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What You Need To Know: Visiting Glacier in 2023

Summarizing This Year’s Changes

There are a lot of pieces to the puzzle when it comes to visiting Glacier National Park. Please rest assured that the splendor of the “Crown of the Continent” is worth the preparation required.

To make life a little easier, we’ve compiled a summary of what’s changed and the key information you’ll need in order to plan a successful trip to Glacier this year.

Key Takeaways for 2023:

  • Separate reservations are required to travel within each of the park’s four areas during peak season. Last year, one vehicle pass worked at all entrances.
    • Going-to-the-Sun Road passes are valid for three consecutive days, and provide access from the West Glacier and St Mary entrances.
    • Many Glacier, Two Medicine, and North Fork passes are valid for one day only.
  • Restricted hours have changed: they’re now 6 AM – 3 PM. Anyone accessing the park during this time needs a reservation in the corresponding park area (see first bullet point).

Note: this article will be updated with new information as it arises.

Securing campground reservations inside of the park is the best-case scenario because campground reservations provide access to the relevant park area and entrances in addition to the campsite accommodations. Note that campground reservations in Glacier National Park are released on a 6-month rolling basis via Receation.gov.

If you happen to miss out on a campsite inside the park, you still have plenty of options to ensure your ability to explore.

  • Vehicle reservations: Beginning 4 months (120 days) before your planned arrival date, you have the option to make a vehicle reservation, which permits travel through one of the four park areas. As mentioned above, a vehicle reservation for Going-to-the-Sun Road will be valid for 3 consecutive days, whereas vehicle reservations for the other three areas are only valid for one day.
  • Concessioner reservations: You can reserve experiences like boat tours, guided trips inside the park, or even a stay at one of the lodges, all of which will provide vehicle access to the relevant park area. These are great options for anyone planning less than 6 months before their trip.

Travelers without any of the reservations listed above will need to access the park outside of the restricted hours, either before 6 AM or after 3 PM. The long summer days in Montana provide plenty of daylight (up to 16 hours!) for early birds or late risers to enjoy the park.

More detailed information on these strategies can be found below. If you prefer to hand-off the planning logistics to an experienced trip expert, our itinerary service is worth exploring.

Restricted Hours

Anyone entering the park between 6 AM – 3 PM will need a reservation. Anyone is welcome to enter the park outside fo these hours, provided that they pay the standard park entrance fees. 

What you need to get in the park and when:

One of the following three items is needed to enter the park during peak season. If the park reaches capacity and starts to turn people away, two of the three following items will still allow you access. A campground reservation will get you into the same zone as your campground regardless of capacity, the same goes for a concessioner (read: activity) reservation. Another way to avoid being turned away due to capacity is to visit the park outside of peak hours (10am-3pm).

One of the following reservations:

  • Campground booking
  • Formal Vehicle Reservation
  • Activity reservation in the relevant part of the park

Campground Information @ Glacier National Park

When it comes to camping inside the national park, there are two options:

  • Reservation Campgrounds: Your best best for a stress-free arrival. Typically, reservations open 6 months prior to the date of your stay and will book quickly. More information on booking campgrounds can be found HERE. In Glacier, the following campgrounds are open for reservations:
    • West Glacier/Going-to-the-Sun Road: Apgar, Fish Creek, and Sprague Creek
    • East Glacier: Many Glacier and St. Mary
  • First-Come, First-Served (“FCFS”) Campgrounds: Plan to arrive at the campground early early early on the day of your arrival for the best chance at getting a spot. FCFS campgrounds include:
    • North Fork: Bowman Lake, Kintla Lake, and Quartz Creek
    • East Glacier: Rising Sun, Two Medicine, and Cut Bank

For a list of our favorite Glacier campgrounds, click here.

Vehicle Reservations

Visitors without a campground reservation or another concessionaire reservation inside the park will need vehicle reservations to drive into any of its major entrances this summer. The good news is that this reservation system will decrease congestion on the park’s roads and help to make your National Park adventure more seamless once you are there!

Visitors will need permits to enter West Glacier, Camas and Polebridge starting on May 26. Beginning July 1st (through September 10th), Two Medicine and Many Glacier gates will also require permits.

This year, vehicle reservations will be available through two booking windows.

First: 

  • A portion of reservations will be available approximately four months or 120 days in advance, using a block-release system. 
  • Like last year, visitors will need to set up an account on Recreation.gov to obtain reservations.
  • The only cost associated with booking a reservation is a $2 Recreation.gov processing fee.  
  • Reservations at campgrounds, lodges, boat tours, and guided trips inside the park can be used in place of $2 reservation (When the parks become especially busy they will limit entrance, if you have any of these types of reservations you will still be able to get into the park)
  • These reservations are available starting at 8am MST on Feb 1st, 2023. This round of reservations will be for access to the Going-to-the-Sun Road or the North Fork for May 26th through June 30th. 

Second: 

  • This will begin on March 1st, 2023 for all reservations during July for Going-to-the-Sun Road, North Fork, Two Medicine, and Many Glacier. 
  • On April 1st, 2023, you are able to reserve all areas for August
  • May 1st, 2023, reservations will be available for all areas for September 1st – 10th
  • Similar to the previous year, a portion of bookings for all areas of the park will be available on a rolling basis at 8am, 24 hours in advance. 
Dates, Locations, And Other Details
  • One reservation per vehicle will again be a requirement when entering the Going-to-the-Sun Road through the West Entrance, and the Camas Entrance from May 26th through September 10th 2023.
  • Like in 2022, Apgar Village and the Apgar visitor center are located inside the West Entrance and require a vehicle reservation to access. 
  • When visiting Polebridge Ranger Station to visit the North Fork area of the park, you will still need one reservation per vehicle. This reservation is good for one day. 

New for 2023

  • You can now enter the park outside of the restricted hours.
  • Reservations will only be required until 3 p.m rather than 4pm. 
  • July 1st through September 10th, 2023, a vehicle reservation is required to access the Going-to-the-Sun Road from the St. Mary Entrance 
  • When entering from the East, reservations for Going-to-the-Sun Road are checked at the Rising Sun checkpoint, 6 miles after the St. Mary entrance
  • Visitors will have access to the St. Mary visitor center and park shuttles outside of the vehicle reservation area. 

Concessioner Reservations

“Consessioner” is a fancy word for a private company that has a contract to provide services inside of Glacier National Park. A wide-range of activities are available throughout the park including the iconic “red bus tours” over Going-to-the-Sun Road, scenic boat cruises on the parks glacial lakes, horseback rides, guided day hikes, backpacking trips, and more.

A list of all concessioners that currently operate within Glacier National Park can be found here.

Additional Reminders & Resources:

Park Entrance Fees

  • All reservations mentioned above (campgrounds, vehicle, and concessioner reservations) do not include standard park entrance fees.
  • A complete overview of Glacier National Parks entrance fees can be found here
  • Our recommendations:
    • Buy an America the Beautiful annual pass for $80, although heavily discounted passes are available for and 4th Graders (you read that right!), Seniors, and Military/Veterans. It’s an annual pass that will serve as your ticket to Glacier National Park as well as 2,000 federal recreation sites (including all National Parks). It’s a great way to support the parks!
    • For a few lucky summer travelers, all National Parks are free to enter on the following days:

Campsite Rules To Know In Glacier National Park

  • Food storage regulations are strictly enforced. Grizzly and black bears frequent the area. When not in immediate use, all food, beverages, coolers, cooking utensils, pet food, or other attractants must be kept in a closed, hard-sided vehicle or secured in bear-proof storage lockers near campground restrooms.
  • Don’t Move Firewood: Help protect our forests! Prevent the spread of tree-killing pests by obtaining firewood within the same county in which you plan to camp. Moving firewood is illegal in some states. 
  • Hammocks. Hammocks must be hung over non-vegetated areas using one inch straps or wider. Vegetation may not be trampled to access hammocks.
  • If arriving one or more days late, you are required to call (406) 732-7740 ext # 2. Your reservation will be forfeited if Park Rangers / Camp Hosts do not hear from you within 24 hours of your scheduled arrival date.

Additional tips

  • Photos of individual campsites (including layout, tree coverage, and views) may be available on campsitephotos.com
  • Showers at certain campgrounds can be coin operated. Change machines are often available, but it can be a great use of your spare change.
  • We have put together a step-by-step “How-To” guide on booking campgrounds, found HERE. 
Weather

Road closures can happen

To avoid hitting a dead end, be sure to check the Current Conditions page for GNP. Here they will list any alerts you may need to know about closures, construction, and more. On top of that, park rangers are there to help, so don’t be afraid to ask for some tips and tricks when you see them around. 

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