Glacier National Park Camping: What They Don’t Tell You

Glacier National Park glows in the alpine sun with purple wildflowers in bloom.

For an RV excursion that will become a cherished trip, explore a national park that offers spectacular vistas, many outdoor activities, and wildlife viewing on a grand scale. Park your vehicle in one of 13 campgrounds and set out on a discovery adventure every day while enjoying Glacier National Park camping. 

This western park is littered with jagged mountain peaks jutting to the sky, bucolic meadows teeming with colorful wildflowers, and animals most have only seen in a zoo. It’s the perfect place to get back to nature while challenging yourself to see more…and more…and more!  

About Glacier National Park

Called the Crown of the Continent, Glacier National Park offers pristine views of mountainous terrain that glaciers once formed. It’s a popular park for hiking, fishing, boating, and skiing, with more than 700 miles of trails, stunning high mountain lakes, and plenty of backcountry escapes.  

The park is in the northwestern section of Montana. It covers more than 1million acres of land, and it became a national park in 1910. More than 1,000 species of plants and various animals make this region a trendy destination. You might see grizzly bears and Canadian lynx or photograph beargrass and monkeyflowers, among other fauna and flora. 

Glacier National Park has its own ‘touring’ vehicles for those who enjoy sightseeing but want someone else to do the driving. These big red coaches, known as “jammers” take tourists to many of the most visited sites, like Going to the Sun Road and Logan Pass. And because much of Glacier is vertical in nature, the Red Buses have roll-back roofs for amazing views.

A Red Bus drives along the Going to the Sun road and takes in the beautiful alpine lake and mountain views.

Why You’ll Love Glacier National Park Camping

There’s little better than camping ‘within’ a scenic destination. You can immerse yourself into the landscape, and Glacier National Park makes that experience extremely easy with 13 campgrounds from which to choose. All lie within the park boundaries, and although none have RV hookups, campers are guaranteed a once-in-a-lifetime stay surrounded by glaciers.

Things You Might Not Know About Glacier National Park Camping

Like most national parks, Glacier has a few written and unwritten rules that campers must follow. 

You Can Only Camp in Designated Glacier National Park Campgrounds

There are 13 official campgrounds inside the park and 65 designated wilderness campsites. Park management requires that all campers stay only in these areas, as they issue permits for each. Two campgrounds take reservations, and the backcountry sites require wilderness permits with continuous travel from one site to the next. 

Most Glacier National Park Campgrounds Are First-Come, First-Served

All but Fish Creek and Many Glacier campgrounds are first-come, first-served, with checkout time at noon. Most of these sites are available for up to 14 days in the summer, so if you plan to stay for more than one night, you must re-register at your site daily by 11:30 am.

Even though Glacier National Park campgrounds don’t have hookups, many campsites are large enough for RVs. A few have dump stations, and Fish Creek, Apgar, and St. Mary’s campgrounds have showers for registered guests. 

You Can Camp Outside Glacier National Park Too

If you’d prefer to stay in a campground with full hookups and some amenities, check out a few of the towns just outside the boundary of Glacier National Park. Here are a few suggestions:

Moose Creek RV Park 

The park is just outside of West Glacier, Montana. It offers 68 full hookup sites with an on-site cafe serving breakfast during the summer.

North American RV Park 

Sitting five miles west of Glacier’s west entrance, the park has 108 full hookup sites, showers, and a laundry facility.

West Glacier KOA 

If you love KOAs, check out this one just outside the western entrance. Two pools, a hot tub, and an on-site restaurant complement the park’s 155 full-hookup sites. 

Mountain Meadow RV Park

In Hungry Horse, Montana, you’ll find this campsite with 60 full hookup sites. Clean showers, a laundry, and a camp store are welcome extras here.  

The Park Is Open All Year Round, but Not All Campgrounds Are

Out of the thirteen organized campgrounds in Glacier National Park, only one is open for winter camping through mid-October. Apgar Campground has one loop open during the early winter season, but no facilities are available during that time.

All other campgrounds are open May through September, depending on the weather.

The winter season also offers unique ways to see the park. Cross country skiing on several trails and closed roads gives outdoor enthusiasts opportunities to enjoy Glacier during less crowded times. And although snowmobiling is not allowed inside park boundaries, there are various off-season activities for visitors to enjoy. 

Many skilled mountain climbers like the challenge of scaling peaks, and rangers regularly lead snowshoeing expeditions into the backcountry. Outings to Bowman Lake and the Apgar Lookout Trail pay off big dividends with stunning views in a winter wonderland. 

With accumulating snowfall comes the closing of some roads throughout the park, including the granddaddy of them all: Going to the Sun Road. This means visitors can see only the lower portions of the park from the third Monday in October through May, weather permitting.

There’s Usually Road Construction–Plan Accordingly

Because road construction and repairs occur during warmer weather, they coincide with peak tourist season, so prepare for traffic delays if visiting between May and October. Check the park service website for up-to-date construction schedules to avoid or prepare for delays, detours, and closures. 

A camper van drives along the road in Glacier National Park with the sun gleaming off the rocky mountain faces and purple wildflowers in bloom.

Be Bear Aware and Carry Bear Spray

Glacier National Park has over 300 resident grizzly bears. Many visitors come to see these spectacular creatures, but few enjoy a random surprise encounter with them while hiking or camping. Follow all protocols like proper food storage, hiking in groups, and carrying bear spray while in the backcountry. 

The park strictly enforces a 100-yard distance from wildlife to protect the animals and humans, so don’t attempt any selfies with a 400lb grizzly!  

You Might See the Northern Lights

If visiting the park during the late fall, you may be lucky enough to experience the Aurora Borealis, more commonly known as the Northern Lights. Ethereal curtains of constantly moving lights shimmer overhead when electromagnetic conditions are just right. It’s a fantastic display that will take your breath away–a sight not soon forgotten! 

You Can Hike to a Glacier 

To see how glaciers have carved the landscapes in the park, why not watch a glacier in action? Hike to Grinnell Glacier to view one of the most iconic ice fields in the park or see actual icebergs floating at Iceberg Lake. View a perfect bowl that ancient glaciers scoured out on the Pitamakan Dawson Loop Trail. Or traverse the high alpine Garden Wall to view a glacial carving at its best on the Highline Trail.

The Grinnell glacier is a bright blue glacier that can be accessed by hiking the Highline Trail.

Plan Your Camping Trip to Glacier National Park 

Glacier National Park is unlike any other location within the National Park Service’s offerings. With its alpine terrain, vast wilderness, and overwhelming catalog of flora and fauna, nature is on display here in a big way. 

If you crave an RV getaway to celebrate mountains, meadows, and moose, Glacier National Park camping should be at the top of your list.

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