Walk In Backcountry Permit 7.7.19-7.12.19

Are you a seasoned hiker, or just starting out? Let us know your questions or experience with the backcountry permit process.

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Walk In Backcountry Permit 7.7.19-7.12.19

Postby _big_fern_ » Sun Jun 09, 2019 1:28 pm

Hi there! First time poster. I am meeting with a friend in Glacier for a backcountry trip in early July starting on either the 7th or 8th and ending on the 12th. We don't have reservations and are doing the walk in route. As our trip approaches I'm getting increasingly nervous over how busy and competitive snagging backcountry permits can be. I plan on getting to one of the permitting offices as early as allowed (I saw Apgar doesn't allow you to start lining up before 4am) to try to lock down an itinerary. What I'm hoping for is a route along Gunsight Pass (yes I am aware that there are steep snowfields over the actual pass), and obtaining one night of undesignated camping near Jackson Glacier. I'm looking to manage my expectations and ask for advice on how to cultivate plans B and C. Also wondering what the likelihood is that absolutely nothing will be available. My friend is making quite a journey for this trip so I really wanna make sure I pull through for him. What can I expect yall?
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Re: Walk In Backcountry Permit 7.7.19-7.12.19

Postby _big_fern_ » Sun Jun 09, 2019 1:35 pm

Also concerned with how transport works. I understand there are shuttles but also some trailheads have parking. Do shuttle pick ups have parking?
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Re: Walk In Backcountry Permit 7.7.19-7.12.19

Postby PeteE » Sun Jun 09, 2019 8:01 pm

_big_fern_ wrote:Hi there! First time poster. I am meeting with a friend in Glacier for a backcountry trip in early July starting on either the 7th or 8th and ending on the 12th. We don't have reservations and are doing the walk in route. As our trip approaches I'm getting increasingly nervous over how busy and competitive snagging backcountry permits can be.

I would expect it to be very busy, and yes very competitive on most popular routes. The Gunsight Pass route is/would be very competitive. But...see below.

I plan on getting to one of the permitting offices as early as allowed (I saw Apgar doesn't allow you to start lining up before 4am) to try to lock down an itinerary.
Good idea if you want anything popular.
What I'm hoping for is a route along Gunsight Pass (yes I am aware that there are steep snowfields over the actual pass), and obtaining one night of undesignated camping near Jackson Glacier.

Your chances of getting an undesignated permit near Jackson Glacier are ZERO in my opinion. Undesignated permits are nearly always reserved for mountaineers summitting peaks that can't be accessed without one. The BC Rangers are going to tell you that with a perfectly good BC campground(and a large one at that) at Gunsight Lake that is less than an hour from the spur trail leading to Jackson Glacier....you aren't gonna get an undesignated permit.

As for the trail up to the pass. It's not just the pass area where extreme snow hazards may exist. There are several places before the pass where snow accumulates and or slides that early in the season. Some aren't very wide, but the snow in them is very steep and there is no way to safely bypass them. The BC Rangers will likely grill you on your "expertise" in negotiating such hazards.
I was up at Jackson Overlook last Sunday, June 2. There was still HEAPS of snow in the pass area and before it as well.
And who knows what the steep trail down from the pass to Lake Ellen Wilson looks like. Or the trail going up to Lincoln Pass from Lake Ellen Wilson.


I'm looking to manage my expectations and ask for advice on how to cultivate plans B and C. Also wondering what the likelihood is that absolutely nothing will be available. My friend is making quite a journey for this trip so I really wanna make sure I pull through for him. What can I expect yall?

The difficulty is that that early in the season, many of the high country trails and passes can be problematic due to snow conditions. There is no way to know this early what these areas will be like a month from now. They could be all melted out, or we could get a big snow dump between now and early July. That's not likely, but is possible.
If I were you, I would contact the Backcountry Office now. Call them on the phone and tell them what you want to do, about your backpacking ability and experience, and especially hazardous travel on snow.
They are good people and strive to get folks the best itinerary possible. Call in the afternoon when they are usually less busy and will have more time to talk to you. 406 888-7857.

Personally, I think you'd have better luck getting a walk up permit in the Belly River region that early in the season.
Maybe others here will have some other suggestions for you.





_big_fern_ wrote:Also concerned with how transport works. I understand there are shuttles but also some trailheads have parking. Do shuttle pick ups have parking?

Shuttle services work pretty well within the park. There can be long lines at popular stops like Logan Pass. Most shuttle stops have ample parking most days as long as you get there reasonably early. Jackson Overlook does.
Check the shuttle links on the GNP page. https://www.nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/directions.htm

And study this page in detail, including the fine print and footnotes if you haven't already.
No use planning on an itinerary if the rules prohibit it 8)
https://www.nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/ ... -2019a.pdf


Good Luck.

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Re: Walk In Backcountry Permit 7.7.19-7.12.19

Postby zozeppelin » Wed Jun 12, 2019 6:27 pm

I'd recommend reserving something in advance if possible, so then you have something in your back pocket at minimum, and at best you have something you can work with and modify when picking up your permit.

I had a quick look and the guts of gunsight (SPE, ELL, GUN) are not available, so that pretty much seals that. I had a better look at now I see they aren't reservable until 7/15 (GUN) or 8/1 (SPE, ELL). Others would know better than me but that probably means there could/should be snow on the pass. The good news is that since they aren't reservable, and if there isn't snow on the pass, there will be 4+ campsites available per campground as a walkin.

The only thing that stood out to me is if you can start on 7/6, then you have ELF-MOJ-KOO-* (ELF-MOJ-KOO-WAT-HAW-out bowman is valid conditions permitting) . Dates for STO and FIF make it seem like they would be snow covered as well. Since GOA isn't open, you can't exit there. Only chance would be Brown to Bowman (which isn't reservable either), if the pass is open, or doubling back. If you can reserve this, maybe add HOW and exit via KIN or BOW when you pickup permit if the passes are clear (car logistics a problem) or do the same but exit via FIF/GRN, again if the drifts are gone.

Other stretch ideas to be modified later would be MAN(start)-ELF-POI-MAN-REY-MAN(end) starting on the 6th or St Mary(start)-REH-REY-MAN-MAN(end) starting on the 7th. Both of these could be linked to the gunsight pass by modifying after reynolds, which should be a high probability because 4+ sites available for walkin and you'll have a 2-3 day head start.
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Re: Walk In Backcountry Permit 7.7.19-7.12.19

Postby PeteE » Wed Jun 12, 2019 7:35 pm

zozeppelin wrote:I'd recommend reserving something in advance if possible, so then you have something in your back pocket at minimum, and at best you have something you can work with and modify when picking up your permit.

Thanks for chiming in on the topic. Fresh ideas always help. And yes, having a reservation "in hand" when you arrive is always a good idea. The BC Office then has "something" to work with.

I had a quick look and the guts of gunsight (SPE, ELL, GUN) are not available, so that pretty much seals that. I had a better look at now I see they aren't reservable until 7/15 (GUN) or 8/1 (SPE, ELL). Others would know better than me but that probably means there could/should be snow on the pass. The good news is that since they aren't reservable, and if there isn't snow on the pass, there will be 4+ campsites available per campground as a walkin.

Keep in mind that the "reservable" dates are arbitrary. You camp at them before those dates IF they are open. Normally that means they need to be dried out, the pit toilet working, etc. etc. So you need to monitor this page for that info https://www.nps.gov/applications/glac/b ... status.cfm

The only thing that stood out to me is if you can start on 7/6, then you have ELF-MOJ-KOO-* (ELF-MOJ-KOO-WAT-HAW-out bowman is valid conditions permitting) . Dates for STO and FIF make it seem like they would be snow covered as well. Since GOA isn't open, you can't exit there. Only chance would be Brown to Bowman (which isn't reservable either), if the pass is open, or doubling back. If you can reserve this, maybe add HOW and exit via KIN or BOW when you pickup permit if the passes are clear (car logistics a problem) or do the same but exit via FIF/GRN, again if the drifts are gone.

You can exit at GOA, but you would have to hike the 8 miles to Waterton Township since the boats won't be running.
And any route exiting at either Kintla or Bowman car campgrounds will be problematic in early-mid July. There is often still lots of snow to cross, especially if exiting at Kintla Lake via Boulder Pass and the cirque around Hole in the Wall. Some of that route can be quite challenging in early-mid July. No way to know about conditions until you arrive.
Regarding exiting at Logan Pass via Fifty Mountain and Granite Park. That would require crossing the infamous Ahern Drift which is not usually possible in early-mid July.
Exiting at Packers Roost via FIF and FLA might be possible, but again, it all depends on conditions prevailing at the time. AND if you can convince the BC Office that "you know what you're doing" regarding travel on snow/ice for those routes that require it.


Other stretch ideas to be modified later would be MAN(start)-ELF-POI-MAN-REY-MAN(end) starting on the 6th or St Mary(start)-REH-REY-MAN-MAN(end) starting on the 7th. Both of these could be linked to the gunsight pass by modifying after reynolds, which should be a high probability because 4+ sites available for walkin and you'll have a 2-3 day head start.

Keep in mind that the Ptarmigan Tunnel will NOT be open in early July. So any route going into or out of the Belly River region using it won't work.


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Re: Walk In Backcountry Permit 7.7.19-7.12.19

Postby _big_fern_ » Wed Jun 12, 2019 10:03 pm

The reservation process takes up to 2 months to go through and I'm going to be there in less than a month.

Is it possible to go to Glacier without a pre-reserved permit and come up with a 4 day itenery walk in permit? All I'm seeing here is pretty discouraging and seems incongruent to what my friend who goes and does backcountry trips in GNP every summer has been telling me. I know its not the same as being there but I've seen video footage on youtube of both Gunsight Pass (recorded July 12, 2015) and footage of the Ahern Drift (June 27th 2015) and it really didn't seem like a big deal, especially if you had microspikes. The Ahern drift you could skirt below even and avoid it all together. I've never been in person so maybe I'm being naive but in these video's I'm seeing regular people traverse these landmarks everyone else keeps making out to be certain death like its no big deal.

Also, luckily we will have 2 cars so that helps transport logistics out quite a bit.
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Re: Walk In Backcountry Permit 7.7.19-7.12.19

Postby PeteE » Thu Jun 13, 2019 12:14 am

_big_fern_ wrote:The reservation process takes up to 2 months to go through and I'm going to be there in less than a month.

Maybe, maybe not. Impossible to know, but putting in for a permit now will, at worst, cost you $10.00 if denied.

Is it possible to go to Glacier without a pre-reserved permit and come up with a 4 day itenery walk in permit?

Absolutely, people do it every day. I've done it and many people here on the chat have done it as well.
There are some who've gotten walk up permits for trips of a week or more.
Most improved their luck by understanding how the walk up permit process works. In the days immediately preceding their tentative start date, they STUDY the following page on this link looking for campsite combinations that will make a trip.
https://www.nps.gov/applications/glac/b ... status.cfm
The page changes daily, so you have to study it every night after 5PM to see what is available. If you do that, you'll know the night before the morning you go in to apply, exactly what is available. You can then form one or more possible itineraries to hand the BC Ranger when you walk in the door...preferably one of the first in the door.
Will you get exactly what you want? Maybe. It all depends on what's available when you get here. AND, if you are willing to be at a permit office as early as 0400 to be in the first few people to be at a computer to apply. That means first or second at the smaller places or in the first 3-4 at Apgar where they have 4 computers if I remember correctly.


All I'm seeing here is pretty discouraging and seems incongruent to what my friend who goes and does backcountry trips in GNP every summer has been telling me.

Well to be blunt, you can believe who you want to believe.
I live here and I spend a lot of time year round in the park. I'm giving you the best advice I can.
And I doubt any of the regular members of this chat would find too much to quarrel with what I have told you so far. If so, I wish they would speak up!!!

I tend to be a bit conservative with people I don't know. Plus it's impossible for me or anyone, including your friend, to predict what the snow conditions, camp site availability, etc. will be on any given day a month in advance.

I know its not the same as being there but I've seen video footage on youtube of both Gunsight Pass (recorded July 12, 2015) and footage of the Ahern Drift (June 27th 2015) and it really didn't seem like a big deal, especially if you had microspikes. The Ahern drift you could skirt below even and avoid it all together. I've never been in person so maybe I'm being naive but in these video's I'm seeing regular people traverse these landmarks everyone else keeps making out to be certain death like its no big deal.

Maybe you are being naive. I don't know you, so I can't say.
2015 was a very dry year as I recall. Everything melted out early. I was able to do Siyeh Pass hike June 20th 2015 wearing just MicroSpikes on the high angle snow coming down the Baring Creek side of the hike.
So sure, people were able to get to places much earlier than is the norm in 2015.
Anyone who can tell you right now what the snow conditions in early July of 2019 will be like is full of sh1t because nobody knows that.

And unless you know the people you saw on the YouTube videos, how do you know they were "regular people"?
And if you are experienced at crossing high angle snow fields, maybe you can cross them in MicroSpikes.

[b][color=#0000FF]That said, most of the experienced people that I know would likely be wearing crampons and carrying an ice ax if they chose to cross some of the snow mentioned on this thread.
Why? Because the folks I know, know just how dangerous some of these snow crossing are from years of experience.
Ultimately, each individual has to decide how much risk they want to take, and how they will handle that risk, e.g. MicroSpikes, crampons, maybe no traction aids at all.
Just remember that people have been seriously injured and a few have died recently(since I moved here) in GNP attempting to cross high angle snow.


Also, luckily we will have 2 cars so that helps transport logistics out quite a bit.
Yes, that will help HEAPS if you get an itinerary that requires it. Travel logistics in GNP is one of the biggest headaches we all have with the better itineraries 8)


And if it makes you feel better... 8)
I think the following is true, but I'm not certain:

The BC Office will issue you a permit for pretty much whatever you want as long as the campsites you choose are open on the dates requested even IF...
The rangers deem the risk(s) to be high or extreme and noting as much on your permit.
That's what I've been told anyway.


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Re: Walk In Backcountry Permit 7.7.19-7.12.19

Postby orin » Thu Jun 13, 2019 1:20 am

zozeppelin wrote
The good news is that since they aren't reservable, and if there isn't snow on the pass, there will be 4+ campsites available per campground as a walkin


This is not necessarily true. If a campsite is still in winter status only 1 permit will be available regardless of campground size. You can check this for any site by going to the "What's available tonight page". It will indicate status and the number of walkin permits available.


big_fern, Pete is giving you good advice. I have reserved sites about this time of year several times. After the March permits are processed I often get a response to a reservation request in a couple of days. The key to a good result is flexibility and knowing how to work the system. There is always quite a bit of uncertainty and you need to be able to deal with that. Scoring the dream reservation doesn't change that. After you arrive your route might be closed by a fire or bears on a carcass. It happens every year. I have a friend whose backcountry motto is "semper gumby". (always flexible)
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Re: Walk In Backcountry Permit 7.7.19-7.12.19

Postby TnTammy » Thu Jun 13, 2019 8:15 am

Not a perfect suggestion but here's what i would do in a similar situation if those were my dates. Checking the BC availability page for the Belly River area, currently one can secure a two nighter at MOJ for July 9th and 10th. I would take that. So you'd be waiting on the nights of the 7th, 8th, & 11th to open up on the Adv. Page at any number of campsites reachable from Chief Mtn TH: GAB, ELF, ELH, HEL, COS, GLF, GLH ( MOL unlikely in the adv. avail page but maybe on walkup). Then, having the permit in hand for atleast the 2 nights at MOJ, gets you the option of signing up for walkup sites at any of those camps to extend your Belly stay, when you pick up the permit on the 8th.
I would watch the Availability Page twice a day for openings and cobble together what i could, esp on the front end (7th & 8th), then be much more confident of filling the latter nights with walkup possibilities. BTW, the 7th is also available right now at MOJ.
Being stationed out of MOJ opens up the possibility of going to Margaret L or as far up toward Stoney Indian as possible. All this territory is BEAUTIFUL. The Lakes, Falls and scenery is well worth days of exploration.

Also ATL is open the 7th and REH & REF are open the 8th if you're interested in Medicine Grizzly or Triple Divide...don't know when that pass opens.

Some of our best backpacks have been walkups but there sure aren't any guarantees. Yes, we got to the BC center (St. Mary) early for those walkups. As stated before, being flexible is the key to getting a satisfying result in Glacier. We had backup plans B, C, and D if we got shot down on our 1st choice. Most anytime in the Glacier Backcountry is time well spent from our experience. 8)

Best of luck to you!
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Re: Walk In Backcountry Permit 7.7.19-7.12.19

Postby zozeppelin » Thu Jun 13, 2019 1:12 pm

orin wrote:zozeppelin wrote
The good news is that since they aren't reservable, and if there isn't snow on the pass, there will be 4+ campsites available per campground as a walkin


This is not necessarily true. If a campsite is still in winter status only 1 permit will be available regardless of campground size. You can check this for any site by going to the "What's available tonight page". It will indicate status and the number of walkin permits available.


big_fern, Pete is giving you good advice. I have reserved sites about this time of year several times. After the March permits are processed I often get a response to a reservation request in a couple of days. The key to a good result is flexibility and knowing how to work the system. There is always quite a bit of uncertainty and you need to be able to deal with that. Scoring the dream reservation doesn't change that. After you arrive your route might be closed by a fire or bears on a carcass. It happens every year. I have a friend whose backcountry motto is "semper gumby". (always flexible)


Don’t disagree, but my point was they wouldn’t be reservable during the initial advanced reservation surge, such that once/if they come off winter status in advance of standard open date there would be 4+ sites available for advanced or walk-in, which is much better than half or more already gone from initial advanced / group reservations for dates after the site opens.

My limited experience has been a couple days to turn around a permit request in the summer, well worth the attempt and likely to work if you see dates available (and if it fails and the dates are still available give them a call to fix the error.)

Is there a rule of thumb for opening for brown, Boulder, Stoney, fifty, ptarmigan, gunsite, and Piegan?
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Re: Walk In Backcountry Permit 7.7.19-7.12.19

Postby PeteE » Wed Jun 19, 2019 7:52 am

Is there a rule of thumb for opening for brown, Boulder, Stoney, fifty, ptarmigan, gunsite, and Piegan?


Not that I know of....in part because of events like this:

The current forecast for GNP elevations above 7000ft is for 6-10 inches of snow for Thursday through Saturday.
Stuff happens.

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Re: Walk In Backcountry Permit 7.7.19-7.12.19

Postby Ear Mountain » Fri Jun 21, 2019 10:40 am

zozeppelin wrote:...Is there a rule of thumb for opening for brown, Boulder, Stoney, fifty, ptarmigan, gunsite, and Piegan?


Glacier Park has their guidelines as to when a campsite will open. The site's trails or paths must be free of snow and have dried out, campsites must be free of snow, the food hanging or storage device must be in place and accessible, the pit toilet must be free of snow and accessible, and a backcountry ranger must verify this during a backcountry patrol. Some exceptions are made. One I've encountered was a campsite that was open except for one tensile which still had a drift of snow on it. That tent site was kept closed until the drift melted out and the tent site dried but the campground was open.
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Re: Walk In Backcountry Permit 7.7.19-7.12.19

Postby PeteE » Fri Jul 12, 2019 4:57 pm

Regarding the Walk In process....

Always good to have a "Plan B", or in my case this morning, a "Plan C" 8)
I had been looking the past few days at this site for possible 2 night backpacks for this weekend:
https://www.nps.gov/applications/glac/b ... status.cfm
A few days ago, my first choice was 2 nights at Atlantic Creek--free day I would go up to Triple Divide pass and/or Triple Divide peak for pics.
I've never been up there.
That didn't work out.

Last night I saw there was a possibility of getting Sat/Sun at Gunsight Lake--I could use free day for a trip to the foot of Jackson Glacier. Never been to Jackson Glacier either.
There was only one spot available for Saturday so I'd need some luck.
I left the house at 0500 just as it was getting light.

Next thing I know, a cop lit me up as I turned off Baker Ave. on to US93--just minutes from home.
Long story short, I had a headlight and a tail light out :(
He was really nice and I got no ticket--he's also a 20 year Marine Corp veteran.
During the conversation helicopter rides, he told me he rides Two Bear as a flight medic and air rescue crewman.
All that delayed me 20minutes.

There were 4 people ahead of me when I arrived at about 0545.
In the course of chatting, the guy in front of me said he was going to ask for GUN-->SPE--GUN-->out.
So,once more, I then had to look for something else.
The only thing that appealed to me was there was 1 spot on Sat. and Sun. was available at Morningstar Lake.
And I got lucky scoring both nights at MOR :D

Not as convenient to Triple Divide as Atlantic Creek would have been, but...
Way better than staying at home 8)

I did a 6.0 mile walk around Whitefish yesterday in 1:45 minutes(~3.4mph) Non Stop--Zero stopped time.
Just a fanny pack but I wasn't fatigued at all. So hopefully I'll be able to get up to Triple Divide.

The point of this long tale is you really need to study this site and know how to use it if you want to take full advantage of the Walk In process.
And you must be flexible and accept that you won't always get your 1st or 2nd choice.
That and getting there early really helps as you can see in my case this morning.

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