Photo: Becca Stohr

In an effort to make Glacier National Park more inclusive for everyone, the park is implementing projects that are making trails and campgrounds more accessible for people with disabilities.

Your donations to the Glacier Conservancy are making these important projects possible!

Roller for Accessible Trail Work

Thanks to your donations, park staff purchased a drum roller to facilitate projects that integrate accessibility into the existing trail system in Glacier. The drum roller is crucial to the ongoing ABA accessibility project on the Swiftcurrent Nature Trail in Many Glacier. It will also aid in future projects requiring surface hardening on trails.

Furthermore, owning this equipment also significantly reduces the park’s costs over time, since annual rental costs for a drum roller are expensive and add up quickly.

Over the next seven years, this drum roller will help Glacier’s trails program add over 9,000 feet of ABA compliant trail on the Swiftcurrent Trail alone, in addition to other trail projects across the park.

A photo collage showing before and after images of trail work being done on a trail along a forested lakeshore

Photos: NPS

In order to create an accessible trail, crews first perform extensive prep work to the trail bed. This includes the placement of gravel base layers, rock and root removal, and a process referred to as “keying” to ensure product stability. A drum roller is necessary to complete several stages of the process, including the compaction and leveling of the underlying gravel bed, as well as the finishing of the surface material.

A group of trail crew workers stand near a drum roller machine to flatten a trail with a tall mountain in the background

Photo: Alex Hoelzen

Creating Trail Accessibility Around Swiftcurrent Lake

Dan Jacobs, park employee in Glacier’s Visitor and Resources Protection division, reflects on the need for appropriate accessibility options in the park:

“Glacier National Park has a limited number of accessible trails. Much of this is due to the lack of options with appropriate grades and when adding in the potential for loop trails, there are even less choices. This project is the continuation of the goal to create a loop trail for visitors with mobility impairments. As each section is complete, more folks are taking advantage of the opportunity to experience the shoreline of Swiftcurrent Lake.”

– Dan Jacobs, Trails Program Manager 

Creating more accessibility in Glacier is made possible thanks to your support and through a special partnership with Montana Conservation Corps (MCC). Year after year, MCC crews make a variety of projects throughout Glacier possible.

Paige Kirby, a seasonal team member at the Glacier Conservancy and a summer crew member with MCC, was in the field for over five months this summer working on several projects in the wilds of Northwest Montana. One of these projects included the multiyear accessibility project around Swiftcurrent Lake in Many Glacier.

Paige reflects, “[At Many Glacier] we spent the first part of our hitch digging up the trail to make sure it was wide enough and the drains were deep enough. Then we added gravel to level the ground, and lastly, we put Stalok down. The Stalok had to be raked out so it was perfectly flat and even. At the end of the day, it got compacted under the roller. This made it solid enough to walk on or roll a wheelchair on.”

A team of trail crew workers install a bridge on a newly flattened trail with mountains in the background

Photo: Paige Kirby

MCC crews hard at work on the Swiftcurrent Nature Trail.

With a background in financial analysis, working on trail crew was a big change of pace for Paige. Nevertheless, she learned incredibly valuable skills, like how to be a team member and quickly learn in situations where one might lack specialized skills.

Next time you see a crew member hard at work in Glacier, know they are making a big impact in the park and creating opportunities for visitors of all abilities.

“This work is important because aside from driving the Going-To-The-Sun Road, there are few opportunities for those with disabilities to explore the park.”

– Paige Kirby, Montana Conservation Corps

The new accessible section of Swiftcurrent Trail in Many Glacier

Photo: Becca Stohr

Increasing Accessibility at Lake McDonald Campground

Your donations are also making a big impact for people with disabilities who dream of exploring further into Glacier’s backcountry. The park’s first ABA accessible backcountry campground will soon provide opportunities for people with limited mobility to camp in the wilderness of Glacier National Park.

Improvements to create accessibility at the existing Lake McDonald Campground include trail surfacing and developments around the campground’s facilities. Park staff are planning to make modifications to the campground’s water access, backcountry latrine, tent site, and food prep area. A seasonally installed, color-matched Mobi-Mat will also accommodate visitors to the shore of the lake. Crews will make these accommodations in the most sustainable methods possible in order to protect Glacier’s valuable natural resources.

To date, materials have been purchased and packed in this year, with the project scheduled to be completed in 2021.

“Currently in the park, there are few opportunities for users with limited mobility to experience the park trail system, and no places for them to camp in wilderness. On the west side of the park, the Trail of the Cedars is the primary trail that complies with accessibility standards, along with two other short trails along the GTSR corridor. This project will provide the first opportunity for people with limited mobility and/or abilities to camp in a wilderness setting in Glacier National Park.”

– Cameron Aveson, West Lakes District Trails Foreman

Sunrise on an alpine lake with silhouettes of mountains off in the distance

Photo: NPS

Making Glacier Accessible For All

Thanks to your support, visitors of all abilities from all over the world will be able to experience more and more of the many wonders of Glacier National Park. Park visitor, Lynwood David Sumner Jr., puts it best:

“As a Disabled Veteran, I wanted to send you a heartfelt ‘thank you’ for the boardwalk at Trail Of The Cedars – having an easy trail through such a beautiful place made my trip so much more enjoyable! THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH!”

A man stands on a boardwalk trail in a forest

Photo: Jacqueline Gainford-Sumner

Your Support Makes A Difference

These projects and many other critical projects would not be possible without your donations to the Glacier Conservancy.

Learn more about how your support is making other preservation projects possible in Glacier National Park!