Glacier National Park, located in northern Montana, was the first International Peace Park – Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park – and is an International Dark Sky Park. Visiting Glacier National Park has been at the top of my bucket list for a very long time now. I planned our entire 2017 two week road-trip around Glacier and when the Going-to-the-Sun Road would be open. What road-trip is complete without driving one of the most famous roads in the country?
Because of snow, the Going-to-the-Sun Road is only open for a short period of time every year. August has the highest chance for it to be open so that’s when I planned our trip for. The road itself is a masterpiece. We drove the 50 miles from Apgar to St. Mary (West to East). Our first stop was the Apgar Visitor Center. I bought postcards for my postcard collection (learn more about the here) and to send to friends and family. Shawn bought a Glacier hat to replace the Utah National Park hat he got in March because it is already looking a little shabby. We also spoke to a Park Ranger and got a trail map. We drove along gorgeous Lake McDonald and through the forest. At the hairpin turn of The Loop, we started gaining elevation. A lot of elevation. There are amazing views from the road. From there you drive past the Weeping Wall, where water falls from the cliff and onto the roadway. Logan Pass is the highest elevation point of the Going-to-the-Sun Road at 6,646 feet. From Logan Pass the road starts to descend and runs along side Saint Mary Lake to St. Mary Visitor Center.
It is important to keep in mind that there is limited parking throughout the park.The free park shuttle is a great way to get around and stop at points of interest. The drivers are very friendly and knowledgeable. They will even slow down and let you know if there has been a wildlife spotting in the area. We saw the rear end of a grizzly bear that way.
Taking a Red Bus Tour is another option for getting around the park. Learn more about them on their website here.
We stopped to hike St Mary and Virginia Falls Trail. For more information and pictures of the hike click here.
While we were at Glacier National Park, we staid at the St. Mary Lodge. The lodge has numerous options on the type of rooms they offer. I recommend staying at the St. Mary Lodge, but whatever you do, do NOT stay in a basement room (called a Value Room on their website)! I know that it is $40 cheaper than any other room offered, but unless you like sleeping on a rock hard bed with earplugs in; cough up the extra money and get a regular room. I will confess, I am a tight ass with my money and I reserved a “Value Room” thinking that I’d save some money and really how bad can it be? Shawn and I did not sleep and were miserable the next morning; that’s how bad. There was loud machinery running all night long and the bed was super uncomfortable. First thing I did the next morning was switch us into a non-value room in the East Motel. We slept so much better the second and third night. I know when exploring a national park, you typically don’t spend much time in your hotel room; however, it is near impossible to enjoy said national park if you can hardly function because you couldn’t sleep.
We got sandwiches for dinner a couple times from the Curly Bear Cafe. It is attached to the gas station convenience store and gift shop, next to the main building of St. Mary Lodge. The sandwiches are big and fairly priced. We also ate dinner at the Snowgoose Grille in the lodge one night, it was okay. Glacier Perk, the coffee shop in the lobby, offers pastries and yogurt as well as coffee.
Our second day in Glacier, we watched part of the Solar Eclipse and hiked some of the Highline Trail. Read more about that adventure here.
Our third day we spent relaxing and sightseeing. We went to the Jackson Glacier Overlook and then found a spot at Siyeh Creek to hangout. I was really hoping a moose would wander by. No such luck though.
The day before, the shuttle driver told us that the Two dog Flats Grill at the Rising Sun has a BBQ sandwich that everyone raves about, so we decided to eat lunch there. We got in line at the same time as a Red Bus Tour. Because the restaurant is small, the host sits the people in the tour groups together in order to fill tables better. He thought we were with the tour group so he sat us with another couple and Shawn and I got a peak at our future. They were a retired couple from California celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary by visiting Glacier National Park. The wife would tell a story and then about 5 minutes later the husband would start to tell the same story – whether he wasn’t paying attention when she told it or he was hard of hearing, we never could figure out. But, he would tell the story with completely different facts and then they would argue about whose memory was better. Shawn and I gave each other looks knowing the other was thinking it too: this is what we are going to be like in 44 years. We had a great time eating lunch with them and they surprised us by buying ours.
After lunch we drove up to Many Glacier. The road from Babb, MT almost all the way to Swiftcurrent Lake is terrible. Pot holes galore. So be sure to drive slowly. The road runs alongside Lake Sherburne and Swiftcurrent Lake. The smoke was really bad so the views weren’t as amazing as I bet they are normally.
We will definitely be going back to Glacier National Park soon – we have lots more to do!
- The Hiking Challenge a.k.a the Fantastic Four – Crypt Lake and Carthew-Alderson trails in Waterton National Park (Canada) and Siyeh Pass and Garden Wall trails in Glacier National Park
- Grinnel Glacier Trail – 5.5 miles one-way
- Mount Brown Lookout – 5.4 miles one-way
- Lake McDonald Trail – 6.6 miles one-way
- Avalanche Lake Trail – 3.1 miles one-way
- Hidden Lake Trail – 3 miles one-way
- Swiftcurrent Pass Trail – 7.6 miles one-way
- Trail of the Cedars – .7 mile boardwalk through the trees
- Spend the night at Granite Park Chalet
- Swiftcurrent Trail down to Many Glacier area
- Grinnel Glacier Overlook Trail – .8 miles one-way
- Explore Two Medicine Area
- Visit Bowman Lake and Polebridge Mercantile
- Have Tea at the Prince of Wales Hotel, Waterton NP