WEST GLACIER – With 1 to 2 feet of new snow predicted above 6,500 feet in the next couple of days – even as snowplow crews work overtime tackling an 80-foot drift near 6,646-foot Logan Pass – Glacier National Park officials say they can’t yet say when Going-to-the-Sun Road will fully open.
The annual clearing of the iconic pavement through the heart of the park is the real start of tourist season in and around Glacier, and important to many local businesses.
Snow conditions, cold weather and debris from avalanches “are challenging some spring opening operations for trails, facilities and roads,” according to park spokeswoman Denise Germann.
Many trails in Glacier are still covered in snow, and park rangers and other staff report damage to trails and backcountry campsites due to snow slides and large amounts of avalanche debris.
Bridges on trails to Ptarmigan Falls and Twin Falls have been removed because of the damage and hazardous conditions, and temporary bridges are expected to be in place by early July.
Crews are also dealing with frozen and damaged sewer and water lines across the park, from Rising Sun to Apgar.
Germann said cabin areas at Rising Sun and Swiftcurrent had damaged water lines, and the Apgar and Lake McDonald areas had issues with both frozen sewer lines and broken water lines.
Meantime, campgrounds at Cutbank, Many Glacier and Two Medicine have abundant snow, and it’s not melting very quickly with unseasonably cool temperatures.
Park visitors can currently drive approximately 16 miles from the West Entrance to Avalanche Creek, just past Lake McDonald Lodge, and one mile from the St. Mary Entrance to the foot of St. Mary Lake on the east side of the park.
Germann said vehicle access to the Jackson Glacier Overlook on the east side is anticipated to open this weekend, but will depend on weather conditions. Hikers and bikers can currently access the Loop on the west side, and Rising Sun on the east.
Several avalanches deposited debris on Going-to-the-Sun Road, and wiped out 20 to 30 feet of rock wall along the road near the Alps area.
The Trout Lake Trail also received extensive avalanche debris, and park officials encouraged hikers to avoid it – or at least have “route-finding skills” if they’re going to try to traverse the debris.
Germann said road crew employees are working overtime trying to clear snow not just from Going-to-the-Sun, but the Logan Pass Visitor Center. Snow at the Big Drift east of Logan Pass, where road crews working since April up the west and east sides of the Continental Divide generally meet, is 80 feet deep this spring – almost twice as much as is found some years.