Large crowds have not deterred tourists from Glacier Park so far this summer as the park continues to see increased visitation after setting a new record in May.
More than 195,000 people visited the park in May, up from 177,787 last year and more than 11,000 more than the previous record of 183,925 set in 2016. A wet and cool June had visitation down about 10 percent over last year, but it was still very busy, with 558,870 visitors.
Last July, Glacier set a record for a western national park with just over 1 million visitors for the month. If early July crowds are any indication, it seems to be on pace to do that again.
Parking spots were already hard to come by at 8 a.m. in the Logan Pass parking lot Saturday morning, with the lot filling up by 8:15.
Hundreds took to the nearby trails, creating nearly unbroken lines for the length of the Hidden Lake Trail with just as many making their way to the extremely popular Highline Trail, which recently opened for the season.
While the crowds may have made for long lines to the visitor center restrooms and gift shop, most tourists said they were not shocked.
“It didn’t surprise me to see this many people here. We’ve been to Yellowstone a few times, so this is not all that bad,” Bruce Lundstrom of North Dakota said. “There are a lot of people here, but they all seem to be polite. It has not been that way at all of the parks.”
Bryce Evans of Minneapolis, Minnesota and his family of five took in the surroundings at the pass while enjoying sandwich lunches. They, too, said the crowds were large, but not really a problem.
“The crowds haven’t been too bad. We’ve been out here a few days and so far the crowds haven’t been too much of a problem,” he said. “We’ve been able to go everywhere that we were wanting to go without any problems.”
The park visitation record set in 2017 may have alerted many travelers of what to expect, helping ease the tension in the crowded areas.
“We did a lot of research before we came up here, so we were expecting to see these kinds of crowds. That’s why we got to the parking lot here at 6:30 this morning. It was already about halfway full,” Carey Lindsay of Houston, Texas said. “We wanted to come to a place with scenery like we have never seen before and Glacier has really delivered, even with the crowds.”
The increased traffic has not been without issue this summer. A vehicle accident near Triple Arches on Going to the Sun Road shut down traffic on both the east and west sides of the park for several hours July 5. No one was injured.
So far this year, visitation was slightly down in January and February, up slightly in March, down by 10,000 in April and up more than 11,000 in May. June numbers are not yet available.