Beauty and Comfort in Glacier National Park
The stunning scenery of Glacier National Park draws thousands of tourists every year. The rugged beauty of the mountains, the vibrant colors of the glacial lakes and streams, and the high likelihood of spotting wildlife all make this park well worth the journey to northwestern Montana.
Glacier’s reputation as a paradise for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts might raise questions for those who are less outdoorsy, though. If you’d love to experience the breathtaking landscapes of Glacier National Park, but the thought of sleeping on the ground or giving up electricity and indoor plumbing have led you to avoid it, read on. You might be surprised just how comfortable a visit to Glacier National Park can be!
Stay at Lake McDonald Lodge
There are several options for lodges and cabins within Glacier National Park, but none can top the location of Lake McDonald Lodge. The building is modeled after a Swiss chalet and it is beautifully situated on the shores of Lake McDonald, the largest of the park’s many lakes. Room size and amenities vary, but recent renovations have added a number of upscale rooms and suites. Please note that guest rooms are on the second and third floors and there is no elevator in this lodge that was built in 1913. If accessibility is an issue, there are cabins available adjacent to the lodge that can meet your needs.
All rooms have a private bathroom and basic amenities. It is not a luxury, five-star hotel by any means, but more than adequate for a comfortable stay in rural Montana. Wi-fi is available in the lodge, but be prepared for slower speeds. There is no cell phone reception in Glacier National Park due to its remote location. Take this as an opportunity to unplug from distractions and immerse yourself in the beauty of your surroundings.
Glacier’s Many Restaurant Options
Within the Lake McDonald Lodge you’ll find several dining options. Jammer Joe’s Grill and Pizzeria offers a lunch and dinner menu, including soups, salads, and sandwiches and create-your-own-pizza. Don’t miss their lunch buffet. Russell’s Fireside Dining Room is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner in a unique dining room decorated in the spirit of a Montana hunting lodge. Two different breakfast buffet options are available and the lunch and dinner menu focuses on highlighting Montana’s local flavors. Lucke’s Lounge can also be found in Lake McDonald Lodge, offering an all-day bar menu that includes specialties such as bison burgers and locally-inspired appetizers in addition to traditional sandwiches and salads. Any time is a great time to sip a cocktail, glass of wine, or local Montana micro-brew with incredible views of beautiful Lake McDonald.
For more dining options, head into the village of West Glacier, which is just outside the park entrance about 10 miles from Lake McDonald Lodge.
Shopping at Lake McDonald Lodge
Whether shopping for snacks, basic supplies, or gifts and souvenirs, you find a lot of what you’re looking for right at the Lake McDonald Lodge, which has both a General Store and a Gift Shop. More shopping options are available in West Glacier village, where you’ll find more souvenirs and gifts such as clothing, books, music, jewelry, and locally produced handicrafts. Lovers of antiques or small, unique shops can travel 10 miles from West Glacier village to the town of Columbia Falls for even more shopping options.
Things to See and Do in Glacier National Park
The best way to get an overall experience of Glacier National Park is to drive across it on Going-to-the-Sun Road from the west entrance to the east entrance, then back again to the Lake McDonald Lodge. The road is 50 miles one-way, which takes at least 2 hours to drive. The winding road has a number of tight curves and switchbacks, climbing to the high point at Logan Pass (6,636 ft). Park brochures can help you identify points of interest along the way and you’ll want to stop at a variety of scenic overlooks and visitor centers. If you are uncomfortable with mountain driving, or simply want to feel free to watch the scenery instead of the road, the park offers a free shuttle on Going-to-the-Sun Road which stops at the most popular overlooks and trailheads along the way.
Even if you’re not an avid hiker, there are a few popular trails at Glacier National Park that are not difficult and offer a spectacular experience.
Not far from the Lake McDonald Lodge, a simple two-mile hike brings you to Avalanche Lake. Drive to the Trail of the Cedars trailhead or take the shuttle one stop from Lake McDonald Lodge. Pack a picnic lunch to enjoy on the beach beside Avalanche Lake with an absolutely breathtaking view. Cool your feet in the irresistible turquoise waters.
Drive or take the shuttle to the Logan Pass Visitor Center where you’ll find a well-marked nature trail that starts out paved and walk 1.4 miles to the Hidden Lake Overlook. No guarantees, but there are often herds of mountain goats and other wildlife hanging out along this trail. The view from the overlook is spectacular, and if you’re feeling up to it, you can continue another 1.2 miles down to the shores of Hidden Lake.
There are so many ways to enjoy the incredible nature of Glacier National Park! Rent a boat or take an hour-long guided boat tour on Lake McDonald. Saddle up for a horseback riding tour on one of many fantastic trails. There are a number of NPS-approved outfitters in the area that operate different types of tours that you might enjoy. There truly is something for everyone in this world-renowned national park!
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