Almost a million acres in size, Glacier National Park is one of the most beautiful wilderness areas in the Lower 48. Located along the Canadian border in northern Montana, the park has glacier-capped peaks, gorgeous valleys, clear lakes, waterfalls, and abundant wildlife. Waterton Lakes National Park is on the Canadian side.
It’s a spectacular place for hiking, but you can also enjoy incredible scenery by driving the 50-mile Going-to-the-Sun Road. The road goes up to Logan Pass – the crest of the Continental Divide – and is only open from the middle of June until the middle of September. If you prefer not to drive, you can sign up for a sightseeing tour.
During the summer, you can also take a cruise on Lake McDonald or St. Mary Lake, or better yet, rent a kayak and head out on your own. Fishing and white-water rafting are also popular pursuits.
Many of the Glacier National Park hotels date from 1910, when the park was created. Accommodations range from rustic to refined, and many don’t have television, Internet access, or elevators. But wherever you stay, you’ll be able to enjoy the spectacular natural beauty and serenity of the park.
The first hotel in the western edge of the park, Belton Chalet is across from the train station. The property was recently restored, and although the rooms – and especially the bathrooms – are small, they’re nicely furnished. The historic charm remains and the chalet is a comfortable base for exploring. There’s a grill, a tap room, and guests can enjoy treatments at the local spa.
The Chalet is open during the winter for snowshoeing, and for downhill and cross-country skiers.
At the eastern entrance to the park, Glacier Park Lodge was built by the Great Northern Railroad. With it’s old timbers, huge fir pillars, and stone fireplaces, it’s exactly how you picture a wilderness lodge. There’s a dining room, and outdoor deck where you can enjoy a drink with a view, a heated outdoor pool, and a nine-hole golf course.
Rooms are available in the main lodge and in the Great Northern Wing. They’re on the small side, but the suites are roomy. There’s also a two-bedroom house with a full kitchen near the ninth hole of the golf course.
Lake McDonald Lodge has a variety of accommodations including conventional motel rooms, rooms in the lodge, and cottages in the woods. It’s located right on the lake — making it easy to get out on the water – and it’s on the Going-to-the-Sun Road. It’s similar to Glacier Park Lodge in feel, and with a dining room, coffee shop, and lounge, you can settle in after a full day of hiking.
The most modern hotel in the park is at the Great Bear Lodge St. Mary. Opened in 2001, the resort has 48 rooms and suites with big bathrooms, small refrigerators, wet bars, coffee makers, satellite television, and private decks. It’s the best choice for those who want all the modern conveniences. Suites have gas fireplaces and Jacuzzi tubs.
Located on Swiftcurrent Lake, Many Glacier Hotel was completed in 1915. Today, it’s the largest hotel in the park – and most vistors’ top choice. The rooms are a little larger than in the other historic lodges, and it has some of the best views – especially from the balcony rooms. You can take a boat from the hotel to the trailhead of the Grinnell Glacier or Iceberg Lake hikes. You can pick up box lunches at the snack shop.
The remote location practically ensures that you’ll see lots of wildlife, including bears. And the dining room has huge windows so you can take in the views.
Just across the border in Canada’ Waterton Lakes National Park, the Prince of Wales hotel, was completed in 1927. It’s the most European hotel in the park, and high tea is served from 2PM to 5PM in the soaring lobby. It’s located on a bluff overlooking Waterton Lake, and the lake-side rooms are worth the extra cost.
In addition to the lodges, there are plenty of options for Glacier National Park camping. But since the summer season is relatively short, you should make your plans well in advance.