Backcountry Camping

Camping Fee

If you would like to go backcountry camping, then you will have to go to a backcountry permit office and pay the fee. The price of the fee is $7 per night/person and there are no child or senior discounts available.

How to get a Permit

Walk-in Reservations

You may go in the day of or day before your desired start date to achieve a permit. Around half of every campsite is saved for walk-in campers. Although, that does not mean there will be sites available at all times. I would recommend arriving early the day before your intended start date to ensure there is a site available. You do not have to pay to get a permit. The only thing you will have to pay for is the $7 camping fee. You will not be able to get a permit after 4:30 pm from any location.

Permitted Locations

Apgar Backcountry Permit Center
Open daily from May 1 to October 31.
When the Apgar Backcountry Permit Center has closed for the season, call (406) 888-7800 and schedule an appointment to have a backcountry permit issued.

St. Mary Visitor Center
Open daily from late-May to mid-September.

Many Glacier Ranger Station
Open daily from late-May to mid-September.

Two Medicine Ranger Station
Open daily from late-May to mid-September.

Polebridge Ranger Station
Open daily from early-June through mid-September.

Waterton Lakes National Park Visitor Reception Centre
Open daily from early-June to mid-September.
Payment by CREDIT CARD ONLY. Waterton is only authorized to issue trips that start at Chief Mountain or Goat Haunt.

Reservations Scheduled in Advanced

Starting on March 1 for groups of 9-12 campers and March 15 for groups of 1-8 campers, sites will be available for you to apply for advanced reservations. There is a $40 application fee ($10 administrative fee and a $30 fulfilled trip request fee) for each application you submit. If your request is unable to be fulfilled based on the parameters of your application, you will be refunded the $30 fee. You should expect a one month wait period of time between the time you submit your application and the notification of permit status.The only other payment you will pay is the $7 camping per night/person, which you will pay when picking up your permit. All Applications can only be submitted online.

 

Planning Your Trip

Glacier National Park has over 700 miles of trails that lead you through and over towering mountains, pristine alpine lakes, and abundant wildlife. No matter your physique I guarantee there is a trail suited for your needs and wants.

Glacier’s backcountry has been said to come in two flavors, the east and west, which are split along the Continental Divide. According to the National Park Service, “each trail on a respective side offers a similar ‘feel.'” If you are looking for more solitude and a peaceful hike, you should go on the west side because it is more heavily forested. The west side starts at around 3,200 feet in elevation versus the east side which starts at around 5,000 feet. If you are looking for a hike with more open views and the more popular trails, then the east side of the park is for you. This side is more sparsely vegetated therefore attracting more people.

Map and Campsite List

The National Park Service has a great map for information about campsites, trailheads, and also includes GPS data points.

Trail Conditions

The conditions of the trails change very frequently throughout the year. You can use this page to update you about the conditions of the trails throughout the summer season, and it will help you know what to expect when hiking.

Trail Closures

Occasionally trails need to be closed due to hazardous or emergency conditions. This could be due to bears, weather, fallen trees, high water, etc. Some trail or area closings occur yearly due to weather. Always make sure to stay out of areas that are closed off. The park closes them down for a reason, so for your safety, stay away. You can check current closings and updates on this page.

Suggested Gear List

This is a list created by the National Park Service of gear you should bring on every trip into Glacier’s backcountry:

Regulations

Campsites

There is a restriction of 65 designated campgrounds for backcountry camping, but the Nyack/Coal Creek camping zone is available for at large camping and designated campgrounds as well.

Permits

You must have an overnight camping permit without at all times while in the backcountry and they are only valid for the dates, locations, and party size specified on the permit.

Trip Itineraries

Your trip itinerary must be contiguous. You are not allowed to exit one trailhead and drive to another trailhead to access campgrounds on the same trip.

Group Size

The maximum amount of people in a part is 12. Each backcountry campground has 2-7 campsites. Each campsite is limited to 4 people and 2 tents.

Leave No Trace

The Glacier’s backcountry camping regulations are based on an outdoor ethics called Leave No Trace (LNT). This means that by concentrating impacts, which include eating, sleeping, and human waste disposal, we are preventing deterioration of the area. This means that everything you bring into the campsite with you, you take when you leave. This lessens the amount of human-impact on the environment. If you are still unsure what this means visit the LNT website.

Accessibility

There are some trails that are wheelchair accessible. Wheelchairs and trained service dogs are approved accommodations in the backcountry, but due to possible interactions with bears, it is not recommended to bring service dogs.

Safety Precautions

Drowning

When near water, use extreme caution. The currents in the water are very strong and could sweep you up and carry you downstream. The glacial streams and rivers are surrounded by moss-covered rocks and slippery logs, which are very dangerous. Always make sure not to walk, play or climb on slippery rocks and logs, especially near waterfalls. When with children, always make sure they stay far away from the edge, some may drown if they fall in.

Hypothermia

Weather at Glacier National Park is very unpredictable and conditions can change very rapidly. Always remember to put on rain gear before it starts raining, but if your clothes do get wet, you should change into dry ones. Make sure to use synthetic or wool clothing as a base layer to stay warm. Try to stay out of the wind and make sure to eat high-energy food often.

Snow and Ice

Use extreme caution when crossing steep snowfields on trails in the backcountry. Traveling after a fresh snow may cover deep crevasses on glaciers or hidden cavities under snowfields. Snow bridges may collapse from the weight of an unsuspecting hiker.

Water Filtration

It is not recommended to drink water straight from streams and lakes, due to a protozoan called Giardia Lamblia that may be present. Their reproductive cysts may cause an intestinal disorder that will not appear until weeks after your trip. You should always make sure to boil your water for at least one minute at a lower elevation and five minutes at a higher elevation.

Solo Travel

Traveling alone in the backcountry is very discouraged due to the dangerous conditions. If you do end up traveling alone make sure to follow good judgement and avoid all unnecessary risks you may be presented with.

Bears and Other Wildlife

Never come within 100 yards of bears or wolves, or 25 yards with any other wildlife. If you would like a closer view of the animals, use binoculars or a telephoto lens. Stay out of the animal’s line of travel or escape route and if any wildlife approaches you, move away.

Deer, mountain goats, and rodents are attracted to sweat and urine. If you leave clothing or boots unattended at a campsite, they will chew holes in them.