Glacier National Park 2021 Day 1

Hey Guys!

For those of you who follow my blog, you will know that we visited Glacier National Park last year (2020). However, due to Covid, the East side of the park was closed off.

The East side of the park sits on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. So, they control that side of the park and felt it would be best to close it in order to keep their people safe.

I had heard that the East side was more scenic than the West side of the park, so we decided to go back this year to stay on that side of the park.

For maps of the park click here

Tip: On the East side of the park you have the Two Medicine area, Many Glacier, Cut Bank & of course, the East Entrance to the Sun Rd.  Many Glacier is the most scenic of them all.

If you plan to visit the park, I recommend that you split your time between the East & West side as it requires way too much driving if you choose to stay on one side.

My recommendation would be to stay on the West side at either Apgar Village Inn or Lake McDonald Lodge for 2-3 days and then move to the Many Glacier Hotel if you can get reservations.

Tip: For cheaper options inside the park click here & here

Update for 2023: For 2023, the park now requires reservations for all areas of the park. For the West entrance, the reservations are required from May 26 through September 10th, from 6 am to 3 pm. For the East entrance from July 1 through September 10, the North Fork area from May 26 through September 10th, the Many Glacier entrance from July 1 through September 10 & the Two Medicine entrance from July 1 through September 10. Book your reservations here.

Tip: Use to be notified with a text anytime there is a cancellation in a campground you are wanting to stay at. You can also use to get reservations at a campground. They text you when a site opens up for your dates. Also, Glacier Park has it’s own text alert system as well. Read all about camping in the park here.

Tip: Glacier Park is open 365 days a year but once the snow starts falling, the Going to the Sun Road closes. The road normally opens sometime in late June to early July. However, it’s all weather dependent. In 2022, the road didn’t open until July 13th.  The road normally closes in mid Oct.

If you want to visit Canada,  you should definitely stay in Waterton at the Prince of Wales hotel!

Waterton is located approx. 1.5 hrs from the East Entrance of Glacier. You would also need a passport to crossover into Canada.

If you are on the West side, you can access the East by taking the Going to The Sun road that runs through Glacier Park or you can take Hwy 2.

If you take the Sun Road, it takes approximately 1.5 hrs without stops and if you take Hwy 2, it takes approximately 1 hr 45 mins.

Last year we flew into Kalispell since it’s the closest airport to Glacier. It’s approx 45 mins from the West Entrance. However, with car rentals being so scarce & so incredibly expensive, we decided to fly into Missoula.

Tip: Book your car rental before you book anything else! Some people will use Turo as a cheaper option.

Click here to read about the park’s shuttle system

Update: Read Day 2 here, Day 3 here, Day 4 here, Day 5 here, Day 6 here. Day 7 here and Day 8 here

A shot from the plane

Missoula is approx. 2.5 hrs from the West Entrance & approx. 4 hrs from the East Entrance.

After arriving to Missoula and picking up our rental  car, we headed to the nearest restaurant we could find that served burgers. My hubby, being the burger connoisseur, has to have his burgers while on vacation.

He found a place called the Miller Creek Cafe. The cafe sits on a golf course and supposedly had awesome burgers but we were not impressed.

The burgers had no mayo, mustard or anything and the meat had no seasonings…very bland.

At least they had gluten free buns and sweet potato fries!

Read reviews of Miller Creek Cafe here

After more research & based on reviews, I would recommend the Montana Club Restaurant.

After lunch, we headed towards Glacier.

On the way there, we spotted a fruit stand selling some of those delicious cherries that this area is known for so we just had to stop and buy some!

We purchased some last year too and they were so good…I was surprised to see they were still selling them because the cherry season usually ends in Aug and we were there in Sept.

On our drive to Glacier, I knew we would be passing a church that I had wanted to visit last year but didn’t get the chance… so, we decided we would make a quick stop.

The church is located in St Ignatius which is approx. 45 mins from the airport and is called St. Ignatius Mission.

The church was built in the early 1890’s and it’s walls and ceilings are covered by 58 paintings that were done by the bishop of the church.

Unfortunately for us, there was a wedding taking place so we were unable to go inside the church.

So, we just snapped a few pictures of the outside of  the church and headed on our way.

As we neared the town of Polson, we had some awesome views of Flathead Lake!

We passed through an area around Flathead Lake that had just recently had a fire.…I had actually seen posts about this fire on one of the Facebook pages I follow. The fire destroyed more than 15 homes along Flathead Lake.

Driving along side the lake..

Since the drive was longer to the East Entrance, we decided to stay our first night on the West side and then move on to the East side.

Last year we stayed inside the park at the Apgar Village Inn...since we loved staying here last year, I decided to book our first night here.

Read reviews here

Also, not to mention, I didn’t have a ticket to enter the park. If you can’t get a ticket to enter the park, try and book a hotel inside the park because that will give you access to the Sun Rd.

Tip: If you have reservations for a hotel inside the park, be prepared to show proof of that at the entrance gate.

There are only two sites that book hotels inside the park and that’s Xanterra & Glacier Park Collection.

Tip: The only hotels that will give you access to the Sun Rd are Apgar Village Inn, Apgar Village Lodge, Lake McDonald Lodge, Motel Lake McDonald & Rising Sun Motor Inn.

Tip: When booking your hotel on one of the above sites, try booking for one night at a time. It’s very difficult to book multiple nights at a time.

Apgar Village Inn sits right on the shore of Lake McDonald….the reason we loved it so much! I mean, how can you not love waking up to these views every day!

Apgar Village Inn was built in 1956 and only has 36 rooms.

A few shots of the inside of our room..

Before we arrived to our room, we went to a nearby Walmart to stock up on bottled water, snacks, ice, cooler, etc because there aren’t many options for food inside the park.  I highly recommend you do the same prior to checking into your hotel.

There’s a Walmart in Kalispell that’s 50 mins from Apgar Village Inn.

However, with that being said, if you were to stay the entire time at Apgar, there’s a restaurant within walking distance of the hotel called Eddie’s Cafe and the food is pretty good.

There’s also a general store, gift shops & a place to rent kayaks/canoes & bear spray.

Since we arrived to our room around 7:30 pm (check in goes through 8 pm), we unloaded our groceries and luggage and then spent some time sitting outside enjoying those magnificent views!

The hotel has quiet hours from 10 pm – 6 am. You can check in at 4 pm and check out is at 11 am.

The next morning we woke up to an incredible sunrise!

Sadly, due to the fires burning out West, two hours later, this was our view.

I’ll end this post here and continue with Day 2 with my next blog post.

Thanks for reading!

Update: Read Day 2 here, Day 3 here, Day 4 here, Day 5 here, Day 6 here. Day 7 here and Day 8 here

Read my other posts on Glacier from 2020 where we visited the West side of the park here, here, here, here, here & here. 

Read my post on 101 Things to Do Outside of Glacier National Park here.

Tip: If you are staying outside the park, look for hotels in the towns of Whitefish, Columbia Falls, Hungry Horse or Coram for the West Entrance & for the East Entrance look at St Mary’s Village, it sits right outside the East Entrance. You can also look for hotels in Browning or Babb if you are wanting to stay outside the East Entrance. Thronson’s Hotel  & Johnson’s of St Mary are cheaper options for the East side.

Tip: For camping inside the park click here & for camping outside of the park click here

Click here for the best hikes on the West side & don’t miss seeing the old Belton Bridge!

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