Backcountry Permits of Glacier National Park

There are two ways to get  a backcountry campsite in Glacier National Park. The first way is to get an advance reservation which I talk about in the video below. This system is a little bit complicated and has changed as of 2016 to an online only system. The second way is to get a walk-in permit. Even if you’re planning on getting an advanced reservation, I would still look at the Walk-in Backcountry Permits of Glacier National Park blog as it has some other great additional information. Even if you get an advanced reservation, you may want to change it, or you may have to change it due to your situation changing or environmental changes such as fires, floods, high snowpack, or bear activity. Make sure you check the notes and links below the video.

Here are the few notes from my video:

  1. The system is an online only, first-come/first-served system that opens on March 15th at 8am Mountain Time.
  2. You can preload your itinerary before March 15th to get it all ready. After March 15th, you can create itineraries without submitting them if you still need to do more research before actually submitting them.
  3. Check the backcountry campground, trailhead, and area information page to see site restrictions, get campsite and trailhead codes, see distances between campsites, etc.
  4. Advanced reservations are only available for trips between June 15th and September 30th.
  5. Note when a campsite becomes available on the aforementioned page. If you try and get a permit for a campsite before it’s listed as available, it will get denied. (The only time this is an exception is if the campsite melts out early enough and becomes available on the Advanced Reservation Availability page. Keep this in mind if you’re applying late June and early July.)
  6. When applying for an advanced reservation, no segment of your trip may be longer than 15 miles. Your application will get denied. If you want a day that is longer than 15 miles, you’ll have to get that as a walk-in permit after discussing your trip with a ranger.
  7. Any time you walk along a road or get a car shuttle, that denotes a new trip. You may cross a road or a developed area like Many Glacier, but walking along a road (like hiking from Logan Pass to Jackson Glacier Overlook) is considered starting a new trip. This really important for sites like Reynolds Creek (REY) that can’t be the first or last site in a trip. Also, your application is for one trip, not two, so it will get denied.
  8. You can submit an application for an advanced reservation up to 7 days in advance of your trip. If you are less than 7 days out from your trip, you’ll need to apply for a walk-in permit when you arrive at the backcountry office.
  9. There are two charges when you apply for a reservation. The first is a $10 application charge for each application sent in. If your application gets accepted, there is an additional $30 charge for the advanced reservations.
  10. An advanced reservation is a reservation only. You’ll still need to swing by the backcountry office to pick up your actual permit and pay the $7 per person/per night backcountry camping fee. (note that a walk-in permit doesn’t have the above $30 fee, but it does have the $10 permit fee and additional $7 per person/per night fees)
  11. Up to March 15th, the Advanced Reservation Availability has all campsites still available because they’ve not processed any applications. By mid-April, many of the applications should have been processed. This is a great time to see what is still available to apply for an advanced reservation if you still need one. You can construct your trip based upon what’s available, then apply online for your advanced reservation.
  12. Always have a backup plan or two in your mind before you head out to Glacier Park! This is true even if you already have your reservation. Trails can close for a variety of reasons and you don’t want to be scrambling without any ideas the morning of.
  13. If you need to change your advanced reservation, you’ll need to go through the online process again (subject to the $10 and $30 fees again) or just wait until you get to the backcountry office when you pick up your permit to avoid the fees.
  14. If you can no longer make your trip, please cancel your reservation. You won’t get a refund, but it will open up your sites for others.
  15. Reservations are non-transferrable. Whoever is the trip leader must pick up the permit and be on the trip.
  16. Advanced reservations are not available for undesignated campsites. (Your route, however, doesn’t have to be on trail, but you’ll need to explain how you’re getting from one designated campsite to another.)

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112 responses to “Backcountry Permits of Glacier National Park”

  1. Jerehmy Avatar

    Hey I curious when I should expect to hear or get something about backcountry permits I applied for this year? I know the lottery was the 15th, but when do you generally get confirmation if you got the site or not? And do they let you know if you didn’t? If anyone would know it would be you! Great videos man keep um coming!!

    1. hike734 Avatar

      They’ll let you know in the order that they are processed. My guess is that some people have already been hearing back. If you provided an email address, they’ll email you back which is great. I’m thinking you’ll hear back by the middle of May, but then again, the book says by the 31st, so give them a bit of a chance to pour through everything. Oh and yes, they’ll let you know whether you scored or not!

      Thanks for watching! More to come…

      1. I’m looking at doing a three day around Dawson – Pitakamin, but I see there are only 2-3 Reservable campsites at No Name and Old Man. At this point, is it even worth it to request these sites on the permit application? I feel like they will be booked up already. I was also considering a day hike of Rising Wolf, but I can’t find information on tying that into backpacking the loop. How many miles to the nearest campground, etc? Also, what campsites would you recommend for doing Many Glacier in 3-4 days, and where do you enter and leave the trail? I’ve been researching routes for hours, but it’s so hard to decide and find all the details in order to submit the application! Thank you for your help 🙂

        1. Jeff Rogers Avatar
          Jeff Rogers

          You will probably get inundated with a lot of comments from people on Jake’s blog who have made the hike around Rising Wolf, so weigh my comments with everyone else’s to make a decision.
          Hiking arounf Rising Wolf is definitely one of the best day hikes you will ever do at Glacier. Parking at the Two Medicine campground, it’s approximately 19 miles around Rising Wolf. I know there is a boat that can take a few miles off the hike, ala Grinnell Glacier hike, but here’s what I did last year and I would do it again, as it was an AWESOME day!

          Forget the boat ride and beat the throngs of people to Dawson pass. We started hiking as it just started getting light and we were treated to an amazing alpenglow of Sinopah! It was spectacular crazy and we had the trail to ourselves.

          At No Name Lake, we did the short detour off the main trail to the lake to get our last water filtered before hiking up to Dawson Pass. We were treated to a large bull moose sitting in the trees near the lake. I would never had seen him except for the warm steam of his exhale coming out his nose in the cool morning temps. You need to get water here because you won’t have a chance for the next 5 miles until you come down from Pitamakan Pass.

          Based on advice from a photographer online, make the loop clockwise so as to have the sun at your back for most of the day. Your photos come out without a lot of glare. Another reason to hike it clockwise is that after leaving No Name Lake, there is a steep uphill climb for the next two miles. BUT, you get the uphill portion of the day over with and it’s nice knowing the rest of the day is flat or downhill. Also, when you get to Dawson Pass, you can look over your shoulder and see the boat on the lake carrying all of those hikers that you are now miles ahead of–a great feeling.

          As you hike the aretes of Flinsch and Morgan you will be awestruck by the beauty and power of nature. The view is what epitomizes the park’s name. We saw a lot of bighorn sheep on Dawson Pass/Flinsch. The only warning I would have is to have a jacket for the winds on top.

          Coming down, you can get water again at Oldman Lake, then enjoy the log slow downhill back to your car. The rest will have you hiking in trees, in open areas, and through some huckleberry territory.

          It’s a great day hike. If you wanted to break it up, try and get one of the two sites for a night. and make it a two-day trip. Bottom line, you won’t regret this hike.

          Heck, I am excited for you as I type this. Also, Jake has a wealth of info on this place:
 and as starters. Also, Jake sells an excellent hiking map that really helps in hike-planning. I bought one and now it has become the first thing I reference when considering a new trip. Here it is:


          1. hike734 Avatar

            Jeff, thanks for replying! It’s funny, I like doing it in the opposite direction. I know people who prefer your way for the same reasons you stated. I like going counter-clockwise because I feel that the terrain opens up more interesting. The walk up the Dry Fork drainage is much more interesting than on the way out. Plus, you don’t have to go up that little ridge that comes off Rising Wolf at the end of the day when you’re spent. I’d rather finish the day with a walk along the lake or, if I’ve started early and have hustled a little bit, take the boat. I think the last boat leaves at 5:20 or something like that. 😉

            1. Jeff Rogers Avatar
              Jeff Rogers

              Amen, brother. Those last five down thru the drainage would have been better going up….and I 100% agree: hiking along the lake at the end of the hike with a sun going down at one’s back would be incredible.

              What a dillema; do I want to hike the incredible counter-clockwise loop or the awesome clockwise loop?

              This is a great country.

        2. hike734 Avatar

          Hello Tonya! For the strict Pitamakan/Dawson Loop, there are only two sites that are right off the loop. You can try a couple of other options that are nice as well. One is to stay at Morningstar Lake which is down the Cutbank drainage that you’d head down from Pitamakan Pass. The other option would be to spend your first night at Cobalt Lake, second night at No Name or Upper Two Medicine, then Old Man Lake or Morningstar Lake. You’d get more terrain and really explore the Two Medicine area. (if you stay at Cobalt, you could do a morning day trip up to Two Medicine Pass)

          For Many Glacier, the loop with Poia Lake and Elizabeth Lake (foot or head) is great. Also look at hiking in to Cosley Lake from Chief Mountain, then up further to Mokowanis Lake or Glenns Lake Head, then back down to Elizabeth Foot (or head if it’s not open), then back out.

          All of these trips can be tried in the opposite direction and will still be amazing. I don’t believe that they’re done processing advanced reservations, so some of the sites will probably get taken before you get there, but check out my link above for Walk-in permits. That’s most likely the route you’ll take and, if you’re prepared and paying attention, you can get sweet trips! That’s usually what I do. 😀

        3. Jacob Peterson Avatar
          Jacob Peterson

          Hey Jake. It’s Jacob. Haha. My wife and I are planning to go to GNP this summer. We were looking at “being in Glacier” the 13-20. We plan to do that going to the sun road and Logan pass drive one day. We want to see hidden lake and the day hike to Grinnell glacier. I would really love to surprise her with a beautiful 3-4 day backpacking trip in Glacier. I could hike 10 to 20 miles a day and be just fine. She would be 5 or 10 at most. What would be your suggestion for a 3-4 day backpacking trip in Glacier? I want it to be really pretty for her, she is afraid of heights and not used to steep climbs yet. But we have done these and always just take our time and she does great. Really appreciate all you do. Ordered your day Hikes map, but it won’t be here by the 15th.. any help is appreciated! Thank You again. Jacob

    2. steve crawford Avatar
      steve crawford

      I pre-loaded my application and was ready to submit at 10 a.m. on March 15. By 10:06 a.m. my submittal was accepted. Ten days (and 20 minutes) later I received an e-mail notification that they were ABLE to secure my requested itinerary (first of four choices). Kind of like getting concert tickets, except there were no permit-bots looking to sweep up all the available itineraries!

  2. I’m having difficulty finding a trek in Glacier National Park of about 5-6 days and about 50-60 miles. It is for a scout group. Do you have any suggestions?

    1. Well the first one that comes to mind is the Northern Circle. Permits can be a problem, but it’s worth a look. You can also do it backward. It is traditionally done as:

      Starting at Many Glacier:

      1. Elizabeth Lake Foot
      2. Cosley, Glenn’s (head/foot), Mokowanis Lake or junction
      3. Stoney Indian Pass or Kootenai Lakes
      4. Fifty Mountain
      5. Granite Park Chalet

      That’s an epic 6 day trip that will blow your mind. Because of the passes and such, I’d do that one in August or up to the middle or so of September.

      Other options include Starting at Two Medicine and doing something like:

      1. No Name
      2. Morningstar Lake
      3. Red Eagle Head
      4. Reynolds Creek

      and then either heading up and over Gunsight Pass or hiking or taking a shuttle to the Piegan Pass trailhead and ending up at Many Glacier or taking the shuttle up to Logan Pass and hiking to Granite and out.

      The Coal/Nyack is also a great loop and a bit more remote.

      Couple of extra questions would be do you have shuttle capabilities or would you rely on the park and a paid shuttle? What would your troop be limited on miles per day?

      Basically there are a lot of ways to chop things up into some really cool routes.

  3. Hi there! Great tips – thank you!

    My husband and I are planning to go to Glacier next summer (mid-July) and are looking for a good place to do about a 2.5-day backpacking trip. We have done a few backpacking trips, and can do something fairly strenuous, but we don’t want to hike 20 miles a day in rough terrain, either. We aren’t sure yet whether we will have a vehicle or whether we will need to rely on shuttles, but staying reasonably close to the “main” areas would probably be good, since we will be meeting up with some other people after we’re done. Any suggestions? I am also having trouble figuring out how far it is to different campsites on the maps. Any good place to find this information?

    1. First of all, I’m stoked you’re coming to the Park? Have you ever been to Glacier before? Before I start rambling off on hiking recommendations, I have a couple more questions for you! Are there any places that you know that you want to see? Any particular animals you’d like to see or avoid? Which direction are you coming from? (Kalispell? East Glacier? Canada?)

  4. Scout gal Avatar

    Hello, I have a similar question. 🙂
    Looking for a great backcountry trek 3 days, 2 nights for a group of 6 scouts/adults. This will be our first time out to Glacier, without a lot of backpacking experience and we will be there towards the end of July. It doesn’t look like the gunpass trail camp sites can be reserved until August? We may have a vehicle that can drop us off or may take the shuttle depending on where we end up. Coming on the train via Apgar. Any great ideas? Thanks!!!

  5. Rachel Avatar

    Do I need a permit to camp at Goat’s Haunt (Glacier National Park) – Canada, Waterton access. We’re just heading up this weekend and hope to camp just over the border. Do we just have to pay $5/person, or also have applied for a permit?

    1. If you’re talking about the Goat Haunt campsite at the south end of Waterton Lake, then yes. If you’re talking about the Belly River Campground right over the border, I’d check this site and try and figure it out. (it’s a bit confusing to me… I understand more backcountry permits) 😉

  6. Rachel Avatar

    Yeah, it’s in Glacier NP, Waterton access. We’re just hiking in though and haven’t booked anything ahead of time. I talked to a bunch of people and they said it should be fine to walk in and pay the $5/person. I just thought somehow that we needed to register our hike/plans with a leader and pay $30 ahead of time to get a special ‘permit’ to be allowed to camp as well.

    1. Oh, yeah, you’ll be fine. Just pick up your permit the day before or the morning of and it’s $5 per person. There are a bunch of sites down there. You should hike to Kootenai Lakes and let me know if you see moose there! (probably need some bug spray this time of year)

      1. Jacob McArthur Avatar
        Jacob McArthur

        Do the bugs last until early August? That’s when I’m leaving for my trip.

        1. Should be pretty good by then. Really you’ll have bugs at any point, but you really only notice them in June and into July some. The season is slower getting higher so in some alpine areas the flies will be worse when some of the lower elevations are clearing out. All that to say…. you’ll be good. 😉

          1. Jacob McArthur Avatar
            Jacob McArthur

            Thanks for the knowledge! You helped with my confusion on both backcountry fees and bugs.

  7. Rachel Avatar

    Trip Advisor makes it sounds spectacular. We were considering Lake Francis/Lake Janet. I’m a new at understanding American trail condition reports though. Does this report mean that the trail is good to get to the Kootenai campsite?Goat Haunt R.S. to Kootenai Lakes Cpgd./ 2.5 mi.Initial Clearing Scheduled For: Cleared of downfall 6/7/13 per 650

    1. They might be talking about the Goat Haunt area in general. The shelters at Goat Haunt are like camping in a carport. It’s covering with a concrete floor. I’d opt for Lake Francis or Kootenai Lakes.

      The trail looks cleared. I would hike to Lake Francis if I were you. It’s truly wonderful. You can see that one here:

      Kootenai Lakes can be seen on this blog. If you love moose, I’d go here:

  8. Rachel Avatar

    Awesome! Thanks so much for the information. The videos help for sure to know what to expect, although this June season will be a lot different than a balmy August hike!

    1. True enough, but the waterfalls will be epic!

  9. Hey Jake,

    My group is hiking Bowman Lake, Hole in the Wall and coming out in Waterton this August.

    We have a question about where to leave a car at Bowman and Waterton. Are there places to leave a vehicle, or do you need to park it in campsite and pay the fees for the day you’re parked there?

    Any help/suggestions would be great. You site is tremendous. Think I’ve watched nearly every video…


    1. I don’t think there is anything as far as fees for your car in Waterton. I know there’s not for Bowman.

      1. linda grant Avatar
        linda grant

        You cannot leave a car in a campsite, even if paid for, w/o being there, so would need to park in the backcountry parking anywhere in the park. If coming out in Waterton w/o a car, you can take the Tamarack shuttle to the border. You must make resevations. You cannot legally take the Glacier, Inc shuttle out if you did not ride it in. Tamarack will drop you at the border, where you will walk over and can take the GPI shuttle south, for a fee. In 2013, the only time was 3:45 each day. Or you can hitch.

        1. Thanks for the reply Linda! I had been told awhile ago that you could ride the GPI shuttle from the border to Waterton if you walked across the border and back again, but that was bad info. I just called them to see if they were still running the east side shuttles and they are. It’s a little more complicated with this Xanterra/GPI deal. 😉 Thanks again for the info! I’m going to check out Tamarack.

          1. linda grant Avatar
            linda grant

            To clarify: You can ride the GPI shuttleinto Waterton OK. However, if you (for instance) come into Wton from Goat Haunt (by boat or by hike), you cannot take the GPI shuttle out to the border. You must take the Tamarack shuttle and then walk across the border. I am assuming that you could ride the GPI shuttle into Wton and then not take it out (i.e., hike into Glacier thru Goat Haunt) but have never asked.
            Love your videos, cannot believe you hiked all those miles in such a snowy year!

            Sent from Windows Mail

  10. Jordan Avatar

    I am going to glacier national park in August with a group of 4. We just decided upon the trip and its all been real last minute, so we haven’t planned anything yet. We want to do a backpacking trip if possible for 3-5 nights, but looking at the website it seems like all the campsites are already booked for the dates we are there. Should I fill out a permit request and request an itinerary anyways? Or do you have any suggestions of campsites that might be available? If not, what are our other options? I’ve heard about walk-in requests, but don’t really get how the process works.

    1. So half the backcountry sites are set up for advanced reservations and half of them are for walk-ins. If the site isn’t available on the advanced reservation page, don’t send in an advanced reservation request as it will be a waste of time. If you don’t see a trip on there that you want, then wait until you get here and come in on the afternoon before to make your reservation. I’d suggest keeping an eye on the walk-in availability and plan your trip based upon that. Go in with two or three options or you’ll spend time trying to figure it out and stuff might get booked underneath you.

      Does that make sense? help?

      1. linda grant Avatar
        linda grant

        I advise being at a permit office first thing in the morning the day before your hike, not the afternoon, to get the best possible trip.

  11. Hi Jake,

    Thanks for the advice, but Advance Reservation Availability doesn’t seem to be available–is this typical, or maybe this is only available during certain seasons?

    A. From this page (, select “Advance Reservation Availability”
    B, The system displays:, which is just a map.
    Am I missing something? Please advise, and thanks for the help!

    1. RenegadePilgrim Avatar

      Click on the campsite to see availability.

      1. hike734 Avatar

        Thanks for covering for me! You’re on it!

  12. […] blogging quite a bit to give you guys some more ideas of exploring the Park and help you get your backcountry permit submitted. Remember the advanced reservation lottery is due by April […]

  13. […] They come in two flavors: advanced and walk-in. I’ve already done a video discussing the advanced reservation backcountry permits here including a little bit of overview, so make sure you check that one out. This blog is going to […]

  14. Marguerite Avatar

    any chance you have an update on your comments section listed above. They are mostly a few years old and now I am losing confidence in using your info to help me plan a trip beginning in June 2016. Thanks. Margi

    1. Hello Margi! I’m sorry to hear that you’re losing confidence in my info. The big difference this year will be a newer advanced reservation permitting system. I still need to dig into it to see if it affects anything else. That being said, everything else should be good for planning a trip. Let me know if you have any more specific questions. I tend not to go and update old comments as people have traditionally moved on. I’m open to suggestions, however!

  15. Gary L Avatar

    Great video about the new advanced registration system! Question – there seems to be a new restriction this year for Granite Park that is written in a confusing way. The 2016 Backcountry Campground List says, “Granite Park must be part of an extended itinerary of two or more nights in July, August, and September, excluding Many Glacier or Two Medicine.” Does this mean Granite Park cannot be on the same itinerary as Many Glacier? Or does it mean that if you have Granite Park and Many Glacier on the same itinerary that you must have at least one other campsite on the same itinerary? Thanks in advance.

    1. hike734 Avatar

      I think that they are basically trying to keep people from hiking the highline and camping there, then back out, or hiking to Granite, then hiking down to Many, then hiking out via Piegan. All of those would be legal without the restriction, but it clogs up an already busy site where people who are doing multi-day trips such as the northern loop and the CDT don’t have any other options. So my take on it is that you would need to do granite and be moving on up the northern highline, down to many to the belly or down to many towards st. mary.

      1. Gary L Avatar

        Thanks for the reply. We’re thinking of a 5 day/4 night trip, entering at Logan Pass and spending the first night at Granite Park, then second night at Many Glacier, then third night at Reynolds Creek via Piegan Pass, then fourth night at Lake Ellen WIlson, and finally hiking out at Sperry Trailhead by Lake MacDonald Lodge. It sounds like this is still allowed, correct? The longest day is Many Glacier to Reynolds Creek but this is still a bit under 15 miles.

        1. hike734 Avatar

          That all looks good to me. 😀

  16. Nathan Avatar

    Hey Jake–great site! So my girlfriend and I are looking to do a 5 night backpacking trip in Glacier in August, and we’re on the fence between the Northern Circle from Many Glacier (Granite Park to Elizabeth Lake direction), vs. a “loop” from Two Medicine that would take us through Oldman Lake and up to Medicine Grizzly Lake, then back down to Upper Two Medicine Lake and Cobalt Lake. We’ll probably put one route down as our #1 choice and the other down as our #2, but any strong opinions between the two? Upside of of Northern Circle seems like you get to see more actual glaciers, but there are a couple 10+ mile days in there, whereas the Two Medicine option seems like lower mileage but fewer glaciers (is Lupfer Glacier really the only one you can see there?). Thoughts?

    1. hike734 Avatar

      They are different trips for sure. I would put them both down, but put the Northern Circle down as your first choice as it’s a grand loop. The Two Medicine option is super great as well and features a great goat trail traverse from Dawson Pass to Pitamakan Overlook. I would recommend doing that trip as OLD-MOR (day trip to Medicine Grizzly)-UPT-COB, then out. The other option you could do with a paid shuttle from GPI is COB-UPT-MOR-REH… maybe add OLD if you wanted to slow it down even more! Then you’d come out at St. Mary and then have your shuttle back to your car… or have your shuttle on the first day and hike out to your car.

      1. Nathan Avatar

        Good to hear, many thanks!

  17. Jeff Rogers Avatar
    Jeff Rogers

    Jake: Just another kudos on the map I purchased from you a couple months back. I am using it as my primary source for a Kintla-to-Swiftcurrent group trip we got approved for in August. I was skeptical on this new reservation system, but did the pre-load thing, and on March 1st I was sitting on the keyboard/mouse clicking the SUBMIT button. It took just over 48 hours before I received a confirmation email that my itinerary was approved.

    I continue to watch your YouTube videos and have shared your channel with the other 8 guys on this trip. Your map is way better in trip planning than anything else I could find.

    1. Jeff Rogers Avatar
      Jeff Rogers

      Meant to say: Kintal-to-Swiftcurrent Inn via Ptarmigan.

      1. hike734 Avatar

        Sweet x2! I think that your experience will be better than the next round that starts up here in a week. I’m guessing they had way less applications for 9-12 campers than 1-8. This isn’t the time of year to be a tax accountant or a backcountry office employee for Glacier. 😀

  18. Hi Jake, I’m hoping to score a backcountry permit this summer. I was wondering if you know of any places within the park that offers storage as I’d like to do the trip without a car? Since we’ll be flying in, I’ll have stuff that I wouldn’t want to carry around the whole time. Your blog has been a great help in planning. Thanks.

    1. hike734 Avatar

      I would contact Xanterra or Glacier Park Inc as both of them are hotels that have properties inside of the park. Glacier Park Inc has properties in East Glacier, St. Mary and in Apgar while Xanterra runs Many Glacier, Lake McDonald Lodge, and the stores in Two Medicine.

  19. Andreabassoon Avatar

    Hey Jake,

    Thank you so much for your information on the park! It is very cumbersome to find this info! A couple of questions: three of us are going to camp in Glacier for the first time. We are looking to do a three day backcountry trip on May 28-31 this spring. I have had trouble figuring out which method to use since my trip is BEFORE June 15th. It seems that I should submit a paper application and fax it in? I also have strongly considered exclusively coming for a backcountry pass in person. The only issue is that this is on a five week trip that we’re taking across the country, and we need to stay in the park the evening of our arrival (the 28th), rather than try to get a pass the day before we sleep.

    The next issue I have is not being sure which parts of the park will be open yet. I have found some information about which ranger stations are open, which campsites are open, and when roads typically open, but I am at a loss for which route to put on an application to not be denied. We don’t have any strong feelings about what we “must” or “must not” see while in Glacier. We just want to stay there and experience it! Do you have a recommendation for a three day loop that we could do, parking at a trailhead and then camping for three nights that leads us back to the car in a part of the park that is open as of the last week of May?

    Thanks so much for any help!

    1. hike734 Avatar

      You are right that advanced reservations won’t work for that time period. That’s because there is so little competition for sites. You are now in the land of walk-in permits. Watch that blog and prepare accordingly. Your biggest issue will be just getting something that is open. The rangers will be able to help you with that. I would try for the Belly River area. Maybe ELF/ELH-COS/GLF/GLH. So no paperwork. Just go in there and get it. If you’re coming in too late to actually hike into a site, consider getting your permit for the next night and staying at the Many Glacier front country campground…. or maybe at Apgar to get a taste of the west side, then drive over and begin your backcountry. Ultimately, keep an eye out on the trail status reports and the walk-in availability. Both are in the walk-in permits blog. 😀

      1. Andreabassoon Avatar

        Thanks so much! Very helpful!

  20. How soon should I expect to hear back about the advanced reservations? I submitted it on the morning of March 15th, and the processed the payment, but it’s not yet reflected on the live campground availability site.

    1. hike734 Avatar

      I’m not exactly sure. It depends upon when they process it. Their site says up to four weeks. I hope it’s sooner for you!

      1. If this helps, I put in three requests on the 15th, one at 8:04 AM MT, 8:07 AM MT, and 8:09 AM MT. They processed the one from 8:04 AM on the 16th at 4:56 PM MT, and I am still waiting on the other two to be processed, so they are somewhere between 8:04 AM and 8:07 AM in the processing of the requests as of right now.

        1. That does help, thanks. How do you know they processed it? I submitted mine at 8:06am. I just checked the availability for the campsites I requested and they’re no longer available, so I’m hoping that’s my request, but I gotten an email from the NPS or anything.

          1. They sent an email letting me know that it was processed with the permit number and the approved itinerary. I did notice that the campgrounds I requested changed online a few minutes before I received the email so hopefully you get the ones you want!

            1. hike734 Avatar

              Also check your spam folder if your email service has one. Ken, thanks for the info! With this new system, I’m just as curious how it all works and looks to us on this side. 😀

              1. Just got notice that my 8:07 AM MT request was unable to be fulfilled. So they are at least up to 8:07 AM in the processing.

  21. Just wondering if anyone knows if it would be a problem to add another person to my itinerary that was already approved. My request was for 2 persons, 1 campsite, but have a friend who may want to go. She would be staying in our tent, so I am hoping it won’t be an issue as long as she pays the fee per night.

    1. Jeff Rogers Avatar
      Jeff Rogers

      I can answer that! I was pre-approved for 10 people for a group trip this year and I emailed the Natl Park Service asking the same thing. Basically, I wanted to add a person. They emailed me stating I could show up with 12 people for my group trip as I was already taking 3 campsites. If you are NOT adding another site, it’s ok. In other words, if you have 3 people and are adding one more–you’re good, If you go to 5 people, you would be adding another site and that is not good.

      Here’s their exact quote from the email:

      You can make the changes to the number of people in your party (up to 12) when you come and pick up your permit.

      Backcountry Permit Rangers
      Glacier National Park

      1. hike734 Avatar

        That sounds spot on. The permit is really for the site, not the amount of people, so as long as you don’t have too many people for the site you have, you’ll be good. You will just pay for them when you pick up the actual permit. Thanks Jeff!.

  22. Thank you for all the great information. Sorry if you already answered this question in a different comment, but I did not want to go through every other reply/post.

    My girlfriend and I will be doing a road trip across the country, and thus, we don’t know exactly when we’ll get to Glacier. We do know it will be in August. As a result, only walk-in permits are an option.

    We’re likely only going to do a one or two night backpacking trip. I know the more desirable spots go early, and the backcountry permit office opens at 7:00 a.m. The ranger I spoke to wouldn’t recommend a time to show up, but did say on most days, by the time she arrives at 6:45, there is a bit of a line.

    Can you recommend a time that we should show up to the permit office to increase our likelihood of getting a good spot?

    I’m okay with showing up two hours early if necessary but also don’t want to show up unnecessarily early.

    Also, I’ll review some of the other posts above for recommendations on what trip to do, but if you could quickly advise what the best bang is for a one or two day trip, that’s be awesome!. thanks, man!


    1. hike734 Avatar

      I would show up at 6:30. On the way there, make sure you look at the walk-in availability to see what is open for that night. ELF/ELH/COS are great for overnighters or two night trips (especially from Ptarmigan Tunnel). CRA is beautiful, but super exposed and the wind can really howl. You could do a slower version of the Pitamakan/Dawson loop by staying at NON/OLD/MOR… super epic. That should at least get you rolling. 😉

  23. Will Parker Avatar
    Will Parker

    I applied for a permit at 0800 mountain time on 3/15/16. Requested for 9/12 – 9/17 2016. Kintla HD to Upper Kintla to Boulder Pass to Hole in Wall to Lake Francis to Waterton. Instead I got Kintla Hd to Hole in Wall (2 days) to Boulder Pass to Lake Francis to Waterton. I’m 66 years old. I can’t hike from Kintla Hd to Hole in Wall (15.50) miles. They got me bouncing all over Boulder Pass. That’s an absurd itinerary. Wasted forty bucks.

    Any recourse?

    1. hike734 Avatar

      My guess is that you checked the box that said that the park could fudge things for you. That’s curious that they gave you a 15.5 mile leg. I’m not aware of any recourse, but all is not lost. Keep your itinerary as having Hole in the Wall and Lake Frances are sweet! What you have is a reservation for those campsites. When you go pick up the actual permit, you can see if UPK is available as a walk-in and snag that or you could go in at Bowman. I did like the leg from UPK to Boulder, but mostly just the lake and then when you approach Boulder Pass. The hike along Kintla wasn’t especially great, then goes into a burn, then the trees. I like Bowman’s hike more. Anyway, keep your reservation and look at the walk-in availability when you go. You’re not screwed. 😉

      1. Will Parker Avatar
        Will Parker

        Thanks. I’ve hiked the Kintla – Bowman Loop. Did it in 9/2015. Had the whole hike to ourselves (almost). Wow, did we enjoy that trek. I was really disappointed when I got this year’s itinerary, especially since I sent it in early on 3/15. Geez, it’s almost a 4,000′ elevation up and 1,000 down from Kintla Head to Hole in the Wall. Then back up to Boulder Pass, then back down past Hole in the Wall to Frances? That’s ridiculous, even for a 30 year old let alone an old geezer like me. Yeah, I did check the box for alternatives, but nothing that silly. A friend of mine was wondering if a computer made the change, not a person. Pretty risky to hope for a change to the original itinerary the day prior to the hike when my hiking partner is coming in from Seattle. I live over in Bonners Ferry, Id. Hell, I’d just be happy to get my $40 back. Oh well, live and learn….

        1. jeff rogers Avatar
          jeff rogers

          Will: It probably won’t make you feel better, but some of the most incredible things I have scene in GNP have happened after rain, snow, and wildfires have altered my plans. Sometimes you just do it and see what happens. Besides, I have a feeling there are a ton of people who have tried to get Hole in the Wall who have never gotten it approved. I envy the fact that you live that close! I drive from Texas every year. Good luck and I hope you get what changes you are looking for, but you will have an awesome time regardless!

          Jeff R.

          1. Will Parker Avatar
            Will Parker

            Thanks for the encouragement. Not sure what I’ll do, but we’re leaning toward a hike in a Canadian Provincial Park and just forget about Glacier. Hole in the Wall was beautiful, but Boulder Pass was even better, in our opinion. Wow! Anyway, I’ll keep the goofy itinerary for now in case I decide to risk a change.

  24. Jonathan Miller Avatar
    Jonathan Miller

    My two friends and I are looking to do a 5.5-6 day hike on the western side of Glacier in late September. Since it’s walk-in permitting only at that point, do you have any suggestions as to a good route and what will be the estimated availability of backcountry permits?

    1. hike734 Avatar

      For just the west side, I’d look at heading up Bowman up to Boulder Pass and Hole-in-the-Wall. I’d open things up a bit more and look at trying to get the Northern Circle as that time of year would have a better chance of getting it. Permits are much easier that time of year for sure. You’ll have a great chance of getting something great. If you want to go in at Bowman and out at Kintla, or vice versa, either have two vehicles or do your shuttle first. It will involve hitchhiking which is a little tricky in that area…. especially later in the year. I’d probably just go in and out at Bowman as the hiking there is prettier along the lake.

      1. Jonathan Miller Avatar
        Jonathan Miller

        That sounds great, thanks for the insight!

        1. Will Parker Avatar
          Will Parker

          Better check with the Park before making any plans. Hole In the Wall and Boulder Pass campgrounds are temporarily closed to overnight camping right now for environmental reasons.

          1. Jonathan Miller Avatar
            Jonathan Miller

            Thanks for the heads up, I’ll keep checking on the status and will definitely have alternate routes as well.

            1. hike734 Avatar

              Nice work Will! Yeah, that means that it’s in transition from snow to solid dirt. They want to keep the campgrounds in good shape, so they don’t let folks in when it’s all muddy and mucky. If you’re coming in around a week or so, you should be good to go! It’s melting out super fast now and everything is becoming available which makes me stoked. 😀

              1. Jonathan Miller Avatar
                Jonathan Miller

                That’s good to hear! Hopefully it won’t be an issue in late September.

                1. hike734 Avatar

                  You’ll be good by then. Bring a warm jacket and sunscreen as you never know if you’ll have 80 degree weather or snow. 😀

  25. Molly C. Avatar

    Hello! Do you happen to know if backpacking permits for the 2017 season will also be reservable on March 15 of next year, or are they processed on a rolling basis? Trying to plan ahead 🙂 Thanks for the great info on this site!

    1. hike734 Avatar

      System should be the same as this year. You can preload your trip plans into your profile after the first of the year, then submit it first thing on March 15th!

  26. John Hays Avatar

    Hi Jake,

    I have a question about parking a car at trailheads. We would like to go in Kintla Lake TH and come out 6 days later at Bowman. Is there parking for backcountry hikers the the TH’s?

    Thanks John

    1. Jonathan Miller Avatar
      Jonathan Miller

      I just finished a 6 day hike that started at Kintla Lake and came out at Logan Pass, and there is designated parking at the Kintla Lake trailhead for backcountry campers. The road up to Kintla was very rough when I drove it though, just an FYI.

      1. John Hays Avatar

        Thanks for the info.

        1. Thanks Jonathan! Yup, there is parking for day and extended hiking at both locations. Like Jonathan stated, the roads are rough, but fine for most cars… I’d leave the corvette at home though. 😉

      2. Egan Huang Avatar
        Egan Huang

        Hi Jonathan, could you please share your 6 day itinerary? If you are going to do it again, how would you adjust the itinerary? I am try to do Kintla Lake to Logan Pass in 6 or 7 days.

        1. Jonathan Miller Avatar
          Jonathan Miller

          Hi Egan,

          Here was my itinerary:
          Day 1 start: KLE
          Night 1: Kintla Lake HD (KIN)
          Night 2: Brown Pass (BRO)
          Night 3: Kootenai Lake (KOO)
          Night 4: Fifty Mountain (FIF)
          Night 5: Granite Park (GRN)
          Day 6 exit: LPE

          I would definitely stay at Hole in the Wall for Night 2, it was unavailable for us. Day 2 was a long one, plus climbing a pass, so I would consider staying at Upper Kintla on Night 1. Other than that, it was a great trip, I heard the Sue Lake overlook just past Fifty Mountain campground on the way to Granite is pretty nice, we didn’t do it and after talking to other backpackers that night, we wished we had. There’s a general store in Polebridge that has really good cinnamon rolls/sticky buns and other baked goods, I definitely recommend a stop there.

  27. Great site, all the information is very helpful. I was in Glacier last year for the first time and went with Glacier Guides. I am coming back this summer on my own and have a dumb question as I look at shuttle arrangements etc.. If I am looking at a trip leaving from the Many Glaciers but am staying in St. Mary’s can I get my backcountry permit at the St. Mary’s backcountry permit office vs the Many Glaciers office? I only ask as it seems your recommendation is to get your permit the day prior to leaving in case your itinerary is changed due to weather, bears or other. Since I wont have a car and will need to pay for a shuttle, it would be easier just to get the permit where I am staying versus traveling into Many Glacier. I hope my question makes sense and appreciate the help.

    1. Yes! You can absolutely get your permits at any backcountry office. Just remember to get there early.

  28. Jake,

    Thanks so much for all this info! Your tips were super helpful as we’re planning to (hopefully) backpack the northern circle route in August. I filed for our permits (pre-loaded) for our group of four at exactly 3.5 min after the portal opened on March 15th. I haven’t heard back yet, but fingers crossed we get to do the general route.

    Has anyone here heard back re: their permits for the 2017 season yet?

    1. Hi Hanna,

      I hit send on my pre-loaded trip request at 9:00am and was fortunate enough to hear back two days later with my request fulfilled, albeit with a few modifications.

      1. hike734 Avatar

        Good to hear Scott!

    2. hike734 Avatar

      Looks like Scott got back to you before me but yes, some folks are hearing back already. Just hang out and see. Keeping my fingers crossed for you!

      1. Hi guys,

        Just an update here, my husband and I heard back on the morning of 4/16 and we did receive a permit with some major modifications. While we originally requested the entire northern circle route across 6 nights in August, this is what we got:

        -Entry trailhead at Waterton Site in Canada – Kootenai Lakes (1st night) – Mokowanis Lake (2nd) – Cosley Lake (3rd night) – Elizabeth Lake (4th night) – Exit at Ptarmigan/Iceberg

        Initially, I was disappointed we weren’t going to be staying a few additional nights to cover the Highline Trail and logistically, it looks like we’re going to have to be more savvy considering it’s no longer a simple loop. But, I’m thinking we’ll still be blown away with what we’ve got!

        Jake, I wanted to ask if you (or anyone else out there) had any additional recommendations or thoughts on the route we were given, and, of course, any tips/tricks on how to potentially extend our stay via backpacking (whether through a walk in permit, etc).

        Thank you for all your input!

        1. Jacob Bramante Avatar
          Jacob Bramante

          Your trip is going to be amazing! Some of my favorite places. You do have a few options to extend your trip. When you pick up your actual permit, you can see if, for a 5th night, MAN is available as a walk-in. (Because you are doing a longer trip, that increases the likelihood that MAN and GRN would be available because you’d be picking up walk-in permits many days in advance.) That will have you staying in the auto campground, but can give you the option to go up to GRN the next night and out to Logan Pass. How will you manage shuttles? It looks like GPI is not longer doing the shuttle from Chief Mountain to Many Glacier which may prove difficult for this hike. I think that you can get a taxi out of Browning. I’m still trying to see if there’s an elegant solution to them dumping the route. Grrrr…

          1. Thanks, Jake!

            I’m really hoping we’ll be able to get a walk in permit. Hiking from Granite Chalet to Logan Pass seems amazing!

            As far as transportation…we’re still trying to figure that out. I plan on emailing a few places and seeing if they’re willing to do a customized ride from wherever we drop off our rental car (Many Glacier or Logan Pass, if we get to extend our trip) to Chief Mountain. I think it gets pretty pricey ($300-$400) but it’s not like we’ve got a lot of options!

            1. Jacob Bramante Avatar
              Jacob Bramante

              You probably can park in Many Glacier, then get a taxi ride to the border, walk across, then take a shuttle (arranged in advance) to Waterton. Contacts for the Blackfeet taxi and Waterton shuttles on that page. Shouldn’t be $300 for all of that.

              1. Perfect, thanks Jake! You’re a wealth of knowledge 🙂


  29. I know it is a little late to submit an application for a backpacking trip in Agust. However, do you know if there is any way to see the current availability before submitting? I could not find anything on the website. Thanks

    1. Jacob Bramante Avatar
      Jacob Bramante

      The link that is normally there isn’t active as of right now. Even if it was, it wouldn’t have all of the processed applications as they haven’t gotten through them all. (I’m assuming here, but there are people letting me know that they’ve not heard back yes or no yet.) You could still do so and you’d only be out $10. I would brush up on your walk-in permit knowledge to be ready for that.

  30. This post has been so helpful! We’re still waiting to hear back either way on our requested permits – we submitted them on March 15th. Should we be nervous? Flights already purchased…

  31. Hanna Avatar

    Jake and community,

    Quick question: are mice and other rodents a problem at backcountry campsites? We’re spending 4 nights in august out in GNP and I know we’re required to hang bear bags. Is it necessary to hang a rodent proof bag (i.e. Ursack or armored gear’s steel ratsack) or even a odor proof bag?

    Thanks for the help!

    1. Jacob Bramante Avatar
      Jacob Bramante

      I’ve seen mice at the food prep area, but never heard of issues with food that’s hanging. I just use a normal stuff sack.

  32. Thank you for the great info! I’m trying to plan my first trip to Glacier for my thirtieth birthday in July. I was looking at doing Many Glacier to COS, STO, FIF, GRN, and back to Many Glacier.

    Unfortunately it would be a few days before the Aug 1 date that STO and FIF become available. Is there no hope in applying for that? I don’t think we can push our trip date forward a few days unfortunately.

    Another idea was to avoid the issue by doing Many Glacier to COS, KOO, FLA, GRN, and back to Many Glacier but it seems like COS to KOO is 15.6 miles. Would they not accept that?

    Just wondering what your advice is and if there are any other three to four night loops you would recommend! Thank you!

  33. Trip Suggestion..

    Two – three of us are considering the following routes. Can you make suggestions as to what you recommend please. We are open to other options.

    Bowman Lake Trail to Boulder Pass Trial
    GRAND TOTAL: 50.6 miles

    • Night 1 (Bowman Lake Ranger Station to BOW)
    ○ BOW: Bowman Lake
    • Night 2
    ○ FRA: Lake Francis (no wood fires, 1 night max)
    ○ OR HAW: Hawksbill (no wood fires)
    • Night 3
    ○ UPK: Upper Kintla Lake
    • Night 4
    ○ BRO: Brown Pass (no wood fires) or HOL: Hole in the wall (no wood fires)


    Approx: 37 miles (we would add a few side hikes to get to approx 50 miles.
    Total Elevation change: 7,500
    Park your car at the Lake McDonald Lodge, and catch the first morning shuttle up to Logan Pass. At Logan Pass, grab another shuttle (a big bus) down the other side toward St. Mary (east). Jump off at the Jackson Glacier Turnout, and begin your hike there. If you’re day hiking, some folks choose to stay at the Sperry Chalet for the night, while others briefly visit the Sperry Chalet and then keep heading down the mountain to their car that is waiting for them at Lake McDonald Lodge.

    Gunsight Pass / Lake MacDonald
    • Night 1
    ○ GUN: Gunsight Pass (no wood fires)
    • Night 2
    ○ ELL Lake Ellen Wilson
    • Night 3
    ○ SPE: Sperry
    • Night 4
    SNY: Snyder Lake

    1. For your first trip, I would have my second night be Lake Francis, Hole-in-the-Wall, or Brown Pass. Hawksbill isn’t awesome. If you have to stay there to make the trip happen, then do it, otherwise, choose any of the others. You can go down to Upper Kintla and it’s a beautiful lake, but dropping down all of that elevation only to gain it again is a pretty large price to pay. You could stay at Boulder Pass and then day maybe day hike down there if you felt like it. Most of that trip is spent in tall brush, then trees. But just playing around in that area is awesome. I would basically recommend staying at the lakes and the high country. For the second trip, I like the trip, but we’ll see if the trail opens up because of the Sprague Creek fire. The dining room of the chalet is still standing, but the dormitory burned this past year. The rock work is still there. There are plans to rebuild though.

    2. Jeff Rogers Avatar
      Jeff Rogers

      Hole in the Wall. BEST. CAMPSITE. EVER. Imagine your tent a few feet from a creek. Now imagine that sweet sound of running water as you drift off to sleep. Add an incredible view of the stars, and a perfect alpenglow of Thunderbird Mountain in the morning. It is the total package! You will not regret it.
      Also, Jake sells a map that he made (designed by a hiker for hikers) that is a GREAT resource for planning your trip. It is easy to visualize your flat, slight, and steep inclines when deciding distances and routes. No matter what, enjoy whatever you get. If you aren’t having fun in the Glacier backcountry you aren’t doing it right.

      1. hike734 Avatar

        Easy Jeff! We want people to know that it’s a “nice” campsite, but not the best one ever. 😀 (oh and you don’t have to go easy on bragging about my map… keep that part up!) 😉

  34. Hey Jake! A friend and I did day hikes out of Two Medicine last year and this year are looking to expand to backpacking for 3-4 nights. However, my permit request was late and I didn’t get anything. Do you know how likely it is that we’d get availability for a walk up? We are looking at the third week of August – north fork, goat haunt, or lake mcdonald areas ideally.

    Side note – I met a couple people at Fresh Life in Kalispell who know you!


  35. Subject: Question about Trip Logistics – 3 day trip from Jackson Glacier Overlook

    Hi Jake, thanks for such a fantastic post, found it extremely helpful while planning my 3-day trip. I obtained a permit for 4 of us at the end of september, 2021 from 24th – 26th and the following is our itinerary:
    Jackson Glacier Overlook to Lake Ellen Wilson (11)
    to Sperry Campground (2.5) Day trip up Lincoln Peak and/or Sperry Glacier
    to Lake McDonald Lodge (6)

    We are on a tight timeline during this trip and will be driving in one car. We were planning to drop the car at Lake McDonald and take public transport to the Jackson Glacier Overlook (trailhead). From what I gather on the NPS website, the free park shuttles do not run after labor day weekend. And the paid shuttles seem to run only in the east side of the park. Could you recommend a way to travel from Lake McDonald/Apgar Wildnerness Station to the trailhead? Also, we will be able to pick up the permit only on the day of the departure at 8AM so I’m wondering if day 1 would still be doable give we might have a late start (around 10-11AM). Any suggestions are welcome! Thank you!!

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