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Contact: Amy Vanderbilt, 406 888-5838
WEST GLACIER, MONT. – Glacier National Park officials announce the winter closure of the 16-mile alpine section of Going-to-the-Sun Road (Sun Road) between Avalanche Creek and Logan Pass on Monday, October 20 at 8 a.m. Park policy establishes a firm closing of the road between The Loop and Logan Pass. Given current Sun Road reconstruction, this closure will extend from Avalanche Creek to Jackson Glacier Overlook.
The upper road will be open for hikers and bicyclists as far as signs are posted. During road winterization, hikers and bicyclists are not allowed beyond posted areas due to hazards from heavy equipment operating on the roadway. Throughout the fall, Sun Road work will continue as weather permits; therefore, hikers and bicyclists may also experience short delays at work sites. Work zones will be posted as necessary. Hikers and bicyclists should also be alert for gravel and rocks on the roadway.
This set closure allows park personnel to prepare the alpine portion of the Sun Road for the winter. Park Superintendent Chas Cartwright noted winterization of the upper road involves removal of guard rails and other removable barriers in at least 15 avalanche zones as well as removal of all signs, displays, trash cans, installation of snow poles and final culvert/drain cleaning. “As we rehabilitate the alpine sections of the Sun Road, we have been adding more removable steel backed log barriers. This has helped us address the need to replace stone walls in avalanche prone areas, but it has added considerable winter preparation to remove all barriers,” said Cartwright. Additionally, guard rails are removed with heavy equipment that requires access to both lanes of the Sun Road.
According to Cartwright, “This October date for the set closing of the Sun Road alpine section allows park personnel more time to winterize the upper roadway in a safe manner without endangering employees who may be forced to work in hazardous conditions. A set closing date also allows managers to be more cost effective and better prepared by avoiding undue costs from damage to road structures and facilities and extra work time necessary to complete the winterization process during winter storms.” Cartwright added, “A motor vehicle restriction is also important to reduce stress on park wildlife at a time when they are already stressed by changing climatic patterns, harsh weather and reduced food availability.”
Park managers strive to retain flexibility in allowing public motorized use of roads in the spring and fall, yet recognize that for the safety of workers, staffing, planning and environmental compliance, a consistent approach is needed. “This policy allows for a safer, systematic approach to winterize the alpine section of road while providing the visiting public and area businesses with a better framework for planning their park travels and operations, respectively,” Cartwright concluded.
Temporary closures of the alpine section before the third Monday in October may occur due to hazardous road and weather conditions. When this occurs, efforts are made to reopen the Sun Road as soon as road and weather conditions permit. Wintry weather, snow and ice caused overnight closures of the alpine section between Logan Pass and Big Bend four times last week, most recently on Friday, October 10. Late Wednesday morning, the west side reopened to Logan Pass. Weather and road conditions permitting, Logan Pass will remain open for vehicle traffic from the west side through the weekend and then will close for the season for vehicle use at Avalanche Creek at 8 a.m., Monday, October 20.
The east side of Logan Pass between Logan Pass and Jackson Glacier Overlook closed for the remainder of the season on September 22 to allow for road repair work near the East Tunnel. The lower elevation section between St. Mary and Jackson Glacier Overlook remains open 14 miles for vehicle use. East side hikers and bicyclists will continue to be able to travel as far as Siyeh Bend.
Despite the alpine section’s closure, weather permitting, 30 miles of the Sun Road will remain open for vehicle use. This includes 16 miles from the West Glacier entrance to Avalanche Creek on the west side and 14 miles from St. Mary to Jackson Glacier Overlook on the east side.
All other park roads remain open for motorized vehicle travel except for the road into Cut Bank Valley, the Chief Mt. Road and a portion of the Inside North Fork Road. Park visitors are urged to check the park’s web site at http://home.nps.gov/applications/glac/roadstatus/roadstatus.cfm for current road status. Conditions are also available by calling 511, the Montana Department of Transportation Traveler Information System or by calling 1-800-226-7623; both numbers are toll-free. Select “Glacier Park Tourist Information” from the main menu to hear Glacier’s road report or call park headquarters at 406-888-7800.