Navigating The Glacier National Park Reservation System

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Glacier National Park recently established a reservation system to drive on Going-to-the-Sun Road and North Fork Road. This was due to several factors including the pandemic, overcrowding, congestion, and limited park resources.

These are two of the main roads within the park so it’s a big deal.

You will not be able to enter the most popular areas of Glacier National Park without a vehicle reservation.

In this article we’ll tell you how to make a Glacier National Park reservation, and how to enter the park without one.

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Glacier National Park Reservation Area Map

map of glacier national park road closure and reservation system 2022

North Fork Vehicle Reservation Area:

  • A reservation required for each vehicle
  • May 27 through September 11, 2022 (6am-6pm)
  • Reservations are valid for 1 day

Going-to-the-Sun Road Corridor Vehicle Reservation Area:

  • A reservation is required for each vehicle
  • May 27 through September 11, 2022 (6am-4pm)
  • Reservations are valid for 3 days

How to get a Glacier National Park vehicle reservation

You cannot purchase a vehicle reservation inside Glacier National Park! Instead, they must be purchased online at Recreation.gov before your trip.

Reservations are available on a rolling basis and they get released 120 days before the effective date. This is approximately 4-months in advance.

A limited number of reservations are released the day before the effective date at 8am MDT.

Reservations must be presented in print or digital format at the park entrance. Make sure to download your reservations beforehand because cell coverage is limited!

getting vehicle reservation tickets for glacier national park

How To Get Into Glacier National Park Without A Reservation

So what happens if you don’t have a reservation? Can you still take a last-minute trip? Well we have good news for you!

There are plenty of other (legal) ways to get into Glacier National Park without a reservation.

  • Arrive before or after the reservation corridor is in effect
  • Book a commercial tour
  • Book a hotel or campsite
  • Rent recreational equipment
  • Additional options
  • Visit other sections of the park
west glacier national park entrance station

Arrive before or after the reservation corridor is in effect

The simplest way to get into the park without a reservation is to arrive before 6am. Reservations are only checked when entering the park; they are not policed once inside the park.

You can also arrive after the park rangers stop checking reservations which is at 6pm on North Fork Road, and 4pm on Going-to-the-Sun Road.

Book a commercial tour

The next easiest way to get into the park without a reservation is to book a commercial tour. Anyone with a valid tour reservation can get into the restricted corridors without a vehicle pass.

Here are the tours that come with a free vehicle reservation:

When booking a tour, you can only enter the park on the day of that tour. So plan accordingly!

horseback riding tour in glacier national park montana

Book a hotel or campsite in Glacier National Park

Anyone with a hotel or campsite reservation within Glacier National Park does not need a vehicle registration! Your hotel or campsite reservation will get you into the restricted corridor!

There are a few caveats with this approach:

  • Your hotel reservation only gets you vehicle access for the day of service booked.
  •  Reservations in areas outside of the Going-to-the-Sun Road corridor will not get you in.
  • Hotels and campsites sell out faster than the vehicle reservations!

Campgrounds that accept reservations:

  • Apgar Campground
  • Fish Creek Campground
  • Sprague Creek Campground
  • St. Mary Campground.

Hotels and lodges that accept reservations:

  • Apgar Village Lodge
  • Glacier Bear Retreat
  • Granite Park Chalet
  • Lake McDonald Lodge
  • Motel Lake McDonald
  • Rising Sun Motor Inn
  • Sperry Chalet
  • Village Inn at Apgar
red bus tours outside of the many glacier resort and hotel in montana

Rent recreational equipment

If all else fails, you can rent recreational equipment like paddle boards, boats, and bicycles through one of two authorized concessionaires in the area:

Equipment pickup is located within the park. So when you get to the entrance station, simply show the ranger your equipment rental reservation and you’re good to go!

Other ways to get into Glacier without a reservation

Wilderness campers beginning at trailheads inside West Entrance, Camas Entrance, and St. Mary Entrance do not need a vehicle registration. (You do need a wilderness camping permit though!)

You can also get into Glacier National Park with a special use permit for events such as weddings, photography or film, and commercial activities.

Visit other sections of Glacier National Park

It’s true that the most popular areas of Glacier National Park are hidden behind a restricted corridor. However- when you zoom out, it’s really just one small section of the park. There are still plenty of places to visit even without a permit.

map of areas and sections within glacier national park including waterton lakes, north fork, goat haunt, belly river, lake mcdonald, many glacier, st mary, walton, and two medicine

Some of the most popular areas of the park which do not require a reservation include:

  • Many Glacier Valley
  • Two Medicine Valley
  • Cut Bank
  • St. Mary Lake east of the Rising Sun Entrance
  • Areas along Hwy 2 and Chief Mountain Highway

Relax and enjoy the park!

Take a deep breath and don’t worry about reservations! Even if you don’t plan ahead, there are still plenty of ways to get into Glacier without a permit. Your trip will not be ruined if you forget about the reservation system.

Remember, that permits are not required before May 27th or after September 11th.

You can arrive in early May or late September and roll right into the park.

Glacier National Park Permit FAQs

How far in advance can you book Glacier National Park tickets?

You can get vehicle reservation tickets 120 days in advance; and you can book Glacier National Park hotels up to 13 months in advance.

Do you need a Glacier National Park Pass if you have a vehicle reservation?

A National Park Pass is required in addition to a vehicle reservation ticket.

Can you get into Glacier National Park without a reservation?

You can visit certain areas of Glacier National Park without a reservation. But the most popular sections of the park including Going-to-the-Sun road require advanced tickets.

What to do in Glacier National Park

Whether you decide to make a reservation or go off the beaten path, there are plenty of things to do in every area of Glacier. Read about our top activities for first-time travelers.

Hiking is the main attraction in this incredible park. Take a trek on one of the top 15 hiking trails, or visit the best waterfalls in the park.

Once you’ve had your fill of fun, consider camping under the stars in one of the park’s 13 great campgrounds.

If you’re looking for more information, browse our complete guide to Glacier National Park.