Glacier National Park said in a press release on Thursday that it has begun preparing for the winter season. Most concessioner operated services including hotel accommodations, horseback rides, guided hikes and boat tours have all ended. Sun Tours and Red Bus Tours will continue through mid-October. Village Inn will close October 1. National Park Service ranger-guided programs will continue into the fall and winter. Check the park’s website for scheduled activities.
The boating season is coming to a close. All waters east of the Continental Divide (including but not limited to Two Medicine Lake, St. Mary Lake, and Swiftcurrent Lake) will close to boating on October 1. West side waters including but not limited to Lake McDonald, Bowman Lake, and Kintla Lake, will close on November 1. The Apgar boat inspection station will be staffed every day from 8:00 – 4:00 in October. From October 14 – October 31, the station will be staffed by law enforcement rangers and may be intermittently closed due to medical emergencies or other law enforcement priorities. Similar to 2018, west side waters will reopen to boating in May of 2019 and east side waters will reopen in early June of 2019. Precise dates will be released in the early spring.
Many campgrounds have closed or have entered primitive status, which means that no running water is available. The only fully operational campground remaining for the season is the Apgar Campground. It will enter primitive status on October 9. More information about Glacier’s campgrounds can be found on the park’s Campground Status webpage.
Road crews have begun installing snow poles in the alpine section of the Going-to-the-Sun Road. The road will close in the alpine section the morning of October 15, meaning that October 14 is the last day to drive the road in its entirety before the alpine section closes for the winter. Once the alpine section of the road closes, crews will take down just under a mile of removable guardrail in eight foot sections to protect them from avalanches that cross the road all winter long, along with other winterization activities.
The park closes the Going-to-the-Sun Road in segments for the winter. The first segment to close is typically between Avalanche Creek on the west side and Jackson Glacier Overlook on the east side. That closure typically occurs on or before the third Monday in October, weather conditions dependent. This year, a construction project will briefly close the road at the foot of Lake McDonald from October 15-19, rather than Avalanche Creek. The road then closes at Lake McDonald Lodge on the west side and the “1.5 mile gate” just past the St. Mary Campground turnoff on the east side on December 15, weather conditions permitting. It remains closed at those gates until road crews begin the spring road opening process, which typically takes approximately 3 months, starting at the beginning of April each year.
Visitors traveling to the park for the later fall and winter months should plan on dressing warmly and prepare to be more self-sufficient as some visitor services in and immediately adjacent to the park will be closed for the season. However, multiple nearby communities remain open with a full suite of year-round services for fall and winter travelers.