Glacier's Shuttle System for 2021
The 2021 visitor season will be impacted by ongoing COVID-19 mitigation impacts, and a forecast for record-setting visitation to northwest Montana and the Glacier National Park region.
Glacier National Park is implementing a Ticket-to-Ride system through Recreation.gov to help manage the required social distancing protocols in the park’s shuttle buses. Having a predetermined number of Tickets-to-Ride, released by time blocks, ensures staff can load up buses with the right number of people, and reduce long lines at Visitor Centers and transfer points.
Tickets will become available on June 1, 2021 through Recreation.gov.
How the System Works
A Ticket-to-Ride is needed for every individual over the age of 2 to ride the shuttle. The shuttle system begins operations on July 1 (or when the Going-to-the-Sun Road opens if after July 1), through Labor Day weekend.
Tickets-to-Ride can be reserved in 1-hour increments between 7 am – 2 pm. The availability of tickets is based on the available number of seats each hour.
Shuttle service will operate between 7 am and 8 pm daily. The first shuttles of the day will depart from Apgar Visitor Center and the St. Mary Visitor Center at 7 am. The last return shuttles will leave Logan Pass Visitor Center at 7 pm.
The Ticket-to-Ride must be validated at the visitor center selected at the time of reservation, either Apgar Visitor Center or St. Mary Visitor Center. Visitors planning to ride the shuttle should consider where they will enter the park before purchasing their Ticket-to-Ride. If planning to enter from the east side of the park, visitors should reserve their ticket for the St. Mary Visitor Center. If entering from the west side, they should reserve their ticket for the Apgar Visitor Center.
Visitors staying overnight inside the park at Lake McDonald Lodge, Motel Lake McDonald, or Rising Sun Motor Inn may do an advanced check-in at the Apgar or St. Mary Visitor Centers, up to 72 hours from their reservation time. If visitors plan on boarding at an en route stop (i.e. Lake McDonald Lodge, Avalanche Campground, Rising Sun, or the Rising Sun Boat Dock), they must communicate to transit staff during their advanced check-in at the Visitors Center, to ensure seats are saved for them.
The time of the Ticket-to-Ride reservation is the start of the ticket window. Visitors may board at their initial check-in location, or at an en route stop when applicable. To reduce crowding, visitors may not enter the queue area prior to their shuttle ticket time block. EX: a 10 am ticket holder may board between 10 am – 11 am.
Tickets expire if not validated by the time indicated on the reservation. For example: an unvalidated Ticket-to-Ride for the 9 am to 10 am hour will not be valid after 10 am.
Each Ticket-to-Ride serves as a day pass for the shuttle, on the day of purchase. Once the ticket has been validated, riders will receive a wristband allowing them to board or disembark at any stop they wish for that day.
Some stops will not be serviced in 2021. The shuttle will only stop at the following locations: Apgar Visitor Center, Lake McDonald Lodge, Avalanche, Logan Pass, Sun Point, Rising Sun, Rising Sun Boat Dock, and the St. Mary Visitor Center. To reach Logan Pass, visitors must transfer at either Avalanche Creek or Sun Point, since only smaller passenger vans can drive the higher alpine sections of the GTSR. Because fewer stops will be served, buses will arrive at stops more frequently. Hikers will need to plan their trips carefully, as there may not be shuttle service available to their trailhead or exit point.
The Ticket-to-Ride serves as a Going-to-the-Sun Road entry reservation ticket for the day of reservation.
How to Purchase a Ticket
Tickets are obtained online at Recreation.gov. About ¾ of the tickets will be released June 1st, 8 am MST, for the entire shuttle season, and the remaining tickets will be released two days ahead of time on a rolling window. The exact numbers are still being worked out and may change depending on no-shows, and conditions in the GTSR corridor.
The Ticket-to-Ride will be valid for the reservation day only. Reservations cost $1, per ticket. Visitors may reserve a maximum of 10 tickets per transaction.
Visitors may also reserve a ticket through Recreation.gov’s Call Center. Calling the call center does not give an advantage towards reserving a ticket, online booking is the best way to reserve a Ticket-to-Ride. Call Centers are open every day of the week from 8 am MST to 10 pm MST. The following lines are available for callers:
- Reservation line (Toll-Free) - (877) 444-6777;
- Reservation line (International) - (606) 515-6777;
- Reservation line (TDD) - (877) 833-6777.
If a visitor arrives at the Apgar Visitor Center or St. Mary Visitor Center without a Ticket-to-Ride, they will be instructed by transit staff on how to reserve a Ticket-to-Ride through Recreation.gov. A limited amount of walk up tickets will be set aside for visitors without smart phones, credit cards, or e-mail accounts.
What to Expect on Shuttles this Year
To keep visitors, park staff, and shuttle drivers safe, all guests must wear a face mask that covers the nose and mouth, while riding in vehicles and waiting in lines. If visitors do not have a face mask, they will be provided one on the bus.
Occupancy within vehicles is greatly reduced, to ensure effective social distancing. While 6’ of space between riders is not feasible, every other row of seating is left empty.
A vinyl barrier between drivers and passengers is in place on each bus, and touchless hand sanitizer dispensers are also on-board for visitor use.
Queues at Visitor Centers and transfer points will be limited to avoid crowding, and groups of visitors must stand 6ft apart while waiting in line.