Journey to Glacier National Park in an RV Rental
Montana’s Glacier National Park is one of America’s most popular national parks, and for good reason! Its sweeping views, endless trails and peaceful atmosphere make for an incredible outdoor experience, and it’s also a perfect destination for RV camping. Leigh recently rented an RV and took a trip to Glacier National Park. She’ll give you the rundown of what it’s like to camp there and the recommended activities in the park.
Go RV Rentals to Glacier National Park
RVing inside Glacier National Park can sometimes be quite difficult. Most of the park’s campgrounds don’t have utility hookups, so it may be more convenient to camp just outside the park at a private campground. I would recommend one of the many campgrounds in West Glacier, Montana, just a few minutes from the main entrance to the park. However, if you’re also looking to visit some of the sites outside the park, like Whitefish and Flathead Lake, you can also check out some of the campgrounds in Whitefish or Kalispell. Of the campgrounds in West Glacier, I’m a fan of Glacier Campground (the closest to the park) and West Glacier KOA. There’s also San-Suz-Ed RV Park and Mountain Meadow RV Park a bit further outside.
I visited Glacier in the summer season, although it is also possible to visit in winter. Glacier National Park has excellent cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, as well as the nearby Whitefish Ski Resort. The perfect way to start a trip to Glacier National Park is with a drive down the Going-to-the-Sun Road. This 50-mile stretch of road traverses the entire park, giving incredible views of the park and its most famous sights. It is a fantastic way to get acquainted with the park at the start of your adventure.
The drive is an absolute must for any visit to Glacier, but there are some things to keep in mind before setting off. First, the complete stretch of road is usually only open during the peak summer season. Inclement weather and snow build-up often close sections of the road, and in winter, the road is often completely closed. Also, while most RVs are allowed on the road, double-check the size limits if you have an oversize vehicle. Lastly, during the months when the road is completely open, it can become quite crowded. I recommend arriving early in the morning, to catch views undisturbed by other travelers.
Popular Things to Do
Once you’ve seen what the park has to offer, you can take your pick of the many other destinations and adventures on tap at the park. If you have room to splurge a little, Xanterra offers excellent “Red Bus Tours”, using the park’s historic vehicles. Tour offerings vary in route, duration and price, but all of them give opportunities for sweeping vistas, hiking and wildlife-watching. You can check the current offerings at Glacier National Park Lodges (glaciernationalparklodges.com).
If you’d like to explore the park on foot, I always recommend ranger-led tours. They are mostly available starting in June, but there are always opportunities for every interest. There are full-day hikes, shorter walks, as well as presentations by local Native American tribes. My favorite ranger-led activity, however, is the Lake McDonald Boat Tour, and this lake is one of my favorite places in the park. Popular activities like the boat tour do tend to fill up, but you can make reservations online if you’d like to ensure your spot. In the winter season, the park rangers also offer snowshoeing tours.
While guided tours and drives are a great way to explore the park, one of Glacier’s main draws is the chance to get away from it all, to isolate you in nature’s beauty. Even though Glacier has become one of America’s most popular national parks, it’s still possible to find this peacefulness. It just requires a little extra planning. I had a great experience hiking in Logan Pass. And I didn’t have to negotiate with other cars or tourists. All I had to do was get up a little early. The Logan Pass parking lot often fills up by 8:30 am so get there by 7:45 am. I woke up at the crack of dawn, and it’s worth it to see the soft morning light against the mountainside, and not to be disturbed by other park-goers.
Off the Beaten Path (Leave the RV Rental Behind for a Little While)
If you’re still looking to get more off the beaten path, I have heard amazing things about backcountry camping in the park. You’ll have to get a special permit from the park center the night before your planned stay and leave your RV behind for the night, but Glacier’s star-filled sky and wilderness is unparalleled. In fact, Glacier National Park is a certified International Dark Sky Park. If you’re up to it, make sure you ask a park official for more information to make sure you’re fully and safely prepared.
One last thing to remember is that Glacier is not only a U.S. National Park; it is also an International Peace Park, shared with Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada. If you have a passport, the trek up to Canada is a worthwhile inclusion to your trip to Glacier. Your American driver’s license should be valid in Canada as well. Just make sure you check with your RV rental company first, as they may have extra restrictions or requirements for international travel. The drive down the Chief Mountain International Highway is a tourist attraction in itself, but once you’re across the border, makes sure you stop at the Prince of Wales Hotel for a view of the park’s eponymous lake. The Park also has endless possibilities for day hikes.
If you don’t have a passport, you can get one up to eight weeks before your trip, but if not, there is certainly enough in Glacier to keep you occupied. Glacier National Park is one of my favorite parks in America, and if this is your first trip there, you’ll soon see why. If you have any questions about the planning of your trip or things to do, check the National Park Service website. They also run an updated info board of trail and road closings and weather alerts.
To rent an RV near Glacier National Park click here.