Winter Camping in Glacier National Park
Trust us, camping in an igloo is more fun than it sounds. The experts at Glacier Adventure Guides in Montana lead intrepid campers into the vast winter wilderness of Glacier National Park — by Nordic ski, backcountry touring ski, or by snowshoe — for multiday adventures December through March.
The adventure begins at Glacier Adventure Guides headquarters in Columbia Falls, Montana, otherwise known as the gateway to Glacier National Park. You’ll meet your guides (there are always at least two), get debriefed on the program, and go through an equipment check. If you don’t already have a sleeping bag rated to -10º, a sleeping mat, an inflatable sleeping pad like a Thermarest, avalanche gear, and ski or snowshoe equipment, you can rent it all there.
Once camp has been established, the guides will build igloos using a tool called an Icebox. The smallest igloo is 7 feet in diameter and sleeps one. The largest, 11 feet in diameter, sleeps four. “It takes three to four hours to build an igloo, but they’re worth it for the warmth and wind protection,” says lead guide and owner Greg Fortin. “Plus it’s really fun.”
While Glacier Adventure Guides lead expeditions all over Glacier National Park, one of Fortin’s favorite winter locations is the Two Medicine region, tucked between two lakes on the park’s southeastern side. After a five-mile hike in, the group establishes a basecamp on the shore of Two Medicine Lake, where the steep south face of 9,513-foot Rising Wolf Mountain towers over the frozen water.
After a home-cooked meal prepared by your guides (who tow the food and cooking gear behind them on sleds called Ski Pulks), it’s off to bed with a Nalgene bottle full of hot water to stuff into your sleeping bag. In the following days, your guides will lead day trips to destinations like Scenic Point, a vantage point on the Continental Divide, some 2,000 feet above the lake.
While Fortin will run two-day/one-night trips, he recommends at least two or three nights. “You’re not going to get the real winter experience knowing it’s only 24 hours before you can go home and take a hot shower,” he says. “It takes at least a day to adjust to the environment, to learn the techniques for staying warm, for preparing food, for surviving.”
Starting at $220 per day for a group, or $440 per day for a single person; includes group equipment like cookware and all meals. Be sure to bring a headlamp and a backpack for your personal items and sleeping gear.
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