Camping in Glacier and Waterton Lakes National Parks
From lakeside views of splendor to wide-open canyon vistas, frontcountry campers in Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park may choose from 16 campgrounds offering nearly 1500 campsites. Most are available on a first-come, first serve basis, although three may be reserved in advance: Fish Creek, St. Mary, and Waterton Townsite campgrounds.
Glacier National Park in Montana offers 13 campgrounds ranging from quietly primitive to hives of activity. Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta provides three campgrounds, including the ample Townsite Campground, the remote Belly River, and the panoramic Crandell Mountain camp up Blakiston Canyon. Both parks offer group camping: In Glacier, groups may pitch camp at Many Glacier, St. Mary, Two Medicine, and Apgar, the only location where reservations may be made in advance. Waterton offers reservable group camping at Belly River, close to the U.S. border.
Best Places to Go
I've camped in four of these campgrounds and explored several others. My personal favorite is Two Medicine in the southeastern corner of Glacier. The wind sweeping off the continental divide often roils this lake, but one evening the stillness was majestic and Sinopah Mountain shimmered in reflection upon Pray Lake adjacent to my campsite. (See photo).
I also highly recommend Apgar Campground on the southern shore of Lake McDonald; Avalanche Creek along the trail of the ancient cedars; Many Glacier where the valleys come together and fabulous trails depart; and Waterton Townsite Campground on the shores of the great lake shared by Canada and the United States.
Best Times to Go
Avoid the crowds in the shoulder seasons, including May-June and September-October. Be prepared for either gorgeous dreamlike conditions or nasty, brutish weather.
What You Should Know Before You Go
There's a good chance that any or all of these campgrounds may fill by early afternoon in July and August. If you can't show up by 1 p.m., you may want to make reservations in the three campgrounds where this is an option, During the other months, reservations usually aren't necessary.
Waterton National Park Campgrounds in Alberta: Waterton Townsite (Reservations Open January 11, 2018), Belly River, & Crandell (Closed for Summer 2018)
Glacier National Park Campgrounds in Montana
- West of the Continental Divide: Apgar, Fish Creek, Logging Creek (primitive), Quartz Creek (primitive), Bowman Lake, Kintla Lake, Sprague Creek, & Avalanche Creek
- East of the Continental Divide: Many Glacier, St. Mary, Rising Sun, Two Medicine, & Cutbank (primitive)