How to get into Glacier without a reservation (without sneaking in)

Please follow and like us:

In the Flathead Valley, there is only one thing worse than the F word and that’s the R word (Reservation system). If you haven’t heard of it yet, you can read more about it here, although I am almost certain that anyone planning their dream elopement or family vacation to Glacier National Park already knows how confusing and ever changing the whole process is. 

At this point we can’t even keep track of when the windows for reservations open. Last I checked, when the moon is in equinox, on the fourth Tuesday before the second Wednesday before you visit from 6-8 am you can reserve even days and then from 6-8 pm you can reserve odd days…if your last name starts with A-M, and if you were born from 1965-1995 you have to wait until winter solstice and the blood red moon eclipses the night sky. And then carry the 1, except after C.

Joking!!! Kinda 

Ok, here’s the info for getting a ticket.

Going-to-the-Sun Road
West Entrances: Valid for 3 days   Reservation required May 26 – September 10, 6 am to 3 pm
St. Mary at Rising Sun: Valid for 1 day   Reservation required July 1 – September 10, 6 am to 3 pm

North Fork Valid for 1 day   Reservation required May 26 – September 10, 6 am to 3 pm

Many Glacier Valid for 1 day    Reservation required July 1 – September 10, 6 am to 3 pm

Two Medicine  Valid for 1 day   Reservation required July 1 – September 10, 6 am to 3 pm

Ok, simple enough, right? hahahhahaah now read about when you can purchase the tickets.

Vehicle reservations are available in advance at (Vehicle Reservations), app, or the Call Center (Reservation Line: 877-444-6777). 

  • A portion of vehicle reservations for each area are released 4-months in advance in blocks.
  • 24-hour advance reservations become available on a rolling basis starting May 25. This will occur the day prior to your visit at 8 am MDT

Vehicle reservations will be released on (Vehicle Reservations) on the following dates:

Block Release DateReservation Dates
February 1, 8 am MDTMay 26-June 30
March 1, 8 am MDTJuly 1-July 30
April 1, 8 am MDTAugust 1-August 31
May 1, 8 am MDTSeptember 1-September 10

This literally just makes me more confused.

Confused? Didn’t get a ticket in the specific one second allotted to you to snag one? Still want to visit? Where does that leave you? 

Reading this article I presume (; 

1. Get up Early

Enter before 6 AM. Well that’s simple enough.

2. Stay up late

Did you know the sun sets really late here! My friend who moved here (shhhhhh she was the last one we let in) calls it “second evening.”  In July the sun doesn’t set until 9:30! So enter the park around 3pm, or even better 3:30, once everyone else “in the know” has entered and get 6 hours of hiking in! And the sunsets are spectacular! And you get to sleep in! And the park is much quieter! and hello, sunset!!!!

3. Time your visit

OUTSIDE of July 1- September 10 you can explore the North Fork, East Glacier, Many Glacier AND Going to the Sun Road (call it the GTSR to sound like a local) starting at St. Marys WITHOUT a reservation! So enter there and exit at the West entrance! It is an extra drive but it’s all gorgeous.

4. Take a Shuttle

Luckily, this is complicated too.

The park shuttle system is free, first come first serve, but you can only access it within the park…which you need a vehicle reservation to get to (except the St. Marys visitor center shuttle (loophole!!!!) which is right outside the park…can you say no vehicle reservation!?

There is another shuttle system (not free but also first come, first served) and that is accessed outside of the park!

OR you can walk or bike from West Glacier to Apgar which is 1.5 miles and use the free shuttle system from there.

5. Book Lodging Accommodations 

Book a stay at any campground, hotel, or lodge and that gets you inside the park for the duration of your reservation.  

Camping Reservations

Lodging Reservations

6. Boat, bike or kayak rental or boat ride.

A boat rental or boat ride reservation gains you access to that section of the park for the day of the boat ride. Which is pretty sweet cause the boat rides are super fun!

Glacier Park Boat Company

Lake McDonald

St. Mary Lake (Rising Sun Boat Dock)

Two Medicine

Many Glacier

Glacier Outfitters

7. Have a horseback riding adventure

Saddle up and explore the park before or after…and during!

Swan Mountain Outfitters

  • Apgar Corral
  • Lake McDonald Corral
  • Many Glacier Corral

8. Book a tour

These are more expensive but a very memorable way to see the park!

Red Bus Tour Reservations

Apgar Visitor Center departure

Lake McDonald Lodge departure

St. Mary Visitor Center departure

Village Inn at Apgar departure

Many Glacier departure

Sun Tours Reservations

Apgar Visitor Center departure

St. Mary Visitor Center departure

9. Hire a guide!

Hire a guide to take you fishing or hiking or even rafting! that will get you in and will be fun to “boot”…like “hiking boot”…..

Glacier Institute

Glacier Guides

10. Elope in Glacier

Okay, so maybe this one is a little extreme if you weren’t already planning on running away with your sweetheart to the remote wilderness of Glacier Park and booking the two most charismatic photographers in the state to capture it all. 

But honestly if you weren’t already planning on doing that then, like, what are you even doing with your life? 

How embarrassing. Sounds like you should probably reflect and reevaluate. 

When you apply and are accepted to have a wedding ceremony in glacier national park your wedding permit acts as the reservation ticket for you and your guests for the day of your ceremony. The permit allows a certain amount of cars in your party to enter as well.

Already married? Can you say VOW RENEWAL

Glacier National Park Wedding and Elopement Photographer based out of Kalispell, Montana- 406-871-3524 - Call or Text!
Average rating:  
 0 reviews
  1. Catherine Lowden says:

    Does a RSVP at the Park Lodge in East Glacier gain a person entrance ???

    • grace wiest says:

      Great question! Unfortunately it does not. Glacier Park Lodge in East Glacier village is not located inside of the park itself, which means you do not need a reservation ticket in order to access the lodge and it is therefore not provided.

      Hope this answer helped!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *