Planning Summer backpacking trip - Glacier NP vs Isle Royale

10:02 p.m. on December 24, 2013 (EST)
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Hi All,

My daughter & I had such a blast with our spring trip to the Grand Canyon, that I'm looking at planning trip for this summer.  My 1st two choices are Glacier NP & Isle Royale NP.  I'm thinking about a 5-6 day backpack trip. 

The trip would most likely only be me & my 12 yo daughter.  My concern about Glacier are the grizzly bears.  We're from the east, so Glacier would be new territory for us.  

Any recommendations?  Anybody been to both places & can provide feedback?  Any other places we should consider?  

Thanks a bunch


11:53 p.m. on December 24, 2013 (EST)
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I haven't been to either place but Isle Royale has always interested me

11:16 a.m. on December 25, 2013 (EST)
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Don't let the possibility of bears be a factor that turns you away. Glacier is an awesome place and If I had the same choice i would probably go back to Glacier NP.

That being said, you need to be bear aware and take the appropiate precautions to ensure for a safe trip. Use a canister to store all food and smellables, keep canister at least 100yds from camp. And cook at least 100 yards from camp. When i am in an area with a high bear population/risk I find the best thing to do is to stop early and make dinner, and then hike on for another hour or so and then set camp.

You should both also carry bear spray, and know how to use it. And just be aware that they are there, and if you do see a bear to keep a healthy distance and make some noise so that they know you are there. This is especially important if hiking in a thick area where you could surprise one potentially. And not so much if you spot a bear from a vantage point that is a substantial distance away.

I have never been to Isle Royale, but I am sure it is a majestic place in its own way.

You can rent bear canisters from the park if memory serves me correctly.

5:06 p.m. on December 26, 2013 (EST)
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Hi Doug.  Awesome that you plan trips like that with your daughter.  I do the same thing with my 2 kids.  My 10-yr old son and I are doing Havasupai in March and doing GNP again in July or August.  We are both really excited.  My son and I did some day hikes in GNP last summer and we had an awesome time.  We camped in designated campgrounds and did NOT do any backcountry camping but we hiked many beautiful trails in GNP.  I grew up in MT so I have been to GNP hundreds of times and I am biased.  I think everyone should see Glacier.  I have never been to Isle Royale so I can't compare.  I do know that if you choose Glacier you will not have any regrets.  If you plan on backcountry camping just make sure you get all your backcountry permits taken care of well in advance. Also, as Rambler said make sure you prepare yourself for bears.  I have never had any problems with bears in Glacier but they are there and one must be prepared for them.  Good luck and I am sure you will enjoy whatever destination you choose.  

9:01 p.m. on December 26, 2013 (EST)
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Thanks for the input guys.  I need to start my research.  I'm still undecided, & my wife is nervous about us going to Glacier.  Any recommendations for areas of GNP to look at for the trip?  If we decide GNP, I'd want to keep to the more popular areas, & not be too isolated for our first trip.   Any one have experience with Isle Royale?  Thanks.

12:32 p.m. on December 27, 2013 (EST)
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Doug, if you keep to the more popular areas and trails and camp in the main campgrounds near Apgar village (on lake McDonald) then the likelihood of having problems with bears is pretty slim.  You can't go wrong with some of the more popular destinations like avalanche lake, hidden lake, Granite Park Chalet via the high-line and garden wall trails (highly recommended).  There are many, many others as well.  You certainly wouldn't run out of trails to enjoy with your daughter.  You are guaranteed to see goats, sheep, deer, marmots, and maybe moose, elk and bear.  

2:40 p.m. on December 27, 2013 (EST)
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I highly reccommend you check out the Rocky Mountain Forum at

With all due respect to the Mrs. for you to travel across country and be worried about bears is crazy. The most dangerous part of any hike is driving to the trailhead. You're at more risk of serious injury walking to the mailbox than you are from bears anywhere.

3:58 p.m. on January 15, 2014 (EST)
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Heading to Isle Royale myself this august. I spent 12 Days in the Porcupine Mountains last summer and had no bear incidents in an area with a good sized population. One of the attractive things about Isle Royale is that there is 0 bear population whatsoever. I'm choosing to take the sea plane as opposed to the 6 hour boat ride, pricey but worth squeezing in more trail time as opposed to losing 12 hours to riding on a boat. I also highly recommend the porkies to anyone, 92 sq miles of largely untouched forest with no roads save for one bordering the park. Lots of good backcountry and if you stick to the western edge amazing sunsets.

6:40 p.m. on January 15, 2014 (EST)
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Isle Royale is beautiful. When I was there, we were told it is the least visited N.P., but has the highest rate of return visitors. I hope to return in the next few years.

8:49 p.m. on January 15, 2014 (EST)
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Thanks for the reply everyone.  

We're going to try to get a backcountry permit for Glacier NP, since we have to go during peak season, there's no guarantee we'll get one.  If that doesn't work out, we'll head to Isle Royale NP.  

2:40 a.m. on January 18, 2014 (EST)
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I love Glacier, lots to see and do. Carry bear spray. Check out Glacier Guides Inc/ Montana Raft they do guided trips into the back country where they provide and prepare all the food. Might be worth looking at if you have never been to the park.

8:30 p.m. on January 20, 2014 (EST)
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With all due respect as wonderful as Isle Royale is a teenager is going to like the Rockies exponentially more. If Glacier doesn't work out there are plenty of other areas not needing permits in or near Crown of the Continent more than worthy of your time. Jason's bias is shared by some folks I know and love. I however will never abandon my own bias for Greater Yellowstone and South Central Colorado. 

1:16 p.m. on January 23, 2014 (EST)
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I love Isle Royale and it's definitely on my life list, but I agree with Krumholz.  The animals on Isle Royale are incredible (wolves, moose) but also elusive.  The  scenery is beautiful and forested, but no where near as grand as the Rocky Mountains.  I'm from Ohio, and my first trip to the Rockies was when I was 18 and I think I developed neck problems from staring at them.  They absolutely blew me away.  I think with a 12 year old, it's better to go with the mountains that will be there in all their splendor, even if the wildlife viewing doesn't turn out great.  It will definitely be more memorable for her than camping in the woods, and in the worst case scenario, not seeing anything more exciting than a deer.  Maybe save Isle Royale for later trip.  This sounds like an amazing father-daughter tradition.

June 23, 2018
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