With snow expected, Glacier closing down campgrounds, services, for the winter season

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A rock with a view, Fifty Mountain, Glacier National Park last week. Expect snow in Glacier starting tonight in higher terrain, then dropping to 4,000 feet by the weekend.

The National Weather Service is calling for snow in higher elevations of Glacier starting tonight through the weekend, with snow levels dropping to 4,000 feet. The east side of Glacier is expected to see moderate snow accumulations Saturday night, while the west side could see a slushy rain-snow mix, with highs on both sides of the Divide in the upper 30s and mid 40s.

Meanwhile, Park staff are preparing for it and many services in the Park are closing down for the winter..

Most concessioner operated services including hotel accommodations, horseback rides, guided hikes and boat tours have already ended for the year. Sun Tours and Red Bus Tours will continue through mid-October. The Village Inn will close Oct. 1.

However, National Park Service ranger-guided programs will continue into the fall and winter.

The Park itself doesn’t close, but most of the roads are shut down and gated during the winter months. They can still be traveled by foot, or if there’s enough snow, by ski. Pets are not allowed behind the gates.

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 Oct. 1. West side waters including but not limited to Lake McDonald, Bowman Lake, and Kintla Lake, will close on Nov. 1. The Apgar boat inspection station will be staffed every day from 8 - 4 in October. From Oct. 14 - Oct. 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 Oct. 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 Oct. 15, meaning that Oct. 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 Oct. 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 Dec. 15, weather conditions permitting. It remains closed at those gates until road crews begin the spring road opening process, which typically takes approximately three 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.

Information about traveling to Glacier can be found on the park’s website including trip planning information for both fall and winter.

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