We just got back from a 7 night trip to Glacier and Waterton Lakes National Parks. Our main focus was hiking and wildlife. We flew into and out of Helena, spent our first night there and then headed to Many Glacier for two nights, Waterton Lakes for three nights and then back to Helena for another night before flying home. We planned this trip two months ago when airfares to Montana were on sale.
Helena - Marriott Fairfield Inn - comfortable, clean, convenient, friendly staff, generic.
Many Glacier - Swiftcurrent Motor Lodge, a Pinetop Motor Inn room - These are the ones with the inside entrances. The room was small, the bathroom tiny, the shower bordering on claustrophobic and the walls were thin. It was, however, clean and you can't beat the location (Many Glacier).
Last year we stayed at Many Glacier Hotel in a larger than average lakeside room with balcony (I am not sure how we got so lucky as to get that room, but we did). That room enhanced our wildlife viewing opportunities - we were able to sit out on the balcony in the early morning and in the evening and spot bears on the hill, moose across the lake, beavers swimming by and even a pair of trumpeters swans. A lakeside room with balcony is definitely worth the extra cost, but without balcony, not such a great value.
Waterton Lakes - Shintangle Springs B&B - The B&B is located just outside the park on rte 6, 12 minutes to the center of Waterton Township, in the park. The room was pristine and spacious. The innkeeper, Heather, was personable and helpful without being intrusive. Breakfasts were excellent (and large). The guest lounge area has a small kitchen area (sink, refrigerator, microwave and coffee pots). The refrigerator is stocked with yogurts, bottled water and fruit cups. There is a nice selection of coffees if you want to brew a pot during the day.
We really enjoyed our stay at Shintangle and will likely stay there again sometime in the next couple of years.
Since we would be hiking daily, we bought a loaf of bread, a jar of raspberry jam and a jar of peanut butter, so that we could make our own lunches to carry, as well as, a small box of raisin bran for breakfasts in Glacier Park. (You can buy small cartons of milk at the Swiftcurrent camp store, but I eat mine dry)
Helena - We ate twice at the Mackenzie River Pizza Company ( http://www.mackenzieriverpizza.com/ ). Last year we ate at the one in Bozeman and were favorably impressed - so we had dinner there the first and last night. The first night we had a small Branding Iron (Italian sausage, jalepenos and crushed red chile) on natural grain crust and a small Buffalo Wing (spicy buffalo sauce, roasted chicken, celery and crumbled blue cheese) on the thin crust. Both were spicy ( but there are plenty of non-spicy options) and very tasty. The last night, we opted for a large thin crust Buffalo Wing pizza.
The morning of our last day, we stopped by the Staggering Ox ( http://www.staggeringox.com/ ) and picked up sandwiches to go since our 40 minute connection in Denver probably was not going to allow enough time to get any food. The Staggering Ox had unique sandwich bread shaped like an open can - cylindrical, with a bottom - and the fillings gets slid in from the top. They have an array of choices (including a number of vegetarian options) and they travel well since the sauce always comes on the side. We both had the Blue Horsies (blue cheese / horseradish) sauce, mine over roast beef and cheese, DH's over the nuke (ham, turkey roast beef, swiss cheese, provolone and cheddar). Good travel day food!
Many Glacier - On the way to Many Glacier from Helena, you pass through St Mary, MT, home to the Park Cafe ( http://www.parkcafe.us/ ) - noted for its pies. We stopped there for lunch. DH had a bison burger (tasty and moist) and I had a well prepared chicken breast sandwich. We also picked up a whole razzleberry (blueberry, blackberry and raspberry) pie which we had pre-ordered via phone two days earlier. The pie was devoured over the next three days after our daily hikes.
The first evening we ate dinner at the restaurant in the Swiftcurrent Motor Lodge - it was typical national park food -mediocre and over-priced. The second evening we opted to drive back out to St Mary and eat at the Park Cafe again - this time sitting outside on the patio/porch - it didn't disappoint.
Waterton Lakes - As described above, the B&B had scrumptious, generous breakfasts and we made sandwiches for our lunches, so that left only dinners to be eaten.
The first night, we headed 10 miles north on Rte 6 to the Twin Butte Country Store and Mexican Restaurant ( http://www.twinbuttestore.ca/ ). DH had the chorizo sausage meal - two chorizo sausages, tortillas, refried beans and mexican rice. I opted for a burrito with out the sides. It was very good mexican food (and we are from southern NM) however it was non-spicy to the max . I defaulted to sprinkling the burrito with a little Louisiana hot sauce, but that made for a weird combination since Mexican food has a different type of spiciness than Cajun food. A little cilantro would have been nice.
We would definitely recommend this restaurant, which also has other options besides Mexican.
The second night we ate at Trapper's Mountain Grill in Waterton Lakes township. The meals come with a small sides of beans and coleslaw - these sides were very good, but the meals themselves were average to mediocre.
The last night we ate at Pizza of Waterton. We were able to sit at one of the outside tables and had a wonderful pizza with Alberta beef and veggies. They don't appear to have a website, otherwise I would definitely provided a link - this restaurant is definately recommended.
Miscellaneous - On the way up to Helena, we grabbed sandwiches at Heidi's Brooklyn Deli on concourse B (near gate B 88) in Denver during our layover. The service was fast; they are really efficient and the sandwiches were very good (http://www.heidisbrooklyndeli.com/ )
After one of our hikes, we stopped for an ice cream at Big Scoops in Waterton Park. I was glad that I only got a single scoop since the ice cream (expresso chip) was nothing special, an opinion shared by DH (black cherry).
Well this is all for now - more later on hikes and wildlife.
FYI - report also posted on Canadian board
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Trip Report - Waterton Lakes & Glacier NP