By Michael Lanza

There are two immutable truths about backpacking in Glacier National Park. First, from its stirring landscape, where glaciers hang off muscular mountains and sheer cliffs soar above deeply green valleys dappled with lakes and waterfalls, to almost certain sightings of wildlife like mountain goats, bighorn sheep, moose, elk, and grizzly and black bears, there’s really no place in the continental United States quite like Glacier.

Second, it’s one of the hardest backcountry permits to get in the National Park System.

In this story, I will offer tips on how to maximize your chances of getting a permit to backpack in Glacier, sharing expertise I’ve acquired from several trips there over the past three decades, including the 10 years I spent as Northwest Editor of Backpacker magazine and even longer running this blog.

Just in recent years, I’ve successfully reserved a Glacier permit on two of my three attempts—and my lone unsuccessful application was rejected for reasons I fully anticipated (and explain below). Plus, Glacier’s online reservation system is actually friendlier to navigate and more egalitarian than the process in some parks.


Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, creator of The Big Outside. Click here to sign up for my FREE email newsletter. Join The Big Outside to get full access to all of my blog’s stories. Click here for my e-guides to classic backpacking trips. Click here to learn how I can help you plan your next trip.

A backpacker on the Dawson Pass Trail in Glacier National Park.
” data-image-caption=”Jeff Wilhelm backpacking the Dawson Pass Trail in Glacier National Park. Click photo for my e-guides to this trip and another in Glacier.
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