Glacier National Park is one of the must-see National Parks in our opinion. RVing in Glacier is pretty simple. We made a few visits to the Apgar Visitors Center to gather information about RVing in Glacier National Park before we headed in. So, hopefully you can just roll right in to the park after reading this simple guide.
Securing a Campsite Inside Glacier National Park
As with most National Parks, securing an RV spot within Glacier National Park can be a challenge. The campgrounds that allow for reservations usually fill up months in advance, and it’s hard to plan for first-come, first-serve spaces. So we did the pre-planning to RVing in Glacier NP for you. We decided to stay a few nights with a Boondockers Welcome host in Kalispell, MT, so we could establish a plan before moving the RV into the park. We drove the Bronco into Glacier, stopped by the Apgar Visitors Center on the west side and checked out a few of the campgrounds.
Overview of Glacier National Park RV Campgrounds
Glacier has several RV campground options – some are first-come, first-serve and some take reservations. From what I can tell, none of the campgrounds have hook-ups, but you can run your generator during certain hours.
From what we learned, you may be able to score a spot at a campground that takes reservations, but it will only be a night or two. If you don’t have a reservation, you’re best bet is to get a spot at the first-come, first-serve campgrounds.
Securing a Campsite
Try to arrive on a day several people are checking out.
If you have the option to drive through the campground a few days before you need to check-in, you will see the current camper’s check out date written on the post of the campsite. If you see a certain date several times, that means there will be more spots opening up on that day – your chances of snagging a spot are higher. If you don’t have extra time to scout it out, try to pick a day to check-in that people are typically checking out. For example, we noticed a lot of people leaving on Sunday.
Get there early.
When you enter Glacier National Park, there will be a sign showing which campgrounds are full and which ones still have spaces available. While we were there, Apgar tended to fill up by 9:30am. If you have a car, we recommend driving in early – like 7am to 8am – to reserve your spot, and then bringing the rig back around 11am or noon. Technically, check-out is at noon, but most people leave before then. It’s just easier to drive around with a car, and you may reserve a spot even though the person hasn’t checked out. There’s not a ton of space to park and wait in the campground.
Pick your spot.
If the campground sign says “Open,” go ahead and grab the yellow envelop at the reservation stand at the campground. That way you can go ahead and snag the spot you want without risk of someone coming in behind you. There are a few ways to know if a spot is available. >> One, there’s no one in the spot and no tag on the post. If you see this, you’re good to claim it. Stick your yellow slip on the post. >> Two, someone is in the space, but their slip indicates they are checking out that day. If you encounter this, hopefully the person is outside packing up. If so, simply double check that they are indeed leaving and slide your slip horizontally under their slip. If you have the option, leave a camping chair with a sign that says reserved in that spot. It makes it easy for other people looking for a space to know it’s reserved while the current camper is moving out and you’re moving in. >> Three, someone is in a space and there’s no tag. If this happens, make sure you talk to the person currently in the space. They may be checking out, and the camp host has already pulled their tag. Or they could have just checked in and not put up a new slip. If they are indeed checking out, simply do the same thing as above. If all else fails and you can’t get a RV campsite inside the park, there are several RV parks around Glacier and a few National Forest. Of course, they are a bit pricey and fill up fast, which is why Boondockers Welcome was a great back-up plan for us.
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Things to do in Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park is beautiful. There is so much to do and see – no matter what you’re in to. There’s hiking, sightseeing, wildlife, tours, swimming, kayaking, fishing – something for everyone.
Watch the Sunset at Lake McDonald
If you camp at Apgar Campground, you’ll be right across the street from Lake McDonald. The sunset hitting the lake is beautiful. Once the sun goes down, you’ll have great views of the stars as long as it’s not cloudy.
Drive the Going to the Sun Road
The Going to the Sun Road is one of the most spectacular drives, ever! But it’s definitely not RV friendly. Plan to drive your tow behind car or taking one of the park shuttles. There are several stops along the road to pull over and take pictures of the views. If you can, plan to do this on a clear day. We experienced a foggy drive one day and clear drive on another – the views were way better when it was clear.
Hike Grinnell Glacier
Grinnell Glacier is the only glacier in Glacier National Park that you can hike to in a day, which makes it a must. If you’re staying on the west side of the park, you can drive the Going to the Sun Road to the east side of the park then to the trailhead at the Many Glacier Hotel. If you’ve researched this hike, you’ve probably read you can cut a few miles off by taking the shuttle boats across Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine. Since it’s a relatively flat hike around the lakes, we didn’t take the boats. As you hike the Grinnell Glacier, you’ll have views of both lakes plus Grinnell Lake. You may also see Big Horned Sheep, Mountain Goats and a Grizzly. Hopefully any grizzly sightings will be from a “safe distance” but pack your bear spray just in case. We were lucky enough to see Big Horned Sheep, a marmot and a bear, but he was far away. The wildflowers and waterfalls along the trail are also incredible. Once you’re close to the top, there will be a little garden rest area with benches and pit toilets. It’s a great place to stop for lunch before reaching the top of the glacier. The last .4 mile to the glacier is relatively steep, but once you make it, the views of the glacier are magical. As you’re heading back down the trail, nature will provide you a little treat – huckleberries! Okay, get ready – you’ll pass the water wall, then the waterfall and then the red rocks (you’ll know what I’m talking about when you see it). Then, start looking for little berries that look like blueberries right on the edge of the trail. They grow in singles, and truly look exactly like blueberries with some being a little more red. Once you make it to the bottom at Swiftcurrent Lake, you can walk along the river and maybe see moose or head back to the Many Glacier Hotel and sit around the fire in the lobby.
Float in a lake
We grabbed our floats and went to Lake McDonald. The lake is beautiful and so refreshing. Apgar Village is the hub of the west side of the park. If you don’t have floats, you can rent boats, paddle boards and kayaks. There are a few ‘beaches’ around the lake where you can set out chairs and go swimming. There are several other lakes in Glacier National Park you swim in, so find your favorite and jump in the (cold) glacier water. Like I said, there is so much to do in Glacier, and we can’t wait to go back. You can read the weekly recap of our few days RVing in Glacier here. Do you have any exploring or RVing in Glacier tips? Leave them in comments!