Inside the Park
You can spend your evenings at the park in the hotel lounge looking over your cocktail at the folks in the campground, and vice versa. For those who prefer the latter, Glacier offers 13 campgrounds, 8 of which are accessible by paved road.
Most campgrounds are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Fish Creek and St. Mary campgrounds may be reserved through the National Park Service Reservation System (tel. 877/444-6777; www.recreation.gov). Most campgrounds have restrooms with flush toilets and cold running water. Despite its proximity to the center of the hotel and motel activity, the Many Glacier Campground is a well-forested, almost secluded campground that provides as much privacy in a public area as you'll see anywhere. The campground has adequate space for recreational vehicles and truck-camper combinations, but space for vehicles pulling trailers is limited. It is a veritable mecca for tent campers.
Apgar Campground is at the bottom of Lake McDonald, near the West Glacier entrance and the Apgar Visitor Center. The Avalanche Campground may be the nicest of all, because it is 4 miles north of Lake McDonald on Going-to-the-Sun Road in a heavily treed area adjacent to the creek. Of its 86 sites, 50 are suitable for RVs.
Bowman Lake Campground is at the end of a primitive dirt road in the northwest section of the park (accessible through the Polebridge entrance). It's not recommended for RVs. The bad news about the Cut Bank Campground road is that it's not paved. The good news is that it's only 5 miles from the pavement of U.S. 89 to the ranger station and campground, which are in the southeast portion of the park between St. Mary and Two Medicine. And the unpaved road deters many from heading into the outback to this primitive campground, which sits in the shadow of Bad Marriage and Medicine Wolf mountains. The campground only recently reopened after being rebuilt, so is relatively undiscovered; the road and campground are best suited to recreational vehicles 21 feet or shorter.
Fish Creek Campground is 2 miles from Apgar, on the western shore of Lake McDonald. Kintla Lake Campground is in the northwest section of the park, reached by primitive dirt roads through the Polebridge entrance station, so it is not recommended for RVs. Logging Creek is a primitive campground just beyond Quartz Creek and reached by dirt roads. Quartz Creek is another primitive campground, accessible by dirt roads through the Polebridge entrance.
Sprague Creek Campground is on the eastern shore of Lake McDonald. No towed trailers or vehicles longer than 21 feet are allowed. St. Mary Campground is outside the town of St. Mary. Rising Sun Campground, 6 miles west of St. Mary, is near the public showers at Rising Sun Motor Inn.
The Two Medicine Campground is in the shadows of major mountains near three lakes and a stream. It is a forested area that has beautiful sites, plenty of shade, and opportunities to wet a fishing line or dangle your feet in cool mountain water.
Some campgrounds are open early in the season as primitive campgrounds, with limited facilities and lower fees than the bulk of the summer.
Glacier has 65 backcountry campgrounds. Fortunately, many are at lower elevation, so inexperienced backpackers have an opportunity to experience them. For an accurate estimation of your itinerary's difficulty and advice on what you may need, check with rangers in the area you contemplate visiting. One of the main dangers is running into a bear.
Visitors planning to camp overnight in Glacier's backcountry must stop at a visitor center, ranger station, or the Apgar Backcountry Permit Office and obtain a backcountry use permit. Backcountry permits may be reserved in advance. Permits are good only for the prearranged dates and locations, with no more than 3 nights allowed at each campground. Certain campgrounds have a 1-night limit. There are separate fees for advance reservations ($30 per permit) and backcountry camping ($5 per person per night or $2.50 for kids under 16).
You can obtain backcountry camping permits in person from the backcountry office at Apgar, Waterton Townsite, and St. Mary, or the ranger stations at Many Glacier, Two Medicine, and Polebridge. During summer months, permits may be obtained no earlier than 24 hours before your trip.
Winter Backcountry Camping
Though snow camping isn't for everyone, it's a great way to see the park in winter and to complement a winter excursion. Permits are required for all overnight trips, but there is no fee to reserve one up to 7 days in advance. There are a few rules that take effect beginning each November 20, so double-check at visitor centers for details.
Two of the park's most popular destinations, Granite Park and Sperry Chalets, are National Historic Landmarks built by the Great Northern Railway between 1912 and 1914. Granite Park is a basic hikers' shelter, and Sperry is a full-service chalet.
Granite Park Chalet has 12 rooms (all with single bunk beds) and sleeps two to six per room. The chalet runs $90 for the first person, and $73 for each additional person in the same room, plus tax, with a optional linen/bedding service at $16 per person (and an optional preorder menu). There are kitchen facilities, which are shared.
Damaged by an avalanche in 2011, Sperry Chalet, a rustic backcountry chalet, is accessible by trail only. It operates from mid-July through mid-September. Services include overnight accommodations and full meal service for $185 for the first person, and $130 for each additional person in the room. Reservations are required. For information and reservations for either chalet, contact Belton Chalets, P.O. Box 189, West Glacier, MT 59936 (www.graniteparkchalet.com or www.sperrychalet.com; tel. 888/345-2649).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.