Camping in Whitefish, Montana and Glacier National Park

Camping at Avalanche Campground, Glacier National Park
Camping at Avalanche Campground, Glacier National Park.

Monica Prelle

On the western slope of the Continental Divide and near the west entrance to Glacier National Park is the town of Whitefish, Montana. With its nuevo old west storefronts, bustling downtown, lakes, rivers ​and rugged wilderness, Whitefish is the perfect adventure portal for a camping trip.

If you haven't yet visited big sky country, it's time to pack up and go camping. Now, that's easier to do than ever before and you don't have to drive across the country. Glacier International Airport near Whitefish, Montana has direct flights from Minneapolis, Seattle, Salt Lake City, Denver, Atlanta, Chicago, Las Vegas, and San Francisco/Oakland.

Glacier was voted the best national park for camping in the 2012 Reader's Choice Award and Montana was a finalist in the best state for camping category. There are plenty of reasons why—remote wilderness, alpine lakes, world-class fishing, miles of hiking trails, plenty of campgrounds, open land and solitude. But to truly understand the scope of Montana, you'll just have to see for yourself.

Note: Montana is home to grizzly and black bears, among a host of other wild animals. Proper food storage is necessary and required by law. Before you go, familiarize yourself with bear safety information and how to store food in grizzly country.

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Camping in and Around Whitefish

Hungry Horse Reservoir near Whitefish, Montana
Monica Prelle

Located just outside of town, Whitefish State Park Campground has 25 sites for RV, trailer, tent, and bicyclist camping. The campground is situated on the shores of Whitefish Lake and is nestled in a shaded forest. The location to town, hiking and biking trails and the lakefront location make it a favorite camping destination. Campsite number 8 is great for its lake access and views. All sites have a tent pad, picnic table, and fire ring with grill. Reservations are recommended.

Emery Bay Campground at Hungry Horse Reservoir is a local's favorite spot. The turquoise lake and alpine peaks create a dramatic landscape for your camping getaway. Most sites at the Flathead National Forest campground have lake and mountain views and are close to the lakeshore. Sites 2, 5, and 6 are excellent for their lakefront location; you'll be lucky to score on these spots on the weekend. Campsites are first-come, first-served except for the two group campsites that can be reserved.

Situated next to Spotted Bear and South Fork Flathead Rivers, Spotted Bear Campground is a small 13-site campground overlooking the river. The USFS Campground is first-come, first-served and because of its small size, can fill up quickly.

Just outside of Glacier National Park and about 20 miles north of Columbia Falls is the Big Creek Campground in Flathead National Forest. Situated on the North Fork of the Wild and Scenic Flathead River, the camping area is ideal for river floating and fishing. Glacier Institute's Big Creek Outdoor Education Center is nearby and provides learning opportunities and programs for visitors. There are 22 campsites; sites 13, 14, and 15 have the best riverfront location, though all campsites are in close proximity to the water. Group campsites can be reserved.

Tally Lake Campground is located 20 minutes west of Whitefish. With 40 campsites, a boat launch, picnic and beach area, the lakeside campground is a favorite summer destination. Tally is the deepest natural lake in Montana and is home to kokanee salmon, northern pike and a variety of trout.

Wayfarers State Park Campground at Flathead Lake is said to have the best sunset views in Montana. The camping area is about 45 minutes south of Whitefish and has access to the lake for boating and swimming. There are 30 campsites available for reservation and several first-come, first-serve walk-in sites are accessible for those arriving by boat.

There are a number of private campgrounds and RV parks in and around Whitefish, Montana.

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Glacier National Park Campgrounds

Mc Donald Lake, Glacier National Park
Monica Prelle

Undoubtedly one of the wildest and rugged parks in the National Parks System, Glacier is a camping destination for outdoors enthusiasts, families, and backcountry hikers. Camping areas are located near alpine meadows, rugged peaks, and pristine rivers and lakes. With 13 campgrounds and more than 1,000 campsites to choose from, there is no shortage of camping options.

Famous for its rugged wilderness, Glacier is a top destination for backpacking. The park has a well-organized backcountry camping system. Before you go, check the trail status, backcountry campground reservation availability, and read the backcountry camping guide.

Glacier's website has detailed camping information and regulations and up to date information on camping and campground status.

Glacier Park Campgrounds

Apgar Campground - Located near the West Glacier entrance and Apgar Village, the campground is the largest in the park. There are 194 campsites, of which 25 can accommodate a 40-foot RV. Some of the group campsites can be reserved, otherwise the campground is first-come, first-serve.

Avalanche Campground - On the west side of the Continental Divide, Avalanche campground is located near popular hiking trails and 15.7 miles along the Going-to-the-Sun Road. There are 87 campsites, of which 50 can accommodate a 25-foot RV. All campsites are first-come, first-serve.

Bowman Lake Campground - In the North Fork area 32.5 miles from the west entrance, Bowman Lake Campground is situated near the lake shore in a remote area of the park. There are 48 campsites. RVs and trailers are not recommended; it is a long, narrow, and windy dirt road to the campground. All campsites are first-come, first-serve.

Cut Bank Campground - Located on the east side of Glacier, Cut Bank Campground is a primitive camping area. There are 14 campsites. RVs and trailers are not recommended and there is no water at the campground. All campsites are first-come, first-serve.

Fish Creek Campground - The second largest campground in Glacier National Park, Fish Creek Campground is located near the west entrance, only 2.5 miles from Apgar Village. There are 178 campsites and 18 sites can accommodate RVs up to 35 feet long. Park rangers host nightly programs at the amphitheater. Fish Creek is one of two campgrounds that take reservations.

Kintla Lake Campground - One of the most remote frontcountry campgrounds, Kintla Lake Campground, is located in the North Fork area, 40 miles from the west entrance. There are 13 campsites; RVs and trailers are not recommended. Because of its remote wilderness location, Kintla Lake is a quiet campground offering solitude for tent campers. Camping is first-come, first-serve.

Logging Creek Campground ​- A small primitive campground, Logging Creek was closed at the time of publication. The campground is located on the west side of the ark in a remote area near the North Fork. RVs are not recommended. Campsites are first-come, first-serve. Check the park website for campground status before you go.

Many Glacier Campground One of the most popular campgrounds in Glacier National Park, Many Glacier fills up quickly. There are 110 campsites and 13 sites can accommodate RVs 35-feet in length. Nightly ranger programs are available. All campsites are first-come, first-serve.

Quartz Creek Campground With only 7 campsites, Quartz Creek is the smallest in the park and considered primitive. The camping area is located west side of the park. RVs and trailers are not recommended. Campsites are first-come, first-serve.

Sprague Creek Campground A popular camping area located on McDonald Lake, Sprague Creek Campground is small and fills up quickly. There are 25 campsites, none of which allow towed trailers or units. All campsites are first-come, first-serve.

Saint Mary Campground Located close to the St. Mary Visitor Center at the east entrance, the campground at St. Mary is one of two in the park that take reservations. The visitor center offers nightly interpretive programs. St Mary Campground has 148 campsites; 25 sites can accommodate RVs and trailers up to 35-feet.

Two Medicine Campground Just 13 miles from the east entrance, Two Medicine Campground is situated in a remote and peaceful location. There are 99 campsites; 13 sites can accommodate RVs and trailers up to 35-feet. Camping is first-come, first-serve.

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Top 7 Things to Do in Whitefish

Man waverunning on Whitefish Lake
Monica Prelle

Whitefish, Montana is an outdoor playground. There are trails to hike and bike, lakes and rivers to explore, and wilderness to experience. From Whitefish Lake to the Flathead River and Glacier National Park, there is no shortage of adventure.

  1. The Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park is the main route connecting the east and west entrances and is a National Historic Landmark and a National Civil Engineering Landmark. The 50-mile road completed construction in 1932 and has been a top destination in the park ever since. Adventurous cyclists can pedal up the 3,500-foot climb from the west entrance to Logan Pass; from June 15 through Labor Day, the Going-to-the-Sun Road is closed to bicycle use between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. If you prefer to explore by vehicle, take the Glacier Shuttle or try the educational Crown of the Continent Red Bus tour.
  2. Whitefish Lake provides a number of recreation options and is located close to town. Stop by the marina at the Lodge at Whitefish Lake and rent a wave runner, kayak, or stand-up paddleboard. The views of Whitefish Mountain Resort and the surrounding mountains are incredible from the water.
  3. The newly designed Whitefish Trail is an excellent spot to go cross-country mountain biking, hiking, horseback riding, or on a leisurely walk with Fido. There are more than 19-miles of trail to explore with mountain vistas and lake views.
  4. With its 700 miles of trails and rugged wilderness, Glacier National Park is a top destination for hiking. Favorite trails include the Avalanche Lake trail near Avalanche Campground and the Highline trail from Logan Pass.
  5. Whitefish Mountain Resort hosts a number of outdoor adventures during the summer months. The Walk in the Tree Tops, a nature walk that offers views of the forest from an elevated boardwalk, is popular among families, while the downhill mountain biking trails and zip line tours are for the thrill seekers.
  6. Get on the water and go exploring on the scenic North Fork of the Flathead River and the exciting Middle Fork. From mellow to thrilling, Glacier Raft Company provides adventure rafting and family trips, as well as guided fly fishing trips.
  7. After all that hiking, biking and adventuring around Whitefish, your feet will be ready for a treat. Try the mountaineers' survival foot treatment of honey and cream hot rock foot rub at Remedies Day Spa in downtown Whitefish.