Camping Report: Glacier National Park - Fiberglass RV



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Old 07-11-2019, 11:14 AM   #1
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Camping Report: Glacier National Park

Trip Report: From Tacoma, WA through Idaho to Glacier NP and return.
Dates: 6/17 - 7/7/2019

Headed west on I-90 until the Columbia River, then turned south to pick up Route 12 across Idaho, then North up routes 93 and 35 to West Glacier.

We stopped in Idaho and visited the Dworshak Dam and Fish Hatchery. I highly recommend the fish hatchery. It has a self guided tour, and during our visit several workers asked if we had questions. We got to tour the van that clips the adipose fins and tags the fish while it was running, a surprisingly high tech piece of equipment. The drive down route 12 through the national forest is amazing. We caught sight of a moose in the river.

We did stay two nights at Willola RV Park and won't be back. Our dog is a little protective, but always on leash. We got no respect for personal space or privacy during our visit. The manager, owner, owner's dogs, and neighbor (two empty sites away) all felt free to wander on our site despite our dog signaling to leave us alone.

We spent the most time at Emery Bay Campground in the National Forest about 30 minutes from the West Glacier entrance to the park. As usual for national forest camping, we got pit toilets, use of a water faucet and dumpster. This one also has bear boxes for food. Cheapo metro pcs cell service didn't work in the campground, but at the turn on to route two toward the park we got 3-4 bars to check for texts and email. It was very peaceful during our stay.

We arrived shortly before Going to the Sun Road opened, so we hiked up to Apgar Lookout, the Trail of the Cedars, and to Avalanche Lake. If you have to choose one, Avalanche Lake would be it. But every one else chooses this one too. The view isn't as close from Apgar Lookout, but much broader, and a bit longer hike. The weather was especially dynamic on the day GTTSR opened. We had sun in the valley and almost zero visibility in the top 25% of the road toward Logan Pass. The west side of Logan Pass is where you realize why there is the 21' restriction.

As our reservation at Emery Bay came to an end, we looked east for another place to stay and settled on Summit Campground. It is another forest service campground, but on the continental divide right off route 2, just south of the national park. It has no trash service, and is a bit dirtier and noisier than Emery Bay, but got us close to the east side of the park. This campground gets a lot of use by hikers on the continental divide trail. It's only $10 a night.

From Summit we visited Two Medicine and did one hike. We checked out the campground there, but the sites were a bit too close together for us. The goats browse the campground for anything left out to eat...even charcoal. We also stopped for lunch one day at the Glacier Park Lodge. We could have done several hikes from Two Medicine, but wanted to se the rest of the east side. We did the drive up route 89 to the St. Mary entrance. There is serious construction on this route with one way traffic behind a pilot car (over loose or potholed gravel). If you are towing, use route 464 to go around and come down from Babb. It is a long detour, but probably prudent.

We arrived at St. Mary in the late afternoon, planning to look at the stars from Logan Pass. We watched the Blackfeet dancing demonstration at the St. Mary visitor center. I was looking for a traditional program with historical stories and lore, but got a modern presentation that is more about how the tribe maintains their culture today. The dancing starts out rather subtle, but by the end is very dynamic.

We made the drive up to Logan Pass (from the east) right before dusk to an almost empty parking lot. We decided to head back since the clouds weren't leaving, and got interrupted by bighorn sheep jumping in front of our truck as we drove back.

Next was the trek up to Many Glacier. This part of the park has the best views, and the most wildlife during our stay. We did try to get a campsite one morning, but arriving by about 7:30 wasn't quite early enough. The camper in front of us got a site. We were able to use the tank dump, and get laundry done. Public showers by the motor inn are $4.00. We headed back toward Summit with the camper and tried to find a decent option close to Many Glacier, but no luck finding something nice.

We had driven past an RV site on the Indian reservation several times that was wide open field with hookups, but always empty. The spray paint on one of the buildings said, "Pick a site and we'll be back." We picked one, and didn't need hookups. We just wanted to watch the stars for a night or two (and let the dog run loose for a bit since no one was there). After a few hours the guy came back to tell us it was $45 a night (water and electric hook ups were not working). So we went back to Summit campground.

There are a lot of hiking options at Many Glacier (more than the other parts of the park). I enjoyed a trek up toward Grinnel Glacier, but the trail was still iced over at the upper parts. The eastern trails are generally less steep than on the west side, and the views are less obstructed by trees. We considered using a boat ride to shorten a hike, but are glad we didn't. Riding the boat doesn't get you any elevation advantage, and I walk the trail as fast as the boat moves. The boat riders tended to be families with small children and mobility impaired folks. Oh, and the road into Many Glacier is horrendous, paved but horrendous (as in potholes galore).

We decided we should explore the last section of the park before heading home. This meant heading up the North Fork of the Flathead River and we stayed at Big Creek Campground in the national forest. We went past the "Campground Full" sign to find one site available, and brand new camp hosts. Several of the sites are right on the river. It's beautiful, but you have to drive down the gravel forest service road. We managed about 35mph, some washboarding but no big potholes. This location has the advantage of using the Camas Road into the park. There is no manned gate on Camas Rd into the park and very little traffic. There isn't much else either. The thing to do is go up to Polebridge and shop at the general store, for a huckleberry bear claw of course!

Our last big hurrah was to drive up to Kintla Lake. There is a tent only campground at the lake. Bring your paddle boat and hang out with the loon (no motorized boats allowed). Campground was not full, but this is for the seekers of solitude on the water (who aren't quite ready to get the backcountry permit).

I don't think we'll be back, unless it's an off season visit. The park is just too crowded for our taste. We're glad we came. Next time we'll bring something to paddle, or snowshoes, and we'll camp at big creek campground.
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Old 07-11-2019, 12:04 PM   #2
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Excellent report. I was at Apgar, West Glacier in May. Going to the sun closed, of course. Only wildlife I saw was a stuffed griz at the (excellent) Canadian Visitors Center, which was also the lone place with cell phone service.
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Old 07-11-2019, 12:56 PM   #3
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We’ve been to Glacier several times over the past 45 years and I know it’s way more crowded than it was in 1973 when we first visited. I really liked your report especially regarding road conditions and camping availabilities. We though about taking our grandson this summer but the timing is off. I’ve driven 12 up the Locksa River in Idaho many times including this spring coming back from Osoyoos and believe it to be one of the prettiest drives on very good paved road I’ve ever been on. We made about 30 miles an hour because we stopped to take pictures about every 15 minutes. Thanks for a great report.
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Old 07-11-2019, 01:16 PM   #4
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Thanks for the report. Will probably be there next summer and will certainly check on road conditions and consider the popularity of various spots.
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Old 07-11-2019, 01:54 PM   #5
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Great report. We’re planning on a visit to Glacier the week after Labor Day. Hopefully the weather will permit and the crowds are less.
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Old 07-11-2019, 03:08 PM   #6
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Snowball,
We thought Two Medicine campground was one of the most spectacular places we have ever stayed. You are looking up at 2500' vertical cliffs dropping right down to the lake! Agree that the pass is very crowded unless you get there before 9 as we did. We were there two weeks ago.
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Old 07-11-2019, 05:23 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by yardsale View Post
Snowball,
We thought Two Medicine campground was one of the most spectacular places we have ever stayed. You are looking up at 2500' vertical cliffs dropping right down to the lake! Agree that the pass is very crowded unless you get there before 9 as we did. We were there two weeks ago.
Yes, Two Medicine has great sites right on the creek/river coming out of Two Medicine Lake. We like a little more space between sites than the National Parks usually give you.

Thanks to all for the positive comments. Since we have a new camper and are new campers I don’t have much technical experience to offer up. So I spend a little time on the trip report. Glad to see it’s appreciated.
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Old 07-11-2019, 08:31 PM   #8
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Alex,


Excellent trip report!!!


We want to go again. A couple shots taken while visiting Glacier NP.
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Old 07-12-2019, 10:52 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by MyronL View Post
Excellent report. I was at Apgar, West Glacier in May. Going to the sun closed, of course. Only wildlife I saw was a stuffed griz at the (excellent) Canadian Visitors Center, which was also the lone place with cell phone service.

Just this morning we were reminiscing about enjoying the huckleberry bear claws from Polebridge Mercantile. To die for!
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Old 07-15-2019, 05:39 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by SnowballCamper View Post
Trip Report: From Tacoma, WA through Idaho to Glacier NP and return.
Dates: 6/17 - 7/7/2019

Headed west on I-90 until the Columbia River, then turned south to pick up Route 12 across Idaho, then North up routes 93 and 35 to West Glacier.

We stopped in Idaho and visited the Dworshak Dam and Fish Hatchery. I highly recommend the fish hatchery. It has a self guided tour, and during our visit several workers asked if we had questions. We got to tour the van that clips the adipose fins and tags the fish while it was running, a surprisingly high tech piece of equipment. The drive down route 12 through the national forest is amazing. We caught sight of a moose in the river.

We did stay two nights at Willola RV Park and won't be back. Our dog is a little protective, but always on leash. We got no respect for personal space or privacy during our visit. The manager, owner, owner's dogs, and neighbor (two empty sites away) all felt free to wander on our site despite our dog signaling to leave us alone.

We spent the most time at Emery Bay Campground in the National Forest about 30 minutes from the West Glacier entrance to the park. As usual for national forest camping, we got pit toilets, use of a water faucet and dumpster. This one also has bear boxes for food. Cheapo metro pcs cell service didn't work in the campground, but at the turn on to route two toward the park we got 3-4 bars to check for texts and email. It was very peaceful during our stay.

We arrived shortly before Going to the Sun Road opened, so we hiked up to Apgar Lookout, the Trail of the Cedars, and to Avalanche Lake. If you have to choose one, Avalanche Lake would be it. But every one else chooses this one too. The view isn't as close from Apgar Lookout, but much broader, and a bit longer hike. The weather was especially dynamic on the day GTTSR opened. We had sun in the valley and almost zero visibility in the top 25% of the road toward Logan Pass. The west side of Logan Pass is where you realize why there is the 21' restriction.

As our reservation at Emery Bay came to an end, we looked east for another place to stay and settled on Summit Campground. It is another forest service campground, but on the continental divide right off route 2, just south of the national park. It has no trash service, and is a bit dirtier and noisier than Emery Bay, but got us close to the east side of the park. This campground gets a lot of use by hikers on the continental divide trail. It's only $10 a night.

From Summit we visited Two Medicine and did one hike. We checked out the campground there, but the sites were a bit too close together for us. The goats browse the campground for anything left out to eat...even charcoal. We also stopped for lunch one day at the Glacier Park Lodge. We could have done several hikes from Two Medicine, but wanted to se the rest of the east side. We did the drive up route 89 to the St. Mary entrance. There is serious construction on this route with one way traffic behind a pilot car (over loose or potholed gravel). If you are towing, use route 464 to go around and come down from Babb. It is a long detour, but probably prudent.

We arrived at St. Mary in the late afternoon, planning to look at the stars from Logan Pass. We watched the Blackfeet dancing demonstration at the St. Mary visitor center. I was looking for a traditional program with historical stories and lore, but got a modern presentation that is more about how the tribe maintains their culture today. The dancing starts out rather subtle, but by the end is very dynamic.

We made the drive up to Logan Pass (from the east) right before dusk to an almost empty parking lot. We decided to head back since the clouds weren't leaving, and got interrupted by bighorn sheep jumping in front of our truck as we drove back.

Next was the trek up to Many Glacier. This part of the park has the best views, and the most wildlife during our stay. We did try to get a campsite one morning, but arriving by about 7:30 wasn't quite early enough. The camper in front of us got a site. We were able to use the tank dump, and get laundry done. Public showers by the motor inn are $4.00. We headed back toward Summit with the camper and tried to find a decent option close to Many Glacier, but no luck finding something nice.

We had driven past an RV site on the Indian reservation several times that was wide open field with hookups, but always empty. The spray paint on one of the buildings said, "Pick a site and we'll be back." We picked one, and didn't need hookups. We just wanted to watch the stars for a night or two (and let the dog run loose for a bit since no one was there). After a few hours the guy came back to tell us it was $45 a night (water and electric hook ups were not working). So we went back to Summit campground.

There are a lot of hiking options at Many Glacier (more than the other parts of the park). I enjoyed a trek up toward Grinnel Glacier, but the trail was still iced over at the upper parts. The eastern trails are generally less steep than on the west side, and the views are less obstructed by trees. We considered using a boat ride to shorten a hike, but are glad we didn't. Riding the boat doesn't get you any elevation advantage, and I walk the trail as fast as the boat moves. The boat riders tended to be families with small children and mobility impaired folks. Oh, and the road into Many Glacier is horrendous, paved but horrendous (as in potholes galore).

We decided we should explore the last section of the park before heading home. This meant heading up the North Fork of the Flathead River and we stayed at Big Creek Campground in the national forest. We went past the "Campground Full" sign to find one site available, and brand new camp hosts. Several of the sites are right on the river. It's beautiful, but you have to drive down the gravel forest service road. We managed about 35mph, some washboarding but no big potholes. This location has the advantage of using the Camas Road into the park. There is no manned gate on Camas Rd into the park and very little traffic. There isn't much else either. The thing to do is go up to Polebridge and shop at the general store, for a huckleberry bear claw of course!

Our last big hurrah was to drive up to Kintla Lake. There is a tent only campground at the lake. Bring your paddle boat and hang out with the loon (no motorized boats allowed). Campground was not full, but this is for the seekers of solitude on the water (who aren't quite ready to get the backcountry permit).

I don't think we'll be back, unless it's an off season visit. The park is just too crowded for our taste. We're glad we came. Next time we'll bring something to paddle, or snowshoes, and we'll camp at big creek campground.
We went to Apgar CG last summer in June and found a campsite easily about 8-9AM. If you are there to early the sites haven't vacated yet. In fact we found several sites open or opening and got 2 sites next to each other with our friends. GTTSR was open and it was beautiful. Yes there are a lot of people there but we were there before the fires started.
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Old 07-17-2019, 11:34 AM   #11
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So glad to read your information about visiting Glacier Nat’l Park. We’re heading to Boise, ID, tomorrow and then to west side of Glacier on 7/22. Planning to add Glacier NP into our trip was pretty last minute, so we have no reservations. Planning to stay outside the park, boondock somewhere, or get in a line early in the morning. My goal is to do some day hikes, crowds or not, I’m looking forward to the scenery. After a few days on the west, we’ll head to the east side and try the same there. Helpful to know about the road construction and reroute, very helpful. Hoping we have some luck in securing a site!
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Old 07-17-2019, 02:33 PM   #12
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Boondock Options

I'm sure you can find a place to boondock on the West Side (if you need to). Surprisingly, the Motor Vehicle Use Map is just one sheet for the Glacier View ranger district.

https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE...eprd495934.pdf

Enjoy the trip!
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Old 07-17-2019, 05:49 PM   #13
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Ive been wanting to visit.

But how crowded is Glacier National Park compared to the leadville gunnison area's in colorado? I love that area, but the crowds can be a bit much.
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Old 07-17-2019, 11:34 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Carol and Mike View Post
Great report. We’re planning on a visit to Glacier the week after Labor Day. Hopefully the weather will permit and the crowds are less.
Us too! Because of the crowds, we decided to catch it on the way home from Alaska.
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