Dispersed camping certainly isn’t in short supply near Glacier.
With just a little know-how, it’s super easy to find a free campsite just outside the national park’s borders, on both the west and east sides. Most of these are dispersed campsites in Flathead National Forest.
Here are my favorite free dispersed campsites near Glacier National Park.
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Please always follow the Leave No Trace principles when dispersed camping, especially packing out all of your trash, including human waste.
Best Free Campsites Near Glacier
Jump to the free campsite you want to learn more about:
Or, browse the area’s best free campsites with our Glacier dispersed camping map.
Glacier is bear country, including grizzly bears. It’s extremely important to store your food correctly and always practice proper bear safety.
My Favorite Free Campsites Near Glacier
You can’t dispersed camp in Glacier National Park itself – but there are a ton of free campsites just outside its boundaries. Here are five of my favorites.
Skyland Road (East Side)
Skyland Road is a great spot for free camping near Glacier.
Turn south off Highway 2 (just southwest of Summit Mountain Lodge & Steakhouse) to access this winding stretch of unpaved forest service road dotted with dispersed campsites.
You’ll see potential campsites almost immediately after turning onto Skyland Road. However, I encourage you to drive in at least to the junction with FR 1653 before setting up camp to put a little distance between yourself and the highway.
My favorite campsites here are near “Challenge Cabin” (only open in winter). RVs and trailers should stick to the first couple miles, but most passenger vehicles can continue in without a problem (although low clearance vehicles should exercise caution as ruts, potholes, and rocks are prevalent).
Unfortunately, the area around Skyland Road has been heavily impacted by forest fires. Most of the trees in the area are badly burnt.
The Coal Banks (West Side)
The informally named Coal Banks is a peaceful place to set up camp on the west side of Glacier National Park.
Although there’s not a ton of room to spread out, and campers must be wary of and respectful of nearby private property, there’s still enough space here for about half a dozen parties without sacrificing privacy.
In addition to the proximity to the national park, the main draw of the Coal Banks is the riverside location. The campsites here are just steps from the North Fork Flathead River as well as Coal Creek.
Small RVs and trailers will fit here, but stay away if you travel in a big rig. All passenger vehicles should be able to make it. High-clearance and 4WD aren’t necessary.
The interesting little Montana community of Polebridge, home to the historic Polebridge Mercantile, is just 15 minutes away.
* Because these campsites are so close to the river, you’re not allowed to bury human waste here. Please pack it out.
Blankenship Bridge (West Side)
Blankenship Bridge is one of the most popular spots for dispersed camping near Glacier.
It sits just a half hour from the park’s West Glacier Entrance along the Middle Fork Flathead River in Flathead National Forest.
There are several places to set up camp here, although the most sought after campsites are those located on the expansive gravel river bar.
Camping at Blankenship Bridge certainly isn’t private (it’s almost always very busy, especially in the summer), but it’s incredibly scenic with great river access for swimming, fishing, and rafting.
Because of its popularity (and proximity to several private residences), locals are currently petitioning to close the area to dispersed camping.
As of summer 2022, the Forest Service still allows dispersed camping here – but this could very well change at any time. Please call ahead before visiting for the latest information.
* Because these campsites are so close to the river, you’re not allowed to bury human waste here. Please pack it out or use the provided porta-potties.
Hungry Horse Reservoir (West Side)
Free dispersed campsites are abundant near Hungry Horse Reservoir.
The entire reservoir is surrounded by Flathead National Forest. Although the campsites closest to the water fill up quickly, even during the week, you’ll always find somewhere to set up camp the farther from the reservoir you explore.
It’s difficult to recommend specific campsites here since there are so many spanning such a large area. But, starting your search along West Side Fork Road (FR 895) is a good bet, especially if you want to be within a short driving distance to the national park.
For a little more privacy, head up one of many spur roads away from the reservoir, such as Dorris Creek Road, Lost Johnny Road, or Wounded Buck Road (all off of West Side Fork Road).
My personal favorite dispersed campsites in this area are farther south, near the southern end of the reservoir, especially in the area near Sullivan Creek Bridge. The only downside is these campsites are likely too far away for easy day visits to Glacier National Park.
The eastern side of Hungry Horse Reservoir also has countless dispersed camping options, including easily accessible campsites just off South Fork Flathead Road (also known as East Side Road).
There’s a mix of larger campsites for RV boondocking as well as smaller campsites only accessible in passenger vehicles. If you’re driving an RV or trailer, make sure to scout ahead on foot if you plan to explore any spur forest service roads as these are often very narrow with few places to turn around.
Lower Whitefish Road
* A Montana Recreational Use License ($10 for one year) is required for camping on Montana State Trust Lands.
The dispersed campsites along Lower Whitefish Road are my personal favorites near Glacier National Park.
That said, camping here isn’t for everyone. Aside from a handful of spots, most of the campsites are very close to the road, making them far from private. All but the smallest RVs and trailers will have a difficult time finding a large enough spot here.
With that said, Lower Whitefish Road is the perfect overnight spot for exploring the towns of Whitefish and Kalispell. Plus, West Glacier is only an hour away.
Although the unpaved dirt road is busy during the day (be prepared for a lot of dust in the summer), things quiet down substantially at night.
Dispersed camping is also available along Upper Whitefish Road, including at Upper Whitefish Campground.
Is Dispersed Camping Allowed in Glacier National Park?
No, you’re not allowed to dispersed camp in Glacier National Park itself.
However, as I’ve shown above, there are a ton of free dispersed campsites just a half hour to an hour outside of the national park’s borders.
Dispersed camping is actually only very rarely allowed in national parks. Almost all national parks restrict the practice.
Conservation is the name of the game with the National Park Service, so camping is limited to developed campgrounds in Glacier.
Learn more about dispersed camping in Glacier National Park.
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Let Us Know If You Have Any Questions!
As you can see, Glacier National Park is surrounded by great dispersed campsites.
But, remember – our recommendations above are just a start. There are countless other places for free dispersed camping near Glacier if you take the time to explore.
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