WEST GLACIER — Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park wasn’t open long before what little traffic might have been on it was being delayed.
An 800-pound boulder — and a “large pile of snow” — fell onto the road approximately 1 1/2 miles west of Logan Pass late Wednesday.
Park dispatch received a report that the boulder and snow were blocking the westbound lane at about 10:30 p.m. Wednesday.
After three months of plowing operations, Going-to-the-Sun had opened for the first time in 2014 just 2 1/2 hours earlier.
Glacier spokeswoman Denise Germann said road crews had the boulder and snow removed by 1:30 a.m. Thursday.
Thursday was the first full day vehicles were allowed on the spectacular road and the first day the Logan Pass Visitor Center was open.
Germann used the incident to remind visitors to take care while traveling the narrow road that crosses the Continental Divide at snow-covered Logan Pass.
“Standing or walking on snow along the road is strongly discouraged,” she said, “as is parking or stopping in areas of snow located above the road.”
She said visitors should “be aware of snow walls along the Going-to-the-Sun Road and hazardous snow bridges near the Big Drift” just east of Logan Pass.
Visitors will find “a snow-covered landscape” at 6,646-foot Logan Pass and may also encounter winter weather, cold temperatures, wind and icy conditions as well, Germann added.
The opening of the road was delayed by June storms that triggered more than two dozen snow slides across portions of Going-to-the-Sun that had already been cleared. Crews have been working since April to plow the road on both sides of the Continental Divide, and one of the last challenges was snow 80 feet deep on the road at the Big Drift.
Germann also cautioned hikers to take care on trails that are still covered in snow, and to avoid crossing steep, snow-covered slopes.
The Highline Trail from Logan Pass remains closed due to snow conditions, and the trail from Hidden Lake Overlook to Hidden Lake is not recommended for the same reason.
The opening of the road also signals the start of Glacier’s free shuttle system. Normal operations on the west side are expected to begin Thursday morning, but east side shuttle service will be limited due to road rehabilitation work on that side.
Germann said visitors should contact the St. Mary Visitor Center for more information about east-side shuttle service schedules.
That road work, on the nine miles between Siyeh Bend and Rising Sun, may result in delays on the east side of Going-to-the-Sun of up to 30 minutes, although Germann said no construction delays are anticipated over the holiday weekend.
There will be no road construction delays on the west side of the park this summer.