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Glacier National Park expects big year

By Kevin Lessard, KCFW Reporter, klessard@kcfw.com
Published On: Jun 19 2013 05:49:31 PM MDT
Updated On: Jun 19 2013 06:59:22 PM MDT
WEST GLACIER, Mont. -

You don't have to go any further than Lake McDonald to understand why Glacier is one of the country's prime vacation spots. Glacier National Park saw one of its best years for number of visitors in 2012, and officials expect an even better season this year.

As Going-to-the-Sun Road opens this weekend, businesses can't wait for the increase in customers and sales

A check into the park's history shows a steady increase of visitors almost every year since it was established in 1910.

2012's visitor count showed a 13 percent jump over 2011, some 2.1 million visitors.

Little wonder park officials tell us trails, like the Avalanche Lake Trail, have seen a 250-percent increase in hikers.

"Last year was pretty busy, and I kind of am expecting it to be the same,” said Josh Taira, who works for Glacier Park Boat Company.

Like any business tied to Glacier, summer is the busy season, and Taira knows how crucial Glacier is to his bottom line.

“Once the weather picks up, once people start going out on their summer vacations is when we can expect people to start stopping by,” Taira said.

Nearly half of them used the park's west entrance.  Taira says that businesses in Apgar will see an even bigger increase in customers in the coming weeks, due to the upcoming opening of Going-to-the-Sun Road.

"The road's a pretty big attraction for the park and that's kind of what draws a lot of people to the area.  Being on the west side of the park, Apgar is effectively the first stop for a lot of people so we do get a lot of traffic here," he said.

On Friday, Going-to-the-Sun Road will be open from the west side and weather permitting, it will be open for visitors to use for the summer season.