed its westside gate 35 times last summer, Kerzman said.

Other roadwork changes will affect driving in and around Glacier Park. A major reconstruction project on U.S. Highway 2 around the park’s southern border has finished, taking away a source of traffic delays between West Glacier and East Glacier. Construction on the road into Many Glacier has also finished, eliminating delays to that popular park valley.

However, a possible utility project along Lake McDonald could require nighttime closures of the westside Going-to-the-Sun Road. Kerzman said details haven’t been finalized, but advised motorists to expect late night-early morning closures between Apgar and Lake McDonald Lodge from June to September.

Park traffic managers are also debating how to handle the hours outside the ticketed entry window. Last summer, the gates saw frequent pre-dawn and late-evening surges as motorists tried to get across the boundary without a ticket. Depending on how the Lake McDonald utility contract gets finalized, that could eliminate the possibility of early-morning westside access, Kerzman said.

Another side effect of the ticketed access on Going-to-the-Sun has been increased congestion at Glacier’s Two Medicine and Many Glacier entrances. Those east-side areas may still be subject to temporary closures on days when car traffic fills up the available parking. Kerzman suggested visitors try to avoid the peak traffic hours of 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Visitors with hotel, boat and horse ride or other reservations will be able to enter those areas even during the temporary restrictions.

Campground access for 2022 has also changed in Glacier Park. Apgar and Sprague Creek campgrounds along Lake McDonald will require advance reservations in 2022, as do Fish Creek and St. Mary campgrounds. Avalanche Campground on the park’s west side and Rising Sun on the east side will remain first-come/first-served. The front-country campgrounds at Kintla and Bowman in the Polebridge area remain first-come/first-served.

The Glacier National Park website will provide updates as more information becomes available.   

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