Warm weather brings avalanche danger to Glacier Park

Going-to-the-Sun Road avalanche

Caution urged on roads

The National Park Service announced today that Many Glacier and Chief Mountain roads on the east side of the Park are now open to vehicles for the season.

On both the east and west sides of the Going-to-the-Sun Road, avalanche concerns have prevented plowing operations from advancing since Wednesday. Park officials are recommending that hikers and bikers use caution if they plan to travel on the Going-to-the-Sun Road  this weekend.

 Sometime between Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning this week, two large glide avalanches released at Haystack and Heaven’s Gate, according to a park avalanche report. Both of these were large magnitude events with the debris running several thousand feet down into the valley bottoms. The avalanche at Haystack is blocking the Going-to-the-Sun Road where road crews had previously plowed the road and debris is plugging the stone archway that spans Haystack Creek (see photo). The report also notes that three separate glide avalanches occurred last weekend.

Visitors are welcome to drive the 8-mile Many Glacier Road as far as the Many Glacier Campground. The Swiftcurrent Nature Trail loop on the valley floor is open in its entirety with parking available at Grinnell Picnic area.

 Currently, no services are available along the Many Glacier Road with the exception of pit toilets at the ranger station and picnic area. The access road to the Many Glacier Hotel is closed due to construction at the hotel. Temporary parking for hotel trailheads is available along Many Glacier Road at the “T” junction with the road to the hotel. To access trailheads beyond the hotel, visitors should follow posted signs from the junction and stay clear of the posted construction zone.

West side plowing crews discovered the 30-foot deep avalanche debris at Haystack on their way up to plow the road on Thursday morning. Due to continued avalanche danger, the crew returned to complete road work at lower elevations without plowing further up the road. 

On the west side of the park, visitors can drive the Camas Road and the first 11.5 miles of the Going to the Sun Road from the park entrance to Lake McDonald Lodge. Beyond the Lodge, people on foot or on bicycles can continue up the traffic-free road for another twelve miles to the Loop where the hiker/biker sign is currently located. For the next several days, due to avalanche danger, officials are advising recreationists not to travel above the Loop.


On the east side of the park, vehicles may drive the first 5.5 miles of the Going-to-the-Sun Road  from St. Mary entrance to Rising Sun. Beyond that gate, hikers and bicyclists may continue on the road as far as Siyeh Bend. For at least the next few days, travel beyond Siyeh Bend is not advised due to avalanche danger. Two Medicine Road is closed to vehicles at Running Eagle Falls, with no restrictions for hikers and bikers beyond that point.

In addition to avalanche concerns, hikers and bikers are reminded that bears have emerged from their dens and that precautions are advised, including carrying bear spray and making noise along roads and trails where visibility is restricted. Recreationists should be prepared for variable, spring conditions including mud, snow and patches of ice both on roads and trails.

 Since road conditions and openings change frequently this time of year please visit the park’s webpage at http://www.nps.gov/glac or check the park’s social media sites or call 406-888-7800 for the latest information. On weekends, visitors can stop at the Apgar Visitor Center from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. for the latest information.

 National Park Week continues with free entrance to all National Parks, including Glacier National Park, through April 24 in honor of the National Park Service Centennial.

 glacier park avalanche

PHOTO CAPTION:  On their way to work on the Going-to-the-Sun Road on April 21, 2016, plowing crews discovered an avalanche more than 30 feet deep blocking the road at Haystack Creek. The avalanche is blocking the road and debris is plugging the stone archway that spans Haystack Creek. Due to continuing avalanche danger, crews will wait for safer conditions before returning to plow on the road. For the next several days, travel on foot or bicycle beyond the Loop, twelve miles up the road from Lake McDonald Lodge, is not advised due to avalanche danger.

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