Have you heard the news? Glacier National Park is rolling out a temporary reservation process for entry to the Going to the Sun Road. If you’re planning a trip to Glacier National Park, please keep reading to find out how to get reservations for Going-to-the-Sun Road.
Keep in mind, 2021 is the first year Glacier has required ticketed entry for the Going to the Sun Road corridor. At the time of writing, reservations have not opened yet so I am not exactly sure how this is going to play out.
I know tons of people are frustrated and concerned about their summer Glacier National Park vacation – plane tickets purchased, cars rented, and travel plans already made that now hinge on getting a reservation for the Going to the Sun Road.
Glacier National Park Pass
You will still need a Glacier National Park pass to enter the park. The entry reservation ticket for Going to the Sun Road is separate.
Regular park passes are good for 7 days and range from $30.00 – $35.00 for motorcycles and vehicles. Glacier National Park Annual passes, America the Beautiful Passes, military passes, senior passes etc. are still valid.
The fact that you need a pass to enter the park has not changed.
Going-to-the-Sun Road Ticketed Entry
The Going-to-the-Sun Road ticketed entry reservation is what is new for 2021. If you enter the park from West Glacier, St. Mary, or Camas Road you will be required to have a reservation for this Going-to-the-Sun Road corridor.
The day use Entry Reservation Ticket costs $2.00 per vehicle arriving between 6 am – 5 pm MDT. It is valid for seven consecutive days and may be used any time during those seven days. If you plan on visiting for longer than seven days you will need an additional entry ticket to cover those days.
Going-to-the-Sun Road Reservation Dates
The Going-to-the-Sun Road ticketed entry reservations are required if you are visiting the Going-to-the-Sun-Road corridor from May 28 – September 6, 2021. Yep, during peak summer vacation when the park is usually the busiest. One more reason to love the September shoulder season.
Who Is Not Required to Have a Ticketed Entry Reservation?
- If you enter the park/Going-to-the-Sun Road corridor on a bicycle or hiking, you do not need a Going -to -the- Sun Road reservation.
- If you enter the park at Many Glacier, Two Medicine, Polebridge, or along Highway 2. You will still not be allowed on Going-to-the-Sun Road.
- If you have lodging or camping reservations at Lake McDonald Lodge, Village Inn, Rising Sun Motor Lodge, Granite Park and Sperry Chalets or Fish Creek Campground, backcountry permit or VRBO style reservations. These are the only for overnight accommodations along the Going-to-the-Sun Road corridor. Your Entry Ticket is included in your overnight reservation for these lodgings. Proof of your reservation will be required.
- If you have tour/service reservations along the Going -to-the-Sun Road corridor between West and St. Mary entrances. This includes boat rides (Lake McDonald and St. Mary), horseback riding, guided hikes, and bus tours. Your Going-to-the-Sun Road Entry Ticket is included in your tour reservation. Proof of your tour/service reservation will be required. You will only be allowed entry for the day of your reserved tour.
- If you enter the the Going-to-the-Sun Road corridor between 5 pm and 6 am.
How to Get Going to the Sun Road Entry Reservations
Reservations open for the Ticketed Entry on April 29, 2021 at 8 am MDT. According to the National Park Service, 3/4 of the entry ticket reservations will be available 60 days in advance and 1/4 of the tickets available 2 days in advance. I assume that means if you aren’t able to get your ticket 60 days in advance, you may be able to get one 2 days before your visit. (yikes, that’s nerve wracking!)
Here’s how to get your Going-to-the-Sun Road reservations:
- All entry reservations must be made online through Recreation.gov or the mobile app
- Set up an account on Recreation.gov
- Be ready to pay the $2.00 processing fee ( the entry ticket is technically free – you are paying for using the recreation.gov reservation system)
- Select the day you want to go to Glacier’s Going- to-the-Sun Road (if available!) and add to your cart and pay.
- Look for your email confirmation with your Entry Ticket Reservation
- Save this entry ticket by printing, downloading, or screenshot to show for entry along with a photo id.
- If you have to cancel your reservation, your ticket will be added back to the inventory.
- Tickets can not be resold or transferred.
Tips for Scoring Glacier’s Going to the Sun Road Reservations
I know it seems impossible to plan a Glacier National Park trip with these new reservation requirements, but these tips will help.
- Create your Recreation.gov account and get familiar with the site BEFORE trying to get reservations. You want to be ready to add your date to your cart quickly. To create your account, go to Recreation.gov and click “Sign Up”.
- Be online on Recreation.gov on April 29 by 8 am Mountain time. These reservation tickets will go fast so don’t wait until the afternoon to try to get yours if you want to visit before June 28.
- Be sure to log in as soon as it is 60 days before your desired date.
- Check 2 days before your desired visit to see if you can get a reservation that is released then.
- Pick a date a few days prior or after your expected arrival date if your desired date is not available. You would not have the full seven days to go to the park but would still be able to visit as you are not required to enter on the first day of your ticket reservation.
- Reserve a tour or lodging reservation along the Going-to-the-Sun Road corridor West and St. Mary entrances. I really doubt any of these reservations are left for the 2021 season, but you may get lucky if you keep checking. Also some tours/guided services may not be fully operating due to Covid.
- Don’t wait until you arrive at the park to go online to Recreation.gov to purchase your ticket. I doubt any will be available and service is limited in the park.
If You Can’t Get a Reservation
If you can’t get a reservation, you will have to decide if it is still worth it to you to just visit the other areas of the park. I imagine these other areas (Many Glacier, Two Medicine.. Polebridge etc) will be very crowded and fill to capacity. Parking is limited in these areas so I would expect temporary closures and delays.
Road construction in the Many Glacier area is also planned for summer 2021. and will add to the congestion in these other areas of the park.
I’m sure some people will try to enter the park after 5 pm and before 6 am when a reservation isn’t required. I’m just not sure how practical that will be. I imagine traffic will still be backed up and parking may not be available if you do get in after 5 pm. Plus, by the time you wait in traffic and try to park it very well may be dark. I also can’t help but wonder how the park will handle middle of the night entry and then parking filled by those night time visitors leaving no parking for people with reservations that arrive at 6 am (although the NPS site says that a ticketed entry reservation does NOT guarantee a parking space.)
Like I said earlier, no one is sure exactly how this will play out yet, but I wonder if visitors that enter in the middle of the night will be required to leave at 6 am and how they would enforce that. (Who knows??) Tickets will be checked at the West and St. Mary Entrances and NPS said at other locations on the Going-to-the-Sun Road.
If you haven’t made other travel arrangements yet, you may want to con sider going after September 6. Keep in mind, the Going-to-the-Sun Road is typically open until the third Monday in October but that can change due to weather and snow. Services in and near the park close for the season in September and October.
Final Thoughts on Going to the Sun Road Reservations
According to the National Park Service, the Going-to- the -Sun Road ticketed entry is temporary for the 2021 season. Due to the expected high number of visitors, reduced staff due to Covid, and construction projects, they are hoping to eliminate congestion and temporary closures of the West Entrance. Glacier will still be very crowded!
Other national parks are implementing reservation systems, so I won’t be surprised if some kind of reservations for the popular parks are here to stay. It has became a balancing act of protecting the parks and resources, managing the crowds, and encouraging everyone to visit the parks we love.
Expect some hiccups during this process this year. Glacier changed the opening time for the Recreation.gov reservations due to the Recreation.gov system while I was writing this post. Sometimes available information even contradicts each other. Check the Glacier National Park and Recreation.gov sites often, and I will update this article as I find out about any news.