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.
Ok, here’s the info for getting a ticket.
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 Recreation.gov (Vehicle Reservations), Recreation.gov app, or the Recreation.gov 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 Recreation.gov (Vehicle Reservations) on the following dates:
|Block Release Date||Reservation Dates|
|February 1, 8 am MDT||May 26-June 30|
|March 1, 8 am MDT||July 1-July 30|
|April 1, 8 am MDT||August 1-August 31|
|May 1, 8 am MDT||September 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! https://www.glacierparkcollection.com/plan-your-trip/getting-around
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.
- Apgar Campground (Reservation Campground)
- Fish Creek Campground (Reservation Campground)
- Sprague Creek Campground (Reservation Campground)
- Avalanche Creek Campground (Reservation Campground)
- Rising Sun Campground (First come, first served Campground)
- St. Mary Campground (Reservation Campground)
- Bowman Lake Campground (First come, first served)
- Logging Creek Campground (Closed in 2023)
- Kintla Lake Campground (First come, first served)
- Quartz Creek Campground (First come, first served)
- Two Medicine Campground (Reservation Campground)
- Many Glacier Campground (Reservation Campground)
- Once registered, campers at first-come, first-served campgrounds will be allowed reservation area access for the dates of their stay.
- Granite Park Chalet
- Sperry Chalet
- Village Inn Motel
- Lake McDonald Lodge
- Rising Sun Motor Inn
- Many Glacier Hotel
- Swiftcurrent Motor Inn
- Reservations held on private lands within Glacier National Park
- Apgar Village Lodge
- Motel Lake McDonald
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!
St. Mary Lake (Rising Sun Boat Dock)
7. Have a horseback riding adventure
Saddle up and explore the park before or after…and during!
- 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 https://secure.glaciernationalparklodges.com/booking/activities
Apgar Visitor Center departure
Lake McDonald Lodge departure
St. Mary Visitor Center departure
Village Inn at Apgar departure
Many Glacier departure
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”…..
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