First…the disclaimer: this information will be different by the time this blog has been posted, but as of the morning of 07/26/2015, this information is probably correct. Check out the Inciweb for the most recent updates on the Reynold's Creek Fire.
So…where can you backpack right now that has not and likely will not be affected by the fire?? Almost everywhere! So to make it simple, let's talk about what is unavailable due to the fire. Any backcountry site in the St. Mary Valley is closed: Red Eagle Lake (including the head and foot), Otokomi Lake, Gunsight Lake, and Reynold's Creek. These backcountry campsites either have been involved in the fire or may be affected by the future activity of the fire. Your safety has always been our priority and things remain that way.
What about trails? That's a fair question. It will probably make more sense to you once you are in the backcountry permit office when we can point at a map to help explain. Trail closures are posted at the backcountry permit offices and also online. Basically any trail that would take you into the St. Mary Valley is closed to use…again, this is to keep you safe! Our fire fighters need to focus on the fire and not on rescuing hikers.
Okay, that's good and fine, but will I be able to hike up to Triple Divide Pass and see that one-of-only- two-on-this-continent triple divide? Yes! But you need to head up from the Cutbank trailhead and you will not be able to hike down from the pass towards Red Eagle Lake and the St. Mary Valley. Will I be able to get to Gunsight Pass and see that quirky rock shelter? Yes again! You can hike up from the Sperry Trailhead over Lincoln Pass to get to Gunsight Pass, but again, you will not be able to hike beyond the Pass into the St. Mary Valley. You will still be able to access most areas, you may just have to take a different trail than your friend, mom, or guidebook suggested. All trails in Glacier National Park are amazing;you're still going to be awed by this country's beauty no matter which trail gets you to your destination. Trail closure signs will remind you when you have gotten to your turnaround place.
Oh, on an exciting note, all backcountry users were successfully evacuated from the affected areas! That's the good news. Now those of you who may have had advanced reservations that would have put you in the closed campsites or on a closed trail, try to be patient with us and we'll do the same –despite a recent report from our safety office that warned us that we might be cranky due to the fire activity! Cranky indeed! We're here to get you into the backcountry and that's what we'll do. There are still many, many beautiful places in the backcountry for you to explore that have not been affected by the closures. Pop into a backcountry office to hash over your new trip ideas. Check out the walk-in availability. But keep in mind, as clearly printed on every permit, there is no guarantee or your safety out there. Glacier is proposed wilderness, and the fire is a good reminder of how unpredictable the landscape can be. No wonder why Glacier will not issue permits more than one day in advance!
Remember 3200 burning acres in a 1 million plus acre park is not that much! Okay, yes, I know it is affecting a major road and an incredibly wonderful valley. There's still plenty to explore and so far the smoke appears to be staying out of other areas of the park as it blows towards Alberta (sorry, Canada, but you did the same to us earlier this summer!) So come on in and let's get you into the backcountry.