Camping in Glacier National Park was one of the best experiences we’ve had as a family. If you’ve been keeping up with our adventures, you’ll already know that the last stop on our 2017 summer road trip was Glacier National Park. If you’re new here, be sure to check out our post on Glacier and all the amazing adventures we packed into three days. It was amazing!
We camped two days at Fish Creek Campground inside Glacier National Park boundaries and two days at West Glacier KOA, just outside the western entrance to the park. Since we’ve had a lot of questions as to which spot was better, we thought we’d review our stays at both campgrounds and give you guys a list of pros and cons for each one. 🙂
Fish Creek Campground, Glacier National Park
We spent the first two nights at Fish Creek Campground. Because we were visiting Glacier in summer, I knew it would be crowded. Most of the campgrounds in the park are first come, first served with the exception of Fish Creek Campground and St. Mary Campground. Reservations for those can be made in advance online. Because we were on a lengthy road trip, we knew we needed reservations, so it came down to one of those two campgrounds for us.
St. Mary is the largest campground, but it is on the east side of the park. Fish Creek comes in second in size and has many of the amenities that St. Mary has, but it is on the west side of the park and close to Lake McDonald. That made it a winner for us. We booked our reservations in early March and secured one of the last sites available–site B41–in June. This was not the most ideal site as it was next to the bathrooms and there were only two nights available, but honestly, we were really excited to have even secured a site at all.
There are 178 campsites in Fish Creek Campground, however many of them are quite small. Only 18 of those sites will accommodate anything longer than 35 feet, and that includes truck and trailer combinations. Most of the sites are surrounded by large trees and provide quite a bit of privacy from the surrounding campsites. This was especially nice for us, since we had campsites all around our site, and a trail to the bathrooms ran right along the back of our camp.
There are four loops in Fish Creek Campground: A, B, C, and D. Our site was located in the B loop. The sites that offer views of Lake McDonald are located in the C and D loops. We drove those loops during our stay, and they were truly beautiful. These loops are a little tight, though, and RVs and vehicle/trailer combos longer than 28 feet will have trouble navigating the roads–especially in loop D.
As I mentioned earlier, sites at Fish Creek Campground are reservable in advance online. Each campsite runs $23/night and includes a fire ring with grill and a picnic table. That’s it. They are pretty basic. There are no hookups, but there are potable water spigots throughout the campground and an RV dump station near the entrance. There are also comfort stations attached to the bathroom buildings, and campers can dump their portable toilet waste and gray water here. This was perfect for us, as we happened to be very close to a bathroom, so we didn’t have to walk far with our gray water tank. Silver lining, right? 😆
Bathrooms with flush toilets are found in each loop, but the only showers in Fish Creek are located in the A loop. This was our only major problem with the campground. There are 178 campsites in Fish Creek Campground and 194 campsites in the neighboring Apgar Campground. Between those 372 campsites, most of which can accommodate at least six campers each, there are four showers. As you can imagine, this resulted in ridiculous wait times for showers. We took the trek down to the showers our first night in the campground, and our wait was over an hour. Thankfully, the water was still warm. We skipped showering the second night, because we knew we’d be headed to the KOA. If we were staying more than two nights in Fish Creek, this would have been a problem for us. Mama needs a shower at least every couple of days. 😉
Maybe it was because we were visiting early in the summer, but the privacy of the Fish Creek campsites was hard to beat. The campground was full, but it was still very peaceful. We did have a few kids who insisted on walking through our campsite to get to the bathroom, but if we hadn’t been in the path to the bathroom, it would have felt like we were completely isolated. Don’t get me wrong. Fish Creek is very family-friendly. There were definitely kids riding bikes and running through the campground roads, but the forest really absorbed the sound. Our site felt serene and peaceful, and when the evening rain pattered down on the camper roof, we were lulled to sleep both nights. It was a pretty perfect way to end a busy day.
Camping in Glacier National Park: Fish Creek Campground
- Fish Creek Campground has 178 campsites, which are reservable in advance for $23/night. Each site offers a fire pit with attached grill and a picnic table. There are no hookups, but water is available throughout the campground. There is also a dump station in the campground, and in each loop there are individual campers’ dump stations for gray water and portable toilet waste. Sites within Glacier National Park fill up fast, so make your reservations early.
- There are showers in the A loop, but there are only four. These showers are available to campers in the Fish Creek and Apgar campgrounds, so they get very busy. When we visited, they had been used by hundreds of campers since their last cleaning, so they were filthy, too. If showers are important to you, you may want to plan to visit them during the late morning or early afternoon hours when they are less busy.
- Loops C & D offer a few sites with lake views. They fill up FAST and cannot accommodate larger RVs and vehicle/trailer combos. If your rig is over 28 feet, consider staying in the A or B loop. Those loops can accommodate RVs up to 35 feet in length, and you’ll have an easier time maneuvering.
- Fish Creek is close to Apgar Village and Lake McDonald, and there is plenty to do in the area. Make sure to check out our post on Glacier National Park for a rundown of all the activities in the area. We rented kayaks, went horseback riding, did some souvenir shopping, grabbed ice cream, went hiking… There is SO much to do in Glacier!
West Glacier KOA
Because there were only two nights available in Fish Creek Campground, we decided to grab two nights down the road at West Glacier KOA. We hadn’t had much experience with KOA Kampgrounds, but this particular one came highly recommended. It is only about 15 minutes away from Fish Creek Campground, and about 10 minutes from the West Glacier park entrance. We gave them a call to book a site, and it was almost as difficult to book a site here as it was inside the park! This place is popular! 😀
Check-in was a breeze. The staff was wonderful and helped us get to our site and find everything we needed. I really cannot stress that enough. Everyone was super friendly and helpful the entire stay. The downside? These campsites didn’t have the privacy we enjoyed at Fish Creek Campground.
The only sites left when we booked our stay were pretty close together. Let’s just say we got to know our neighbors really well. This can either be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on the neighbors. 😉 We were lucky. We had some great neighbors and really enjoyed chatting with them during our stay. But I will say that we were awakened very early both mornings by a crying baby in one of the campsites nearby, and in those moments, we wished for a little more seclusion.
The amenities in West Glacier KOA are hard to beat, though. Our site had water and electric, but no sewer. We had to use the campground dump station for gray water. There was a picnic table and grill in our site, which was nice, however, we didn’t have much room to spread out. We kept our chairs packed away and used the picnic table for seating. I will say the site was pretty tight, so we didn’t spend much time out around the campfire at night like we did in Fish Creek.Pricing at West Glacier KOA varies depending on the site and season. During June when we stayed, our site ran around $70/night. For about $130/night, we could have stayed in a deluxe pull-thru patio site, which had full hookups, mature trees for privacy, a full patio table with chairs, and a gas grill. It also had a fire ring and much more room to spread out around it. We had to pass by these sites on the way to the laundry facilities, and I would gaze longingly at them as we walked by. I’m not sure our budget could have afforded a site like this, but they sure were nice.
Our favorite part of the campground was the bathroom facilities. There were bathroom buildings scattered throughout the campground, and they were wonderful! They were sparkling clean at all times and never crowded. Within minutes of arriving, my kids were down at the showers. After our shower experience at Fish Creek, it was heaven to have a private, clean, warm shower with absolutely no wait. The teenagers loved that. 😉
Another amenity we were grateful for at West Glacier KOA was the WIFI. We didn’t even have wireless service inside Glacier National Park, let alone WIFI. Normally, we’d be all over this, but in order to take long road trips like this, Mr. TypeTwoFun has to work on the road every few days. Sometimes, the WIFI at a campground is worthless, and we end up packing up in search of a Starbucks. The WIFI at West Glacier KOA was awesome. It was fast and didn’t get bogged down by too many users. We were able to work when we needed, and that always makes our trips flow smoothly.
Another thing that makes our trips run smoothly is great laundry facilities. We pack five family members into a small car (and even smaller camper) for three weeks. That means we pack light, so we love campgrounds that have efficient laundry facilities, and West Glacier KOA definitely delivered there. When the rest of the family went horseback riding (you can read about that here), I popped into the laundry building to make sure we had clean clothes for the rest of our trip. There were plenty of machines available, and I was able to get all my laundry finished before the kids made it back to camp. That was a win for this mama.
West Glacier KOA boasts “Holiday” designation, which means it is more of a destination campground than a short stop-over. There is a large swimming pool, playground, restaurant, coffee shop, and a cute ice cream shop, which we hit both nights after dinner. Yum! It is really a very family friendly campground, and there were lots of kids riding bikes and scooters, playing tag on the playground, or enjoying a swim in the evenings. Despite the chilly weather while we were there, the carefree feeling of summer permeated the place, and you could hear the sounds of Marco Polo games and hide-and-seek countdowns into the night. We really enjoyed our time there.
Camping in Glacier National Park: West Glacier KOA
- West Glacier KOA has a variety of sites at different price points throughout their campground. While they are all much more expensive than a site in the neighboring national park campgrounds, they are often easier to come by and have all the amenities you won’t find camping inside the park. If you need those amenities, you won’t find a better campground that West Glacier KOA.
- Even though sites are easier to come by at West Glacier KOA, they still sell out fast. We made our reservations in March and snagged one of the last sites available on June 30. If you know West Glacier is on the itinerary, make your reservations as soon as possible for the best availability.
- If you value your privacy over cost, splurge for one of the deluxe patio sites. Not only will you get a patio, full table and chairs, gas grill, and fire pit, you’ll also get a larger site with mature trees that separate you from your neighbors. The smaller back-in sites are cheaper, but you will also be very close to the neighboring sites on all sides.
- West Glacier KOA has been given the Holiday designation, so there is a lot to do in the campground. It is all very family friendly, too. There is a pool, playground, various game courts, an ice cream parlor, and a restaurant on site. They even host magic shows and birds of prey demonstrations that are great for the kids.
Fish Creek Campground vs. West Glacier KOA?
So which did we like best? Honestly, we loved them both for different reasons. We loved the privacy and convenience of Fish Creek Campground. It was much more peaceful than West Glacier KOA, and you can’t beat the price. After two nights in Fish Creek, though, we were ready for a shower and laundry, and West Glacier KOA was perfect for that. Staying in both places really was the best of both worlds for us, but we realize that isn’t realistic for most campers.
If you have to choose between staying in the park and staying outside at West Glacier KOA, evaluate what is most important to your family. You can’t go wrong with either spot. If you value privacy and affordability over amenities, we recommend Fish Creek. If you need a family-friendly campground with hookups, laundry, and activities, West Glacier KOA is your place. Have you been camping in Glacier National Park? We’d love to hear your favorite camping spots in the comments below! 🙂
***I was not financially compensated for this post, but we did receive a complimentary two-night stay at KOA for review purposes. The opinions in this post are completely my own based on my experience. Please know that I write my honest opinion on all product reviews, regardless of how the product came to me. The content of my review will always be my true and honest experience with the product. If you see a review here on The Pop Up Princess, you know I like the product enough to give it my stamp of approval.***