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Going to the Sun Road Tickets & Open Times: Everything You Need to Know to Access Going to the Sun

Cara L
9 min read

Over three million people visit Glacier National Park every year with plans to experience the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road and the incredible activities it provides access to. But year after year, getting into Glacier is has become an incresingly difficult task.

In an effort to help reduce crowding, improve traffic flow, protect park resources and enhance visitor experiences and safety, Glacier National Park implents a Vehcile Reservation system. Between entrance passes and reservations it can be confusing trying to figure out which ones you need.

This guide will help you break everything down and prepare you for your Glacier National Park adventure.

When is Going-to-the-Sun Road Open?

park ranger handing map & information packet to person in car

The entire 52 miles of Going-to-the-Sun Road is usually open from late June to the middle of October, but the exact dates are entirely dependent on weather and road conditions. The route will open in stages beginning in the spring as weather improves and snow removal is underway.

Before the road is opened to vehicles, cyclists and hikers are allowed access. The increasingly popular hiker/biker season allows for a unique experience for early season visitors.

Always check road conditions before you visit and take a look at our Ultimate Guide to Going to the Sun Road for local tips on how best to enjoy the iconic route.

Do you need reservations for Going-to-the-Sun Road?

In 2024 you’ll need both a Vehicle Reservation and a Site Pass if accessing Going-to-the-Sun Road from the west and this year a checkpoint will be in place just beyond Apgar Village. This means non-reservation holders will have access to Apgar as well as the lower portion of Lake McDonald. Reservations will not be required if accessing Going-to-the-Sun Road from St. Mary.

New this season, reservations will be only be valid for a single day and the number of overall tickets made available will be increased.

Going-to-the-Sun Road Vehicle Reservations & Site Passes

View of the St. Mary Valley from Hwy 89

If you plan on accessing Going-to-the-Sun Road from beyond Apgar Village, it's best to plan ahead. Here's what you'll need to access the park.

1) Site Pass - A Site Pass is required for all visitors to Glacier National Park. Passes can be purchased upon your arrival or in advance on recreation.gov and there is no limit or cap to passes sold. Annual or liftime passes such as the America the Beautiful Pass or other interagnecy passes are valid in place of a Site Pass.

2) Vehicle Reservation OR Service Reservation - In addition to a Site Pass to pay for your entry you'll need one of these two reservations:

  • Vehicle Reservation: Standard requirement for access along Going-to-the-Sun Road (West) between May 24th and September 8th, 2024.
  • Service Reservation: Valid in place of a Vehicle Reservation for visitors with lodging, transportation, or an activity reservation.

So you need both a pass and a reservation and there are a few different ways to secure either. Let's breakdown the different types of passes first:

Site Pass

This is a Glacier National Park specific pass and can be purchased online at recreation.gov or at the entrance station when you arrive at the park. If the entrance station is not staffed when you arrive, a self-registration area is available.

  • Glacier Annual Pass: $70 - Admits the passholder, passenger of one motorcycle, or up to 15 passengers of a single, private, non-commercial vehicle (car/truck/van).
  • Private Vehicle Pass: $35 - Admits the passholder and up to 15 passengers of a single, private, non-commercial vehicle (car/truck/van).
  • Motorcycle Pass: $30 - Admits the passholder and passenger of one motorcycle.
  • Pedestrian / Cyclist Pass: $15-20 - Admits one individual bicyclist, hiker, or pedestrian visiting without a private vehicle. Individual passes are not required for visitors under the age of 15.

America the Beautiful Pass

The America the Beautiful Pass is available in multiple variations and can be purchased online at the usgs.gov. These passes allow access to other National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands across the country.

  • Annual Pass: $80 - Provides access for one private vehicle or up to four people where per-person fees are charged.
  • Military Pass: FREE - Annual passes are available for current US Military and Dependants. Lifetime passes are available for Gold Star Families and Veterns.
  • Senior Passes
    • Annual: $20 - Available of all US citizens and residents ages 62 and older.
    • Lifetime: $80 - Valid for lifetime of all US citizens and residents ages 62 and older.
  • Volunteer Pass: FREE - Offered to volunteers with with 250 service hours with federal agencies that participate in the Interagency Pass Program
  • Access Pass: FREE - A lifetime pass offered to all US citizens and residents who have a permanent disability

Now that you have a better understanding of the different passes and their requirements let's discuss reservations. Remember, a pass is always required when visiting Glacier National Park and reservations are only required where designated.

Local Expert Tip: The America the Beautiful Pass is by far the best "bang for your buck" when planning a trip to multiple National Parks. Be sure to purchase your pass online early or check here for nearby locations that sell physical passes.

Vehicle Reservation

In 2024, a vehicle reservation is required for three areas of the park: Going-to-the-Sun Road (West), North Fork, and Many Glacier from 6 am to 3 pm.

Going-to-the-Sun Road: Valid for 1 day - Required for each vehicle going west past the Apgar Village checkpoint May 24 through September 8, 2024, from 6 am to 3 pm. A reservation is not required for vehicles traveling from the east at St. Mary. North Fork: Valid for 1 day - Required for each vehicle accessing the North Fork area via the Polebridge Entrance May 24 through September 8, 2024 from 6 am to 3 pm. Many Glacier: Valid for 1 day - Required for each vehicle accessing the Many Glacier Valley beginning July 1 through September 8, 2024, from 6 am to 3 pm.

Each location has unique details and requires a separate vehicle reservation. Visitors will be able to access Going-to-the-Sun Road from the east side at St. Mary and Two Medicine without a vehicle reservation. All vehicle reservations must be purchased online at recreation.gov

Service Reservation

Visitors with lodging, camping, or activity reservations can use their service reservation in lieu of the traditional vehicle reservation. These reservations will only be valid the date(s) of your service. Camp host checks a reservation at campsite

Reservation Policies New in 2024 reservations for services east of Logan Pass cannot be used in place of a vehicle reservation for access beyond the Apgar Checkpoint.

Those with reservations along the eastern portion of Going-to-the-Sun Road (ex: St. Mary Lake boat tours at Rising Sun) will need to enter via the St. Mary Entrance if they do not possess a vehicle reservation for Going-to-the-Sun Road (West).

Local Expert Tip: Reservations for boat tours or lake rentals at Lake McDonald Lodge will allow access beyond the Apgar Checkpoint. Reservations for similar rentals in Apgar Village will not allow access.

How to Secure 2024 Glacier National Park Vehicle Reservations

Information about 2024 vehicle reservations Securing advance reservations can be a time consuming and frustrating part of any travel planning experience. Before you secure your 2024 vehicle reservations we suggest taking a moment to set up an account on recreation.gov and familairize yourself with the site.

Reservations will be released 120 days, or approximately four months, prior to their reservation date begining January 25, 2024 at 8am MST on a daily rolling basis. A portion of reservations will sold in advance while the remaining inventory will be available to purchase 24 hours prior to the entry date.

Be sure to visit the Glacier National Park website to learn more about Vehicle Reservations.

2024 Vehicle Reservation Step-by-Step Guide

  1. After creating an account, follow this link or use the site’s search bar to bring up the ‘Glacier National Park Vehicle Reservations' and then click the ‘Book Now’ button for the respective ticket.
  2. Next, click on the calendar icon in the date box to select the day you would like to reserve. You’ll see the days have different color backgrounds and letter designations. The Blue ‘A’ indicates it’s available, and dates in gray are unavailable. The yellow dates with ‘NR’ means that there are still tickets available that have not yet been released. When you click on a date that has tickets available, you’ll be able to see how many tickets are left.
  3. Click on the ‘Quantity’ box and you’ll be able to select a ticket for a vehicle or a motorcycle. Each reservation is valid for 1 day and you only need one per vehicle. Note that you can only purchase 1 ticket here. If you need to make a reservation for multiple vehicles or motorcycles, or for a second time frame, you’ll need to go complete the process again.
  4. Next click the blue “Add to Cart” button. If you haven’t logged in or signed up for an account yet, you’ll need to do so at this point to proceed. Then, you’ll see a page with your order details, you’ll have 15 minutes to complete the order. Verify your contact information and scroll down to read the ‘Need to Know’ information and click to confirm that you have read it. Next, click the blue ‘Proceed to Cart’ button. Verify that all the information is correct and then click to proceed to payment.

What if I'm unable to secure a vehicle reservation 120 days advance?

If you aren't able to secure a vehicle reservation before your trip, don't worry. You will still have plenty of chances to visit Glacier National Park and there will be a second opportunity to secure reservations.

In 2024 both the Two Medicine and St. Mary entrances will not require reservations. It's important to remember that Two Medicine is not associated with Going-to-the-Sun Road and is an entirely separate region of the park.

Visitors without a vehicle reservation can still enjoy Glacier National Park and can visit under the following conditions:

  • Visit before May 24 or after September 8, 2024. The Many Glacier Valley will not require reservations until July 1, 2024.
  • Glacier National Park is open 24/7 and you may enter without a reservation prior to 6am or after 3pm.
  • Pedestrian or cyclists access does not require a resevation.
  • Utilize a service reservation such as lodging, transportation, or tour.

When will more vehicle reservations be released?

If you find yourself still in need of a vehcile reservation just prior to or during your trip, you will have a second opportunity to secure your entry. A second batch of vehicle reservations will be released 24-hours prior to the entry date at 8am MST.

The total number of reservations available is variable and closely monitored by park officals. Based on historical visitation numbers some dates may have more or less reservations available to best serve the needs of the park.

Local Expert Tip: If you plan on purchasing last-minute reservations be mindful that passes have traditionally sold out very quickly (10 minutes or less). Tickets are released at 8am MST so you should be online and ready to make your purchase by around 7:50am.

How to Visit Glacier National Park Without a Vehicle or Service Reservation

Glacier Park rangers give tips to visitors at Logan Pass Sometimes, things just don't work out in your favor and you've got to make do. Whether you're planning a last minute trip or found yourself showing up without any reservations, there are still plenty of ways to guarantee a memorable Montana experience.

While advance reservations can make experiencing Glacier National Park a bit easier, here are a few ways to make the most of last-minute planning:

Day Hike in Two Medicine Taking advantage of no reservation requirements, Two Medicine can make for the perfect fallback plan if you don't have the necessary reservations. A relatively accessible location Two Med (as the locals call it) is about 65 miles from West Glacier and 30 miles from St. Mary, and be sure to check out the Glacier Park Lodge in East Glacier Park before or after your visit.

Going-to-the-Sun Road via St. Mary Accessing Going-to-the-Sun Road from the east side makes for a much easier experience than from the west. The West Glacier entrance is the most popular and sees the highest visitation numbers out of anywhere else in the park, so it's no surprise that visitors coming from the east have less restrictions than those coming from the west.

If you are staying on the west side of the park in towns like Whitefish, Columbia Falls, or Kalispell don't knock the idea of skipping over West Glacier to loop back over Going-to-the-Sun through St. Mary.

Local Expert Tip: Growing up in Whitefish I've driven Going-to-the-Sun Road more times in a summer than most will in a lifetime. In my opinion, this scenic route is best enjoyed traveling from east to west (St. Mary to West Glacier).

Apgar Village & Lake McDonald New in 2024 reservations will not be required to access Apgar Village and the lower portion of Lake McDonald. The view across the lake from Apgar is also one of the most recognizable shots in all of Glacier National Park. A few charming shops also dot the village and lake rentals such as kayaks or paddleboards can be taken out on Lake McDonald.

You'll also find the Apgar Visitor Center and Apgar Nature Center which can make for a great way to learn more about the park. Free shuttle services along Going-to-the-Sun Road are also available at the Apgar Visitor Center.

Visit Glacier National Park's website to learn more about visiting without a resevation

Cara L
Local Writer, Global Traveler
Cara lives in Columbia Falls, just 20 minutes from Glacier Park, where she enjoys hiking, biking and relaxing on a boat during the beautiful summers in Montana.

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