Glacier National Park Montana is a bucket list for many, and for many great reasons! We explore the park, fantastic dining and drinks in Columbia Falls, and FREE camping just minutes from everything!
This week we celebrated Howard’s birthday (the big 40!) with a special trip up to Glacier National Park, near Columbia Falls, MT. With fires burning in several western states, we didn’t know what to expect from our visit, or if we would see anything at all. Thankfully for all of us, the weather changed, rain fell, and we were given the gift of clear skies for a few days!
Places we visited, hikes we did, etc:
- Going to the Sun Road – Glacier National Park
- Backslope Brewing – Columbia Falls, MT
- Glacier Distillery – Coram, MT
- Lake McDonald Lodge – West Glacier, MT
- Avalanche Lake Trail – Glacier National Park
- Baring Falls via Piegan Pass Trail – Glacier National Park
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Where we stayed this episode:
Blankenship Bridge Dispersed Camping
GPS Coordinates: 48.460943, -114.070595
(Posted 3 Day free limit, did not appear enforced during our stay)
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Apps & Websites We Use to Find FREE Camping
In order to find free camping, we use a variety of resources:
- Campendium: This is our go to search engine for camping because we can actually filter our locations based on cell service and connectivity, which is huge since we work from the road. It’s helpful to see reviews from other campers and you can set the filters for free camping as well.
- iOverlander: This is a great resource for not only finding camping, but the amenities you’ll eventually need after dry camping for a while. You can look for dump stations, water, even RV repair and showers on this user-generated map.
- Freecampsites.net: Another great user-generated map of camping with reviews and pictures.
- Ultimate Public Campgrounds: This is the most comprehensive list of public paid and free campsites with over 43,000 listings. You can display or hide based on operator, amenities offered, price, etc. Another great perk of this app is that you can download maps by region of the country, and once you have it loaded on your phone, you don’t need internet access to review the listings.
What We Look for in a FREE Campsite
There are certain must haves and nice to haves when we’re scouting out campsites.
- Cell service: In case I haven’t mentioned it enough, connectivity is crucial since we work from the road. When we scout out campsites in our tow vehicle, we bring our Verizon Jetpack and antenna with us and run speed tests to see if the service will be good enough for work. If it’s not… we move on. There is a free app called “Speed Test” that you can download to run the same tests we do!
- Privacy: Katelyn is a self-proclaimed introvert… the further away from people the better for her (Howard is the social butterfly) and given the current state of Covid-19, we try to find secluded spots. This often takes a bit more time and effort, but the payoff is always worth it for us. We don’t have to worry about other barking dogs (our pups really don’t like that) or bothering anyone else if we need to run our generator.
- Views: This is always a bonus and something we usually seek out, afterall… with a home on wheels, having epic scenery out your window is what it’s all about! Again, this takes a little more time and effort. But if we know we’re staying somewhere for at least 3+ nights, then it’s worth it for us to spend the time finding an ideal location.
- A level spot: While our rig doesn’t need to be perfectly level for certain appliances, like the refrigerator, to operate, sleeping on a slope doesn’t always feel good. We try and eyeball a spot for levelness. You can usually tell if it just won’t work or if you can make it better by utilizing leveling blocks, which we often do.
FREE Camping Rules & Reminders
Since we’ve been doing so much free camping, we’ve unfortunately seen the aftermath of people who don’t respect the land and follow common courtesy. The biggest rule of free camping should be a no-brainer, but sadly that isn’t the case.
- ALWAYS pack out your trash, dumping is NEVER ok. We’ve seen mattresses (!?), old camping chairs, bottles, plywood boards, cans, diapers. You name it… don’t be those people. It will ruin it for everyone. And if you can, leave the campsite better than you found it. We practice the philosophy of Leave No Trace, to learn more click here.
- Most BLM camping or Forest Roads have a 14 day limit, which is incredible! This is usually posted at the entrance area.
- And lastly, remember to be respectful of neighbors if you have them. No one likes listening to others loud music, yelling, generators or barking dogs. 😉