The North Fork is an area of reduced visitation in the northwest corner of Glacier National Park, reached only by private vehicle on unpaved roads. Those who travel the rough dirt roads are rewarded with a living laboratory of forest succession in recently burned areas, views of Bowman and Kintla Lakes, homesteading sites, and chances to see and hear rare park wildlife.
With limited amenities, the North Fork invites a self-reliant visitor. Allow all day to drive to and from Kintla and Bowman Lakes, and pack a lunch. The only services in this area are available outside of the park in the community of Polebridge. Cell phone signals are nonexistent, and visitors should be self-sufficient and prepared to enjoy the area without the need of modern conveniences. Driving in the North Fork requires careful attention. A four-wheel or all-wheel drive vehicle, and the ability to change a tire are recommended, as flat tires are a common problem. Vehicles over 21’ and/or trailers are not permitted on any roads in the North Fork, with the exception of private horse trailers accessing the Bowman horse corral.
A series of fires over the last 30 years have resulted in a broad mix of forests of varying ages, each one attracting a slightly different complement of species. These fires have created large areas of habitat for rare woodpeckers, attracting birders from far and wide to search out the Northern Three-toed and Black-backed Woodpeckers. Today, as the forests continue to mature, different species such as the rare Lewis’ Woodpecker can be found.
As you drive along the dusty, bumpy, and slow-going North Fork roads, imagine the challenges faced by early settlers. Isolation, short growing seasons, wild country, and harsh weather tested those brave enough to live in this remote and demanding location. Those challenges faced by early homesteaders still exist today, but what were perceived as difficulties then, now lure visitors away from modern comforts.
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