Glacier National Park demand outweighs ticket availability
This Sept. 5, 2017 photo shows Grinnell Glacier in Glacier National Park in Montana. (AP Photo/Beth J. Harpaz)
KALISPELL, MONT. -- Park officials in Montana have made additional reservation tickets available this week for Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park after receiving complaints that the park was selling out too quickly.
The temporary ticketed entry system for the iconic 50-mile (80-kilometre) alpine road was announced last month to manage congestion and avoid potential closures at the park because of the coronavirus pandemic and road construction.
Park officials have said reservations for June sold out within minutes after they were made available despite visitors having a rolling 60-day window to reserve tickets that are made available each morning. Officials said at one point more than 10,000 people were on the park's online portal, more than three times the number of available tickets.
Several residents and out-of-state visitors raised complaints about the system and the lack of availability.
"Time to rethink the GTSR ticketing system," Jennifer Thies said on Twitter. "Was on the website this morning and sold out in 3 minutes for June 29th. And now I have to wait to June 27th for another shot?? How can I plan a vacation like this? Definitely not well planned."
As a result, the park said the road is expected to open July 1 to allow more tickets to be released.
"Yes, there are fewer tickets available prior to the Going-to-the-Sun Road opening. And once the road opens, additional tickets will become available," Glacier Park Public Information Officer Gina Kerzman said. "Unfortunately, we never know the date that it will open, but once the road does open, or once we're clear on when it will open, those tickets will become available."
Officials previously said that about 4,600 daily tickets would be available when the road is fully opened, but that number is fluid, and applies to vehicles, not visitors, she said.
"This is our first year implementing this system so we know that there are going to need to be tweaks," Kerzman said. "We are going to be monitoring the number of tickets versus the number of vehicles entering, and we are going to adjust those numbers if we feel there is room for additional capacity."
Visitors with proof of service reservations inside the park -- for lodging, camping, boat rides, bus tours, guided hikes, or horseback rides -- are exempt from the reservation requirement.
Visitors entering the park on foot or bicycle do not need reservations, nor do those coming through the Many Glacier, Two Medicine, Cut Bank, Chief Mountain Highway and North Fork entrances.
Tribal members and people who own property within the park's boundaries are also exempt from purchasing a ticket.
The Rocky Mountain, Yosemite, Acadia and Zion national parks are also using a ticketed entry or other form of crowd control this summer.