Backcountry Camping in Montana

Backcountry Camping in Montana
Montana is a wild and untamed land, with mountains, open grasslands and prairies, rivers, lakes and numerous state and national parks. Montana has opportunities for backcountry skiing, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, mountaineering, hiking, mountain biking, river rafting, fishing and camping. Chances of encountering or viewing wildlife such as grizzly bears, moose, wolves and fox are plentiful, so prepare yourself by bringing the necessary gear and knowledge of how to use it. Backcountry camping is permitted in Montana, mostly through the national parks and forests.

Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park allows backcountry camping by permit only. Get backcountry permits at park headquarters and sign out a bear can for food storage. Backcountry campers must use these bear canisters for bear and human safety. Summer and winter backcountry camping are allowed. Permits are issued based on how many users are in each backcountry quadrant/district. Campers must watch a bear safety video prior to being issued backcountry permits. Bring water filters because there are no water sources other than streams, creeks and rivers.

Glacier National Park
Park Headquarters
P.O. Box 128
West Glacier, MT 59936


Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park spreads into three states, and Montana is one of them. Backcountry camping is allowed by permit only. Permits to camp at backcountry locations are issued based on the number of campers in one area. Maximum stays at each backcountry campsite are three nights. No pets are allowed. Bring your own water or system to purify. Pack out what you pack in, and be aware that some backcountry campsites do not allow open fires. Check on your location prior to having a fire. Food hanging poles and caches are available at backcountry campsites for bear safety.

Yellowstone National Park
P.O. Box 168
Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190-0168

Flathead National Forest

Flathead National Forest covers 2.3 million acres in western Montana and has part of the Continental Divide running through its boundaries. Backcountry camping is allowed in the national forest. No backcountry permits are needed, unless running a commercial trip as a guide or professional. Areas such as the Flathead Wild and Scenic rivers and Jewel Basin Hiking Area get you deep into the wilderness. Camp where you like, but adhere to the leave-no-trace ethics. Grizzly bears, black bears, moose, wolves and other mega-fauna frequent the region. Bring bear spray and understand how to use it. Store food away from campsites or in bear resistant canisters.

Flathead National Forest
650 Wolfpack Way
Kalispell, MT 59901


Article Written By Eric Cedric

A former Alaskan of 20 years, Eric Cedric now resides in California. He's published in "Outside" and "Backpacker" and has written a book on life in small-town Alaska, "North by Southeast." Cedric was a professional mountain guide and backcountry expedition leader for 18 years. He worked in Russia, Iceland, Greece, Turkey and Belize. Cedric attended Syracuse University and is a private pilot.

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