Where to go for a mind-blowing good time on the West’s most beautiful road
Glacier National Park lies in northern Montana. This is a big park—1,583 square miles—and deserves at least four days ($25 per vehicle per week).
- Nearest airports: Great Falls is about 170 miles to the east of the park’s east entrance at St. Mary. Kalispell is about 45 miles from the park’s west entrance at West Glacier.
- The weather: In August, expect pleasantly warm days—high 70s—with a chance of afternoon thunderstorms.
- For info: Go to nps.gov/glac and visitmt.com
- Museum of the Plains Indian. Exhibits of Blackfeet, Crow, and other Plains people’s art, historic and contemporary. U.S. 2 at U.S. 89; 406/338-2230.
- Going-to-the-Sun Road. The mountain-hugging 50-mile, two-lane road cuts through the middle of the park, with lots of photo ops. Drive it or take Red Bus Tours, in a vintage eco-vehicle that runs on propane.
- Logan Pass. On the Continental Divide at the top of Going-to-the-Sun Road, the 6,646-foot pass has a visitor center with spectacular views, and is a starting point for the Highline Trail.
- Lake McDonald. Nearly 10 miles long and more than 400 feet deep, this beautiful lake is best seen on a boat tour (glacierparkboats.com).
- Grinnell Glacier Trail. The 8-mile day hike to a glacier is one of the best in the park. Even better, getting to the trailhead requires two boat rides (on Swiftcurrent and Josephine lakes). You can do the hike yourself, but a ranger-led trek will teach you about glaciers, animals, and wildflowers.
- Centennial celebrations. 100th-birthday events are planned throughout 2010.
Where to Stay Around Glacier
- Lodgepole Gallery and Tipi Village. A rare chance to spend the night in an authentic Blackfeet tipi, with meals provided if you want. From $65.
East Glacier Park
- The Brown House Guest Lodging. Rambling, unpretentious motel with art gallery attached. From $70.
- St. Mary Lodge & Resort. Large, very comfy modern motel. From $179.
Glacier National Park
All lodging within the park is handled by Glacier Park, Inc. (406/892-2525).
- Glacier Park Lodge. On the eastern edge, this lodge has the most magnificent lobby in the park, maybe in the world. The resort vibe comes from a swimming pool, nine-hole golf course, and day spa. From $140.
- Lake McDonald Lodge. Not as grand as the other two historic lodges, Lake McDonald is cozily rustic, with a lakeside setting. From $119.
- Many Glacier Hotel. Its architecture inspired by Swiss chalets, the five-story lodge is equal to the scenery around it: Swiftcurrent Lake and Mt. Gould and Grinnell Glacier to the west. From $142.
- Rising Sun Motor Inn & Cabins. A simple but pleasant motel 7 miles from the east entrance at St. Mary. From $115.
- Swift Current Motor Inn. Not far from Many Glacier, on Swiftcurrent Lake’s upper eastern shore. From $65.
- Izaak Walton Inn. On U.S. 2 near the park’s south boundary, a former railroad dormitory turned into a deservedly popular inn: Choose between a regular room and a caboose. Good restaurant too ($$). From $147.
Where to Eat Around Glacier
East Glacier Park
- Serrano’s Mexican Restaurant. There is good Mexican food in Montana, and it’s here. $$; 29 Dawson Ave.; 406/226-9392.
- Johnson’s of St. Mary. Family-style roadside cafe famous for its breads. $$; U.S. 89; 406/732-5565.
- The Park Café. Great breakfasts and equally good homemade pies. $; U.S. 89; 406/732-4482.
- Two Sisters Cafe. Roadside food with attitude, as you can tell from the purple paint and the welcome aliens sign on the roof. Good burgers and chicken-fried steak. $$; U.S. 89, 4 miles north of St. Mary; 406/732-5535.
Glacier National Park
- Glacier Park Lodge, Great Northern Dining Room. Decent food and a fine setting on one end of the lodge’s amazing lobby. $$$; 1 Midvale Rd.; 406/226-5600.
- Many Glacier Hotel, Ptarmigan Dining Room. Breathtaking views of Swiftcurrent Lake. $$$; U.S. 89, 12 miles west of Babb; 406/732-4411.