Cottage Grove, Minnesota
I am taking a camping trip with my two 8 year olds and 10 year old in August to Glacier. I have given us 10 days give or take a few. I expect to take 2 days of drive time from MN-Glacier so it gives us roughly 6 days in the park. Is that enough time? Where should we camp? What are must see attractions for this age. Any help/suggestions/advice is greatly appreciated! Thanks!
Six days will be a good trip, you won't be able to see it all, but you'll be able to see a lot.
Lots of good campgrounds in Glacier National Park, although there is a fire burning in the park right now and it has closed two campgrounds ( Rising Sun Campground and St. Mary Lodge, Cabins, and Motel) and some trails but has really not affected any other areas in the park and it is now almost completely contained and will likely be out in a day or two. The fire was very near the Rising Sun campground and I dont know how that will effect that campground reopening, but St Marys campground will be reopening in the next day or two if its not already open.
Many of the campgrounds in Glacier get very busy this time of year, and you will need to be there before noon to find an open campsite. There is a very good web page on the NPS Glacier web site that shows you the status of the campgrounds, whether they are full or not, and if they are full what time of day it filled up, that can be very helpful when selecting a campground.
There is a lot of variation in the campground for size, layout, views, access to hiking, and access to services.
Apgar is a very large campround just inside the west entrance. Its within walking distance of the Apgar Village Lodge where there is a small store, a restaurant, and a couple gift shops, and it is only a mile or two from the town of West Glacier, where theres another grocery store, shops, restaurant, and motel. There is also good access to Lake McDonald from Apgar for swimming or boating. There are some bicycle trail around and thru apgar, but you will probably need to drive or ride the shittle bus to do much hiking.
Fish Creek Campground is about a mile from Apgar also right on Lake McDonald. Another large campground, but not quite as close to shops, food, or restaurants as Apgar.
Both of those camprounds are in the trees so the views from your campsite will be minimal but you are close to the lake and beautiful views of the mountains across the lake.
Bowman Lake and Kintla Lake are smaller campround areas on the northwest corner of Glacier, near Polebridge. Both are in the trees right near the lake shore. Bowman is about a 25 minute drive from Polebridge on a gravel road. Kintla is about an hour from Polebridge on a gravel/dirt road. Both are quite secluded and mostly quiet. There is a small store/bakery, a restaurant (limited hours) and i beleive gas is available.
Sprague Creek Campground is another small campground on Lake McDonald near to Lake McDonald Lodge area. I beleive that large trailers and motorhomes are not allowed in Sprague. Great lake access, some hiking trail access, but you will need to drive to get food or shopping..
Avalanche Lake is east of Lake McDonald on the Going to the Sun Road, right about where the road starts to climb out of the valley. The campground is right on the trail to Avalanche Lake which is one of the busiest hikes in e park, so the campground and the parking area can be very busy sometimes. Great hiking access, some nice views of the valley and mountains, no services nearby. I've never camped here, but i imagine it is quiet in the evenings after all the day hikers are gone.
Rising Sun Campground is a medium sized campground on the east side about half way between Logan Pass and St Mary. It is set in a grove of large trees, so its quite shady, but open. St Mary Lake is about a half mile away. There is a small grocery and gift store, (with pay showers) a restaurant, and motel within walking distance of the campground. I think the town of St Mary would be about 30 minute drive ( a small grocery store, several shops and restaurants, hotel, motel, and gas station).
St marys is another large campgound just inside the St Marys Entrance in the east side. Its on a mostly open hillside with a few small trees, so not much shade, so it can be hot. Its only about 2 miles drive to the toen of St Mary.
Many Glacier Campground is a very popular campground, just across the parking lot from the Swiftcurrent Motel and Restaurant. Many Glacier has by far the best hiking access of the main Glacier Campgrounds. There is a small convenience and gift store in the Swiftcurrent building, and e Many Glacier Lodge is about a mile away. Many Glacier is about a 45 minute drive north and west of St Mary.
Two Medicine campground is on the south east corner of Glacier about 10 miles north of e town of East Glacier. There is a small gift/convenience store at Two Medicine Lake, and boat rides on the lake. There are several hikes right from the campground, and many of the campsites have great views.
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We were just there right when the fire broke out and camped at Avalanche Campground. Plan on spending the first night just outside the park and get an early start the next morning at the camp grounds and have a plan. Using the website, we knew that Apgar Campground was the last to fill, so we bypassed it and made a beeline for Sprague Creek Campground. Unfortunately, it was full by 9 AM, so we went on to Avalanche, knowing we could backtrack to Apgar if needed. There is a lot of overlap between people packing up to leave and people setting up. Keep an eye on the little posts that number the camp sites. They will have a tag with the leave date on it. Don't be afraid to stop and ask if someone is leaving.
The hike to Avalanche Lake was great and will not be a problem for the kids. We did it between breakfast and lunch and had great access from the campground. It is a busy trail. We never noticed the crowds while in the campground, but had to deal with the traffic if we left to go someplace else in the park.
I would also highly recommend renting kayaks, canoes or paddle boards down at Apgar Village Lodge and spending some time on Lake McDonald.
Do the Junior Ranger program. My kids loved it at that age. Lastly, if they can stay up, do the night sky viewing at Apgar Visitor Center.
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