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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Glacier National Park increases camping fees, debuts wilderness permit lottery

The sign leading into Apgar Campground at Glacier National Park.  (Courtesy of Glacier National Park)
By Joshua Murdock Missoulian

MISSOULA – Visitors to some of Glacier National Park’s most popular campgrounds will pay more to camp there in 2024.

The National Park Service increased camping fee rates at a slew of front-country campgrounds. According to an announcement of the fee increases Friday, affected campgrounds will cost anywhere from $7 to $10 more per night in 2024 than they did in 2023.

The Apgar, Fish Creek, Many Glacier, Sprague Creek and St. Mary campgrounds, all standard tent campgrounds requiring reservations in peak season, will see rates increase from $23 to $30. The Avalanche and Two Medicine campgrounds, also reservation tent campgrounds, will go from $20 to $30. The Bowman and Kintla first-come, first-served tent campgrounds will increase from $15 to $25. And the Rising Sun and St. Mary first-come/first-served tent campgrounds will go from $20 to $30.

The shift – the first major rate hike at Glacier in 16 years – comes in the wake of the latest extension of the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act. The law, originally enacted for 10 years beginning in 2004 but extended multiple times since, will last until Oct. 1. It allows certain federal agencies, such as the National Park Service, to charge service or amenity fees at specific units, like Glacier National Park, and retain up to 80% of fee revenue to fund improvements in the unit where the fee was charged.

That means that most of the money generated by increased fees in Glacier National Park will go toward projects in Glacier, rather than going into a national-level fund. Gina Icenoggle, spokesperson for Glacier National Park, wrote in Friday’s announcement that the funds go toward things like “trail and campground repairs and improvements, increasing accessibility, and facility restoration.”

The agency stated that the increases also bring rates more in line with nearby campground offerings outside of the park. The agency took public comment on the proposal from Aug. 9 through Sept. 8. Twenty-three percent of comments opposed the increases; 43% directly supported the increases; 34% were neutral or did not indicate a position.

Apgar’s group sites are slated for a fee increase in 2025. Interagency senior pass and interagency lifetime access pass holders still qualify for half-priced camping.

Last month, the National Park Service announced changes to the vehicle reservation system at Glacier National Park.

Wilderness lottery

Separately, Glacier National Park will offer new “early access lotteries” for 2024 wilderness permits. The lotteries – one for groups of one to eight people, one for groups of nine to 12 – offer an earlier, if random, chance at securing a wilderness permit for backcountry camping in the park. The “standard group” size of one to eight people is also an increase from previous years.

The large-group permit lottery will be open all day on March 1. Five permits will be awarded in a random selection. The standard-group lottery is open all day March 15. That opening releases 3,000 permits, according to an announcement of the system Monday. Lottery entries are limited at one per person and cost a nonrefundable $10 fee. For entrants who are awarded a permit in the lottery, the $10 lottery fee will cover their permit fee.

The general sale period for wilderness permits runs from 8 a.m. May 1 through 11:59 p.m. Sept. 30. Permits cost a $10 permit fee, plus a $7 per-person per-night camping fee.

The lotteries and regular sale sites are available on recreation.gov.

Visitors who vie for a permit in a lottery are still eligible to buy a wilderness permit during the regular purchase period, or to secure a walk-in spot the day of or before they hope to camp.

About 30% of wilderness campsites in the park are withheld for walk-ins, plus any campsites not reserved during the early lottery or general sale period.