Access Upgrades Abound in Glacier National Park

The accessible Trail of the Cedars in Glacier National Park

The accessible Trail of the Cedars in Glacier National Park

If you’ve been watching the news lately, you’ve probably heard about the wildfires in Glacier National Park. Yes, it is smoky here, and some days are certainly better than others, but with the wildfires near my home in the Sierras are producing quite a bit of smoke too. The firefighters are doing a good job of protecting the historic structures in the park, none of which are immediately threatened. The did lose Sperry Chalet, but that was in a remote area of the park, and quite difficult to protect. A small portion of the park is closed near Lake McDonald Lodge, mostly as a precautionary measure, and to give firefighters unfettered access should the need arise to actively fight the flames near the park’s lakeside properties.

We have had a few schedule changes because of the fire, but we are still moving forward and getting the research done for my next book – Barrier-Free Travel; Glacier, Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks for Wheelers and Slow Walkers.

But this post is not about the Sprague Fire. I just had to preface this piece with that fire information because that’s what everyone asks about.

This post is about the improved access that I’ve found in Glacier National Park – something that I’m always thrilled to see.

I first realized that things were improving while I was looking at a campground last week. I found the accessible campsite and then I checked the restroom across the way for accessibility. Sadly it wasn’t accessible. Then I noticed another building behind the campsite, so I followed the paved path that led over there, and lo-and-behold I found a newly renovated set of accessible restrooms. So new in fact that the contractor was standing there waiting for the inspector. We had a nice chat about plumbing and access, and I left with a feeling of “moving forward” in the land of accessibility.

New accessible Red Bus in Glacier National Park

New accessible Red Bus in Glacier National Park

And then there’s the Red Bus Tours. Although the historic vehicles – which were introduced to the park in 1914 – are not wheelchair-accessible, Xanterra Parks added two accessible models to the fleet when they took over as park concessionaire in 2014. Now everybody can take a red bus tour.

And finally, there’s the new “tiny village” of cabins over at St. Mary Lodge. Not only are they very eco-friendly, but one of them is also wheelchair-accessible. I love to see access brought into the plan in the beginning – it really benefits everyone.

I’m also happy to see that accessible upgrades are being maintained in the park. For example, the nicely accessible Trail of the Cedars looks almost new, even though I know first-hand what hard winters can do to boardwalk and asphalt trails. It’s obviously been kept up, and I’m very pleased to see that.

So yes, the Sprague Fire is the story that’s making the headlines these days, but I feel this news of improved access is equally important. So start making plans to visit Glacier National Park next you. You won’t be sorry!!