What is the Most Popular Campground in Montana?
What is the most visited campground in Montana? It sounds like an easy question, but it’s one that no one, including the Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research or the US Forest Service seems to have an answer to (believe us, we've asked).
Part of the problem in answering the question is that so many different agencies manage campgrounds across the state, and many don't even track the number of visitors.
Of course, campgrounds in Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks lead the pack by a huge margin, but when it comes to state parks the numbers are hard to find. According to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Reginal Park Manager Chet Crowser, one thing we do know is that more people are visiting state parks and campgrounds than ever before.
"Certainly these days, it pays to plan ahead," Crowser said. "The summers just keep getting more and more busy out there, as does just general visitation to all of our state parks. We have really expanded a lot of programing. We expanded our reservation system, which means that sometimes campgrounds can be busier, sometimes the sites are full because its easier to book campsites on line with the new reservation system, or it could be that that the sites have just become more popular."
Crowser says many state parks are at capacity.
"If you look back, you see a jump [in the number of people in the state parks] in 2014 it was 8.7 million it was 7.7 million back in 2013. You also see a general trend in that direction at places like Salmon Lake and Placid Lake where the campgrounds have difficulty accommodating more people that we hit capacity during the busy parts of the year in summer and on weekends."
FWP recently did an inventory of their facilities and found a huge maintenance backlog. Crowser says that backlog is where most funding will go rather than new parks or expansions, which means it will be another tough year for many campers to find a spot.
As far as the busiest state parks in FWP Region 2 (which covers Missoula County), year round the answer is Traveler's Rest State Park.