Glacier open to Avalanche, fire still smoulders
By Moosetrack Megan

Posted: October 21, 2017

Going-to- the-Sun Road will reopen to Avalanche from the West Entrance by 12 pm on October 21. Going-to- the-Sun Road access from the St. Mary entrance is currently to Rising Sun.

Logan Pass vehicle access from both the east and west park entrances has ended for the season.

The Going-to- the-Sun Road had previously been closed at Apgar on the west side of the park due to Sprague Fire activity, and then due to a large culvert replacement project several miles up the lake.

A significant amount of construction will still be occurring simultaneously with this road opening, some of which was delayed during the Sprague Fire and now must occur before winter.

Visitors can expect intermittent one-lane traffic and delays between Apgar and Avalanche. Pullout rehabilitation continues, and many pullouts are closed as a result.

A portion of the Trail of the Cedars boardwalk has been removed to allow equipment access to the pedestrian footbridge currently under construction. The bridge is being modified to fully comply with ABA/ADA standards. Walking the Trail of the Cedars loop is not currently possible. In addition, a tree has fallen across the boardwalk portion breaking it, so the boardwalk portion of the trail is also temporarily closed. Visitors should obey signs and not enter construction zones.

Avalanche Lake Trail will be open, though hikers can expect to see trail crew conducting routine maintenance activities. In addition, a wind storm from earlier in the week has knocked down approximately 140 trees across the trail. The trail may close intermittently for tree clearing activities. Hikers should expect a much more difficult hiking experience than is typical due to trail condition.

Trails within the Sprague Fire burn area remain closed, including the trail to Sperry Chalet. The park estimates that nearly 2,000 trees have fallen over trail systems within the burn area. Hundreds more are expected to fall this winter with heavy snow. Significant tree fall hazards currently exist. The area closure is to protect human life and safety and violations carry federal penalties.

Trail crews will assess and begin clearing trails within the burn area in the spring when the threat to human safety is lower.

In the coming weeks, previously scheduled construction work on the entrance road to Avalanche Campground will begin. This will involve significant road excavation. Parking access in the campground once this construction begins will not be possible, even on weekends, due to the level of excavation that will occur. Visitors to the Avalanche area should park in the picnic area once campground road construction is underway.

A waterline will be installed between Sprague Creek Campground and Lake McDonald Lodge along the side of the Going-to- the-Sun Road. Traffic delays will occur around this operation as one lane will be utilized for construction.

The Lake McDonald Lodge parking area and pedestrian areas around the lodge will be closed for a period of time while the park completes flood risk mitigation activities following the Sprague Fire. Those activities include cleaning out culverts, pedestrian bridge modifications, and installing creek bank reinforcements in the Sprague and Snyder drainages.

Late-season hiker and biker access is currently to The Loop on the west side (beginning October 21) and Jackson Glacier Overlook on the east side. The full road is not available to hikers and bikers right now because of excessive rock fall and treefall following this week’s wind storm. Hiker and biker access changes regularly in the late fall, and will shift to ski access as winter progresses.

Hikers, bikers, and vehicles may see more wildlife right now because the Avalanche area has been closed to the public in recent weeks. Bears are especially active at this time of year as they enter hyperphagia, a period when they seek large amounts of food before they den for the winter. All park visitors should carry bear spray in a readily accessible location, should know how to use it, and should remember required safe wildlife viewing distances. Those distances are 300 feet for bears and wolves, and 75 feet for all other wildlife.

Due to the scope of construction activities in the road corridor, delays experienced due to the Sprague Fire, and approaching winter, it is possible that the Going-to- the-Sun Road could re-close at one of the lower gates (Apgar, Lake McDonald Lodge, North McDonald Road, etc.) to facilitate more rapid construction. Typically the road closes at Lake McDonald Lodge on the west side on or before December 15, weather dependent.

Visitors entering the Going-to- the-Sun Road corridor through the West Glacier entrance should be mindful that the Sprague Fire continues to smolder to the east of the road, and is relatively close to the road in some areas. The entire fire area remains closed, and threats to human life and safety exist. Visitors should remain in the road corridor or on open trails and abide by area closures at all times.

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