Trip Notes: A First Timers Guide to Glacier National Park

Words by Cathy Kennedy

National Parks offer an opportunity for the perfect trip-- beautiful views and roaming wildlife often paired with nearby hotels and restaurants. That said, sifting through reviews and researching hours on end to plan your vacation can be incredibly daunting. That's why Wild Tribute ambassador Cathy Kennedy shares her extensive knowledge on Glacier National Park-- so you can spend less time Googling and more time adventuring.

Where to Stay

When deciding where to stay, remember that further outside the park offers cheaper accommodations and is closer to the 'necessities' like grocery stores.

Somers, Whitefish, and Kalispell are all great small town options where you can stay. I stayed at the Best Western near Somers for half of my visit which is near Flathead Lake-- a must for me. Then, to get a different experience, I stayed at an airbnb in Whitefish. Kalispell, which sits between the two, and has all your needs if shopping for last minute items.

Above: Lake McDonald

How to Enter the Park

The park has 4 main entrances.

There is one on the west side, which is Lake McDonald. There are three on the east side, which are Two Medicine, St Mary, and Many Glacier.

I recommend Lake McDonald. Lake McDonald seems to be the most popular with Apgar Village situated in the middle, where you can rent kayaks and go horseback riding (both of which I did and highly recommend!). Apgar Village also has a whole area of vendors shops before you get into the park on the main drag. 

Bears in Glacier National Park

Above: Grizzly bears in Glacier National Park

 

My Trip Journal

If you like taking your photo in front of a National Park sign, then Lake McDonald (in my opinion) has the best sign for this. There is a sign also at the Many Glacier entrance in the East Side (where I saw a moose munching on vegetation), but there really isn't a lot of room to park. The other entrances on the east are quite a drive, and you can get stuck in summer road work. That said, there are quite a few tourist pullouts with monuments at them. I went through each one briefly as I was solo during this time.

The main scenic attraction that takes you from the west to east side within the park is the Going to the Sun road, which goes through the park. I went in early June so it was still closed due to snow. It's usually open July to October. The Going to the Sun road starts at Lake McDonald and exits at St Marys. It's 50 miles long and crosses the continental divide and over Logans Pass. When not fully open you can bike or walk the parts that have been plowed but not yet open to cars.

Iceberg Lake Above: Iceberg Lake

 

Keep in mind that due to the location, the park gets quite a bit of winter weather. This being said, always factor in extra driving time for road work.

It's hard to choose, but my favorite hike was the Avalanche Lake hike. It's one of the more popular front country hikes in the park. Avalanche Lake is a 2 mile hike from the trailhead along the Trail of the Cedars. The trail winds through sweet smelling forested areas and along the rushing water of Avalanche Creek. It can be a pretty busy trail, which means a busy parking lot! Theres a small incline that you have towards the end so you can up to the lake, but the view is amazing once there. Take a lunch and hang out enjoying the falls and mountain peaks.

Pro Tip

This is Montana and there are grizzly bears. Always remember to keep a safe distance. According to the National Park service, hiking in groups can decrease your chances of a bear encounter, and bear spray has been shown to be the most effective deterrent. 

I found this out after I left, but you can rent bear spray at the outfitters in Apgar Village. You can't fly with it, nor did I want to pay $40 to (hopefully) not use it.

I Can't Wait to Go Back

I was happy I got to experience so many different activities inside the actual park. Im hoping to return in 2021 and hike some new trails.

 

 


Cathy is from the Sierra foothills in Northern California. She loves to travel for adventures but can also find plenty close to her home near the Tahoe National Forest. Her favorite activities are hiking, camping, backpacking, kayaking and snowshoeing