First Impressions of Glacier National Park at Bowman Lake

Travel destinations only get one chance to make a first impression. If my first hour at Bowman Lake in Glacier National Park was any indication, Glacier and I are going to be besties for a long, long time.

My Glacier NP experience began with a drive to Bowman Lake, which offers an opportunity to get off the beaten path. The main park road won’t get you there.

Instead, you’ll have to drive outside the park through Polebridge, the little town with no electricity, and then continue on a winding gravel road into the northwest corner of the park for what feels like much longer than its actual length of six miles.

But the rewards are so worth it!

bowman lake

Bowman Lake’s location in the northwest corner of Glacier National Park (the North Fork area) makes it far less crowded than Going-to-the-Sun Road and the other popular regions of the national park. So if you’re looking to escape the crowds and enjoy some awesome sights, consider checking out this area!

Stepping into this lakeside view after driving down the gravel road and then taking a short walk through the woods almost took my breath away. Glacier NP looks different during every season, and being there to see the yellows and oranges of autumn was a special treat.

autumn-colors

What a view at Bowman Lake in Glacier National Park!

This little portion of wilderness and the 1700-acre lake (the park’s third-largest) sit 30 miles from the Canadian border. It wasn’t just the sights that made Bowman Lake enjoyable. It was the feel of the crisp air. And the near-silence and tranquility from the absence of people and vehicles.

Looking around at the scenery, I kept saying, “Wow!” That’s a pattern that would repeat itself during my five days in the Glacier National Park region, as I found myself in a state of awe every time new mountains or glaciers or lakes came into view. Bowman Lake made the best first impression imaginable.

Hiking and Camping at Bowman

At one point I said out loud, “I want to camp here for a month!” Bowman Lake does have a campground, for those who might want to give this place an extended look. It’s a first-come, first-serve campground.

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As of this writing, the Bowman Lake Campground has 46 sites and charges $15 a night. It’s a rustic campground, with no flushing toilets or showers. It’s ideal for tent campers who want some serenity. Vehicles over 21 feet are prohibited from visiting, as the gravel road is narrow and winding.

bowman lake view

Beautiful views at Bowman Lake, Montana!

When should you visit Bowman Lake? Like much of Glacier National Park, it’s covered in snow during the winter, so July through September are ideal. Even during summer, bring warm clothes for chilly evenings, and don’t forget to bring bug repellent, because mosquitos are common near the lake.

Hiking opportunities abound throughout the entire park. In this area, consider the Bowman Lake Trail, which runs for 13 miles deep into secluded forest territory. That makes it 26 miles if you want to do the full round-trip!

Seven miles into the Bowman Lake Trail hike, you’ll reach “Head of Bowman Lake Campground,” a six-site backcountry campground that requires reservations.

If you really want to avoid the crowds, this is the place to do it. You’ll be out there with maybe a dozen people tops, camping right along the lake with only the sounds of nature to keep you company.

Photos From the Bowman Lake Side of the Park

Glacier Country is my Featured Travel Destination for this month, so stay tuned for a ton of pics and dispatches all month long, including posts about Hidden Lake, the cool town of Whitefish, and a mile by mile guide to driving Going to the Sun Road.

If you’re a wildlife lover like me, here’s a guide on where you can see mountain goats in Glacier National Park! And make sure to try some of the famous huckleberry foods while you’re in Montana!

For now, enjoy a few more of the sights along the way from Polebridge to Bowman Lake with this photo collection:

entering-glacier-park

The welcome sign on this side of the park is unique.

cabin mountain

river-stream

road to polebridge

The gravel road leading to Bowman Lake. Drive slow and enjoy the scenery.

roadside view

bowman-lake-camping

bowman-forest

There are plenty of hiking opportunities near Bowman Lake and the North Fork area.

bear-warning

Bears are common throughout the park, so take the usual precautions.

yoga-pose

Your Instagram feed will flourish after visiting Bowman Lake!

bowman-left-side

Bowman Lake is the third-largest lake in Glacier NP, behind McDonald and Saint Mary.

bowman glacier rocks

If you’re taking a road trip to Glacier National Park, I recommend allowing some time to visit the Bowman Lake side of the park. It’s a very different experience!

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Note: Glacier Country Tourism hosted my stay in Montana.

About Quirky Travel Guy

Scott Shetler is a Seattle-based freelance writer & fan of indie rock, road trips, ice cream, squirrels on power lines, runaway shopping carts, and six-way intersections. Some posts on this site contain affiliate links, which may earn me a commission (at no extra cost to you) if you make a purchase.

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3 Comments

  1. Looks like an awesome place! Could you share a little bit more about the road condition to get to the lake? I would love to visit it but I am trying to figure out if my corolla would make it.

  2. Amazing place – and it looks like you had the same kind of crappy cloudy day I had there. I’m going there for a do-over ASAP!

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