It's time for the annual pool: When will the snowplows open the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park end-to-end?
Word from the park is that the road crews have started their spring plowing operations. And they note that "snow levels at high elevations across the park are currently above average for this time of year."
For instance, the snow depth atop Flattop Mountain was recorded at approximately 165 inches, or almost 14 feet, at the end of March. This site is located at approximately 6,300 feet in elevation and approximately 5 miles from the "The Loop" along the Going-to-the-Sun Road.
Snow levels at Many Glacier, 4,900 feet in elevation, are at normal levels. This site measured 47 inches snow depth at the end of March. U.S. Geological Survey snow survey crews recently recorded 91 inches of snow on the ground at Siyeh Bend, two miles east of Logan Pass at approximately 6,300 feet in elevation.
The Chief Mountain Road, near the park’s northeast corner, has been plowed and will be allowed to melt out prior to opening. Crews are currently working on the Many Glacier Road, where they're encountering snow drifts up to 10 feet. This road will not open to the public until the third weekend of April at the earliest, to reduce stress on wildlife in critical winter range. Plowing of the Two Medicine Road will begin soon.
On the west side of the park, crews plowed in the Apgar Village and the Camas Road. The Camas Road will be allowed to melt out prior to opening. The Inside North Fork Road will be allowed to open naturally, with no plowing scheduled.
Plowing of the Going-to-the-Sun Road began this past Monday. Crews encountered 12-30 inches of snow depth and 2-6 inches of ice on the first couple of miles beyond the Lake McDonald Lodge. Crews are preparing to remove a slide at Red Rock Point.
The earliest possible opening of the Going-to-Sun Road in its entirety would be June 15, weather and road conditions dependent, due to road rehabilitation work.
Spring snow storms play a large factor in safely opening the road to two-way motor vehicle traffic. Once the plow crews are working in the higher elevations, visitors will be able to drive to Avalanche Creek on the west side and Jackson Glacier Overlook on the east side.
Due to rehabilitation activities between Avalanche Creek and Logan Creek on the Going-to-the-Sun Road, spring hiker and biker access may be reduced from previous years. Pets are prohibited on park roads that are closed to vehicle use.
Visitors should always be alert for snowplows and other heavy equipment on park roads as well as areas of ice, slush, avalanche zones and fallen rock. Additionally, spring snowstorms can cause hazardous driving conditions and temporary road closures. Please be aware of wildlife on park roads and report any bear or mountain lion activity or sighting, regardless of the location, to a park ranger.