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[cdt-l] Glacier campgrounds
I wouldn't bother with advance reservations this far in advance, since, as
you probably know, there's no way of knowing which campsites will be open
when you get there. That's why they ignore reservation requests that are
too early - they don't know either. If you wait until the week you leave,
you may be able to talk to them on the phone to see what campsites are open,
and plan your itinerary then, with or without advance reservations. We did
our first hike through Glacier in late-July/early-August 1998 and had little
problem getting reservations because the "reservation" season had just
opened. As long as we were willing to be flexible, they were willing to work
with us. Normal opening time for many trails in Glacier is mid to late July.
Our experience at Glacier during our thruhike was mixed. We were early in
the season (late June), so there wasn't much competition for campsites, but
many of the campsites were closed (like under 5 to 8 feet of snow). You can
sometimes get an undesignated campsite permit when the campsites aren't open
- if you're willing to carry a bear canister. They had just opened the road
through the park the week before we got there, and not all the trail bridges
had been put up. When we got there, most of the trails hadn't even been
hiked, except by two thruhikers who were a week ahead of us. In fact, one
ranger told us the trails were impassible, though since we had already been
three weeks on the trail, they weren't too hesitant to give us reservations.
The two thruhikers ahead of us had to prove that they could handle the snow,
and were made to jump through hoops before they were given permits. (They
hiked up over Swiftcurrent Pass and back, to show they could handle the
heavy snow on that trail.)
We borrowed a car in East Glacier and drove to Two Medicine Ranger Station
to get our permit. The person at the desk said she didn't have a computer
and couldn't help us, so we had to drive 40 miles up the road to St. Mary's.
The ranger there went over our options, but we couldn't get our reservation
at the time as it was too late in the day and we weren't going to be able to
leave the next day because we had wasted so much time chasing reservations.
(You can get a walk in reservation only if it's within 24 hours of your
departure. More than that and you have to pay an additional $20 reservation
fee.) So the next day, armed with the info he gave us, we drove back to Two
Medicine and made our reservations with a more competent ranger who
telephoned in our itinerary to someone who could enter it into the system.
We took the Chief Mountain route as the campsites at 50 Mountain and Granite
Park were both closed, and the trail itself was pretty iffy. Chief Mountain
was a nice route, as it turned out. As nice as the Highline, in its way.
[On the other hand, we got kicked out of the park midway because of bear
activity which closed the trail, so it was a good thing we had done the CDT
through the park on our 1998 trip. That kind of thing can't be planned for,
but may end up as part of your Glacier experience.]
As you've noted, the problem with Glacier is that the campsites are odd
distances apart for thruhikers. You end up with either very short days
(10-14 miles) or very long ones. For a southbounder in June/July,
twenty-plus miles can be a real stretch if there is a lot of snow or if you
are just starting the trail. How much of a stretch depends a lot on your
snow experience and comfort level with heavy snowpack conditions. We decided
to look at it as a mini-vacation and just enjoy the shorter miles. Since it
rained and/or snowed every day we were there, the short days were even more
welcome, as I got close to hypothermic going over Red Pass.
If you're interested in our 98 journal, it's at:
It's also under "Journals" on the ALDHA-W page at:
The ALDHA-W page also has the 97 journal for our "pre-hike" through the
Cochetopa and the Weminuche in Colorado.
Anyhow, have fun. It is a beautiful hike, whichever route you take.
Bruce Vander Lee <email@example.com> wrote:
>I am looking at the Glacier Advance Reservation Application and wondering
>what would be a typical sequence of campgrounds for a southbound hiker
>starting in late June or early July to use? In particular, I am curious
>about the north end where Kootenai Lake opens early, but Fifty Mountain
>doesn't open until late. The next campground would be the Many Glacier
>Auto, which is about 28 miles from Kootenai Lake, probably feasible but not
>my choice for the second day. Apparently, if you submit you app for
>campgrounds that aren't open on your dates, it gets tossed.
>Your thoughts/experiences are welcome. I have heard several stories of
>hikers (all northbounders I think) being hassled in Glacier. Any
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