Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Finding a Campsite in Glacier National Park (Adventures in Family Camping: Part 2)

Finding a Campsite

After we settled on heading to Glacier National Park we had to assess the campsite issue. Due to our lack of early planning, we couldn't find any open reservations and would have to take our chances on the first-come, first-serve sites. Due to the fact that Glacier is estimating another record-shattering number of visits this year, I was more than a little nervous that we would be out of luck.

Taking a gamble on the campsites was feeling stressful for both of us - what if we drive 10 hours only to find that there is nowhere for us to stay? Luckily, the National Parks has a real-time campground status website that shows each campground and what time it filled up that day. Then you can click on a specific campground icon and find out detailed and pertinent info you'd need to know.

This was really helpful for me as this would be our first visit to Glacier, and you can look at a map as much as you want (and I did, I practically memorized it) but you still don't really know what it will be like until you get there.

Glacier National Park Campsites

The other issue was that we would be towing the tent trailer, so the primitive and hike-in spots weren't an option. We also wanted a campsite that would be convenient to some amenities - we'd need ice for the coolers every day - and was more centrally located so we wouldn't have to spend unnecessary time driving to and from for day hikes and other trips.

The campgrounds in Glacier that can accommodate a trailer are: Apgar, Fish Creek, Avalanche, St. Mary, Many Glacier, and Two Medicine (Technically, Bowman Lake doesn't "allow" towed vehicles because it's a long dirt road, but we did see a tent trailer and a little camper up there! So you could take your chances). 

Since we'd be coming to Glacier from the West, we decided to start the trip out in the west side of the park. This meant our options were Apgar, Fish Creek, Sprague Creek, and possibly even Avalanche. 

After looking at all the campground photos I could find online, Apgar looked like it would be the best fit for our family. It is walking distance to Apgar Village and Lake McDonald, so we wouldn't have to drive if we wanted a day close to home. Ice, ice cream, and the Nature Center with ranger talks would also be walking distance. 

To get to the campsite in time to get a spot, we'd stay outside the park the night before and Andy would get up bright and early and head in to secure a site. 

(Spoiler: While there, we made a point to visit almost every campground we could get to and we were both ultimately super pleased with Apgar as our choice.) 

GNP Campgrounds - the National Parks Service and for making SOME camp reservations in advance. Some of the campgrounds above are only first-come, first-serve. Again, you can check the status of all Glacier campgrounds HERE, updated daily.

Campground Options Outside the Park

There are quite a few campgrounds outside of the park that would a good option to a) stay at the night before, as we planned to do and b) stay at your entire trip to avoid vying for a spot. This means a bit more driving, though.

Glacier Campground  

We were lucky enough to get a campsite at Glacier Campground a few miles outside the park and it was the LAST one available. You have to call them, too, no email. I'll post more about this campground but it was a lovely spot with a great cafe and a playground, and cheaper than the KOA. We'd definitely stay there again.

KOA West Glacier

I looked here too but it was fully booked and it was more pricey than we were looking for. We did visit this campground on our hunt for a laundromat after Dylan had some nightly accidents (more great memories!) but you have to be staying here to use their facilities. It's very clean with a pool, ice cream shop, laundromat - everything you'd expect from a top-notch KOA.

Did I forget anything? Let me know in the comments!

Next up: Packing for a 2-week camping trip with a family of five (are we crazy? we might be!) 

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