Glacier National Park/Montana Travel Guide

August 31, 2021

Travel

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The wait is finally over…

Mike and I truly had the time of our lives in Montana.  I get emotional thinking about it.  This was my favorite park to date.  The main reasons why: It had everything that all of the parks have: amazing views, animals (the most we’ve ever seen..grizzlies, bigborn sheet, mountain goats, black bears, foxes, etc), amazing restaurants, I love how you can drive through the park in a day, blue waters, so many trails, the weather was perfect…everything was perfect.  I don’t want to keep you anymore so let’s dive in! 

Glacier National Park Favorite Hikes: 

Avalanche Trail 6 miles total • out and back • Intermediate      

  A six mile out and back hike that is perfect for beginners and families with children. There are brief stretches on this trail where there’s a slight incline but not a steep stair stepper type of incline. Make sure when you get to the lake, you continue to walk along the lake to the opposite side to get another great view. I highly recommend doing this hike in the morning for your best chance to see animals and get great views of the mountains with the morning sun shining on them. There’s definitely a chance you will see black bear at the beginning of your hike when you are walking along the river as we saw one. We also encountered a fox right beside the trail. This trail also has a restroom towards the end of the hike as well as a port o potty right before you get to the lake.  

 

St Marys Falls3.5 miles total • out and back • easy
Another great hike for beginners and families with children. In Mike and I’s opinion, this was probably the easiest hike we did in Glacier. The trail is a 3-3.5 mile out and back with some incline. There’s a waterfall with a bridge a little less than a mile into the hike that is amazing but if you keep going all the way to the end you will see a really cool tall waterfall that you can pretty much walk under if you like. We did not see any wildlife on this trail except a Moose way in the distance in the river. I have been told there has been black bear spotted on this trail. FYI Forest fires hit the beginning of the hike so you will go through some burnt trees. 

Grinnell Glacier 12 miles total • out and back • advanced
This hike was definitely Mike and I’s favorite hike while we visited Glacier. This is a 12 mile out and back hike with incredible views for almost the entire hike. The trail is on the side of the mountains walking along two bright blue lakes. This is a good hike for your average to advanced  hiker. The toughest part of the hike is the last mile where it is more of a stair stepper incline. Otherwise the rest of the hike is a gradual incline. Make sure to be on the lookout for Grizzly Bears for the first couple miles of the hike as we spotted one laying in the water at Josephine Lake. There’s a chance you also may encounter a mountain goat and bighorn sheep on the trail during this hike. Make sure to give them plenty of room. At the end of the trail is the glacier lake where you can find a rock to have lunch or snacks on. Be sure to keep an eye out for big horn sheep coming down from the surrounding mountain tops for water as we saw two.

Highline Trail 15 miles total • out and back (or one way with option to take shuttle back)  • advanced (unless you go one way and take the shuttle back, then Intermediate)
Highline trail also has incredible views throughout the entire hike. Had we not done Grinnell, this would have been our favorite. This is a 15 mile hike that is on the harder side as well. I would say it is tougher than Grinnell. There are several times where the incline can be pretty tough but it is worth it. You will also definitely see wildlife on this trail. We saw multiple mountain goats on and just off the path as well as a herd of big horn sheep. We did not see any bear but multiple reviews have said they’ve seen bear at different points on the trail. If you decide to do the overlook it is an extremely steep one and half mile hike to the highest point just off the trail. It can be very windy and cold at the top but the view is incredible. You are also overlooking the glacier lake you hike to at the end of Grinnell. You can also choose to skip the overlook and continue to the Chalet and the loop trail where it ends. If you don’t want to take the shuttle back to Logans Pass from the end of the trail you can also hike the trail back the way you came to Logans Pass which is what we did although it is significantly harder this way. I recommend you hike to the end of loop trail and take the shuttle back to the parking lot at Logans Pass. If you do not care to do more difficult hikes I do recommend you at least start at Logans Pass and hike a mile and a half out and back on this trail for a total of 3 miles. This would be great for families with little ones or inexperienced hikers. 

Danny On 8 miles total • out and back.(or one way if you take the chair lift up or down) • advanced or intermediate depending if you are going out and back or one way)
Danny On is an 8 mile out and back and was the only hike we did outside of Glacier because it was dog friendly and Denver wanted to go on a hike.  You have the option to take the chairlift down at the top making this only a 4 mile hike.  No pets allowed on the lift. This hike was good for your average hiker and it is a gradual incline all the way to the top with plenty of huckleberry plants that you can eat from along the way. At the top is a restaurant where you can eat, drink, and relax.  We did not see any wildlife on this trail but there are supposedly bears on this trail according to the signs. It’s definitely a great hike for your dog if they are in decent shape. Please keep in mind dogs are not allowed on the chair lift.

RedRock: Swimming, relaxing
This is such a fun area! Cliff jumping, swimming, or simply laying out! We put our feet in the water to cool off after a hike.  A handful of people were cliff jumping and swimming while we were there.  This is right off the road and super easy to get to. 

Lake McDonald: Kayaking, some hikes around lake. 
BEAUTIFUL place to kayak.  The water should be like glass. If it is not you just happened to go on a choppy day.  You can rent kayaks all over town and just plop them wherever and start kayaking.  A great way to see the park from a different view.  

Going to the Sun Road: Driving Route
This is the main road that takes you to 90% of trails in the park.  During the months of June-September 6th you will need a pass to enter the park (not sure if it will be like this next year, but it was like this for 2021. ) Passes sell out fast (like 30 seconds) so keep on trying if they do.  They last for 7 days.  If you cannot get a pass you can enter the park before or after the hours of 6 am and 5 PM.  What they don’t tell you is that you will need to get to most of the trailheads anyway before 6:30 am so you don’t really need this pass unless you plan to come later or exit and leave.  We actually had to use our pass once the entire trip.  This site HERE explains it a little more.  

Other popular hikes that we did not have time to do but wish we did: 

The Columbia Falls Rodeo: 

Our friends took us here one night and it was a blast!! Must have cash to get in and I suggest getting there 45 minutes early! It happens every Thursday. Click HERE for more info

Where We Stayed: 

Mike and I stayed at the Best Western Hotel in Whitefish and it was a good experience. We felt like it was a great value for the money. It definitely has more of a cabin vibe but it was clean and the staff were very helpful so we definitely recommend staying here! The drive to Glacier Park is about 25-30 minutes from here but you are super close to downtown whitefish and all the food.

Direct Link to Hotel

Where We Ate:

Farmers Market– I highly recommend if you are in Whitefish in the summer months to go to the farmers market on Tuesdays 5:30-7:30p. We absolutely loved it and the vendors that were there. Make sure you get fresh cherries if they are there. Polebridge Bakery is also usually there which is famous for their huckleberry bear claw pastries.

Abruzzo Italian Kitchen This is a great little Italian restaurant and just about everything on the menu looked amazing. I got the spaghetti and meat balls and it was delicious. We did not get the wood fire oven made pizza but it looked so good.

Ciao Mambo Another great little Italian restaurant down the road that was actually mikes favorite of the two. Again all the traditional Italian dishes on the menu looked amazing. I also loved the bread they serve you before your meal comes!

Montana Coffee Traders If you’re a coffee drinker, this place is a must! It was so good I only got my coffee from this place while we were here. The food looked good although we did not try it.

Amazing Crepes This is a great place to get breakfast! We absolutely loved their crepes with eggs, sausage, cheese, and peppers! There is a little bit of a wait maybe 15 to 20 minutes but it is worth it.

Tupelo Grill Mike and I really liked all the food at Tupelo. The meat was outstanding. Mike loved his steak and frites and said it was some of the better steak he’s had. Be sure to get the appetizer that allows you to try a little bit of everything. 

Jersey Boys Pizza Mike and I were pleasantly surprised with this pizza and wound up really liking it. It reminded us of our favorite pizza places from home in Indiana. 

Sweet Peaks Ice Cream We probably went here 3 or 4 times and were obsessed with the huckleberry ice cream they had here. I believe the ice cream is all homemade.

Buffalo Cafe This is another nice little spot for sit down breakfast. We ate here on our last day for a quick breakfast and really liked it. Their bacon and sausage is all local.

The FarmHouse Inn and Kitchen– We grabbed breakfast here one morning and did not realize how small it was going to be. There are only about 4 tables inside that seat 2-3 people each but there are a few more tables on the porch if its nice out. This is more of a takeout breakfast but it was fantastic. Mike and I really liked it but it is also smaller portions.

 

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