If you do a search on our site for “Glacier”, you will quickly see that we have written about our experiences in Glacier National Park far more than any other location we visited in nearly 1 1/2 years on the road.
Guess what! There’s a reason for that. It’s absolutely friggin’ mind-blowing on every level. Period. (No wonder it was my #1 pick for favorite RVing spots.)
However, what we neglected to do is actually provide you with a comprehensive “RVer’s Guide” to Glacier National Park to help you have the best experience possible. I’m here to fix that.
(But on a side note, you can also take a look at our Glacier photography spot bucket list, our Highline Trail hike primer, or my “One Glorious Week In Glacier” post. See, we’ve covered a lot of Glacier!)
Glacier National Park: A Visitor’s Guide For RVers
Our family has had the chance to visit Glacier on two separate occasions: Once in the summer (for about a week, staying on the West side and then East side of the park) and once in the fall (for two weeks, staying on the East side of the park). While I thoroughly enjoyed both visits without a doubt, I wrote a post giving you 5 reasons to visit Glacier in the fall.
Hey, any time is a great time to visit. But I firmly believe fall is the best time. Despite that belief, please get there any time you can, any way you can, for any length of time you can. It will be a trip to remember.
So assuming you’re going to visit in an RV (be sure to check here for Glacier RV rentals if that’s what you need), you’re about to get a goldmine of information. Hang on to your head!
The “West Side Story”
Here’s the first thing you need to be aware of: The west side of the park, and the entrance that feeds into the park, is busier and more commercialized than the east side of the park.
Of course, there is always a flip side. The flip side of that coin is that the west wide is more convenient, putting you within easy driving distance of many more restaurants, groceries and amenities.
On top of that, you will also have far more options to choose from for RV parks or campgrounds on the west side. There are easily twice as many options within easy driving distance of the entrance on the west side, compared to the east side.
Basically, you get a chance to choose your own type of Glacier adventure here! And who doesn’t love choices? So you choose: convenience + crowds in the west? Or rustic + calm in the east?
Campground and RV Park Options in the West
If you choose convenience and crowds and are willing to deal with heavier traffic, here are several RV parks and campgrounds you should consider on the west side:
North American RV Park – Coram, MT
During our first visit to Glacier, we stayed our first few nights here at North American RV Park before moving to the east side for our last couple of nights in the area (which I’ll cover next).
This was our home base as we explored the west side of Glacier National Park for the very first time. And since it is located only 8-10 minutes west of the Apgar Visitor Center at the west entrance to the park, it just doesn’t get a whole lot more convenient (unless you are in the park…which we will explore later).
As you can imagine, I have some pretty great memories connected to this park: our first glimpse of (and dip in) crystal clear Lake McDonald and the peaks surrounding it, our first (white knuckle) drive up Going-to-the-Sun Road (which I go into more detail about in this Glacier post) to the apex of the park at Logan Pass Visitor Center, sitting and watching bighorn sheep grazing, and so many more.
Yup, those are some fantastic memories. And our stay at North American only added to the experience. Here’s what you need to know about this park’s features:
- Pull-through and Back-in sites available
- Some RV sites are 20/30 Amp and some are 30/50 Amp
- Full hook-ups
- Picnic table and fire ring (but after the fires in 2018, not sure about fire policies)
- Large, grassy recreation area and playground
- Convenience store on site for basic amenities
- Laundry Room, Restroom and Showers on site
The park sits close to the main road leading to Glacier, so again, it is high on convenience. But you may have some road noise to “interrupt” your evening fires. This was not an issue at all for us as our site was probably 150-200 yards from the road, but I thought you should be aware.
Moose Creek RV Resort and Campground – West Glacier, MT
If convenience really floats your boat, then you will find Moose Creek RV Resort to be right up your alley. Believe it or not, it is even more conveniently located than North American RV Park that we just covered.
Located just a few minutes from the park’s west entrance, here’s a rundown of what they offer the RV traveler:
- Large full hook-up sites
- Accommodates RVs of all sizes
- Smaller water/electric only RV sites available
- Onsite laundry facilities
- Communal campfire each night
- Bakery, cafe & gift shop on site
- Surrounding old growth forest
- Plenty of wildlife spotting opportunities
While I have not visited this park, it appears that they offer an RV camping experience with a bit more space and seclusion. At North American, we were packed in there pretty good with no barrier of any kind, or much space, between you and your neighbor. The pictures of Moose Creek (as you can see above) make it appear that you have a bit more breathing room and will probably feel more “tucked away” into the old growth forest. At least with some of their RV sites.
At only $54 per night according to their reservation system, Moose Creek is a very solid, affordable and supremely convenient option for your RV visit to Glacier National Park.
Fish Creek Campground – Inside Glacier National Park
Now, if you really want to focus on location and are less concerned with amenities and services? Maybe some “dry camping” (no hookups) at Fish Creek Campground inside the park will be the perfect option for you. This is the second largest campground in the park, and one of only four that takes reservations, but it will have you away from much of the traffic and hustle-bustle of the park.
This rustic campground is located on the shore of stunning Lake McDonald where Fish Creek flows into the lake. If that doesn’t sound like the perfect location for a home base to explore this awesome national park and its 700 miles of hiking trails, I don’t know what is. But like I said, you give up some conveniences and amenities for a great location like this.
Here’s a quick rundown of what this prime location campground offers:
- Open May 29 – Sep 6
- Second largest campground in the park
- Elevation: approx. 3,500 ft
- 178 total campsites (not all will accommodate an RV)
- No sewer, water or electric at the sites
- Potable water station and dump station available
- Flush toilets and sinks with running water on site
- Heavily shaded area (great for summer months)
Okay, brace yourself for the price, folks: it’s a whopping $23 per night! (Additional people are extra.) I’m not sure about you, but for that prime location and at a price that doesn’t drain the bank account, I’m willing to go without A LOT of stuff. Of course, you will have to book early in order to secure a spot, so no dilly-dallying.
For my dollar, Fish Creek Campground might just be the best deal going here on the west side of Glacier National Park. But what about you?
Family Activities in the West
Truthfully, when I’m near a national park you can barely get me out of there to sleep or eat. I’m simply addicted and I could stay till the cows come home!
However, I don’t have small children any longer, so that’s much more feasible. If you do have little tikes along for the ride (yes, that includes teenagers) you might need to explore some other options for entertainment outside of the park. (It hurts me to even say that.) Tourist attractions are not hard to find.
(But please, consider taking at least a morning for the hike to Grinnell Glacier before you consider these other options outside the park. I talk more about our experience on the trail in this Glacier post. Oh the memories!)
In the east, this would be a bit more challenging. But here in the west you have multiple family entertainment options available to you if the “natives get restless”.
Amazing Fun Center
With something for everyone, Amazing Fun Center is located less than nine miles from the Apgar Visitor Center and only one mile from North American RV Park (if you happened to choose that spot for your stay).
You can choose from mini gold, bumper boats, basketball, go karts, a giant wooden labyrinth (maze) with 1.5 miles to wander through and probably a dozen other activities.
This location has very good reviews from what I can see, so I don’t think you can go wrong with this family entertainment option.
Glacier Highline Adventure Park
If your family is more of the thrill-seeking type (who doesn’t battle with a major fear of heights), Glacier Highline Adventure Park may be more your speed.
Located almost next door to the Amazing Fun Center in the town of Coram we just covered, this location offers an expansive ropes course, zip lining, and inflatable and water obstacle courses (for those less than thrilled with the idea of the “high flying” ropes course).
Be sure to fill out the waiver forms ahead of time to help get you out there and having fun more quickly once you arrive.
And Now For the East Side Experience
As I said earlier, the experience we had staying on the west side of the park for a few days as our introduction to the area was fantastic. I don’t really have anything to complain about exactly, but I will reiterate that if you choose the west side, you will deal with crowds and traffic far more than you will using the east side as your base.
There’s a reason that we chose to stay on the east side of the park for our two week visit in the fall. Okay…actually there are two reasons. The first reason is that we really enjoy avoiding the crowds and the traffic if possible, and we liked the feel of the small community of St. Mary on the east side of the park. The second reason was that the west side of the park (past Logan Pass Visitor Center) was completely shut down because of the wild fires burning that year. Yup, that hurt.
What was I not 100% crazy about? Well…how about paying nearly $20 for a 12 oz bag of Starbucks coffee.
Yes, that happened. At the only grocery store in St. Mary. I paid it because we were a bit desperate and the only other option in the store was Folgers instant coffee. I’m no coffee snob and rarely drink Starbucks coffee, but I couldn’t do instant!
Not everything at the small local grocery store in St. Mary is this expensive. But it is all more expensive (50-70% more, give or take) what you would expect to pay at your local store.
As you can imagine, for our two week stay that was not going to work. Instead, we ended up taking a couple of trips to the IGA in Browning, MT (about 1.5 hours round trip) where prices were much more in line with “normal”. We didn’t have to pay “tourist tax” there. If you are staying for any length of time on the east side, I think a trip to Browning really does make the most sense, unless you are planning to eat out every night anyway.
Campground and RV Park Options in the East
If you choose less convenient and less traffic on the east side, there are several good options for your RV stay depending on what you value most.
Johnson’s of St. Mary – St. Mary, MT
During our first stay on the east side, we chose Johnson’s of St. Mary as our home away from home. It is very conveniently located on the main road leading through town and is also just 3-4 minutes from the park entrance…and everything else in this small town.
Johnson’s offers 82 RV sites and here is a rundown of amenities and highlights:
- Full hook-up, water/electric only and “dry camping” RV sites available
- Cost: $38-51 per night, depending on site type
- Laundry facility on site
- Bathrooms and showers on site
- Decent cellular signal (Verizon, at least)
- Views of St. Mary Lake and the peaks of Glacier that are to die for!
- Full-service restaurant (World Famous stuff) on site
We ended up in a water/electric only site that had incredible views over the area. Sunrise and sunset were pretty incredible, to say the least, and we wouldn’t really hesitate to stay here again.
Many Glacier Campground – East Glacier National Park
We have not been able to visit Many Glacier Campground, but we were very nearby when we visited Many Glacier Hotel just up the road. When we visited the lodge in the fall, there were bears on the slopes all around the lodge. We must have seen at least 5-7 throughout the day, both black and grizzly. It was pretty incredible…but it was nothing like these folks experienced while tent camping at Many Glacier:
In 2019, they had to close down the campground for a while because of increased bear activity (like this). So be aware that this could be an issue during your visit. Do you want to get this “up close and personal” with Glacier wildlife?
If so, here are the highlights of the campground:
- Located about 22 miles from east entrance of park (St Mary)
- Dry camping only (no site hook-ups)
- Shared water spigots located throughout campground
- Cost: $23/night
- RVs over 21 feet will NOT fit in most sites; a few will accommodate up to 30 feet
- Most sites will not allow RV slide-outs to deploy; St Mary Campground (just 1/2 mile from east park entrance) will be a better option
- Generators allowed in most sites during specific hours throughout the day
An experience like this will be far more authentic and true to the national park spirit than a stay on the more touristy west side. There is no doubt about that!
Heart of Glacier RV Park
Last but not least in the RV parks and campgrounds realm, I will share our experience at Heart of Glacier RV Park during our two-week stay in the fall and give you the overview of the park.
If you like simple, rustic, very conveniently located and reasonably priced, look no further my friend.
This is about what it looked like when we visited in 2018 when it was still very new (opened in 2017 possibly?). However, it sounds like they have continued making improvements and adding amenities, including restrooms and showers.
Sure, it’s not much to look at necessarily. Unless you consider its immediate surroundings, of course. For me, that’s plenty.
Here’s a quick run-down of the highlights:
- Located just 2-3 minutes from St Mary park entrance, grocery store, restaurants, gift shop
- Full hook-ups with 50 Amp at all sites
- Only about 30 sites in park, so very small
- Most sites will accommodate larger RVs and fifth wheels with no problem
- Cost: About $35/night in 2018, but not currently listed on site. Contact them to get updated prices.
For us, this was a perfect option for a two-week stay. It was very affordable, gave us the convenience of full hook-ups and allowed us to easily get into the park repeatedly during our stay. When we make our way back up to Glacier, I can just about guarantee you that this is where we will choose to stay again.
It may not have the views that Johnson’s of St Mary has, but it was less expensive with more trees and more peace. Yup, that’s always my kind of flow.
One last note: I did notice at least one review of this RV park where the person was unhappy with their experience because of loud music from local establishments (probably Frogs Cantina/Kip’s Beer Garden just up the road). They claimed that the loud music continued past midnight and kept them awake. So I thought you should be aware. (We always sleep with the HVAC fan blowing constantly, so my guess is that would have covered up the music for us. But you won’t really know until you try it, I guess! For my money, it’s worth a shot.
Family Activities in the East
Okay, that “family activities” headline may be just a little bit misleading. I’m not trying to be dishonest with you, I’m just following the format of the west section above.
Why is it misleading? Mainly because apart from some great food in St Mary (which we will cover below), you won’t find “touristy” activities for the family here on the east side. Like I said, the vibe is very different and the pace is much slower over here. Whether or not you think you’ll like it and want to experience it is up to you. I’m just here to give you the facts, sir/ma’am.
Eat the Good Foods
Let’s say the kids are getting restless and have grown bored with the national park after just a couple of days of exploring. (I don’t know how that is even remotely possible, but go with me here.) To keep everyone remotely happy, you have two choices: Make the 3-4 hour round trip drive to the west side tourist stops, or find somewhere nearby to stuff your faces with some awesome food. Then hope that they will take a friggin’ nap with those full bellies and there will be a little peace and quiet.
Johnson’s of St Mary Restaurant
My family has eaten at Johnson’s of St Mary three times during our two trips to Glacier. (Yes, I believe it’s owned by the same family that owns the RV park we discussed earlier.) Believe me when I say it was tempting to eat there much more than we did!
Here’s a snippet of their story from their website:
Our World Famous Restaurant has been serving homemade bread, soups, desserts and just about everything else to Glacier Park and Blackfeet Reservation visitors since 1950. Johnson’s typically opens up for the season in late May, and closes in late September. We serve large, family style meals, mouth watering homemade soups, salads, and a variety of sandwiches served on our homemade bread. Although Johnson’s remains true to our Montana roots (mainly meat and potatoes) our unique menu provides something for everyone, including vegetarian options.
My Family’s Dining Experiences
Our family has always had a great meal at this restaurant and we have been able to find something for everyone (yes, even the vegetarians…hello garden burger). They have very good portion sizes which make the moderately high prices much more bearable. How high? Well, our family of five probably averaged about $80-90 per meal. Not outrageous, but not Wendy’s hamburgers either.
For us, it was a nice treat every now and then during our stays. The place definitely has that family feel to it and the servers tend to be very informal and humorous with guests. It makes you feel right at home and leaves you wanting to come back for more.
*P.S. The cinnamon rolls (and cinnamon roll SUNDAE) are to die for. My daughter also highly recommends the Huckleberry Creme Fizz drink. Don’t pass those up!
Eat All the Huckleberry Things
In case you weren’t aware, this area is famous for its huckleberry desserts, jams and…well, anything else you can inject huckleberry into. (Pretty sure I saw huckleberry wine and coffee during our last visit. Did not try.)
If you like tart and tasty, you will be in heaven!
I wish I could provide you with more guidance on the food front, but the truth is that Johnson’s was the only restaurant we ate at in the area. We didn’t feel the need to try anywhere else, and also some of the restaurants had already shut down for the season during our two-week visit to the east side in September.
You will see from a quick Google search that there are clearly some places in town you probably want to avoid (not naming any names, Park Cafe), but most have decent reviews that make them look worth a shot.
But if you like a little more certainty, trust us and just stick with Johnson’s. Even if you have to pay a little more, the food and the overall experience will more than make up for it.
Which Glacier National Park Spots Are You Ready to Hit?
We have covered a LOT of ground here. But when I come to the end of my Glacier National Park posts, I always find it hard to stop because there is so much that I want to share!
I want you to come to love this national park as much as I do…even though I don’t know if that’s possible. And I want to give you all of the information I possibly can to make your Glacier visit absolutely spectacular.
But…every good post must come to an end, my friend. This one is no different. But don’t worry, because if you’ve been paying attention then you know for sure that it won’t be long before I write another post about my favorite place on earth.
Until then, get those plans going!
Todd Bonner is the slightly quieter half of the dynamic TREKKN duo. He spends most of his time sharing information about RV travel and safety, RV accessories and tips, and the National Parks he has visited and still desperately craves. When he’s not busy working on TREKKN, you will often find him staring at breathtaking pictures of Glacier National Park, probably his favorite spot on earth.