Here's What You Need to Know About Glacier National Park's Reservation System in 2024

by Alex Schnee | Guest Columnist

As someone who grew up right by Glacier National Park in Kalispell, Montana, I’ve seen a lot of changes over the past few years as the park has implemented a vehicle reservation system. That system has changed every year as the park looks to find a balance between catering to visitors and preserving park resources.

While I do miss the days of being able to drive to Lake McDonald without the crowds and don’t love the extra friction of entering the park, the reservation system has gone a long way toward making the experience for tourists better, as well as avoiding strain on the ecology of the region and park employees.

Of course, having an understanding of how the reservation system works can define how your trip goes. For those who are prepared, you can still have an incredible time in Glacier. For those who wait or might not be aware of the system, then it can be much more difficult to enjoy your time at this top national park.

This guide will cover the basics of the reservation system, as well as offer information on obtaining those coveted tickets and changes from previous years.

Understanding the reservation system

For 2024, Glacier National Park requires reservations for three key areas: the iconic Going-to-the-Sun Road, Many Glacier, and the North Fork. This system is designed to balance visitor access with environmental preservation.

It's a response to the challenges posed by increasing tourist numbers, which have placed a strain on the park's resources. Glacier is now the 10th-most-visited national park in the system, and for a park that was designed for fewer visitors, this has caused a number of issues including increased wildlife encounters and more traffic to previously quieter areas of the park.

Overall, a reservation system allows those visiting to experience the park without hoards of crowds and enjoy the natural landscape while also helping to conserve Glacier for future generations.

Key changes in 2024

In an effort to continually adapt and improve, several changes have been introduced in 2024 compared to the previous year. Notably:

Two Medicine Area: Reservations are no longer required for this part of the park, offering more flexibility to visitors.

East Side access: Visitors can now enter the east side of the park from St. Mary on Going-to-the-Sun Road without a reservation.

Duration of Going-to-the-Sun Road tickets: The vehicle entry ticket for Going-to-the-Sun Road has been modified to be valid for only one day, in contrast to the three-day validity in the past.

Securing reservations for 2024

Obtaining reservations for Glacier National Park in 2024 requires foresight and planning–I like to set a calendar notification on my phone so I remember to head to on the correct day.

Tickets are released on a rolling basis 120 days in advance of the intended entry date, with a limited number also available 24 hours before. This system demands prompt action from visitors, especially for peak dates.

Here's how to secure your spot:

Plan ahead: Mark the date 120 days before your intended visit.

Be prompt: Access the website at 8:00 am MT on the day the tickets are released.

Payment: A nominal fee of $2 is charged for the reservation, payable via credit or debit card.

Confirmation: Upon securing a reservation, you’ll receive a confirmation, which is also accessible via the app. However, I recommend printing your confirmation to have on hand since service in the park is spotty.

Types of Reservations

The reservation system in Glacier National Park for 2024 encompasses three distinct areas, each with its own set of guidelines:

Going-to-the-Sun Road

This reservation grants one-day access to the park's central artery, with tickets available 120 days in advance. It covers key attractions like the Highline Trail and Logan Pass. You will need these for this area from the dates May 24th until September 8th. Notably, Apgar Village and the south shore of Lake McDonald are accessible without reservations.

This makes it possible for visitors to access the Glacier National Park shuttle system without needing vehicle entry reservations. Having the ability to park at the Apgar Transit Center means that visitors who are not able to obtain a reservation in advance can still get to the main sights of the park.

Another difference this year is that visitors are allowed to enter the park via the east side at St. Mary without a reservation. Guests can board the shuttle at the St. Mary Transit Center or choose to drive into the park depending on their preferences.

You will still need a park pass to enter, which is $35 for 7 days or $70 for a year. I recommend an America the Beautiful Annual Parks Pass if you plan on visiting a national park three times or more within a year.

Visitors are also exempt from the vehicle reservation system for Going-to-the-Sun on the west side if they have accommodations, a confirmed campground site, or a commercially-approved tour booked. This is only valid if these are located within the area (i.e. you cannot enter the North Fork area without a reservation if you have a tour booked along Going-to-the-Sun Road).

Many Glacier

Similar to Going-to-the-Sun Road, reservations for Many Glacier are available 120 days in advance and are valid for one day. Unlike Going-to-the-Sun, the dates that require a reservation are from July 1st until September 8th.

Accommodations in this area, such as the Many Glacier Hotel and the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn, can also serve as your entry ticket. Tours that exempt you from needing a reservation include boat tours on Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine, or a hiking tour from a company like Glacier Guides or Swan Mountain Outfitters.

Campground reservations and backcountry reservations within the Many Glacier area also allow you to enter the park without vehicle entry tickets.

North Fork

This less-traveled area also requires a reservation, available 120 days before entry, and valid for one day. As with the other areas, confirmed campsite reservations in the North Fork double as entry passes. You will need a ticket from the dates between May 24th until September 8th.

Entering outside reservation hours

Another option if you are unable to acquire reservations for your planned days of entry is to enter outside the peak hours. If you enter before 6:00 am MT or after 3:00 pm MT, no reservations are required.

As someone who tends to enter the park before 6:00 am most visits, I encourage this as a solution for those who do not have reservations, as well as those who want to find a parking space at the busy trailheads. Logan Pass and the Avalanche Lake hike lots are often completely full at right around 7:00 am, so if these are on your list, getting there before reservations are required is a good strategy anyway.

While you might not be able to set off on a more ambitious hike when you start your day in the park after 3:00 pm, you do have a chance to see some amazing sunsets on Lake McDonald. This also makes it an ideal time for photos on Going-to-the-Sun Road with fewer crowds.

Visiting during shoulder season

Enjoying Glacier during the quieter seasons can also be a way to enhance your experience and avoid the entire reservation process. Reservations are required for the North Fork and Going-to-the-Sun Road May 24th until September 8th. For Many Glacier, they are required from July 1st until September 8th.

That gives you several weeks where you can explore Glacier without having to navigate reservations. May and June are not the best for those who want to traverse Going-to-the-Sun Road anyway since the road might not be completely plowed and open to visitors. The road is typically available to drive the first week of July, but even that can be weather dependent.

My personal favorite time to visit is September. Park facilities usually remain open for a week or two after the reservation system has ended for the year, and you won’t find the crowding during the peak summer months. Glacier is also beautiful deeper into the fall, though expect park facilities to be closed for the season.


The reservation system for Glacier National Park can be overwhelming, especially if this is your first time planning a trip there. However, being aware of the system and why it exists is half the battle. Once you know the basics and know when to put in for reservations for your dates, you can then craft an itinerary that hits the highlights and avoids hoards of people.


Alex is the founder of Alex on the Map, a site devoted to national park guides, hiking, climbing, and enjoying your outdoor adventures. After growing up near Glacier National Park in Montana, Alex now spends summers in the American West hitting up the trail with her husband and dog.

Her work has been featured in Fodor's, the Huffington Post, Bustle, and many more. She has also been featured in publications such as The Washington Post, CNN, and USA Today.