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Dukey1 Dec 7th, 2018 08:07 AM

Glacier Park Base
We will have 3.5 days and renting a car at FCA airport for the duration; mid-June timeframe.

Tyring to figure out the "best" place to stay: Whitefish Lake/Whitefish; Flathead Lake area; West Glacier/Apgar; Isaac Walton Inn at Essex. Like views would be nice but not essential; a place to kick back and relax after a day of "driving all over the place" in possibly upscale accommodations or rustic/very comfortable and pretending to be upscale would be better.

Not doing the "dude ranch" thing at Flathead Lake since I've been there/done that when I was growing up and for real.

Thanks for any wild stories and thoughts.

tomfuller Dec 7th, 2018 11:00 AM

My DW and I spent an anniversary at the Meadow Lake Resort a few years back. Our room was a small condo with a hot tub in the room. It also had a small kitchen. IMO that is your best option if you are flying into Kalispell. The resort is part of the Meadow Lake Golf Course on the outskirts of Columbia Falls MT on St. Andrews Drive.
The Meadow Lake folks came to pick us up at the Whitefish Amtrak station when we came in on the Empire Builder. The next day Enterprise came to get us at the resort so we could visit the park.
We were allowed to leave our rental car in the lot at the train station instead of returning it to the Enterprise lot near the airport.
The eastbound Empire Builder arrives in Whitefish quite early in the morning after leaving Spokane a little after midnight. When we left Whitefish on the Empire Builder we went all the way to Chicago
After a couple days in Chicago, we took the California Zephyr to Glenwood Springs CO.

Dukey1 Dec 7th, 2018 01:36 PM

Tom, thank you.

I have done the Builder and that was memorable since when I arrived in Portland was told, "We have no idea where the train actually is right now." Where it actually was is broken down along the Columbia way east of the city and we saw it on the Amtrak-provided bus which took us from Portland to Spokane. I grew up in surroundings very much like that stretch from Glacier all the way east to Havre and beyond; reminded me a lot of the areas in Saskatchewan and Alberta traversed by the Canadian with its better food and much better-preserved equipment.

Our most recent trip on the eastbound Zephryr was truly wonderful beyond Roseville all the way to Denver and almost on time, too.

I'll take a look at the Meadow Lake Resort and you really should take a look at the Canadian despite the unfortunate fact that the prices for the doubles with en suite shower are ridiculously expensive now.

tomfuller Dec 7th, 2018 06:43 PM

I doubt that I will ever ride the Canadian again. With the price increase and the change of schedule, it is not worth it to me.
My favorite place to stay in the Jasper area was the HI hostel in a private room instead of the dorms. There is a much better HI hostel in Winnipeg that I have stayed in several times.

dwooddon Dec 8th, 2018 07:27 AM

I have stayed in Whitefish on one trip and in Kalispell on several others. I prefer the Kalispell option simply because there is a greater range of hotels and a much greater range of dining options in the larger town. The drive into the park is a little longer but not so much that it overcomes the other advantages.

starrs Dec 8th, 2018 09:21 AM

When are you going? If the Going to the Sun road is not open, you'll have to drive Hwy 2 to get from one side of the park to the other. Staying at the Isaac Walton or in a rental in the Essex area is midway along 2. That would be a very good option.

The restaurant and bar at the Isaac Walton are very nice. Great steaks! Or you can eat a big lunch at one of the hotel restaurants in the park and grab dinner on the way home at East Glacier, etc.

starrs Dec 8th, 2018 09:29 AM

This may be an option too -

Dukey1 Dec 8th, 2018 10:27 AM

Thanks Dwooddon and Starrs

We are stopping off four four nights on the way to San Francisco in mid-June. Basically everything in the park itself seems booked so we have tentatively booked a place in Kalispell but I will re-consider the Isaac Walton. Appreciate the recommendations.

sludick Dec 8th, 2018 10:36 AM

We stayed at the Isaac Walton and enjoyed it very much. Our room was upstairs (with bath), but the caboose lodging looked intriguing. We ate dinner and breakfast there, enjoyed both.

starrs Dec 8th, 2018 11:38 AM

The rooms at the Isaac Walton are small. It was built as a railroad dormitory. But the location is lovely. I've never seen so hummingbirds! Sitting on their back deck and soaking in the scenery was simply lovely. The cabooses DO look wonderful. I'd love to stay in one of those!

The food at the restaurant may be the best meal you have on the trip. Here are some reviews, using the keyword "restaurant" -

Dukey1 Dec 9th, 2018 03:27 AM

We've done one of those restored caboose stays a couple of times in Folkston, Georgia, and the various possibilities at the Isaac Walton look interesting. For that matter, the locomotive you can stay in also looks interesting. Starrs, thanks for your PM about this. I'm looking into the whole situation.

kureiff Dec 10th, 2018 10:18 AM

A few thoughts:

The Many Glacier hotel has amazing views. The rooms are your basic National Park rooms so it's expensive and the rooms are very basic. But it's a nice place to stay to see that part of the park. I'd try to stay a night here and then maybe use the other nights for the west side of the Park.

The Isaac Walton Inn is not my favorite. I don't like the location and the rooms are pretty basic. I don't mind staying there in the winter to cross country ski when I can get a cheap group-on rate, but I'm not a fan of staying there in the summer and paying full price.

I don't like the Meadow Lake Resort or Columbia Falls that much, but it's not a bad place to stay if you want to be a little closer to West Glacier.

If you're not concerned about driving, then I'd suggest staying in Whitefish or Bigfork. We prefer Whitefish to Kalispell, Columbia Falls, and Bigfork. Bigfork is nice as it's right on Flathead Lake, but there isn't much to do in town. We typically stay at the Whitefish Lake Lodge or the Firebrand Hotel. The lake lodge is nice as it's right on Whitefish lake. I tend to prefer the Firebrand because it's located in town and it's easy to walk everywhere. Whitefish has some great dining options: Tupelo Grille, Wasabi, Great Northern Brewery, and Loula's are our favorites.

Depending on snowpack, GTTS may not be open yet.

Dukey1 Dec 10th, 2018 11:26 AM


Thanks for your input. As to the Isaac Walton, unfortunately those caboose accommodations do not have a television, there is little internet except in the hotel lobby, and the cabooses are not air conditioned. Yeah, I know it is Montana in June and I know how uncomfortable it can be in "Montana in June" when it is hot, too.

I am not the least bit concerned about driving since driving is going to allow us to view a lot of the scenery. The lodges IN the park are basically already sold out (no surprise). I've looked at Whitefish Lake Lodge and the Firebrand and still trying to make a final; decision now that I've thought about this some more.

Once again, I appreciate everyone's gracious attempts to be of help.

kureiff Dec 10th, 2018 12:17 PM

Dukey, yeah, the internet is pretty spotty at the Isaac Walton.

If you don't mind calling a lot, you can usually pick up a cancellation for in park lodging. Your choices will be similar to the Isaak Walton Inn: basic, no tv, no a/c, very little internet, expensive, and fantastic views.

When my daughter has soccer in Kalispell, we usually choose to stay in Whitefish as it's a prettier town (IMO), and we like the dining options in Whitefish more than Kalispell.

Dukey1 Dec 10th, 2018 01:26 PM

Kureiff, I decided I'd rather stare out at a lake so I booked a lakefront at the Whitefish Lake Lodge. Thanks again for all of your information.

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