Full length of Sun Road reopens

September 19, 2018

The Going-to-the-Sun Road reopened Monday between Apgar and Logan Pass in Glacier National Park, allowing travel by private vehicles along the scenic highway’s full length for the first time in more than a month.

Karen Downs, an employee of the Montana House gift shop in Apgar Village, celebrated the reopening.

“It’s awesome,” she said. “It’s such fabulous news that the park has done this.”

The stretch of road west of Logan Pass was closed Aug. 12 when the Howe Ridge Fire grew significantly, burning structures and threatening the road corridor.

Park officials reported Monday that Glacier received between a quarter-inch and a half-inch of rain Sunday, with light snowfall on the mountain peaks.

Merchants in Apgar Village and a business owner on U.S. 2 between West Glacier and Coram welcomed news of the Sun Road’s full reopening.

Chuck Seward, owner of Glacier General Store & Cabins, said the closure had hurt his retail business and occupancy of his cabins. He said retail was off about 80 percent during the time the Sun Road was partially closed when compared to similar periods when the road has been fully open.

Reservations for cabins are down so dramatically Seward plans to close early for the season.

Yet he is philosophical about the impacts to his business, noting that fire is a natural force in Glacier.

“Lightning is going to strike where it’s going to strike,” Seward said.

And it is important to protect firefighters and visitors to the park, he added.

Toward that end, drivers will be prohibited from stopping along the road between Lake McDonald Lodge and the Avalanche Creek developed area as firefighting activities continue, with crews pulling hose and pumps, and some remnants of the fire still smoldering.

Avalanche is open for day-use recreation, including day-use areas, restrooms, the Trail of the Cedars and the Avalanche Lake Trail. Flattop Trail and The Loop Trail are also reopening.

Kathy Sigler, a manager of Schoolhouse Gifts in Apgar Village, said the fire and closure yielded a dramatic sales slump in August.

“It wasn’t just the road; it was the smoke,” she said.

September has been better, Sigler said.

The park service reported Monday that winter weather has begun in some areas of Glacier, noting that snow has fallen at Logan Pass. It advised visitors to prepare for changing weather.

Access to Logan Pass will close on or before the third Monday in October for the winter season, depending on weather conditions. This year, that date is Oct. 15. Oct. 14 will be the last day to drive the full length of the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

Meanwhile, a culvert project near the Apgar area is scheduled to begin Oct. 15, requiring a road closure at the foot of Lake McDonald until Oct. 19.

Reporter Duncan Adams may be reached at 758-4407 or dadams@dailyinterlake.com.

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