Glacier National Park is considering a ticketed reservation system for visitors wanting to use Going-To-The-Sun-Road on the park’s west side. Park officials held a virtual meeting Thursday to discuss the idea.
Visitation at Glacier National Park has jumped by 64-percent over the past decade. Congestion is now commonplace in the peak summer months. Pandemic-related closures last year on the park’s east side led to major delays on Going-To-The-Sun Road and 25 closures of the park’s west entrance. Glacier Superintendent Jeff Mow told the 300 people who attended Thursday's online meeting that each closure is taken very seriously.
"We’re doing them as a matter of life, health and safety. We could literally not be able to get an ambulance through in an emergency," Mow said.
The park’s growing popularity, combined with anticipated road work on Highway Two between Hungry Horse and Essex this summer has park officials considering a ticketed reservation system for visitors hoping to drive Going-To-The Sun Road.
"The idea of our ticketed entry program is to not have to have any closures of our west entrance."
The proposed entry fee would cost $2 and be available at recreation.gov.
"People get a ticket for a seven-day period, which corresponds to a seven day pass that many visitors end up getting. That ticket has to be validated on the first day it’s used. After it’s validated visitors can come in and out of the park as much as they want whenever they want," Mow said.
Park officials are still hashing out details for the proposal but estimate some 70-percent of tickets would be released a month in advance, with the remaining 30-percent released two days in advance.
Tickets would not be required for Native Americans or hikers and bicyclists traveling on Going-To-The-Sun Road.
Mow says the program is expected to only run this year from June 1 to Labor Day.
A final decision is expected by the end of this month or early April.