How to Avoid “Advanced Reservation Heartbreak”

July 06, 2016 Posted by: Ranger Carol

For all of you frustrated over an existing or future advanced reservation…this blog is for you! I'm Ranger Carol and my goal is to make the elevation gain the most painful part of your backcountry experience!

WARNING: This blog is lengthy and packed full of USEFUL information.

Insider Tip # 1: Glacier National Park changed the way we process advanced reservation applications for backcountry camping this year. Applications are processed first-come, first-served via an application through the Internet only. We have received 3216 applications for advanced reservations as of yesterday. Is that a lot? Absolutely! And we reserve ONLY just over half of our backcountry campsites for people submitting these applications. Many sites are not available for advanced reservations now.

Insider Tip # 2: If you are even thinking about submitting an advanced reservation, PLEASE check out our Interactive Map on the Backcountry Advanced Reservation Webpage. Just scroll down and select "Advance Reservation Availability." (Also, check out the information on the page –we tried to make it super helpful!) If you're interested in a particular campground, click on that campground on the map…it will show you what MIGHT be available. Remember, applications are not processed same day, so sites available on the map are not guaranteed by the time we get your application. However, it WILL show you what is NOT available. If you submit an application with sites that are not available…you will not get those sites. Cancellations do occur when backpackers' plans change, so it never hurts to check back.

Insider Tip # 3: If you check the boxes on that application indicating that you will accept certain changes (different dates, different campgrounds, different areas of the part, etc…) you MUST be willing to accept those changes. And if you say you will take ANYTHING, you must be willing to accept anything. If you check that box, we HAVE to give you something if a trip is still available! We will try our hardest to get you something close to what you wanted, but sometimes that just isn't possible, particularly if you forgot to check out that map mentioned above. We spend a lot of time on each application, particularly if what you wanted wasn't available but you selected you were willing to accept changes.

Insider Tip # 4: Often an advanced reservation itinerary can be altered using walk-in availability. You're certainly not locked into what we manage to give you. We can't accept requests for changes to a submitted application via email or phone. All advanced reservations are done via the Internet and when you call or email there's already a line of folks with submitted applications in front of you. If you want to alter your itinerary, you may do so in person no more than 24 hours in advance of your first night out in the backcountry (same day or day before). We can then use walk-in availability to alter a few nights or to scrap your original trip and start over with a new plan. This will not cost you anything extra, because now you are a walk-in backpacker. The only fee you will still owe is that $7 per person per night fee that everybody owes.

Insider Tip # 5: You CAN always submit another Advanced Reservation Application at any time, but it will cost you another $40 ($10 processing fee, $30 trip fulfillment fee) to do so. Again, please check that map before submitting and double, triple check to make sure what you have selected is true to what you will really accept. As soon as you submit that application, we must process it according to the criteria you put down as well as the rules.

Insider Tip # 6: Don't forget the rules! We can't make special allowances because snow might melt off of the Fifty Mountain Backcountry Campground early this year and it might be available on 7/25/2016. Trust me;we backcountry permit writers cannot forecast weather! Countless times we've been snowed, hailed and poured on during what we thought would be "nice" days. We must go by the traditional opening dates of campgrounds and IF they do open early, we will get them into the advanced reservation pool as soon as they are available.

Still on # 6: We also only allow application submissions for trips with days of 16 miles or less (so 16 miles each day is acceptable). There is no flexibility. If you are ready to hike over 16 miles a day, you must get a permit for this trip in person using walk-in availability no more than 24 hours before your first night out. If you submit an application online for this trip, we can't…we just can't. Sixteen miles is a long way in the backcountry here. It wouldn't matter if it was the great Bob Marshall himself;he would have to come in for a walk-in permit.

FINALLY! The most important tip: There is no bad backcountry trip in Glacier. Well, okay, obviously there are. Injuries, weather and other unforeseen circumstances can obviously ruin your trip. I will say instead, there are no bad destinations in Glacier. What is my favorite trip? The last one I was on. Really.

Hint: No, you don't need to submit an advanced reservation application to go backpacking here. We do have walk-in permits available in person 24 hours (or less) in advance of your first night out. Be flexible, let Glacier National Park inside you–and you will love any trip you take here. I have –no exception.

Last updated: July 6, 2016

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