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National Parks: Glacier

Rule #1 when planning a hike through this iconic park: Let your ambition match the scenery.


Q: How do I get primo Glacier permits at the last minute?

A: The park holds half of its permits for walk-ins (apply as early as the day before your trip). With schedule flexibility and good fitness, it’s possible to throw together a life-list-caliber trip on the spot, says Brian McKeon, backcountry permit program supervisor. First: Plan your preferred itinerary the night before and note the three-letter codes of your intended campsites. Each day at 4:30 p.m., the permit offices post the list of sites available for the next day. Second: The permit system opens at 7 a.m. sharp. Get to the Backcountry Permit Office at the Apgar West Entrance early. “In the height of the season,” McKeon says, “5:30 a.m. is not unreasonable.” (Tip: It’s officially against policy, but we’ve found rangers will sometimes fill out the permit form before 7 a.m., so they can click send as soon as the system unlocks—giving your request a slight edge.) Third: Be amenable to variable distances on the first three days. On trips with long itineraries, site availability increases after that initial period. Alternative for next year: Plan ahead. Mail or fax advance reservation requests ($30/permit) between January 1 and April 15, when the lottery is held.

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