It's been a long time coming, but Glacier National Park officials are cautiously optimistic that they'll be able to open the Going-to-the-Sun Road from end to end this coming Sunday. That, of course, is barring any unexpected torrential downpours or snowstorms.
It was a torrential downpour last November that doomed the 50-mile-long highway, washing out several sections. Since then, of course, crews have been working long days to put the incredibly scenic highway back into usable conditions.
“Our park road crews did a fantastic job of clearing the Sun Road this winter and spring as safely and quickly as possible to allow park partner, the Federal Highway Administration, and contractor Sandry Construction of Bigfork access to tackle Sun Road repairs," says Glacier Superintendent Mick Holm. "I am very proud and grateful for the remarkable performance by everyone to safely get the storm damage repaired to a point that the entire historic roadway can be opened for the enjoyment of summer park visitors.”
Part of the repair work required the construction of a 350-foot-long retaining wall just below the East Tunnel. Plans call for the road that crosses the retaining wall to be paved this week. Additionally, a temporary bridge is being placed to span a section of the Sun Road where both lanes were washed away. The washout below the bridge is scheduled to be rebuilt this summer and fall.
Through July and August the park's new Going-to-the-Sun shuttle system, which is optional, will provide free transportation to locations along the road and between Fish Creek Campground and Apgar Village locations. On the Lake McDonald Valley route, 12-person buses will run every 15 minutes between stops. On the St. Mary and Apgar routes, larger buses will run every 30 minutes. The last buses will leave Logan Pass at 9:30 p.m. to both St. Mary Visitor Center and the new Apgar Transit Center, which will also open this Sunday.
With the opening of the entire Sun Road from West Glacier to St. Mary on Sunday morning, parking and restroom facilities will be available at Logan Pass. The Logan Pass Visitor Center will also open for the season. Trails in the Logan Pass area are currently covered by snow. The popular Highline Trail is currently being evaluated this week for snow hazards and potential trail damage from last November's storm.
Park officials say this is one of the latest openings of the entire Sun Road. The latest opening of the entire Sun Road on record was July 10, 1943, when the road was allowed to melt out. In recent years, the latest opening of Logan Pass occurred on June 28, 2002, after a record 8 feet of snow fell between
May 22 and June 10. The earliest Logan Pass opening to motorized traffic occurred on May 16, 1987.
Park roads are open for vehicle traffic; however, a portion of the unimproved Inside North Fork Road along the park’s northwest edge remains closed to vehicle use between Fish Creek and Logging Creek due to road damage.
For the latest information on park road and weather conditions, and visitor services throughout Glacier National Park, visit the park's website, dial 511 anywhere in Montana (select option 5), or call park headquarters at 406-888-7800.