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Old 03-16-2023, 10:04 AM   #1
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Default Glaicier Park in August

My wife and I are planning a trip to the west coast this summer. On the way back we are planning on going through Glacier Park if we can book a time on the road to the sun. All the campgrounds along the road are First come First served. Can we count on getting a site? or should we assume we will be camping outside of the park?
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Old 03-16-2023, 02:58 PM   #2
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When the wife and I visited Glacier, we stayed in St. Mary's, MT at Johnson's RV campground. Drove to the east gate and took the bus ride on the going to the sun road instead of driving it. Lots of road construction during our visit (each year). On the way back we visited Devils Tower and stayed in the campground at the base.
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Old 03-16-2023, 09:50 PM   #3
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You can reserve St Mary Campground on the east side of the Going to the Sun Road for August. The sites go fast though when they are released. I also just got a road pass for the Going to Sun Highway for later this summer when the passes were released online but they were gone in about 5 min after they were released.

I would be reluctant to go to any of these National Parks anymore without reservations and then having to depend on finding a first come, first serve campsite. I have seen long lines at the entrance of some of these campgrounds with people waiting in line half the night trying to get a site in the morning when people start to leave. I have no interest in dealing with that hassle and uncertainty anymore.
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Old 03-16-2023, 10:05 PM   #4
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We have volunteered at Glacier as camp hosts for two seasons. Last season we were on the east side.

Yep, St. Mary is reservation only and will fill almost instantly. Anyone who books for only one night is suspect in our book - so many of them never show up, probably to get a road ticket, but we can't give the sites to anyone else for fear that they will make an appearance.

Also, yes, Rising Sun is 100% first come first served, and fills quickly every morning, usually well before noon. One campground just outside the park that never seemed to fill up is the Blackfeet Nation location called Chewing Black Bones. Looked nice from the road, though we never went in there. Also never seemed to be full. That said, if you're not actually staying in a GNP campsite, you don't get a road ticket that way. OTOH, you can get a road ticket by making reservations for a boat ride on Lake McDonald on the west side - that'll get you over the pass and back if you have a small enough vehicle. It's my understanding that Many Glacier may have similar restrictions this year, so you may want to book a boat ride or a hotel / motel room there as well if you want to visit there. They have a campground, but it's also reservation and fills up fast.

Oh, and we informally call that month "Angry August," because the park gets so crowded, people become short-tempered, and the staff is at their wit's end. It's a tough month to work or volunteer at GNP.
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Old 03-18-2023, 08:26 AM   #5
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Having grown up in Butte in the 70s we would go to Glacier quite often I don't remember it being that crowded.
As we are really just driving through we won't have time to try for a FF campground and may just camp either before or after the park if we get a reservation on the road. If not may just stay on the interstate to the south.
Wish us luck.
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Old 03-18-2023, 02:23 PM   #6
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New message from RVtravel.com.
Montana’s Glacier National Park is reopening Avalanche, Two Medicine, and Many Glacier campgrounds for the 2023 camping season after closing due to COVID-19 in 2020. The park will require advance reservations through Recreation.gov to better manage visitor flow and improve the camping experience. Two Medicine Campground will open on June 5 and Many Glacier Campground will open on June 9. Avalanche Campground is set to open on July 17, or potentially earlier if the full length of the Going-to-the-Sun Road opens sooner.
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Old 03-18-2023, 03:26 PM   #7
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Avalanche campground is the real news in that release, thanks for sharing.

Two Medicine and Many Glacier were both open in 2022. Two Medicine was FF, and Many Glacier was, I think, 100% reservation.

Also, if the Park Superintendent has any power over the snow drifts on GTTSR, that road will be opened on or before July 4th. They love to get it open before the end of June when they can. 2022 was a tough year for GTTSR, which opened quite late due to late large snowfalls. If you are there before the road opens to vehicles you can ride your bike (or your e-bike) or hike up to the closure point from either side. There's usually a short window where the road is open all the way to the pass but still closed to vehicles, when you can ride all the way up to the pass and then over the other side if you want.

That said, keep in mind that no camper over 21 feet long or more than 10' high should even attempt GTTSR. IF you do and the rangers catch you, it will be a very expensive mistake. If you do and they don't catch you but you whack into something with your camper, that will become an even more expensive mistake. Just don't.

We camp in a Sprinter 3500 170 EXT, and thus we were unable to go over the pass in our van. Other options include the Big Red Bus ($$$$), the park shuttles (lots of waiting, but at least you can get up there).
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Old 03-18-2023, 03:38 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CanuckRV View Post
Having grown up in Butte in the 70s we would go to Glacier quite often I don't remember it being that crowded.
As we are really just driving through we won't have time to try for a FF campground and may just camp either before or after the park if we get a reservation on the road. If not may just stay on the interstate to the south.
Wish us luck.
Sadly, those days of low crowds in GNP are long long gone. These days it's all about their attempts to manage the impossible crowds, especially in August while GTTSR is open. I'd still give Sunrise or Two Medicine a shot as you pass by from the east side, just in case. From the west side, Apgar was a reservation-only campground in 2022, and that may also be true this year. Lastly, they aren't done with road construction from the west side, so 2023 will be another year of packing your patience and dealing with rough conditions if that road is on your "must do" list.

For all these reasons, we're volunteering elsewhere in the National Parks system for 2023. We love GNP, but it can be exhausting, and with GTTSR still a mess, that only makes it worse. Maybe we'll come back in 2024, but with so many other parks to see and volunteer at, we still have lots of other places we want to try before heading back again after two seasons there.
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Old 03-19-2023, 09:19 AM   #9
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We recounted the days we have available and just don't think we can even try that route but will have to fly back the interstate. maybe another time.
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Old 03-20-2023, 12:14 AM   #10
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We crossed Many Glacier from west to east when we had our 170 extended Sprinter (24 ft.) The gate keeper let us but did ask if we were comfortable to do so. In crossing both ways in Sprinters of the past a couple of times, I said yes. There are some areas going east the west I would say iffy over 10 ft. high but I doubt most B's would be affected.
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Old 03-21-2023, 12:45 AM   #11
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That was then, this is now. If a NPS Law Enforcement ranger catches you up there in an extended high-roof Sprinter 3500 or Transit 350, it's going to get expensive. They no longer ask whether you feel "comfortable." They simply enforce the heck out of that rule. Too many yahoos cracking up their vehicles on GTTSR and causing traffic jams that take at least a day to clear out again. Again, I know this because I've volunteered there for two seasons, most recently in 2022. Go for it if you must, but have that wallet ready for quite a shock.
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Old 03-21-2023, 01:05 AM   #12
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The current road limit is 21' long, x 8 ft wide x 10 ft high which allows all but the longest Class B's. I remember seeing one RV that got too far onto the shoulder and dropped a wheel down into one of the deep rain gutter holes and got his vehicle hung up on the frame. What a disaster when the cars are bumper to bumper anyway.
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Old 03-21-2023, 02:51 PM   #13
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It's arbitrary to a great extent. You can wreck or go too far onto the shoulder and drop a wheel in a 21 foot or shorter van or stupidly drive bumper to bumper as well. There is nowhere on that road a 170" wheel base cannot stay in their lane. I can understand the height and width the rock overhangs and narrow roads. Oh well, I have a 19'-4" van now.
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Old 03-23-2023, 12:44 AM   #14
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Sure there is. Anywhere on GTTSR that a Law Enforcement ranger sees you driving an extended 170" wheelbase vehicle that's more than 21' long and they decide to ticket you is a something that will stop ya.

Good on ya for having a shorter van, I've seen the ARV videos, pretty cool!
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Old 03-27-2023, 03:56 AM   #15
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Default Glacier - August visit timing

If your dates are flexible try to arrive as late as possible in August, or even after Labor Day (US date). US schools will start beginning in mid-August so the end-of-summer vacationers will be in much reduced numbers and your odds improve. That is especially true after Labor Day when virtually all schools and many universities are in session. Your risk is that this is the shoulder season for weather and snow is a possibility in September. After mid-September keep your eye on the weather, which can go either way. Happy travels!
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