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Glacier National Park - 2024 Vehicle Reservations

Updated: Mar 21




Everything you need to know about the vehicle reservation system in Glacier National Park - 2024

 

If you are planning to travel to Glacier National Park in 2024 or have visited in recent years, you’ve undoubtably have encountered the vehicle reservation system. It can be quite confusing and frustrating to those who are not familiar with the operations and changes so I'm here to offer some guidance and advice.

 

Why is there a vehicle reservation system?

 

The vehicle reservation system was put in place in recent years due to the almost doubled visitation numbers in the last 5 years. Infrastructure cannot keep up with the increasing volume of people visiting each year during peak season. The National Park Service is taking into consideration the issues that result with such a quick increase in traffic; impacts to resources, and impacts to visitors and mostly - their safety.

 

High trafficked areas have already seen a higher rate of deterioration resulting in things like increased vegetation loss. Each individuals experience is also impacted with high levels of congestion and they want everyone to be able to enjoy their time in the park. Visitor safety is also a major concern as emergency vehicles are not able to respond promptly due to congestion.


going-to-the-sun road glacier national park

 

Where do I start?

 

First, by getting a vehicle reservation, you are not reserving a vehicle - and this is not your ticket to entering the park. You are reserving a ticket for YOUR vehicle to enter the park. You will still need to pay for a Glacier National Park entrance fee.

 

You can choose the Standard Pass which allows you to access the park for 7 days - or you can purchase the annual pass which allows you access to the park for a full calendar year from the date of purchase. These two passes are only good for Glacier National Park and can be purchased ahead of time online or when you approach the 7 different entrances to the park.

 

There is also the America the Beautiful pass which gives you access to all National Parks and Federal recreational sites for one full year from date of purchase. If you plan on visiting more than one National Park in a calendar year, this may be a smart option for you.

 

Again, just to enter the park you will need one of the passes above - Standard, Annual or American the Beautiful. Whether you are walking in, biking in, driving in on a motorcycle or in your vehicle, you must purchase this pass to enter Glacier National Park.


tunnel on going-to-the-sun-road

Vehicle Reservation Pass

 

In the recent years, GNP has seen a massive increase in visitors and with that, an increase in vehicle traffic and congestion. To help offset this and to enable all to enjoy the park at their leisure, they have enacted a vehicle reservation system for those wanting to drive their personal vehicles into the park.

 

They are adjusting this system year to year and this is what you can expect for 2024.

 

If you want to secure your vehicle pass in advance of your visit to the park, they are released 120 days (roughly 4 months) prior to the date of you trying to enter the park. And they are released daily, on a rolling basis.


This means, if you have a trip planned and are wanting to enter the park on June 1st, you will need to have reserved your vehicle pass on February 2nd. Don't worry if you were not able to do this - continue reading.


There is a limited number released each day and they are only valid for one day in the park. Also, they sell out extremely fast. Within minutes.


Sounds kind of stressful - right?

 

If you are like me, 4 months prior to my vacation I am still in the planning stages and do not know what my daily itinerary is going to be just yet and I will not know which day I will want my vehicle pass for.

 

Or you could be the type of person who grabs their vehicle pass and then plans their trip around that date.

 

I am going to go out on a limb and assume for this article that you are like me and are just starting to plan and want to have flexibility on what days you will be driving into the park.

 

Don't stress about it. There are many variables to the vehicle reservation system in 2024 that allow flexibility for people like you and me.



 

I will break it down for you as best as I can

 

First, not only do they release vehicle reservations in advance, they also release them for next day use.

 

Starting on May 23, 2024 at 7:00 PM MDT, recreation.gov (the online ticketing system you will need to purchase your vehicle reservation) will release vehicle passes for next day use. They will do this on a daily, continually rolling basis until they suspend the reservation system for the season.

 

For example, if your trip is planned from June 1st - June 5th and the week before you leave, you decide that on June 2nd you want to enter the park to do a hike. You have already missed the 4-month advance reservation window but if you set yourself up, you'll be able to still secure a vehicle reservation for the date you need it.

 

The night before (June 1st) you will log on to recreation.gov at 6:45 PM MDT (because let's face it, it will take you a hot minute or two to navigate the website) and once the clock changes to 7:00 PM MDT you simply click on the reservation you want (there will be 3 different entrances to the park that will require vehicle reservation tickets and each of them must be booked separately - more to come on that), charge the $2 fee to your card and by 7:03 PM you will have your vehicle reservation locked in to able to drive your vehicle into the park the following day.

 

This reservation is only good for that day only. And that particular entrance only.

 

There is no telling how many NPS will release the night before. Last year, when I went to book next day vehicle passes, there were 300 available. NPS will monitor reservations on an ongoing basis and adjust allotments as needed.

 

Not so stressful now, right?

 

Okay, well there are a few more details to point out.

 

There are 3 different access points to Glacier National Park that will require vehicle reservations in 2024. Good news though, this is down from the 5 different access points in 2023.

 

Here are the 3 different areas:

 

  • North Fork - you will need a vehicle reservation pass when entering this gate May 24th - September 8th

  • Going-to-the-Sun Road via the west entrance - you will need a vehicle reservation May 24th - September 8th

  • Many Glacier - you will need a vehicle reservation July 1st - September 8th

 

This means you will only need a vehicle reservation to enter the park at these locations during the dates listed above. Each entrance requires it's own vehicle reservation ticket.


Once more, during the dates above, and at the entrances listed, you WILL need a separate vehicle reservation to get through the entrance into the park with your vehicle.

 

Any other dates and any other entrances to the park outside of these parameters, you will just need your park pass (standard 7-day, annual or American the Beautiful). And if you are not planning on driving in (walking, biking, skipping), you will also not need a vehicle pass - just a park pass.

 

Got it? Let's continue


Changes to this year's areas needing a vehicle reservation removes the Two Medicine and St. Mary entrances - both of which required a vehicle reservation in 2023.

 

tunnel on going-to-the-sun road

One more thing. From May 24th - September 8th, a vehicle may enter the park at the North Fork entrance, Going-to-the-Sun Road (west entrance) and Many Glacier (July 1st) entrance WITHOUT a vehicle reservation before 6 am and after 3 pm.

 

So, if you are looking to get to your trailhead by 5 am and enter through one of these 3 gates, between May 24th (Many Glacier July 1st) and September 8th, BEFORE 6 am, you will NOT need a vehicle reservation.


If you are planning on entering the park between May 24th/July 1st and September 8th, AFTER 3 pm, you will NOT need a vehicle reservation (the sun doesn't set until like 10 o'clock so you still have plenty of time to explore).


If you were not able to secure a vehicle reservation during the dates it is required for one of the 3 entrances and it is before 6 am or after 3 pm, you will not need a vehicle reservation.

 

If for any reason you want enter the park at one of these 3 locations - North Fork, GTTS Road (west entrance) and Many Glacier (July 1st)- before 6 am or after 3 pm between the dates of May 24th and September 8th, you will NOT need a vehicle reservation.

 

Make sense? Fabulous - there's more

 

There is another way to gain access to the park WITHOUT a vehicle reservation (again - a vehicle reservation is only required at the North Fork, Going-to-the-Sun Road west entrance and Many Glacier entrance for 2024). This is if you have something booked in the park.

 

What do you mean, booked in the park?

 

I mean that you have made a reservation for lodging, camping, transportation or any commercial activity inside park boundaries.

 

Examples; a GNP campsite you booked online, a boat tour reservation on Lake McDonald, horseback riding in Many Glacier, a room at Lake McDonald Lodge, etc. These reservations all come with a vehicle reservation. It will say so right on your confirmation email.

 


lake mcdonald glacier national park

What won't work are non-service. These are things like a bike or kayak rental from Glacier Outfitters in Apgar Village. You are still encouraged to try and reserve these ahead of time as they sell out quickly, but in doing so it will not guarantee you a vehicle reservation.

 

What about the first come first served camping sites that I cannot make a reservation for?

 

They've thought about this too. If you are planning on camping at one of the first come first served sites in the North Fork, simply mention to the staff at the Polebridge Ranger Station that you are looking to stay at one of the campgrounds (you must let them know which one you will be staying at) and they will issue the site to you. No vehicle reservation will be necessary as long as there is a campsite available.

 



Oofda - that was a lot. I hope I have laid this all out in a manner that is easy to understand. If not, here is a little recap:


  • there are 7 main entrances into Glacier National Park - West, Camas, North Fork (Polebridge), Two Medicine, Cut Bank, St. Mary and Many Glacier

  • to enter the park at ANY of the entrances at any time, you will need a park pass (standard 7-day, annual or America the Beautiful. You cannot enter the park on foot or vehicle without this pass.

  • in 2024, vehicle reservations will be required at the West, North Fork and Many Glacier entrances.

  • vehicle reservations start and end on:

    • West entrance - May 24th - September 8th

    • North Fork (Polebridge) - May 24th - September 8th

    • Many Glacier - July 1st - September 8th

  • outside of these dates, you can enter the park (with a park pass) at anytime, without a vehicle reservation

  • during these dates, you can enter the park without a vehicle reservation (with a park pass) before 6 am and after 3 pm

  • during the vehicle reservation dates (May 24th/July 1st - September 8th), if you have a campsite, hotel reservation, boat tour, etc. reserved inside the park and need to enter through one of these 3 entrances to get to your reservation, your email confirmation (for that booking) acts as your vehicle reservation

 

Just a few more tidbits

 

I should have mentioned this a few times as well but this is a friendly reminder that there is NO cellphone or internet service in the park. When you secure your vehicle reservation, immediately take a screen shot or a print out of the confirmed reservation and store it somewhere that will be easily accessible when you arrive to the park.

 

Also, since vehicle reservations are not transferable, the gate agents may ask for your ID when trying to get through the access points. If it is not your name on the reservation, you just might not get in. Just a heads up.


goin-to-the-sun road

 

At the end of the day, the vehicle reservation system is a work in progress and has changed year to year since it was enacted at Glacier National Park. I've been able to have a front row seat to the action for the last 2 summers and think they have learned a lot from the previous seasons and have made changes that benefit everyone.

 

NPS did not enact a vehicle reservation system to deter people from visiting their National Parks. They did it to ensure that everyone can safely enjoy the protected lands we all hold dear.

 

It is, after all, your park. Treat it as so and remember if you pack it in, pack it out - and please for everyone's sake, don't feed the animals.

 

Happy and safe travels,


T

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