Glacier still ‘Top 10′: How to Avoid Crowds in ’23
Glacier National Park is still one of the "top 10" most visited national parks in the United States although weather and construction issues saw the fewest visitors in the park in 7 years, excluding the first year of the pandemic.
That's the trend seen in the year-end numbers from the National Park Service for Glacier, and all the NPS units for 2022.
Glacier's total is the lowest since 2015, with 2,908,458 people coming through the various park entrances last year. That's still higher than the 1.6 million visitors in 2020 when the pandemic shut down most of the park operations and limited travel.
The lower total was expected
Glacier's visitation was hit by a number of factors last year, including record-high gas prices in the late spring and early summer, and wet weather which led to one of the latest openings ever of the fabled Going-to-the-Sun Road. And in the fall, construction on the road closed access along Lake McDonald, trimming late-season traffic which often makes up for problems earlier in the summer.
But Glacier is still among the most popular parks
Over the last decade, Glacier has consistently been on the list of Top 10 Most Visited parks and that was the case again in 2023. It's notable that all the parks, even Yellowstone has dramatically fewer annual visitors than the leader, Great Smokey Mountains National Park.
1. Great Smokey Mountains National Park 12.94 million
2. Grand Canyon National Park 4.73 million
3. Zion National Park 4.69 million
4. Rocky Mountain National Park 4.30 million
5. Acadia National Park 3.97 million
6. Yosemite National Park 3.67 million
7. Yellowstone National Park 3.29 million
8. Joshua Tree National Park 3.06 million
9. Cuyahoga Valley National Park 2.913 million
10. Glacier National Park 2.908 million
Get your reservations
Glacier has expanded its reservation system this year to include all of the major points in the park, including Two Medicine and Many Glacier. However, the park managers adjusted the hours to allow more reservation-free access later in the afternoon, which could help more spontaneous visits from local residents. And even with the reservation system, crowds continue to "thin out" later in the day, making long summer evenings a better time to visit popular park locations.
Wednesday, the park opened the system for the next batch of reservations which can be used in July. In addition, a portion of the reservations is reserved for some people to take "day of" visits on a first-come, first-served basis.
Park reservations will be required between May 26th and September 10th.