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:
- The system is an online only, first-come/first-served system that opens on March 15th at 8am Mountain Time.
- 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.
- Check the backcountry campground, trailhead, and area information page to see site restrictions, get campsite and trailhead codes, see distances between campsites, etc.
- Advanced reservations are only available for trips between June 15th and September 30th.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 $10 and $30 fees, but it does that the $7 per person/per night fees)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Reservations are non-transferrable. Whoever is the trip leader must pick up the permit and be on the trip.
- 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.)
Important links are below:
- Glacier National Park Official Page
- Glacier National Park Official Backcountry Page
- Backcountry campground, trailhead, and area information page
- Backcountry Reservations Page
- Advanced Reservation Availability
- Trail Status Reports
- Trail and Area Closures
- Official Tutorial
- Application for Groups of 1-8
- Application for Groups of 9-12