Wilderness Camping

Backcountry Camping at Cracker Lake
Backcountry campers fixing dinner at Cracker Lake



New in 2023!

Glacier National Park is transitioning to the Recreation.gov online reservation system. Wilderness camping reservations will be available on Recreation.gov beginning on March 15. A one-day lottery for large group permits will be available on Pay.gov on March 1. Please visit the Wilderness Permit Advance Reservations page for details and procedures for obtaining advance reservations this year.

Glacier was recommended for inclusion in the National Wilderness Preservation System in 1974. National Park Service policy requires that the park’s character not be degraded and remain unimpaired for future use and enjoyment. Recommended wilderness lands are managed differently than front-country or backcountry areas, and are managed with minimal human manipulation of a diverse, intact, natural ecosystem. Remaining undeveloped, with minimal mechanization and modern influence, wilderness lands provide outstanding opportunities for solitude and primitive, unconfined recreation. For additional information on the Wilderness concept and the park's recommended wilderness areas, visit our Wilderness in Glacier page.

The park’s wilderness camping program is designed to minimize resource impacts while providing positive visitor experiences. The following information takes you from a broad overview of the permitting process to the specific steps needed to refine your plan and enjoy a wilderness adventure in Glacier.

Table of Contents

Camping Fees

  • May 1–October 31
  • Winter Wilderness Camping

Getting a Permit

  • Walk-in Permits
  • Office Locations
  • Advance Reservations

Trip Planning

  • Map and Campsite List
  • Trail Conditions
  • Trail Closures
  • Backcountry Blog
  • Suggested Gear List


  • Campsites
  • Permits
  • Trip Itineraries
  • Group Size
  • Leave No Trace
  • Stock Use
  • Accessibility


  • Drowning
  • Hypothermia
  • Snow and Ice
  • Water Filtration
  • Solo Travel
  • Bears
  • Other Wildlife

Special Trip Considerations

  • Nyack / Coal Creek Camping Zone (at-large or undesignated camping)
  • River Camping
  • Border Crossing
  • Continental Divide Trail
  • Recreation on the Blackfeet Reservation
  • Winter Camping
  • Volunteering

Transportation and Services

  • Shuttles
  • Guided Trips
  • Packing Services

Watching the Backcountry Camping Video is mandatory prior to getting a permit.

Visit our keyboard shortcuts docs for details
15 minutes, 17 seconds

This video will guide you through planning a trip to Glacier's backcountry and provide needed safety and resource protection information. It is required viewing to obtain a backcountry permit.

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10 minutes, 19 seconds

This video will aid in planning a successful winter overnight experience in the park. Park visitors not planning on this level of extreme winter recreation will appreciate the challenges highlighted in this short vignette into Glacier's winter.

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53 seconds

Tips for getting the best backcountry permits.


Camping Fees

From May 1 through October 31, there is a $10 permit fee and additional $7/night per person camping fee payable upon permit issuance at a wilderness permit office. Winter wilderness camping permits (November 1–April 30) are free.
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Getting a Permit

Walk-in Permits

Wilderness permits may be available the day before or day of a desired trip start date. Approximately 30% of all sites in a campground are set aside for walk-in campers. However, that does not mean those sites will be available at all times. Backpackers on longer trips (4 or more nights) may take walk-in sites well in advance. Arrive early the day before your intended trip start date for the best campsite availability. There is a $10 permit fee and additional $7/night per person camping fees, payable at the time of permit issuance. Permits will not be issued after 4:30 pm at any location.

The Canada/USA border reopening this year allows us to resume wilderness permit issuance at the Waterton Lakes National Park Visitor Centre. Hours and dates of operation are below.

Permitting Locations

Last Permit is issued ½ hour prior to station closing

Apgar Backcountry Permit Center
May 1–May 25
8:00 am–4:00 pm

May 26–September 30
7:30 am–5:00 pm

October 1–October 31
8:00 am–4:00 pm

St. Mary Visitor Center
May 26–September 28
7:30 am–5:00 pm

Many Glacier Ranger Station
May 26–September 28
7:30 am–5:00 pm

Two Medicine Ranger Station
May 26–September 30
7:30 am–5:00 pm

Polebridge Ranger Station
May 27–October 12
8:00 am–5:00 pm

Waterton Lakes Visitor Centre*
June 1June 30

July 1-September 30

*The Waterton Visitor Centre
relies on telephone access to Glacier NP in order to issue permits. Due to ongoing IT and phone issues in Glacier NP, there may be substantial delays in securing a Glacier NP wilderness permit from Waterton Lakes NP. We highly recommend visiting a permit issuing station in Glacier NP if you are trying to secure a walk-up permit. For existing Glacier NP reservations with no changes required, the Waterton Visitor Centre will work fine.

*The Waterton Visitor Centre will only issue permits for trips entering at Waterton Townsite (WTE), Goat Haunt Ranger Station (GSE), and Belly River (BRE) trailheads

Advance Reservations
For summer season wilderness camping advance reservations, please visit the Wilderness Camping Advance Reservation page.
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Trip Planning

With its towering mountains, pristine alpine lakes, abundant wildlife, and over 700 miles of trails, Glacier is a backpacking paradise. Due to individual differences in fitness, backpacking experience, and personal preference, we don’t offer specific trip recommendations. What we can tell you is that in the broadest sense, Glacier's wilderness comes in two flavors—east and west roughly split along the Continental Divide. Each trail on a respective side offers a similar "feel." West side trails start at around 3,200 feet in elevation, are more heavily forested, and offer the greatest solitude. East of the divide, trails start at around 5,000 feet and the terrain is more sparsely vegetated, creating more open vistas and attracting more crowds.

Mapping and Campsite Information

Use this Wilderness Campground Map and camping information to help plan your trip.

We have KMZ and GPX files for wilderness campgrounds, trailheads, and trails, that you can import into mapping programs (Google Earth, Cal Topo, etc.) to aid in planning your trip in the park.

GPS data points are also available.

For specific trail descriptions and other planning tools, visit Glacier's non-profit partner, the Glacier National Park Conservancy.

Trail Conditions

Trail conditions change frequently, but our Trail Status Reports page offers some seasonal generalizations as well as specific trail condition updates throughout the summer season, that will help you know what to expect in the backcountry. Trail status reports offer specific details about a given trail on a given date, however, Glacier's wilderness is vast and some trail status reports may not be updated for several weeks, or even months for lesser used trails. For this reason, trail status reports only offer a snapshot of trail conditions and should be used in conjunction with other tools such as weather reports, prior backpacking experience in Glacier, and assessment of your own backpacking skill level.

Trail Closures

Hazardous or emergency conditions may make it necessary to close a trail segment. These closures may effect your planned itinerary. Wilderness rangers will make an effort to contact you on the trail to let you know your options and assist with route changes. It may take a while for everyone to be contacted. Do not enter any closed trail, even if it was part of your planned itinerary. See the current closures and postings list.

Suggested Gear List

The following items should be carried on every trip into Glacier’s wilderness:

  • Bear Spray
  • Topographic map
  • Compass
  • First Aid Kit
  • High-calorie food
  • Shelter
  • Sleeping bag and pad
  • Appropriate footwear
  • Wool or synthetic clothing to layer (dry clothes to sleep in
  • Rain jacket and pants
  • Lightweight camp shoe
  • Footwear for stream crossings
  • A weatherproof food and garbage hanging bag
  • 25 feet of rope for hanging food and garbage
  • Water container and water filter
  • Campstove and fuel
  • Emergency signaling device
  • Insect repellent

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Wilderness camping is available in 65 designated campgrounds throughout the park, with the exception of the Nyack / Coal Creek camping zone where both designated campgrounds and at large camping are available.


A wilderness use permit is required for all overnight camping, and must be in your possession while in the backcountry. They are valid only for the dates, locations, and party size specified.

Trip Itineraries

Itineraries must be contiguous. You cannot exit one trailhead and drive to another trailhead to access campgrounds on the same trip. Note: Hiking short road sections on foot—Many Glacier and Two Medicine developed areas, crossing Going to the Sun Road at Jackson Glacier Overlook—to connect longer itineraries is permitted.

Group Size

The maximum party size allowed is 12. Each wilderness campground has 2-7 campsites. Each campsite is limited to four (4) people.

Leave No Trace

Many of Glacier’s wilderness camping regulations are based on Leave No Trace (LNT) outdoor ethics. LNT tells us that by concentrating impacts, including eating, sleeping, and human waste disposal, we prevent degradation of a broader area. Concentrating impacts essentially creates small pockets of impact and leaves nearly pristine conditions over larger areas. For more information visit LNT.org.

Stock Use
Information regarding the use of stock in wilderness can be found on our Private Stock Use page.


Wheelchairs and trained service dogs are appropriate accommodations in wilderness. Due to potential hazardous interactions with bears, service dogs are discouraged.
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Use extreme caution near water. Swift, cold glacial streams and rivers, moss-covered rocks, and slippery logs are dangerous. Avoid wading in or fording swift streams. Never walk, play, or climb on slippery rocks and logs, especially around waterfalls.


Be prepared for sudden weather changes. Use rain gear before you become wet. If your clothes do become wet replace them with dry ones. Layer with synthetic or wool clothing as a base layer. Minimize wind exposure. Eat high-energy foods often.

Snow and Ice

Snowfields and glaciers can present serious hazards. Snow bridges may conceal deep crevasses on glaciers or hidden cavities under snowfields. These bridges may collapse under the weight of an unsuspecting hiker. Use extreme caution when crossing steep snowfields on trails and in the backcountry.

Water Filtration

The protozoan Giardia lamblia may be present in lakes and streams. When ingested, their reproductive cysts may cause an intestinal disorder that appears weeks after your trip. The easiest method of effective water treatment is to boil water for one minute (up to five minutes at higher elevations) or use a filtration system capable of killing or removing particles as small as 1 micron.

Solo Travel

Solo travel in wilderness is not recommended. The best insurance for a safe and enjoyable trip rests with your ability to exercise good judgment, avoid unnecessary risks, and assume responsibility for your own safety while visiting Glacier’s wilderness.


Approaching, viewing, or engaging in any activity within 100 yards of bears or wolves, or within 25 yards of any other wildlife is prohibited. Use binoculars or a telephoto lens to improve your view. Keep the animal’s line of travel or escape route clear and move away if wildlife approaches you. Visit our Bear Safety page to find detailed information about hiking in bear country.

Other Wildlife

Deer, mountain goats, marmots, and other rodents are attracted to urine and sweat. They will chew holes in clothes, boots, and camping gear if left unattended.

Mosquitoes and flies can be a nuisance in some areas in July and August. Bring insect repellent or be prepared to cover up with lightweight clothing and perhaps a head net.
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Special Trip Considerations

Nyack / Coal Creek Camping Zone

This area offers greater opportunities for solitude along with greater challenges in the form of at-large or undesignated camping. An Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) approved food storage device is required for all at-large camping. You must show your food storage device to the ranger issuing your undesignated permit before the permit will be issued. In addition to at-large camping, designated campgrounds are also available in the Nyack/Coal Creek area. Undesignated camping is only available on a walk-up basis the day before or day of a trip start date.

Undesignated Camping Regulations

  • Party size is limited to a maximum of six (6) campers (May 1 to October 31).
  • Camping is limited to a maximum of two (2) nights at any one (1) campsite
  • Wood fires are prohibited. Use of self-contained cookstoves only.
  • Campsites must be located a minimum of 100 feet from lakes, streams, and rivers
  • Campsites must be located a minimum of 1/2 mile and out of sight and sound of any trail corridor, designated campground, patrol cabin, fire lookout, roadway, developed area, or other camping party.
  • All food, cookware, and garbage must be stored in an Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) approved bear resistant food container, and secured at least 100 feet from your campsite at all times, except when eating
  • Stock are not permitted in undesignated campsites
  • Utilize a “cat hole” to deposit human waste in organic soil, at least 200 feet from water, or use a “Wag bag”. Pack out toilet paper and other toilet waste products including feminine hygiene products. Urinate on rocks, gravel, or snow to minimize vegetation damage and destructive digging caused by salt seeking animals

River Camping

Interested in doing an overnight river trip? Find all the information you need on our River Camping Permits page. Advance reservations are not allowed for river camping.

Border Crossing

There are special considerations to take into account before you plan a trip across the International Boundary at Goat Haunt. Please read the information on our Visiting Goat Haunt page for details. Crossing the border without following U.S. and Canadian customs procedures can result in a $5,000.00 fine.

Continental Divide Trail

A 110-mile segment of The Continental Divide National Scenic Trail (CDT) runs through Glacier. The designated CDT route and an early/late season alternate route are marked in blue on the map.

Recreation on Blackfeet Reservation

A Conservation/Recreation Use Permit is required for all recreational activities on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. A separate permit is required for fishing on the reservation. For further information call (406) 338-7207.

Winter Camping

Visit our Winter Wilderness Camping page for details on this special, but challenging, time of the year to be in Glacier's backcountry.
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Transportation and Services


Glacier Shuttle System
From early July to Labor Day, free park shuttles run along Going-to-the-Sun Road between Apgar Visitor Center and St. Mary Visitor Center, stopping at many trailheads along the way.

Additional Services

Glacier Guides offers guided half day, full day, overnight hikes and chalet hikes. Porter services to deliver your gear to backcountry campsites are available. Equipment rental in West Glacier is available. See the Guided Hiking page for contact information to schedule a trip

Swan Mountain Outfitters offers drop-camp service using stock to pack your gear into certain sites. A backcountry permit is required.
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Last updated: July 10, 2023

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

PO Box 128
West Glacier, MT 59936



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