Tips for Visiting Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park in Montana is one of the prettiest places on the earth that I've been too. Now, I'm not much of a camper...but my friend and I made a last minute decision to visit the park and camp for a few days. AND I LOVED IT. Maybe because the facilities are also pretty great at the campgrounds. Here are a few of my tips for having a great stay:
Secure a Campsite
So...Glacier National Park is pretty popular....especially in July and August. Some of the most desired campsites have a lottery for half of the spaces and take reservations many months in advance. If you're like me, and you decide to take this trip on a whim, the best resource for you is the park's website's link for the campground status (https://home.nps.gov/applications/glac/cgstatus/cgstatus.cfm). This website will tell you which campgrounds have availabilities. The unreserved spots are on a first-come, first-serve basis. If you have a few days advance notice for your trip, you can watch the trends to see what time the campsites fill up each day.
Note that some campsites have flush toilets and showers available. This is what made this camping trip more bearable for me than previous ones in the wilderness. We stayed at the Rising Sun campground. It had a restrooms in the center of camp, the women's had 3 stalls and outlets if you need to use a blow dryer or charge any devices.
Each fire pit at Rising Sun had a grill grate that would slide across the fire pit. So when you're planning your meals, keep this in mind. It's possible to put skillets and such atop this.
The most important thing to keep in mind though, is which campsites are nearest to the activities that you want to do. While the Going to the Sun Road is beautiful, and we happily drove it several times, it does take up some time to get across the park.
Visit the Camp Stores
We were lucky enough at Rising Sun to have a camp store nearby. Besides selling some touristy stuff, it had supplies, food, etc. One great thing is that they sell firewood for pretty cheap. No need to worry about packing in your own, or buying expensive bundles outside the park.
The camp store is also where we bought the tokens for the showers, (located behind the store). They had separate facilities for men and women. There was one shower stall, but there was also a restroom stall, a place to get ready, and a seating bench inside to wait your turn.
You'll have to leave payment for your campsite in an envelope at the entrance where you register. Most sites are around $20 per night. I felt much more comfortable leaving cash instead of a check or credit card information.
You can use cards at the stores and restaurants in the park.
Have a Back-Up Plan
While quickly planning for this trip, I came across this website (www.hikinginglacier.com), it's a great resource for gauging the time, how strenuous the hikes are, and some pictures to give you an idea of what you'll see along the way. #1, I wanted to go on all the hikes. But I needed to know my limits. I had my top choices of hikes I wanted to do, and I suggest you do too. Don't have your heart set on just one hike...the trail might be closed due to animal activity. In the Many Glacier area, my first choice was to hike to Iceberg Lake; however...upon arrival, we discovered it was closed to bear feeding on another animal carcass. Fortunately, the Grinnell Glacier hike trailhead was in the same area and so we set off there. It was stunning. And strenuous. But totally worth it.
Read the Maps
In the Northern part of the park, some of the access roads aren't paved. Take note, and if that's where you want to go...bring the appropriate vehicle.
As a novice camper, I feel silly giving advice about being prepared with camping supplies. But, one thing I feel confident about reminding you is that Glacier National Park is BEAR COUNTRY! Read the bear safety info on the park website, and be sure to pack a canister of bear spray and take it with you on your hikes. When we were setting up our tent that first morning, the ranger stopped by and told us there were bears in the campsite THAT VERY MORNING. THE THREAT IS REAL!
Also, if you're even considering crossing over into the Waterton Lakes Park in Canada, joined by a lake, take your passport!
Have fun. You're in a beautiful place.