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A sunny week in Glacier National Park, Montana

A sunny week in Glacier National Park, Montana

Old Jul 6th, 2009, 10:17 AM
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A sunny week in Glacier National Park, Montana

We just returned from a beautiful and fun-filled week in Glacier National Park, and I wanted to share some quick highlights of what we did in hopes that it will help others. We were torn on which national park to choose for our summer trip, and many folks on this forum sold me on Glacier NP and I am so grateful that they did.

The group consisted of me and my husband, both of our sets of parents (yes, I said both!) and two of my teenage sisters. People from the group had previously been to Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Zion, Yosemite, Yellowstone, Acadia, Smoky Mountains, Banff and maybe a few more so we wanted to go somewhere that was new for everyone. Glacier NP was an excellent choice!!

We rented a cabin in East Glacier through VRBO http://www.vrbo.com/169008 and this place was perfect. It looks like new, had all the comforts of home, and the owner and caretaker were fabulous which was a huge bonus. It is 1.5 hours from the airport in Kalispell, very convenient to the Two Medicine entrance to the park, less than an hour to St. Mary's and a little further to Many Glacier.

The only thing missing was a hot tub to soak in after long days of hiking. Oh, and there is no cable TV or internet which we LOVED. There is a TV to watch movies which we did a few evenings. We saved a ton of money renting a cabin versus staying in lodges as we were able to cook breakfast and dinner almost every day, and lunches usually consisted of sandwiches to eat along the way.

The weather was so amazing - we had SUN every single day, most days without a cloud in the sky. The only complaint was the mosquitoes!! I couldn't believe they have more mosquitoes and bigger mosquitoes than we do in Georgia and Florida (and the locals were surprised to hear this as well). It was so bad that you couldn't keep the door open for 5 seconds or a bunch would fly right in. And we are talking all day long, not just at dawn and dusk. So don't forget your bug repellent!!

I'll continue later with how we spent our week, but, in short, GO TO GLACIER - you won't be sorry!!
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Old Jul 7th, 2009, 05:04 AM
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Hiking/Activities

Boat ride and and hike to Twin Falls - We took the 3pm boat across Two Medicine lake and then did the short hike to Twin Falls. We wish we'd had time to also hike to Upper Medicine Lake, but we didn't want to miss the last boat back across the lake. I think we actually could have done it, but my FIL spent too much time taking pictures along the way.

Running Eagle Falls - This is a short hike in Two Medicine to a nice waterfall.

Logan Pass - This hike was still covered in snow, but we were able to hike to the Hidden Lake overlook which was actually fairly strenuous 3 miles in the snow and ice. The view from the top was great, but the lake was still frozen over and the hike down to it was closed. We saw mountain goats at the top and big-horned sheep on the way down.

Going to the Sun Road - We continued from Logan Pass along the road all the way to Lake McDonald. We arrived just a few days after the road opened for the season, and apparently it's the earliest the road has ever opened...lucky us! What a cool drive! The Weeping Wall was really neat, and we made a few stops along the way including Trail of the Cedars. We also stopped at Lake McDonald lodge for a view of the lake and a quick snack before heading home via West Glacier.

Rockwell Falls hike in Two Medicine - We did this 7 mile hike with a guide, Pat, who was fantastic. He's been at Glacier 23 years and was so informative and knowledgeable about everything we saw. I was worried about a guided hike because I like to move fast, but Pat hiked at a great pace and stopped at perfect intervals. It was a beautiful hike with lots of bear grass and mountain views along the way. We had lunch at the top of the falls and then made a quick stop at Aster Falls on the way back. No bears.

Scenic Point hike in Two Medicine - This was my favorite hike of the week. We also did this one with a guide, Amy, who was equally as fun as Pat. This hike was much more strenuous, about 8 miles with an elevation gain of 2,300 or so feet. So you are basically going uphill the entire way out and downhill the entire way back. The scenery along the way was so awesome and the difference in terrain from the rest of the park was really neat. The 360 degree view from the top is the best part! No bears until we were driving back to East Glacier and one crossed the road right in front of our car!

Many Glacier - We hiked around Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine. It was an easy hike of about 5 miles round trip. The views of the lakes are spectacular, and you can see Many Glacier Hotel from across Swiftcurrent Lake. We stopped for many photo ops along the way as the wildflowers were so pretty. Afterward, we had lunch at Many Glacier Hotel. No bears, in fact no wildlife at all which was disappointing since everyone told us the wildlife was abundant at Many Glacier!

Horseback Riding at Many Glacier - We rode to Cracker Flats on a two-hour ride. It was just me, my husband and my sisters so it felt like a private tour. It was $58 each and was cool to do once, but I probably wouldn't do it again. The only wildlife we saw were two deer. Bummer!

Waterton Lakes - We drive up to Canada one day to see Wateron. We took the faster route from East Glacier which was Hwy 2 to Browning and then 464 to Babb to 89, 17 and then 6. This route was a lifesaver since some of us were getting nauseous each time we took 89. The drive was beautiful! We arrived in Waterton, stopped at the visitor center to inquire about day-trip activities and then headed to the Prince of Wales Hotel to check it out. I wasn't as impressed with the hotel itself, especially knowing how expensive it is, but what an amazing view from! After some pictures, we found a spot to eat lunch in Wateron (Trapper's Grill) and then drove off to Red Rock Canyon which the ranger recommended. I have to say, I think she was directing everyone here. It looked like w ater park with so many tourists in swimsuits playing around in the water. And the "hike" around the canyon is like a 1/2 mile on a paved path...not my idea of a hike. We then did the short walk to Blackiston Falls which was okay but nothing spectacular. It was cool seeing Waterton, but if you are strapped for time I would suggest skipping it.

St.Mary & Virginia Falls - The day the "kids" did Scenic Point, the parents did the falls. They said St. Mary Falls was the best waterfall they had seen on the trip. I haven't seen their pics yet so I can't attest to that, but it sounded like they had a great day.

Restaurants

We cooked dinner almost every night, but we did eat out tiwce in East Glacier.

Serrano's - This little Mexican restaurant was a nice surprise. Delicious and fresh Mexican food. Who knew you could find it in Montana!

Glacier Village Restaurant - We ate here on our last night. It was decent, nothing spectacular, but I enjoyed my Broasted Chicken.

Finally, we had lunches at Rising Sun and Many Glacier lodges which were exactly what you would expect for national park food - overpriced and underwhelming.

That's it for my report. Don't know if anyone will read it since Montana doesn't seem to be too popular on thie forum, but I do hope it is helpful for anyone venturing to Glacier NP this summer. Enjoy!!
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Old Jul 7th, 2009, 12:38 PM
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I enjoyed your report as it brought back memories of our recent trip to GNP. In fact, we may have been there at the same time (last week of June) because we had 7 days of clear, sunny days and the GTTS Road opened halfway through our visit.
We had never rented a vacation home through VBRO before, but we rented one house in West Glacier and one house in East Glacier and they were both fabulous. They were cheaper than staying in the lodges (which we did for one night at Many Glacier), roomy (ours were 3BR/2BA) and cost-effective because we could eat/prepare at least 2 meals a day in the house. I highly recommend that families/groups consider VBRO if they are going to GNP.
Like you, we did not encounter any bears in the park and my husband and daughter saw just one moose (which happened on the only hike that I skipped!) We did see deer, mountain goats, lots of ground squirrels and chipmunks and, as you mentioned, hordes of mosquitos. They did, however, seem more prevalent on the East side as opposed to the West side. So keep that repellant handy and well-applied!
Finally, I'll second your recommendation of Serranos. As Texans, we are required by law to try Mexican food whenever and whereever possible. Serranos was recommended by the owner of the vacation home we stayed in, so I figured, as a local, he would know a good place to eat. I had read that the lines get long there, but we went twice at 8:30 pm and never waited more than 5 minutes for a table.
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Old Jul 7th, 2009, 02:11 PM
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Thanks for the trip report, and also thanks for including the link to the house -- it looks really nice! GNP is on my list of places to visit, and your report is very informative re hikes.
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Old Jul 7th, 2009, 02:25 PM
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Leaving tomorrow! Your report has me even more excited!
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Old Jul 7th, 2009, 04:41 PM
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longhorn55 - Yep - we must have been there at the same time. We were there from 6/27 - 7/4. Could you believe the weather?! I am so jealous you saw a moose! We never saw one and supposedly missed one on the Rockwell Falls hike by just a few minutes.

I agree that VRBO is a great way to go for GNP. There don't seem to be that many cabins for rent around the park so I highly suggest booking early.

Samsaf - Glad to hear that GNP is on your list. It won't disappoint! We could easily have spent another week exploring.

minnehappylis - Have a blast! I hope the nice weather continue for your trip.
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Old Jul 10th, 2009, 08:15 AM
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sessa - Thanks for the report. My husband and I head to the park for the first time on 8/15. Was there much of a wait at the Canadian border? (reason I ask, tough for me to be away from a bathroom for too long!). Also, did you need to book your boat ride ahead or was it no problem doing it last-minute?
I'm getting excited, and glad it was an excellent choice!
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Old Jul 10th, 2009, 09:06 AM
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Great report---thanks!

We missed hiking with Pat at Two Medicine last year---it was late August and he had already returned to his winter job. Maybe we'll try again this year--but if we go to Two Medicine I think we'd like Scenic Point.
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Old Jul 10th, 2009, 09:18 AM
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TravelinVic - There was no wait at the Canadian border. The lady was super nice and just checked our passports and waved us thru. Of course, we had to pull over so that my mom could go inside and get her passport stamped

Coming back was funny because there were 5 Americans checking out the cars (as opposed to the 1 Canadian). They made us turn off the engine, unlock the doors, and they had a drug/explosive sniffing dog checking out the vehicle. I'm not saying I minded the extra security - just noticed the big difference.

I will tell you that we did see signs saying "no restrooms" at the border. We stopped near Many Glacier to use the restroom. The drive from East Glacier was less than 2 hours to Waterton I think.

Enzian - Have you hiked with Pat before? We loved him - he tells great stories, has a great sense of humor and you can just tell (as with all of the guides) that he truly loves his job. Scenic Point was awesome - the views the entire way up were wonderful.
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Old Jul 11th, 2009, 07:45 AM
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sessa - thanks for the info! Interesting about the border crossing! We'll be heading to Waterton from Lake McDonald, so it will be a long day-- taking in Going-to-the-Sun Road and swinging by Many Glacier-- which we'll head to again on the way back before calling it a nite at our Rising Sun cabin for two nites.
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Old Jul 11th, 2009, 07:52 AM
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Thanks for posting. We are going, for the first time, in August. We are taking our travel trailer and staying just outside the park in West Glacier. THanks for the tip on the mosquitoes. I will buy some candles and bug repellent for sure!
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Old Jul 17th, 2009, 06:19 AM
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Thanks for your great report! We leave in about a week! Can you tell me how to find/book Pat and Amy for hikes? Thanks!
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Old Jul 17th, 2009, 07:17 AM
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dhswor - The Park has a little newspaper with the schedules for the guided hikes and other ranger-led activities in each area of the park. It doesn't list who the guide will be, but I would imagine the ranger station might be able to tell you. Also, no reservation required and they are free - you just meet at a specified place. The Rockwell Falls hike we did with Pat started at noon on a Tuesday, and the Scenic Point hike with Amy left at 10am on a Friday.

Have a great trip!!
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Old Jul 17th, 2009, 07:54 AM
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Thanks! We are really getting excited. We, too, have a house from VRBO in East Glacier and West Glacier. It really is the way to go. We are also spending a night at Swiftcurrent and Many Glacier Lodge, too. Thanks for your help, we are looking forward to lots of hiking!
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