Want to Backpack but No reservations

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Want to Backpack but No reservations

Postby OzarkSage » Sat Aug 12, 2017 8:09 pm

My wife and I plan to visit the park and to do a couple back country hikes (hopefully loops) of 2-5 nights. However, I did not prepare ahead of time and so was not able to reserve specific loops. I have been to the park in the past and showed up without reservations and the staff at the back country permit office were able to set up a trip for us. I understand they only reserve half the camping spots. We plan to visit the park the last week of August through the first week of September. Here is our plan, is it reasonable? We have a spot reserved at devil creek campground for our drive in. Then we will go to the park and see if we can find a campsite in the park. It appears they all usually fill up early morning but I figure we will have a chance. Then we can day hike and talk to back country staff about our plans for multi day back country hike and hopefully get one planned. Maybe stay another day in the park drive around exploring or day hiking. We are very flexible about where we go, we are from the Midwest and love hiking in the Ozarks but hiking/backpacking out west is wayyyy better. So we will enjoy any section of GNP, although my wife would prefer the less bear dense areas. Also it looks like you can camp in the Flathead national forest not at designated camp sites just like you can in the national forests here. Is there any spots recommended for those who don't want to fight the crowds?

TLDR: If a couple are flexible and have 11 days but no reservations can they show up find campsites for car camping and ultimately complete a couple multi-day backcountry trips?

Also what are some must sees? Thanks!
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Re: Want to Backpack but No reservations

Postby Selkie » Sun Aug 13, 2017 5:29 am

OzarkSage wrote:TLDR: If a couple are flexible and have 11 days but no reservations can they show up find campsites for car camping and ultimately complete a couple multi-day backcountry trips?

Also what are some must sees? Thanks!


This year is harder than most, particularly heading into LD weekend. The fill times for campgrounds are probably the times when someone radios them in, likely later than actual fill times.
Devil's Creek is a pleasant spot. From there you can access hikes in the Marias Pass area, which sees less traffic than better-known parts of the Park.
It is about 30 miles from the closest backcountry permitting office, the Rangers Station at Two Medicine, and 35 miles from the backcountry office in Apgar. To have a chance at a backpack, it's best to show up at a backcountry office around 5 a.m. with multiple possible itineraries in mind, the backpack to begin the following day (the offices don't open at 5 a.m.; that's when committed folks start lining up).
https://www.nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/backcountry.htm#CP_JUMP_850358
Reservable campgrounds are reserved, but keep an eye open for cancellations. Fish Creek CG closes Sept. 3. St. Mary CG goes off the reservable list on Monday, Sept. 4, but remains open. From St Mary CG it is a short walk to the St Mary info center and permitting office.

As for "must-sees," the rangers at various places and the Apgar Visitor Center can suggest some.

You may be able to get one backpack after LD; two seems a lot to hope for -- and that is assuming the fire situation allows hikers into the backcountry.

Of the two distinct logistical problems, nailing down sites in the frontcountry campgrounds and obtaining a permit for a backpack, I would focus on the first, first.
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Re: Want to Backpack but No reservations

Postby OzarkSage » Sun Aug 13, 2017 8:21 am

Thanks for the reply. I figured we would need to get to the station early. Once we do so I assume we could reserve a frontcountry site for multiple nights then focus on obtaining a backcountry permit (assuming it's not closed).

I just read into the fires a bit and must admit I am unsure whether they are expected to linger another month or if they have a chance of being controlled and the backcountry opening again soon. Is that the extent of what we know at this point or is there indeed more information that I have not yet read?
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Re: Want to Backpack but No reservations

Postby Selkie » Sun Aug 13, 2017 9:25 am

Regarding fires, that is the extent of what we know.

To be clear, the permitting offices for backcountry tent sites are administratively not connected to the frontcountry campgrounds, thought they may be geographically close, as at St Mary or Two Medicine or Many Glacier or Apgar. So it is helpful to gradually move your pick of frontcountry CG closer to one that is quite near a permitting office, if a backpack is a solid goal. Being flexible is an important part of enjoying Glacier.
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Re: Want to Backpack but No reservations

Postby OzarkSage » Sun Aug 13, 2017 1:57 pm

Another good tip. Thanks Selkie
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Re: Want to Backpack but No reservations

Postby PeteE » Sun Aug 13, 2017 3:30 pm

You should try for a site at St Mary or Rising Sun on the East side where most of the good day hiking is...and the smoke isn't quite as bad for now.
And if you do get a site at either if those places, you better stay put there. If you try to move you may wind up with no place to stay. Bird in hand is better than one in the bush kind of deal.
There is no point in moving to get closer. Both are close to the St Mary Visitor Center where you can try for walk-up permit...assuming they begin issuing them again.
And good luck on getting a walk up. You need to be #1 in line if you want something half way decent...5am may not be early enough. Impossible to know this year.
One possible bright spot might be if lots of people cancel their itineraries because of the fires freeing up some campsites.
Maybe you'll luck out and get one then.

pete :wink:

PS
You might want to make a reservation at KOA or Johnson's campground. Both just outside the gate in St Mary. Both are just minutes from the St Mary Visitor center...and both are FAR easier to get into than the park's camp grounds.
America--"The Per-Click Driven Economy". What could possibly go wrong? 8)
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Re: Want to Backpack but No reservations

Postby NWOhioJeff » Mon Aug 14, 2017 8:13 pm

i am in much the same position - arriving aug 23 - in park for 1, 1.5 weeks.... reservations made at st mary koa and waterton and a hotel night at lake mcdonald.... BUT want a 1-2, maybe 3 day hike..... going to be flexible with all that is going on.... can't wait
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Re: Want to Backpack but No reservations

Postby tibber » Thu Aug 17, 2017 1:27 pm

we encountered a few people who had no problem getting their walk up requests from Goat incl FRA HOL BOU type combos. Others got some quirky BC site combos but still were able to get some good ones. And we found in a couple cases the rangers gave erroneous info about some of the hiking... like if snow was involved. This info is now almost a week old as I've had limited internet to be able to contribute information.
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Re: Want to Backpack but No reservations

Postby Jen » Thu Aug 17, 2017 7:56 pm

I was in line at 4:30am on 8/7 at St. Mary to make adjustments to my advance permit. The next person showed up at 5:15.
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Re: Want to Backpack but No reservations

Postby NWOhioJeff » Thu Aug 17, 2017 9:42 pm

looks like i need to set the alarm up VERY early on the 24th, huh???
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Re: Want to Backpack but No reservations

Postby PeteE » Fri Aug 18, 2017 4:29 am

NWOhioJeff wrote:looks like i need to set the alarm up VERY early on the 24th, huh???


I would. Better to be a little early, than too late if you want the best you can get.
I get up at obscene hours of the morning all the time to go hike. Like now...at 4:30am
And I'm just going over for a day hike at Logan Pass. 8)

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