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Need help with planning tent camping trip to GNP

Chicago, IL
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Need help with planning tent camping trip to GNP


I'm in the process of planning a trip to Glacier National Park for sometime in July or August this summer.

We will be tent camping and I'm hoping to get some suggestions on campgrounds in the park. Generally, my boyfriend and I are fond of more rustinc type car camping, where the site are farther apart and there aren't any RVs or large campers close by. Having pit toilets are fine. No showers at some campgrounds is okay too.

We plan on allotting 15-17 days for the entire trip, which includes time to get to GNP from chicago and to return.

Does anyone have suggestions on camping? Ideally we'd like to see both sides of the part (east and west). I'd also be interested in knowning some good places to visit on the road between chicago and GNP.

Thanks in advance for suggestions!

Bemidji, Minnesota
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1. Re: Need help with planning tent camping trip to GNP

if you don't mind moving, consider Swiftcurrent campground in the Many Glacier area, Two Medicine, Rising Sun, and Avalanche. You don't need to stay at each one, but I'd suggest Two Medicine and Swiftcurrent on the east and Avalanche if you want to stay on the west side. There are a number of trails that fan out from the Swiftcurrent area and from Two Medicine. Two Medicine seemed to have less traffic. For a complete list of campgrounds with their relative locations check out this link.


Spokane, Washington
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for Glacier National Park, Spokane
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2. Re: Need help with planning tent camping trip to GNP

Consider the North Fork, Bowman Lake and Kintla Lake if you really want to be away from it all. You have time to move around, but clearly to get to some of the best parts of the park, you very well may have to huddle with the masses. You will see many recommendations for hikes and camping already posted here. As you will be there during peak season, be prepared for crowds and campsites that fill early.

One other area to consider, more rustic is Cutbank campground. Small and remote, but g5eat day hiking 4-miles up the trail to either morning star lake and the passes or triple divide pass and medicine griz lake.

Chicago, IL
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3. Re: Need help with planning tent camping trip to GNP

Thanks for the suggestions. Any other suggestions from people would be appreciated too.

I think we'll be at glacier for 7 nights and 6 full days. How many days are good to spend on the west side and east sides?

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4. Re: Need help with planning tent camping trip to GNP

"The West side vs. the East side" is similar to asking "chocolate vs. vanilla?" There are many postings about the differences, both are great. It's your dog challenge that may be the determining factor, based on where the dog might be boarded. Unless you plan to omit hiking, in which case I'd start looking at the other beautiful areas surrounding Glacier NP to spend camping time instead of being inside the park with the crowds and the dog restrictions.

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5. Re: Need help with planning tent camping trip to GNP

You might fing more camping ideas here http://glacier.nationalparkschat.com

Edited: 21 May 2010, 02:12
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6. Re: Need help with planning tent camping trip to GNP

Hi Chicagomoe -

If I may, I'd like to address your query point by point. I spend a month every year car camping in Glacier National Park and I know the campgrounds pretty darn well at this point. I've also done the Chicago to Glacier drive many times. First, I would advise on taking I-90 to I-94 through North Dakota. I have found this route to be considerably faster from Chicago, and it's more on the way to Glacier.

If I'm driving with two people and leave early in the morning, I make Theodore Roosevelt National Park my first stop(usually I leave after work and end up spending the night about 100 miles west of St. Paul.) This is in far western North Dakota almost on the Montana border. There's a neat campground in this park which is ten bucks a night with some nice wide sites. It's called Cottonwood campground:


You will have no problem getting a site there. But I should warn you the water is awful! Make sure you have a nice supply.

I consider TRNP the "gateway to the west", and I find its specialty to be wildlife. It has really fantastic wildlife viewing ranging from elk to mule deer to bison to prairie dogs. You have a shot at seeing raptors and wild turkey too. Drive the Scenic Loop road and you'll see wildlife. Wild turkeys like to hang around the campground, and so do bobcats and raptors.

Leaving TRNP on I-94 west,, you have to decide how you want to approach Glacier. There are three routes all stemming from Glendive, and all offer their own features. You can take Highway 200 just past Glendive to route 24, and take this north to Glasgow(U.S. 2). Following U.S. 2 will take you all the way to East Glacier, with Two Medicine being the closest campground(and the best, IMHO). This route is pretty, but not mountainous until you get to Glacier.

The other option is also taking highway 200 west from Glendive, and then taking this all the way through Great Falls and then getting off at highway 89 and seeing some of the Rocky Mountain Front, and taking this to U.S. 2 in Browning right to east Glacier. This is more scenic than the first option, with the road traveling adjacent to the Big Snowy Mountains(extreme east), the Little Belt Mountains, and the Lewis Clark Range of the Rocky Mountain Front()this borders the southern portion of Glacier).

The final option is to just take I-94 to Billings and Big Timber. This is the longest route, but IMHO the most scenic, with views of the spectacular Beartooth Mountains and the Crazy Mountains. There are numerous world class campgrounds here worth staying at for at least a day(Gallatin National Forest). If interested, I would be happy to share some of them via PM. :) If you are interested in exploring some rugged drive-in camping in addition to Glacier, this is a good way to go. I only suggest this because of your generous vacation time, and because of this I highly recommend a night in the Crazy Mountains or near Big Timber. The Crazy Mountains rise 7,000 feet over the valley here. I get the feeling this area may blow you away. By camping in the Gallatin National Forest you can stretch out and prepare for a day up to Glacier, traveling north of Big Timber on 191, then west on highway 12, then north on highway 89 through the Little Belt Mountains to Great Falls. Follow route 89 as you would the other up to Browning and then west on U.S. 2 to east Glacier. Again, this is the most scenic approach, but the longest. The beautiful scenery of the Gallatin National Forest more than makes up for it, and puts a nice break in the drive. I consider the Gallatin National Forest and Glacier to be the most scenic places in Montana.

Anyway, to the campgrounds of Glacier. You have it lucky because of your ample time. You can sample a few of the campgrounds without hurrying. That's great fun. You can view all of the Glacier campgrounds with this clickable map:


Based on your criteria of wide sites and less RV's, I highly recommend Bowman Lake on the west side. This is a remote campground reached by a narrow gravel road. The sites are large and tucked in deep forest. Make sure you have a spare tire. Another good one is Kintla Lake, but there are few sites and they are jammed right against each other. I believe this was because the Park Service did not want to ruin the area, which is a good thing. But it's too clustered for me, and that's why I prefer Bowman. The back loops up Bowman have huge sites and privacy. Fish Creek is also a nice campground on the west side, but it sees plenty of RV's. The sand beach is awesome, and so is the old growth forest. Apgar campground is loaded with RV's and noise in peak seasons. So is Avalanche, but the outer loops there in the ancient cedar are world class. Sprague creek while beautiful has lots of road noise due to it being a narrow strip between GTTS road and Lake McDonald.

For the east side, my favorite campground is Two Medicine. There are RV's, and it can be noisy, but the attractions and campground is so stunningly beautiful that I don't mind at all. Both of the lakes there are gorgeous, and the day hikes are great too. The sits are not that large, but there are usually nice strips of trees and bushes offering some separation. This is a good campground to see wildlife. Bears, mountain goats and bighorn are often seen on the slopes at dawn and dusk.

On the east side I also like Cut Bank, but there is no lake and the sites are few and not very private. Many Glacier is the most popular on the east side, and really spectacular. The wildlife viewing here is IMHO the best in the park. The campground is nice with some private sites and thick forest on the river side. The problem is road noise from the dead-end at the camp store. It's very busy at peak times.

St. Mary is scenic, but has mostly open sites with RV's. The short walk to St. Mary Lake is beautiful. Rising Sun is a cool campground nestled against massive cliffs and is also a short walk from St. Mary Lake. But it's right on GTTSR and you get traffic noise.

It sounds like you are going to have an awesome trip. I tend to spend most of my time on Glacier's east side, but I do spend time on the west side too. If I have ten days, I do about seven days on the east and three on the west.

Don't forget to explore the incredible rivers that border the south and west portions of Glacier. They are the North Fork of the Flathead and the Middle Fork. The Middle Fork rolls out of the wilderness near Goat Lick. U.S. from East Glacier to West Glacier is stunningly beautiful and a must do. So is Going to the Sun Road(GTTSR

7. Re: Need help with planning tent camping trip to GNP

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