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navigating Glacier National Park---Lake McDonald or Many Glacier

navigating Glacier National Park---Lake McDonald or Many Glacier

Old Jul 6th, 2009, 11:37 AM
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navigating Glacier National Park---Lake McDonald or Many Glacier

I am beginning to plan a trip to Glacier NP next summer. My husband and I have enjoyed hiking the national parks, but have never done Glacier. we've been told we're really missing something grand. In looking at lodging, it appears that Lake McDonald and Many Glacier are the ones not to be missed---but when i just did a mapquest-----is the only way to get to Many really driving all of the way out of the park and back in again? We will be flying into Kalispell from chicago----then maybe to Lake McDonald lodge------it seems so out of the way----then if we wanted to go to Waterton in Canada, we'd have to go back out and around?? I'm just trying to figure out the least amount of driving------maybe skipping Waterton altogether, and having Lake McDonald as a base? If you were going to pick 2 memorable lodges to stay in 2 - 3 nights apiece, which would they be? I've done much reading and research, but the mapquest threw me----we don't love the driving. I really need help. I don't want the driving to keep me from visiting GNP.
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Old Jul 6th, 2009, 11:50 AM
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This question hinges on when you will be going. Many people spend time on both sides of the park, 2-3 days a piece. Going to the Sun Road connects to the sides and is well worth the drive. It is open Late June through the summer until the snow piles up again. The road deserves a whole day to drive across and see the sites, but can be done in 2 hours on the way back. Otherwise, if it is closed, you will have to drive around.

East Glacier Lodge is pretty spectacular as is the Prince of Wales Hotel in Waterton. Some of the best hiking is around the Many Glacier Hotel, but if you're there in the winter, I'd stick to Lake McDonald.
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Old Jul 6th, 2009, 12:43 PM
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we will be there in mid july-----
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Old Jul 6th, 2009, 01:41 PM
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In mid-July the Going to the Sun Road will almost certainly be open. If you fly into Kalispell, I suggest you drive to the west side of the park (West Glacier) and spend a couple of nights there (the Apgar village Lodge has cabins right on the lake--try to get one of those):

http://www.flickr.com/photos/photogregs/3032314174/

I would prefer this over Lake McDonald Lodge, which gets a LOT of tour group traffic. Also, from Apgar you have a view up the lake right to the heart of the park, and there is good kayaking from there.

Also reserve at least three nights at Many Glacier. The best hiking in the park is there and right at Logan Pass, which you will drive over on the Going to the Sun Highway. (Stop there and take the Highline Trail for several miles; you are likely to see lots of goats and other wildlife).

If you get a lakefron room at Many Glacier Hotel, you will have a view like this from your window or balcony:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/photogregs/3032314174/

The hiking around the Many Glacier area is fantastic. You can do the ranger-led hikes if you are concerned about meeting up with bears.


We are avid hikers and finally made it to Glacier for the first time last summer. We loved it so much we are going back for another week this year, in August.

But we haven't made it up to the Canadian section, so I cannot comment on that.
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Old Jul 6th, 2009, 01:48 PM
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Just to clairfy---there really isn't all that much driving involved. The kalispell airport is north of town, almost halfway to Whitefish. It's only about 35 miles to West Glacier from there. And crossing the park on the Going to the Sun Road is such a spectacular experience that many people come to Glacier just to do that drive. (It probably did not show up when you used MapQuest because it may not have been open yet, or they haven't updated mapQuest to reflect that. Also, the road is not open to all traffic--large trucks, RV's and trailer combinations are not allowed, so maybe MapQuest can't show it as a through route. But in a passenger car you will be fine.)
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Old Jul 6th, 2009, 03:40 PM
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We were at GNP during the last week of June, staying at West Glacier, East Glacier and one night at Many Glacier. Because we are a family of 4, we stayed in vacation homes located through VRBO in both West Glacier and East Glacier. We really loved the places we stayed in, but this option might not be cost-effective if it's just you and your husband.
My husband really wanted to spend at least one night at a park lodge, so we got two rooms at the Many Glacier Lodge. I will say that the location is gorgeous and you are close to several great hiking trails. Also, the public areas at Many Glaciar are wonderful. However, like many "historic" hotels, the rooms are not quite so wonderful. I'll admit that we were in the "Value" rooms because at $155 per room, that's all our budget could stand. These rooms were, to put it kindly, spartan, and you could hear absolutely everything being said in the hall and in the room next door. (My kids knew their next-door neighbor was from Britain because they could hear her speak so clearly.) I have read in many guidebooks and online that these aspects (spartan and noisy) are not restricted to the "Value" rooms.
I don't want to discourage your staying in any of the lodges because they do have a lot of advantanges, but there are disadvantages as well.
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Old Jul 6th, 2009, 04:34 PM
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Many Glacier Hotel is one of the old historic national park lodges. Like many of them, it was designed with lovely views and public areas, and very spartan tooms. The idea is that you are not there to spend time in your room, but to be outside enjoying the scenery. The walls are indeed very thin, and the windows not well-sealed---we had the sound of wind whistling through the cracks all night long. This was in one of the lakefront rooms, so the "spartan" aspect is not limited to the "Value" rooms. But lakefront rooms are not that much more expensive than the "value" rooms, and we thought it was well worth it.

Despite the small size of the room and thin walls, the beds are (reasonably) comfortable and the bathroom had plenty of hot water. That's about all I really need after a day of hiking. And we awoke in the morning to that gorgeous view.

If you don't stay at Many Glacier or the nearby Swiftcurrent Motor Lodge, you have a long drive in and out of the park each day you want to hike there---I believe the neaxt-nearest lodging is in St. Mary.

The place is expensive because of the remote location, and because of the work required to open and close it each year, and to maintain the old place. Many Glacier closes up each fall and is left to the ravages of winter snows and wind. Then they have to unboard everything each spring to get ready for another season.

The nearby Swiftcurrent Motor Lodge is less expensive---down to $60 or so for a cabin without bath, and many people prefer to stay there. It does not, have the views like MGH, but I beleive the wildlife spottin garea is closer.
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Old Jul 6th, 2009, 04:54 PM
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We camped for several nights in Waterton and drove down to Many Glacier--yes you do go out of the park. Hiking and stars are amazing at Waterton (the campground out of town. I agree with everyone: Many Glacier is the place for people who like to hike and look at wildlife. Every afternoon in the Swiftcurrent Motel parking lot are people with fancy spotting scopes looking at the vast mountain side behind the motel. Most everyone is generous in sharing their equipment. We spent one night in the motel--totally a better value than the lodge. We did go to a lecture at the lodge and had a drink--and saved a ton of money. The motel far exceeded our expectations. Also, the red busses park right there over night!
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Old Jul 6th, 2009, 05:49 PM
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You've probably seen our recent trip report: http://www.fodors.com/community/unit...amily-of-4.cfm

We hit all 4 areas. The driving didn't seem bad since we did a small part each time. Going from Lake McDonald to Waterton would be quite a trek though. The interior route on Going to the Sun Road is a journey not to be rushed.

Many Glacier is a must. My second choice would be Glacier Park Lodge near the Two Medicine area, but the Lake McDonald area gives you a very different "park" from Many Glacier. Since you are coming/going that way it would be a reasonable choice.

All of the lodges are about location, not accommodations.
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Old Jul 7th, 2009, 06:31 AM
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thanks for all of your responses----it did help a lot--now for sure we will stay at many glacier, and probably apgar------i have another question------since going to the sun rd is probably somewhat scary to drive because of the high altitutdes-----is there one way which is better to drive than the other---east to west or the other way? Also, if we do go west to east-----should we retrace our driving on the return trip, or is it faster to go out of the park to the east, and drive the longer way----around the park back to Kalispell? Any other suggetions would still be appreciated.
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Old Jul 7th, 2009, 08:16 AM
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If you drive west to east, you are on the "dropoff" side of the road on the section up to Logan Pass. It is a long way straight down, but there is a good stout stone wall between you and the edge. It is actually more scary for the passenger than the driver (I've doen it in both seats and I much prefer to drive it!)

The views are different in each direction, so it's nice to drive it both ways if you can.

The "longer way" around the south boundary of the park actually doesn't take much longer, time-wise, because you can drive so much faster. It's not a bad option at all if you don't want to drive GTTS twice.
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Old Jul 11th, 2009, 08:14 PM
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We just returned from Glacier, Waterton and Banff National Parks. The driving isn't bad at all. Waterton is a great day trip from Glacier (we actually stayed at a B&B cottage near there for a couple of nights and drove from there to Glacier). We stayed at Many Glacier Hotel too in order to try to catch a nice sunrise and sunset, but the sky was so clear there wasn't much of either one, however the lake and views are wonderful. Many Glacier made us book two rooms for the four of us (parents and 2 teenage kids). That was expensive (about $375/night) and we were frustrated because there were two double beds in our room and we could have gotten by with one room. As mentioned before, the lodge rooms are expesive and spartan and paper thin, but the views are great. (just don't count on a pretty sunrise/sunset like we did
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Old Aug 2nd, 2009, 04:14 PM
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Great insight from everyone, thanks! We are going the first week in September-- interesting how high the temperatures have been in Glacier NP vs. Yellowstone where we'll be the week before. We are staying at Many Glacier, thinking that we'll do Lake MacDonald on Day 1 and on Day 2 do GTTS Road before exiting and heading to Whitefish. Short visit, but at least we'll arrive there early afternoon to do local hikes before our next two long days in the park.
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Old Aug 2nd, 2009, 10:11 PM
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we just got back from a trip to GNP. We loved Many Glacier and highly recommend staying there. It's less than a half hour drive to St Mary (eastern entrance to Going to the Sun Road). We were able to get 2 nights from last minute cancellations, and so had 2 different rooms. The rooms aren't modernized, but they're OK. The room with 2 twin beds was much more comfortable than the room with one double bed.

The first night we stayed on the back porch and watched the amazing stars, and the second night there was a fabulous thunder storm that crossed the entire view and lit up the mountains. It entertained a large group for over an hour. Many Glacier was the only lodge we stayed in, but it was a highlight of our trip. The restaurant was good too.
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Old Aug 3rd, 2009, 06:33 PM
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Just got back from Glacier and it is majestic. We had a grand stay in Whitefish at the New Medicine B & B http://www.goodmedicinelodge.com/. The Road to the Sun is beautiful BUT terrifying for someone afraid of ledges or heights. If you stay at Many Glacier Lodge you will be 12 miles from any restaurants other than the hotel. In St. Mary's you have lodging (not park lodge) and restaurants.
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