camping in montana

Camping in Montana | Your Guide To The Best Montana Campgrounds

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Camping in Montana is Western camping at its best. Not only is Montana home to some of the most well known National Parks in the country, it boasts hundreds of private, state, and BLM (Bureau of Land Management) parks as well. The state’s nickname as “Big Sky Country” isn’t official, but the name “Treasure State,” is. Both nicknames are accurate. If you’ve ever been to this popular “cowboy” state, then you know that the sky seems so “big” because the state is sparsely populated and free of tall buildings. The sky goes on forever, uninterrupted by a lot of structures like you see in many big cities. What Montana lacks in concrete structures it makes up for in natural ones, especially its mountains, state, and national parks.

Montana has 40 State Parks, one National Park, 10 National Forests, two National Historic Sites, 10 National Wildlife Refuges and one National Recreation Area. Glacier National Park is one of the country’s most well-known and popular parks and is famous for its hiking, camping, and climbing venues. Twenty of Montana’s 54 state parks have more than 500 campsites to reserve. Book in advance and take the stress out of your trip. Having a reservation mans more time to explore Montana’s nature, culture, and recreation heritage. While reservations are recommended in order to ensure a site for your visit, most Montana state parks will have approximately 20%-25% of the available campsites available for “walk-in” campers.

Camping in Montana

Credit to nps.gov

Campsites are reservable from the third Friday in May through the third Sunday in September. Reservations can be made nine months in advance of your stay, but no later than two days prior to your arrival. For a unique camping in Montana experience try one of the State Parks’ cabins, yurts, or tipis, or a hike-in/bike-in site.

Glacier preserves over 1,000,000 acres of forests, alpine meadows, and lakes. Its diverse habitats are home to over 70 species of mammals and over 260 species of birds. The park’s glaciated landscape is a hiker’s paradise. With more than 700 miles of maintained trails that lead deep into one of the largest intact ecosystems in the lower 48 states, there are few hikers who aren’t transformed after their first trek into the Glacier Park wilderness.

The park also contains over 350 structures that are listed on the National Register of Historic Sites, including   . The six National Historic Landmarks include Fort Union Trading Post, where a number of treaties between the USA and different Indians were signed; and Grant Kohrs historic site. Established by Canadian fur trader John Grant, and expanded by cattle baron Conrad Kohrs, Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site commemorates the Western cattle industry from its 1850s inception through recent times. The park was created in 1972 and embraces 1,500 acres and 90 structures. The site is maintained today as a working ranch.

The park is also the site of Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. In 1932 Glacier and Canada’s Waterton Lakes National Park, were designated Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. The designation celebrated the longstanding peace and friendship between Canada and the United States. Glacier and Waterton Lakes have both been designated as Biosphere Reserves and together were recognized, in 1995, as a World Heritage Site.

Non-Resident Entrance Fees

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Out-of-state residents can purchase a Nonresident Entrance Pass which allows free entrance on an unlimited number of visits and discounted camping fees for a year. A pass costs $35 per vehicle. The State Park Entrance Pass is valid for one year from month of issue. You can purchase a pass through the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Online Licensing Service, or at any FWP office.

Camping in Montana – Glacier National Park

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Bowman Lake
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Glacier National Park is named for its prominent glacier-carved terrain and remnant glaciers descended from the ice ages almost 10,000 years ago. The park’s diverse habitats are home to nearly 70 species of mammals including the grizzly bear, wolverine, gray wolf, and lynx. Over 270 species of birds visit or reside in the park, including such varied species as harlequin ducks, dippers, and golden eagles. It’s an amazing place to visit, and even a more amazing place to stay.

If you’ve always wanted to camp inside Glacier National Park, you’re in luck. With 13 different campgrounds and approximately 1,009 sites to choose from, options are plentiful. There are 8 modern campgrounds (campgrounds which have running water and flush toilets) and five primitive campgrounds (pit toilets and possibly no drinking water).

  • Apgar 194 sites. 25 sites can accommodate up to a 40 foot RV or truck and trailer combination.
  • Avalanche 87 sites. 50 sites can accommodate up to a 26 foot RV or truck and trailer combination.
  • Bowman Lake (primitive)  48 sites. RVs and truck and trailer combinations are not recommended.
  • Cut Bank (primitive)  14 sites. RVs and truck and trailer combinations are not recommended.
  • Fish Creek 178 sites. 18 sites can accommodate up to a 35 foot RV or truck and trailer combination.
  • Kintla Lake (primitive)  13 sites. RVs and truck and trailer combinations are not recommended.
  • Logging Creek (primitive)  7 sites. RVs and truck and trailer combinations are not recommended.
  • Many Glacier 109 sites. 13 sites will accommodate up to a 35 foot RV or truck and trailer combination.
  • Quartz Creek (primitive) 7 sites. RVs and truck and trailer combinations are not recommended.
  • Rising Sun  84 sites. 10 sites can accommodate vehicle lengths up to 25 feet.
  • Sprague Creek 25 sites but no towed units allowed.
  • Mary  148 sites. 3 sites can accommodate up to a 40 feet, 22 sites can accommodate up to 35 feet
  • Two Medicine 10 sites up to 35 feet offer RV campers the opportunity to spend time in Two Medicine.

Only two campgrounds have reservable sites (summer only)— Fish Creek, and St. Mary; the others are first-come first-served. Getting a campsite can be as hectic and busy in Glacier as it is in Yellowstone or Grand Teton National Parks. The popular campgrounds generally fill up very early in the morning and more often on weekends and holidays. So plan accordingly. There are no RV hookups or showers in park campgrounds.

RVs and trailers are not suitable for the primitive campgrounds due to the rough access roads and/or campground layouts. There is also a limited number of large RV/trailers sites in the modern campgrounds.

To make a reservation or check the status of a Glacier Park campground, visit the Park’s website.

Camping in Montana – Fish Creek Campground

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Credit to recreation.gov

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FISH CREEK CAMPGROUND

Glacier National Park P.O. Box 128

West Glacier  MT  59936

Phone: (406) 888-7800

Takes Reservations

Of the 13 campgrounds in Glacier National Park, Fish Creek Campground is the second largest and one of two campgrounds that take reservations. Fish Creek is heavily forested with plenty of shade. Several of the campsites have views of Lake McDonald.  This facility is conveniently located in the western part of the park, nearby many day hikes, including Rock Point Trail, which wanders through a burn area from a 2003 wildfire. Nightly ranger programs at an amphitheater within the facility ensure campers and visitors are aware of all the opportunities within the park, as well as the park’s history and more prominent attractions.

Fish Creek Campground has 178 campsites. The sites are relatively spread apart and provide privacy for both RV and tent campers. Potable water is accessible in the campground, and restroom facilities have flush toilets and sinks with running water.

Camping in Montana – Many Glacier Campground (East side of Park)

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73 Hudson Bay Road Unit 1

St. Mary  MT  59417

Phone: (406) 732-7708

Many Glacier Campground is located on the east side of Glacier National Park, at an elevation of approximately 4,500 feet. There are 110 sites, with 41 of those campsites available for advance reservations and 62 sites available on a first-come, first-served basis.  This is an extremely popular campground in a spectacular scenic area. The campground fills very early in morning during the summer.  There are 13 sites can accommodate up to 35 foot RVs.

The campground is located about 22 miles from the town of St. Mary and at the east entrance to Glacier National Park. The St. Mary Entrance allows access to the spectacular 50 mile-long Going-to-the-Sun Road and traverses the high point at Logan Pass with an elevation of 6,646 feet. Babb, Montana, is the closest community to the Many Glacier Campground and is located approximately 12 miles east of the campground. Babb has a general store, gas station, several restaurants, and a U.S. Post Office. Cell phone coverage is not available in the campground. However, limited coverage is available in Babb.

Many Glacier Campground is situated in a mature Douglas fir, lodgepole pine, and quaking aspen forest. The vegetation is dense and provides partial shade for almost all campsites. Occasional strong wind gusts occur. The existing tree cover does mean many of the sites offer some protection from the weather. This is an area frequented by grizzly and black bears, so hike in groups, carry bear mace or pepper spray and make lots of noise so you don’t surprise any nearby bears.

Potable water at shared spigots is available throughout the campground. Restroom facilities provide flush toilets and sinks with cold running water. Camper utility sinks are available to dispose of gray water. Each campsite has a picnic table and fire grate. Some sites are designated “generator free” for a more quiet camping experience. Other sites have limited hours for generator use. Within walking distance of the campground is the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn, a concession facility with a restaurant, camp store, gift shop, limited groceries, and coin-operated showers.

Please read the individual site descriptions carefully to ensure your vehicle and camping equipment (including RVs) will be accommodated in the campsite. Most campsites and driveways are very small and will not accommodate towed units over 21 feet. A limited number of sites can accommodate towed units 26 to 30 feet. Many campsites will not accommodate camper “slide-outs”. If you must use slide-outs, please make a reservation at St. Mary Campground, located 22 miles from Many Glacier and 1/2 mile along the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

Camping in Montana – St. Mary Campground (East side of Park)

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MARY CAMPGROUND

Glacier National Park P.O. Box 123

West Glacier MT 59936

Phone: (406) 732-7708

St. Mary campground is the largest campground on the east side of Glacier National Park. Open year round the park is located approximately one-half mile west of the park boundary, near the town of St. Mary. St. Mary is one of two campgrounds in the park that take reservations. You may sign up through the National Reservation System at http://www.recreation.gov/ . Sites can be reserved June 1 through September 4. Individual campsites may be reserved up to 6 months in advance and not less than 3 nights prior. The two group sites can be reserved up to a year in advance.

Sites not reserved ahead of time are available on a first come first serve basis. Primitive (no water). Centrally located near eastern end of Going-to-the-Sun Road, 1/2 mile from visitor center. Largest campground on east side with 148 sites (25 sites can accommodate up to 35 foot RVs). Water and flush toilets. Scenic views. In aspen grove, limited shade. Campers do have access to a free park shuttle bus. A variety of services are at St. Mary town, two miles away. You will find amenities such as restaurants, gift shops, camp stores, gas, and a grocery store there. Activities such as interpretive programs, book sales, and shuttle service tours are located at the nearby St. Mary Visitor Center.

From early September through the end the May, all sites are first come first served. Primitive camping is available April 1 through late May and again from mid September through November 30 for $10.00 per night. Winter camping begins December 1 and runs through March 31. There is no fee for winter camping, but a valid park entrance pass is required. When the campground is open for primitive or winter camping, there is no water available and campers are advised to bring their own drinking water.

Though shade may be sparse, aspen trees grace St. Mary campground with soothing sounds from spring and summer breezes, and colorful splashes of yellow late in the season. There are three loops in the campground—A, B, and C. Loop A is the most sheltered, and is especially good for tent campers. Loop A is also generator free. Views of Singleshot, East Flattop, and Red Eagle Mountains complement the landscape, especially in Loop B and C. Potable water is accessible in the campground, and restroom facilities provide flush toilets and sinks with running water. Showers are located in Loop C for registered campers only.

Camping in Montana’s Other Recreational Areas

If you can’t get a spot inside Glacier National Park, don’t worry. There are other summers. Keep trying. In the meantime, you’ll find incredible camping outside the park as well as inside some of the state parks.

Camping in Montana – Makoshika State Park

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Mailing address:

PO Box 1242

1301 Snyder Avenue

Glendive, MT 59330

Phone: (406) 377-6256

Email: cdantic@mt.gov

If this campground didn’t have reservations, you’d never be able to snag a camping spot here.  The attraction of the park is that while all of Montana has incredible night time views of the sky, Makoshika campsites just seem to be a little closer, the air a little clearer, and the universe more spectacular when viewed from this park. Also, be on the lookout for dinosaurs here. Montana’s largest state park features badland formations and the fossil remains of Tyrannosaurus Rex, Triceratops and more. You’ll find a visitor center at the park entrance with interpretive exhibits great for kids.

Insite the park is an archery site, dozens of scenic drives, hundreds of hiking trails, 28 camping sites, a group picnic area, and an outdoor amphitheater. Makoshika State Park encompasses 11,538 acres at an elevation of 2,415 feet.

Camping in Montana – Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area

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Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area Headquarters Office

PO Box 7458

Fort Smith, MT 59035

Phone: (307) 548-5406 

Would you rather have to work a bit to get to a campground where not every would-be wilderness explorer can simply drive up and park? Do you like roughing it, and feeling a bit more like you’re staying in the mountains than an outdoor theme park? Do you prefer your campsite to have outrageous views? Bighorn Canyon might be the place for you. Bighorn Canyon has several campgrounds ranging from easily accessible to primitive. Medicine Creek Campground, for example, is only accessible by boat or hike and has no drinking water.

Explore one or more of the other campgrounds in the Bighorn Recreation area too:

Camping in Montana – Afterbay Campground

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Photo by Aaron Pietila

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P.O. Box 7458

Fort Smith, MT 59035

Phone: (406) 666-2412

Email: BICA_media@nps.gov

Afterbay Campground is located near the town of Fort Smith in the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area. It is open all year. It has 29 camping spaces on one side of the bay and an additional 12 on the other. Handicapped accessible restrooms, drinking water and a boat launch are all available at Afterbay.

  • 28 RV and tent sites are located around a line of nice shade trees
  • Composting vault toilets, RV dump station, and drinking water available.
  • There are no RV hookups.
  • Additional 12 sites without water, available on north shore of Afterbay.
  • Camping is on a first come first serve basis. No reservations will be taken.

Camping in Montana – Horseshoe Bend Campground

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Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area Headquarters Office

PO Box 7458

Fort Smith, MT 59035

Phone: (307) 548-5406

There are 48 campsites of the Horseshoe Bend Campground overlook the Bighorn Lake and the red sandstone cliffs of Sykes Mountain. The campground is located 14 miles north of Lovell, Wyoming via WY Hwy 37.

  • Open All Year-Utilities are shut off between Sept. and May
  • $10 dollars undeveloped sites and $20 dollars for sites with utilities per night
  • Uphill from the Horseshoe Bend Marina boat docks
  • Swim beach and picnic area, nestled in sagebrush
  • 48 campsites overlook the lake and the red sandstone cliffs of Sykes Mountain
  • The campground is 14 miles north of Lovell, Wyoming via WY Hwy 37
  • Modern restrooms, RV dump station and drinking water are available
  • 19 sites have been remodeled to accommodate larger RVs and boats
  • There are 3 pull through sites

Camping is on a first come first serve basis. No reservations will be taken.

Camping in Montana – Black Canyon Campground

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Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area Headquarters Office

PO Box 7458

Fort Smith, MT 59035

Phone: (307) 548-5406

This boat-in-only campground is located five miles south of Ok-A-Beh boat ramp, is along the lake shore in Douglas fir/ponderosa pine forest. This is a developed campsite approximately 2.8 miles from the main canyon. It features a dozen sites with bear boxes, fire rings, and picnic tables. There is a dock here as well as a floating vault toilet from the third week of May until the middle of September. This site is at the end of a beautiful cove with pristine crystal clear water, an abundance of pine trees, and excellent fishing. This is the most popular boat-in only site and may be full on the weekends. Due to the high use it can be difficult to find firewood. There are bears in the area so use of the provided bear boxes is essential. Poison ivy is present at this site.

  • Open All Year
  • The 17 tent sites are sometimes visited by black bears
  • A floating, vault toilet is available, but no drinking water is available
  • Lake level affects the proximity of the boat moorings to campsites
  • Camping is free and on a first come first serve basis. No reservations will be taken.

Camping in Montana – Medicine Creek Campground

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Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area Headquarters Office

PO Box 7458

Fort Smith, MT 59035

Phone: (307) 548-5406

This campsite is approximately 2.8 miles north of Barry’s Landing and .7 miles west of the main canyon. This is a developed site with a dock and 5 separate campsites. Each site has a level area for 1-2 tents, a picnic table, a bear box, and a fire ring. Finding firewood at this site can require more work due to higher usage. When the dock is not in the water the landing area is less than ideal and may require carrying gear up to 100 yards. The dock should be in the water from the third week of May until the middle of September.

Camping in Montana – Trail Creek Campground

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Tent camping at Trail Creek campground
NPS

Hidden Treasure Charters  is running the Horeseshoe Bend Campground and Trail Creek Campground at Barry’s landing as part of a pilot program under a Commercial Use Agreement. Utility sites at Horseshoe Bend are $20 per night. Sites without utilities at both Horeseshoe Bend and Trail Creek are $10 per night.

Phone: (307) 899-1401

  • Open All Year
  • $10 dollars per night
  • Primitive campground 27 miles north of Lovell, Wyoming, via WY Hwy 37
  • 10 RV sites for small RVs 16 tent sites 4 RV sites just off Barry’s Landing parking lot
  • There is no drinking water or RV hookups
  • Most of the sites are small
  • Camping is on a first come first serve basis. No reservations will be taken.