Glacier National Park- Days 1-3

Hey Guys!!

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog post but we all know this has been an unprecedented year!

Let’s hope things get back to normal very soon!

My hubby and I took a trip to Glacier National Park in Aug after having to cancel and rebook 3 different times!

Our first trip was scheduled for June but had to be rescheduled for July after United changed our flights.

After rebooking for July, I ended up getting sick and 20 mins before boarding our flight, we cancelled our trip.

So, as the saying goes, third times a charm… we rebooked for Aug. and thankfully, our long awaited trip finally became a reality!

Since our trip was 9 days & 8 nights, I”ll try not to bore you with too many details….so, let’s get started.

We flew from Nashville to Dallas and then onto Glacier Park International Airport in Kalispel.

Our flights were never very full and the planes looked very clean…we flew with American Airlines.

Us with our masks on

We flew over beautiful Ashley Lake as we were about to land in Kalispel!

I spotted lots of lakes from the plane!

The airport in Kalispel is really small…it’s located only 30 mins from the West Entrance of Glacier Park.

We had to exit the plane by stairs and walk to the gate.

After retrieving our luggage, we took a shuttle to pick up our rental car at Dollar Rental. It was about a 5 min drive from the airport.

Unfortunately, the rental car companies weren’t able to get the inventory they had ordered for this year due to Covid so their car rental rates reflected that…we paid almost $900 for a mid size car!

However, the rates for June & Sept were considerably less…..around $300-$400 for 9 days….lucky us, huh? 😉

Tip: Don’t wait to book your car…they can sell out fast during peak season!

The car rental process was very quick and painless. I would definitely rent from Dollar again if we ever make it back to Glacier…and I really hope we do since the whole East side of the park was closed! 🙁

After picking up our rental car, we headed to the Montana Club Restaurant in Kalispel for lunch.

I ordered the huckleberry walnut salad with grilled chicken and my hubby ordered the cheese curd burger.

The food and service was very average and the prices were high…it cost an additional $5.49 to have grilled chicken added to my salad. Our lunch cost $35 not including the tip.

Read reviews here

After lunch, we headed to Super 1 Foods to pick up water, snacks, etc for our 8 night stay.

The grocery store looked really old and in need of some remodeling but had everything we needed.

After leaving the grocery store, we headed about 10 mins down the road to a nearby Walmart to pick up a cheap coffee pot since we had read the hotel had removed all the coffee pots from the rooms due to Covid.

After leaving Walmart, we headed to our hotel, the Apgar Village Inn which is inside the park.

Click here to book a room at the Apgar Village Inn

On the way, we spotted a small fruit stand selling fresh cherries and huckleberries…this area is known for their cherries and huckleberries and you will see several fruit stands selling these fruits…there are also several cherry orchards around the Flathead Lake area.

They were both delicious and I highly recommend you trying them out when visiting Glacier!

Views heading towards Glacier from Kalispel.

Also, I would like to mention, if you are looking for a cheaper stay outside of the park, you can look at stays in the nearby towns of Kalispel, Whitefish, Columbia Falls, Evergreen, Coram, Hungry Horse, Kila, Batavia, Creston and Big Fork….all less than an hour from the West Entrance.

Click here & here for campgrounds in/near Glacier

After about a 45 min drive from Walmart, we arrived to the West Entrance…our hotel was located 5 mins from the West Entrance.

Click here for the fee & passes for the park

The Gateway to Glacier Park

Pictures of our room….the views can’t be beat!!

We paid $300 a night but you are paying for the views!

The hotel was built in 1956 and only has 36 rooms available.

To book a room here go to Xanterra.com …you can also use Pursuit’s site to book hotels inside the park.

The outside of the hotel….very close to the water’s edge.

The beautiful Lake McDonald & those amazing colorful rocks!!

After unpacking all of our luggage, we sat outside and enjoyed the view.

The next morning, we had coffee outside.

Each room is provided with 2 chairs and a table right outside their back door. The room has 2 entrances, one front door and one back.

After our coffee, we headed to Polebridge Mercantile for one of their famous huckleberry bear claws.

The park had a huge wildfire back in 2018 (Howe Ridge fire) and it burned almost 15,000 acres.

We saw a lot of burnt trees on the drive to Polebridge.

Read the history of fires in the park here

The drive to Polebridge is fairly scenic….part of the road is paved and part of it is gravel and very rough!

It takes approx. 45 mins to get to Polebridge from Apgar Village.

Arriving to Polebridge

The mercantile is very popular…there’s usually a line to get in and of course with Covid, they only allowed so many people in the store at a time and you were required to wear a mask.

Shots of inside the store

The mercantile offers an array of baked goodies – huckleberry bear claws, cinnamon rolls, macaroons, microbrew, coffee, fresh-baked bread, deli / hot pocket sandwiches, ice cream and signature pizzas. They also offer a small selection of groceries, drinks, T-shirts, hats & other various items.

Tip: The mercantile bakery also sells their baked goods at several farmer markets including the one in Kalispel on Saturdays, Columbia Falls on Thursdays and Whitefish on Tuesdays. Read here for more about farmers markets here.

Next to the mercantile is the Northern Lights Saloon & Cafe…the restaurant serves a variety of sandwiches, salads, quesadillas & a few entrees that include elk meatloaf & seared rainbow trout.

See menu here & read reviews here

After purchasing our baked goods & a few souvenirs, we headed 30 mins down a long, bumpy road to Bowman Lake.

Polebridge isn’t located inside the park but Bowman Lake is so you will either have to pay the entrance fee to enter the park or show your pass.

On the way, we decided to try the banana & Nutella bear claw that we had purchased…it was delicious! So soft & fresh!

After what seemed like a never ending roller coaster of a drive, we arrived to the parking for Bowman Lake…thankfully, we found a parking spot.

This area fills up very quickly as there is very limited parking. Get here early or later in the afternoon during peak season. You don’t want to make this drive only to be turned away!

Walking the short distance to the lake

There are several trails you can hike in this area: Bowman Lake Trail, Quartz Lake Trail,Numa Ridge Lookout, Brown Pass, Goat Haunt, Akokala Lake, & Lower Quartz Lake.

Bowman Lake did not disappoint….it is stunning!! The water is crystal clear & cold!!

The lake is the third largest lake in the park, after Lake McDonald and Saint Mary Lake. It’s 7 miles long and 1 mile in width.

Fishing, canoeing and kayaking are normally allowed but were not permitted while we were there due to Covid.

More of those colorful rocks!

I just couldn’t resist getting into the water……but not too deep! 😉

We got a good laugh from this social distancing sign!

We spotted some wild huckleberries near the lake!

Another shot of the lake….gorgeous!!

We walked a short distance on one of the nearby trails

A couple of shots from the trail

Always be bear aware!

After spending about an hour or so at the lake, we headed back to Polebridge to have lunch at the Northern Lights Saloon.

Tip: There is another restaurant in the area located about 10 mins from Polebridge 10 mins from the Northern Lights Saloon called Home Ranch Bottoms.

A shot of the restaurant

They had several outside tables to sit at…the inside was closed due to Covid.

I ordered the chicken quesadilla and my hubby ordered the prime rib french dip…both were very good…actually, my hubby said it was one of the best meals he had on our trip!

After lunch, we headed back towards the West Entrance to head into the park to hike the Trail of the Cedars.

Driving that long, bumpy road back to Apgar..

By the way, if you wanted to take a picture of yourself stepping over the Canadian border, there’s a border crossing (now closed) about 45 – 60 mins from Polebridge on North Fork Rd. Some people will drive there just to take a picture in front of the Canada Border sign.

On our way back towards Apgar, we stopped to take our picture in front of the Glacier National Park sign.

Don’t forget, you’re in bear country! Buy your bear spray at most any store or rent it at the airport or Glacier Outfitters in Apgar Village for $9.50 a day or $28 for the week.

Driving along side Lake McDonald….the water looks like Caribbean water!

Driving part of the Going to the Sun Road to the Trail of the Cedars

Trail of the Cedars begins across from the Avalanche Campground. The trail is a wheelchair accessible nature trail through a mature cedar/hemlock forest.

This is also the beginning of the Avalanche Lake Trail, a 4.5 roundtrip hike to the foot of Avalanche Lake, one of the most popular day-hikes in the park.

Trail of Cedars is approx. 1 mile roundtrip..it’s a very easy, flat walk on a mostly raised, wooden boardwalk.

The walk is very peaceful….some of the trees are over 80 ft tall!

We took a picture in front of this huge tree that had fallen.

Some shots from the trail

After leaving the trail, we headed back towards our hotel….we made a couple of stops along the way.

The first stop was the Sacred Dancing Cascade….this is a wide river cascading waterfall on Lake McDonald Creek.

There is a footbridge located here where you can cross for better views or you can walk down onto the rocks and get even closer to the falls.

The next stop was Lake McDonald Falls overlook….the views were obstructed no matter where we stood from the overlook…

There is a hike you can do to the falls…I believe it’s around 2-3 miles roundtrip.

Click here for 10 short, easy hikes & here for hiking trails in the park

After arriving back to our hotel, we decided to walk over to Eddie’s for dinner.

Eddie’s is a family owned & operated restaurant, giftshop, camp supply, and ice-cream shop located in Apgar Village inside the park. It’s been open for over 60 years. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Read reviews here

They have a fairly large indoor seating area and several outdoor tables. We chose to sit outside since it was so nice.

I ordered a grilled chicken salad and my hubby ordered a burger. The food was average but we liked the convenience of the restaurant.

After dinner, we headed back to room and enjoyed our huckleberry bear claw for dessert…so good!

The next morning we woke up to the most amazing sunrise! Just look at these colors!

We loved having our coffee in the mornings with these views!

After our coffee, we headed out to Hungry Horse Dam. The dam is approx. 25 mins from our hotel.

Driving the road that leads to the dam

The 564 ft tall dam was completed in 1953 and is Montana’s highest and the eleventh largest concrete dam in the U.S.

There is a visitor center nearby that is free to visit. It’s open from June to Sept.

Read reviews here

We continued driving the road past the dam….the views were beautiful!

Tip: There’s lot of hiking trails and campgrounds around the lake. You can also rent boat and jet skis and spend the day on the lake.

Tip: There is a scenic loop drive you can do around the lake. The entire loop is approximately 112 miles mostly on gravel road with no services other than Forest Service campgrounds and boat launches. If you choose to travel the loop in its entirety make sure you have a full tank of gas and lunch packed.

We spotted an old eagle’s nest and an osprey perched in a tree eating a fish!

Next, we drove through the small, quaint town of Big Fork. It was pretty crowded so we decided not to stop.

We then began our drive around Flathead Lake….

We came up on a little burger joint called Burger Town and decided to stop for lunch…my hubby is huge burger fan!

We figured with all the people waiting in line, it had to be good …and we we’re right!

I ordered the grilled chicken sandwich and my hubby ordered the 1/2 lb cheeseburger….so good!

After lunch, we continued our drive around the lake….we passed this unique looking structure near Woods Bay.

I was hoping to stop at one of the many cherry orchards around Flathead Lake and pick cherries but they were all closed… 🙁

The drive was nice and the lake is beautiful but if I had to do it over again, I wouldn’t have wasted a day making this drive…a lot of the views were obscured by trees and the orchards were closed.

A few shots along the drive.

There are stops you can do along the way but they are mostly state parks and overlooks.

There are several boat rental companies that rent canoes, kayaks and boats if you wanted to spend a day on the lake.

We came up on a fruit stand in Polson that was selling a variety of fruits, jams, ice cream, souvenirs, etc….so we made a quick stop.

After this stop, we headed to the Pablo National Wildlife Refuge…the refuge is a wetland habitat that supports abundant waterfowl species such as mallards, northern shovelers, gadwalls, redheads and ruddy ducks. Other birds include song sparrows, yellow–headed and red–winged blackbirds, and ring–necked pheasants. Bald eagles have nested here as well.

We saw quite a few birds..it mostly looked like ducks.

After this stop, we continued our drive….we had planned on heading to the St Ignatius Church, which was another 30 min drive from Polson, but decided against it because we weren’t sure if it would be open due to Covid.

Read the history of the church here

We made a quick stop at the Miracle of America Museum in Polson…we just took a few pics from the outside….the admission is only $10 for adults and $5 for children.

After leaving here, we continued our drive around the lake….

After nearing the end of our drive, we decided to head to Whitefish Mountain Resort and ride the scenic ski lift/gondola.

Read reviews here

There are many activities at the resort including zip lining, mountain biking, hiking, summer tubing, alpine slides and much more.

They also have lodging and restaurants.

Round trip tickets for adults aged 13-64 are $20….you can choose from an enclosed gondola or an open chairlift….we chose the chairlift since the weather was nice.

On our way up…

Once you reach the summit, you can have lunch at Montana’s only mountaintop restaurant with 360-degree views of the surrounding mountains. You can also spend some time shopping at Summit Gifts.

Read reviews for the restaurant here & see the menu here

Unfortunately, we arrived to the top about 10 mins before the last ride back down the mountain so we snapped a few pics and headed back down.

Sadly, the views were mostly obscured by smoke from the multiple fires in California.

Views on the way back down

After leaving here, we headed to Whitefish to eat dinner at Casey’s.

I ordered the stuffed meatloaf ($16) and the hubby ordered the smoked bbq brisket ($19). The food and service was average.

Read reviews here

Tip: Click here for best restaurants in Whitefish & here for Kalispel, here for Columbia Falls & here for Hungry Horse.

After dinner, we headed to Sweet Peaks for ice cream but sadly, they had just closed. 🙁

Read reviews here & click here for the best restaurants in Whitefish

A few pics of Whitefish

After dinner, we headed back to our hotel….On the way, we stopped to check out a roadside fountain called the Shepard Memorial Fountain.

A lot of people will stop here to fill up their water bottles from the constant flow of natural spring water coming from the mountain.

After leaving here, we stopped at the Glacier National Park sign to take pictures…this is a must for us when visiting any park!

Once we arrived back to our hotel, we made some coffee and sat outside and watched the stars for a while before calling it a night.

Glacier is one of the few parks that is considered a dark sky park.

We spotted the Milky Way and saw several shooting stars!

Thanks for reading!

Stay tuned for day 4!!

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