Glacier National Park
In June of 2016 we bought a 1986 Bronco, built a bed in the back of it, and camped all around the North West United States and Canada. This is part of our series on that 3 week road trip picking up in Northern Montana in Glacier National Park. We crossed the border from Calgary, Canada into the Northern crossing at Babb, Montana.
There are a few different entrances to Glacier – the one I mentioned above at Saint Mary, from the West at West Glacier, and from the North at the Waterton Glacier National Park entrance through Chief mountain customs port. You will have to have a passport for this crossing, since it is crossing the Canadian border and this entrance is actually closed from October to mid-May. Coming in from Babb, you won’t find many amenities except for one small gas station, a saloon, and a cute little cafe called Two Sisters Cafe, so make sure you come prepared! You can also come by plane that will drop you in Kallispell, Montana where you will then have to rent a car to get into the park.
We bought the America the Beautiful Annual Pass at the entrance of Glacier National Park. This allows you entrance to the more than 2,000 federal national park sites, covers day use fees, and standard amenity fees associated with the national parks. You can use your pass per vehicle and up to four adults in your vehicle. However, it does NOT cover your fees for using the campgrounds – but it actually is still a deal considering most national parks cost $30-40 per vehicle just to get into the park. It costs $80 and expires a year from the date you buy it.
Since there is really only one main road that goes from the East to the West side of Glacier, called Going-to-the-Sun road, the National Park has a shuttle service to combat the traffic. It runs about every 30 to 40 minutes from 7 am to 7 pm and operates between the St. Mary visitor center and the Apgar Transit Center. This is a great option if you are late getting to the main trailheads where parking is limited and full by mid morning.
where to stay
The first night we crossed the border we found Duck Lake Lodge on a chance drive out on a bumpy, unpaved road since we arrived too late to find anything in the park. It was about $30 for a campsite, but had a nice camp area for us to park, showers to clean up in, and a really good breakfast the next morning. It’s quiet, tucked away and has a great camp host – a great option for any last minute travelers like us!
The next couple nights, we camped in Avalanche Creek campground, a sweet campground in lower Glacier close to hiking and a nice lake with tons of activities!
what to do
Whether you are in Glacier National Park for backpacking, hiking, seeing wildlife, or just to enjoy the natural beauty of this area, you will surely find something that you love. We started in the North and worked our way down to the South End over a couple day period and got to see a lot of the park.
On our first day, we headed to Many Glacier – this area is the hiking mecca, but we took a pass since it was pretty windy and cold. It’s a great place to start on your journey in Glacier, especially if you’re coming in from the north.
Drive the Going to the Sun Road
Like we said above, this is really the only road through Glacier so you will more than likely find yourself on it. It takes you down into the valley where you’ll find the campground also mentioned above and drops significantly in elevation. The views are insane, so make sure your camera is charged and you aren’t on a schedule because you’ll want to stop a L O T.
At the peak of Going to the Sun road, you will find Logan Pass and the Logan Pass Visitors center. This is the highest point in elevation reachable by car in the whole park. Since it can get extremely busy during the day, parking is very limited and the park recommends the free shuttle for this area. From here, there are a couple of trailheads – the Hidden Lake Nature Trail to the southwest and the Highline Loop Trail to the North. This is the hike that we had planned, however it was still closed at the middle of June due to the snow. One day we’ll make it back to hike it because it is the most recommended day hike in Glacier and straddles the Continental Divide.
This is where we found our campground and also hiked Avalanche Lake trail where we saw a family of bears!
We rented a kayak on Lake McDonald and had the most incredible weather! It was a fun, inexpensive way to see a different view of the park. We totally recommend checking out this area since there is a cute gift shop (equipped with an ice cream bar!) and a really yummy breakfast diner in case you’ve run out of camp food.
We had so much fun while we were in Glacier, but we barely hit the tip of the iceberg here – get it? There is so much to see on foot if you want to backcountry hike and camp and if we had more time we would have definitely hit some of that up. Make sure to plan accordingly with weather though, some of the places you may want to go can be closed due to the snow!
What are some of your favorite things about Glacier that we might have missed? Let us know in the comments below!
Until the next Miss America adventure,