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Bowman Lake Campground Glacier National Park

When We Went

Mid-August

Pros

Warmer weather

Cons

Busy season in Glacier National Park

How We Got There

We drove a car from Glacier Park International Airport (FCA). If you are renting a vehicle, be sure to rent one with all wheel drive and a higher clearance level as the road to Bowman lake is filled with generous sized pot holes. The scenery along the way, however, is breathtaking!

Enjoying a huckleberry bear claw from the Mercantile in Polebridge, be sure to bring a vehicle that can get the job done! - Bowman Lake, Glacier National Park

What We Loved

Bowman Lake may just be my new favorite front country campground in Glacier National Park. (We’ve also camped at Saint Mary’s and Apgar Campgrounds) It’s a bit more difficult to get to, but well worth the effort. You can view recent fill times for all Glacier National Park front country campgrounds here and plan your arrival accordingly. Surprisingly, this week in August (second week) has not filled at Bowman Lake Campground. That’s a pleasant surprise, and a win for team Cantrell!

Views of Bowman Lake from the shore, visitors can pull up here to unload paddle boards and kayaks.

The drive to Bowman Lake Campground rewards it’s travelers with gorgeous river views that open wide to mountain panoramas. A journey back in time with dirt roads, log cabins dotting acres of fields, and a mercantile that dates back to 1914 (just 4 years after president Taft established Glacier National Park). Be sure to head into the mercantile for a fresh baked pastry to enjoy upon your arrival. 

Be sure to head into the mercantile for a fresh baked pastry to enjoy upon your arrival.

Our pasty of choice? The huckleberry bear claw. Fresh baked daily and filled to the brim with huckleberries bursting with flavor. A fitting addition to this mountain escape that fills the senses.

The Mercantile in Polebridge is a wonderful stop along your journey to Bowman Lake in Glacier National Park.

A bit further down the road, you’ll enter Glacier National Park where a park ranger is available to answer all of your camping questions. If the campground has already filled, they will suggest alternative options. If you are visiting Bowman Lake for the day, you may need to wait up to an hour to pass, as daily parking is limited and rangers will not allow vehicles to pass once it has filled. It is well worth the wait, however, and visitors can take a dip in the river and enjoy the many photo opportunities nearby while waiting. If you don’t want to wait, you can view a nearby hike that we enjoy just outside of the park here.

Enjoying Bowman Lake views from the bridge along the Quartz Lake Loop Trail in Glacier National Park.

Upon arrival at the campground, visitors select their camp site (we especially enjoyed site #26) before walking back to the campground entrance to pay for the site and obtain a ticket for the duration of their stay. The campground accepts, cash, check, or credit cards for payment. Campground hosts are also available to answer questions and provide recommendations.

There are several hiking opportunities available from the campground. The Bowman Lake Trail is an out and back trail that meanders along the lakeshore while the Numa Ridge Lookout Trail is an out and back trail great for those seeking a bit more elevation gain along with the incredible views provided by higher elevations. Akokala Lake Trail can be reached directly from Bowman Lake Campground while the Quartz Lake Loop Trail rewards guests quickly with a wooden bridge crossing that provides almost private views of Bowman Lake and the surrounding mountains.

Akokala Lake Trail can be reached directly from Bowman Lake Campground while the Quartz Lake Loop Trail rewards guests quickly with a wooden bridge crossing that provides almost private views of Bowman Lake and the surrounding mountains.

 I personally prefer a loop hike as opposed to an out and back, however this hike only has average reviews for views. But...to be fair, it's hard to beat the view of Bowman Lake visitors enjoy from the start. And…for the very adventurous, backcountry camping is available at the Northeast end of the lake at about the 7 mile marker of the Bowman Lake Trail. Visitors can hike or paddle across the lake to arrive at the back country camping site. Kayak tie up posts are also available. 

Enjoying our campsite at Bowman Lake Campground in Glacier National Park.

We were only able to stay one night, but we will return as a family to stay a few more in the future. I would love to head into Polebridge to eat at the saloon and listen to live music one evening. There is also Ranch Bottoms cafe along the drive. A tiny book library sits just outside of the Mercantile in Polebridge, inviting visitors to slow down and escape to another world while lazily swinging in a hammock. 

A tiny book library sits just outside of the Mercantile in Polebridge, inviting visitors to slow down and escape to another world while lazily swinging in a hammock.

Some guests rode bikes along the dirt road, others sat along the lakeshore watching kayakers paddle by, and some (the bravest of guests) just couldn’t resist the crystal clear waters of Bowman Lake and chose to dive in. 

Why Bowman Lake Campground is a Favorite

To me, Bowman Lake Campground has the best of both worlds. It has fewer people than both Apgar and Saint Mary’s Campgrounds, but still provides opportunities to head into the small town of Polebridge for dinner and live music or a pastry and some local souvenirs. The views here are unbeatable, and water activities, hiking, and biking are available as well. Stables and a back country campsite are accessible from this campground, and visitors can fish in the river found along the drive or at the bridge along the Quartz Lake Loop Trail.

Know Before You Go

Dogs are allowed at the campground, however they can only access the Quartz Lake Loop Trail to the bridge and on to the stables. All other hiking trails are off limits to dogs. This is typical at all locations in Glacier National Park.

This campground is in bear country. Remember to bring bear spray. If you need a quick tutorial you can view one here. Also, please be sure to properly close the bear proof trash receptacles and bathroom doors. I found several left open by other guests, seemingly unaware of a bear’s capabilities.

This campground is in bear country. Remember to bring bear spray.


Be sure to properly close all doors to prevent bear access! Bowman Lake Campground, Glacier National Par

Watercraft is allowed on Bowman Lake, however, if visitors would like to bring boating items (kayaks, paddle boards, inflatable tubes, etc.) all items must be inspected in Apgar Village for invasive species and be tagged for the duration of your stay. To help ensure a passed inspection, keep your boat clean and dry for at least 3 days prior to your arrival, preferably a week if possible.

To help ensure a passed inspection, keep your boat clean and dry for at least 3 days prior to your arrival, preferably a week if possible.

This campground is mostly shaded so bring plenty of warm clothing. Even in mid-August we were bundled up in puff coats and beanies while at camp. Campers can, however, soak up the sunshine along the lakeshore.

Remember to bring bug spray. Mosquitos weren’t horrible during our stay, but they were present.

Be sure to rent an all wheel drive vehicle with enough clearance to maneuver the pot holes along the drive to Bowman Lake.

Have you been to Bowman Lake? Leave your tips or suggestions for visitors below.

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