This post continues our time in Glacier National Park.
We started out with coffee & breakfast in our room & then checked out of our room around 11 am.
The Sun Road is 50 miles long and will take you approx. 1.5- 2 hrs to drive without stops but this isn’t a drive you want to do without stopping so plan for a full day …..more if you are hiking!
Tip: Click here for 23 of the best stops along the Sun Rd.
Our first stop of the day was the Lake McDonald Lodge.
The lodge is located approx. 15 mins from Apgar along the Sun Road.
The lodge was built in 1913 and is located on the eastern shore of Lake McDonald. It offers 82 guest rooms split between the three story lodge and a row of cabins that are located along a tree-lined pathway adjacent to the lodge.
Even if you don’t stay here, I highly recommend you visit this beautiful hotel. While there you may even want to have lunch or dinner as the hotel offers three different dining options.
The inside of the lodge is truly amazing!
Look at this fireplace!
There were gorgeous paintings hanging all over the walls of the lodge.
After taking in the beauty of the inside, we exited the lodge to check out the views of Lake McDonald.
This is where you would come if you book a boat tour of Lake McDonald…there are four different boat tours you can do inside the park but only two of them gives you access to the Sun Road: Lake McDonald & St Mary Lake.
Tip: If you can’t get a ticket for the Sun Road, you can book a boat tour, or any tour for that matter, inside the park and that will give you access to the Sun Road.
The views were amazing from this location as well….however, it was really smoky so my pictures don’t do it justice.
After checking out the views, we headed back inside the hotel and took more pictures and then headed back to our car.
Once outside, we noticed one of the Red Buses sitting in front of the lodge so we walked over to check it out.
The Red Buses have been giving tours in Glacier since 1914. The Red Buses were the first authorized motor transportation utility in any National Park.
There are 33 red buses in Glacier. Each bus can carry up to 17 people, with 4 across on bench seating and 1 front passenger seat.
After leaving the lodge, we continued our drive down the Sun Road.
Tip: Download the Gypsy App for the Sun Road .. it’s like having your own tour guide. It gives you the history of the park and tells you when you should pull over.
Our next stop was McDonald Falls Overlook located approx 5 mins from the lodge.
The falls is mostly obscured by trees but there is a hike you can do to get a much better view.
We took a few pictures and continued our drive down the Sun Road.
I tried to not take as many pictures on this drive since we had just visited last year and I took so many but it’s hard when you see views like this!
Our next stop was the first of two tunnels on the Sun Road.
This tunnel, the West side tunnel, is 192 ft in length & offers a “window” view of the mountains.
It’s truly amazing!
After this stop, we continued our drive along the Sun Rd.
The road hugs the mountainside as it traverses over steep drop-offs and steers through tight curves.
Due to very little clearance with oncoming traffic, vehicles longer than 21 feet or wider than 8 feet are prohibited between Avalanche Campground and the Sun Point parking area.
A shot of Haystack Falls.
A shot of Triple Arches Bridge.
This three-span, sixty-five foot long bridge was designed in 1927 as an alternative to a large retaining wall.
More shots along the way…
The second tunnel
Tip: For pullouts along the road click here
More shots along the way..
Click here to see a list of popular hikes in this area
We didn’t do as many stops this time since we had just visited last year.
However, one of the stops I wanted to do again was Wild Goose Island!
The view here is nothing short of magnificent and is one of the most photographed places in the world!
The viewpoint offers splendid, panoramic views of the magnificent peaks encircling Saint Mary Lake with Wild Goose Island being the centerpiece.
After this stop, we decided we would try and check into our hotel at the Rising Sun…even though it was two hours before check in time.
Thankfully, they had our room ready and allowed us to check in so we headed to our room.
The hotel was built in 1940, and is a 72-unit property comprised of rustic cabins and motor inn rooms.
We booked one of the motor inn rooms that are located on the hillside overlooking the complex.
Shots of the hotel inside
Shots of the outside
The hotel also has a general store , gift shop and a restaurant called Two Dog Flats Grill. However, the restaurant was closed due to Covid and lack of staffing.
After getting settled in, we decided to have lunch.
I had boiled a dozen eggs in our room at Apgar..lol…I try to eat as healthy as possible but sometimes that doesn’t always work out while on vacation!
We absolutely loved this hotel & the location was great. It was located inside the park and approx. 10 mins from the East Entrance.
Click here for trails in the park
After lunch, we headed to a trail that we had hiked last year but hadn’t been able to complete the entire trail due to bears that had been spotted in the area.
The trailhead is located approx. 10 mins from the Rising Sun hotel.
The parking for this trail is very limited! We had to park a ways from the trailhead and walk!
On this trail, you will see where the Reynolds Creek Fire burned over 4,ooo acres in 2015.
There has been a fire in Glacier National Park almost every year of its existence. The year with the most was 1936 (64 fires!) and 1964 was the only year with no fire on record.
The summer of 2003 was the most significant fire season in the history of Glacier National Park. Approximately 136,000 acres burned within the park boundary.
Read about the history of fires in the park here
The views along this trail are truly incredible!
The hike to St Mary Falls, which will be the first falls you will come to, is approx. 1.7 miles round trip. If you continue your hike to Virginia Falls, it will be approx. 3.5 miles round trip.
I highly recommend you continue on to Virginia Falls as it’s much prettier than St Mary Falls.
We visited the park Sept. 4-11 and the leaves were starting to change….so beautiful!
After a little less than a mile, you will come to St Mary Falls…
The falls drops roughly 35 feet in three separate tiers, with the two largest being the most photogenic.
You’ll also likely notice the incredibly beautiful aqua-green color of the pools just below the falls.
Last year when we hiked here, there were people jumping from the rocks into the icy cold water below…no thanks!
After taking a few pictures, we continued our hike & I continued my non stop photo shoot of the incredible views!
Let me give you some inside information….you will pass several smaller waterfalls on this hike and many people mistake these as being Virginia Falls..they are not & you must continue hiking further down the trail.
More shots along the way…
Arriving to another waterfall…
Look at this water! Makes you want to jump in but it’s ice cold!
Keep hiking, you’re not there yet!
Finally, after approx. 1.8 miles, you will arrive to the magnificent Virginia Falls!
The falls plummets 50 ft and is one of the best waterfall hikes in the park!
After spending about 30-45 mins here, we decided to head back.
More shots of those amazing views!
We stopped at one of the other falls for a few pics.
More shots of St Mary Falls area..
More shots heading back to the parking lot..
After leaving here, we headed back to the hotel to “freshen up” before heading out to grab something to eat.
Here’s a list of restaurants the Rising Sun provided us with..
Johnson’s is the longest run family business in the area. Open since 1950, they serve homemade food from scratch.
The restaurant is located approx. 15 mins from the Rising Sun Motor Inn. They also offer cabins, an RV park and camping.
On the way, we spotted a black bear eating berries near the road. Sadly, I couldn’t get a good shot of him.
Views along the way..
Once we arrived to the restaurant, there was a sign saying “take out only”…so, we had to order at the register and then they would bring it out to us.
They were also out of a lot of items on their menu and they were closing for the season one day after we arrived.
There were a few picnic style tables outside you could eat at..
The restaurant looks like an old cabin…it’s very cool.
Since our options were limited, we decided to order the family special which was BBQ pork, mashed potatoes with gravy, coleslaw, beef barley soup & some homemade bread.
The cost was $37.50 for two meals and we ordered water to drink. The restaurant added a 20% gratuity which I thought was a bit ridiculous since we had no table service. So, our total bill came to $45.
The food was pretty good…I really liked the soup!
After dinner, we headed back to our hotel.
But first we made a stop at a gift shop right beside the St Mary hotel just to browse for a few minutes before we called it a night.
St Mary is located right outside the East Entrance so it’s a good option if you can’t get reservations inside the park.
Next to the hotel, there’s a gas station, restaurants, gift shops, grocery store, ice cream & more!
After leaving here, we stopped at the Glacier National Park sign to take our picture….this is a must do for us when we visit national parks!
Views heading back to our hotel￼￼
After arriving back to our room, we called it a night!
Thanks for reading!
Read Day 1 in the park here