Fodor's Travel Talk Forums

Fodor's Travel Talk Forums (
-   United States (
-   -   Trip Report: Whitefish and Glacier National Park, Montana (

KarenWoo Sep 20th, 2021 07:43 PM

Trip Report: Whitefish and Glacier National Park, Montana
Trip Report to Whitefish and Glacier National Park, Montana

This will be a brief trip report to Whitefish and Glacier National Park in Montana. We arrived on September 9 and returned home to Massachusetts today, September 20. I am 71 and my husband is 74. The initial purpose of our trip was to attend a family wedding in Whitefish, so we added on extra days and also visited Glacier NP.

I don’t have the time to write up a day by day report, so will describe accommodations, activities and restaurants.


Lodge at Whitefish Lake in Whitefish:

We spent our first 5 nights at the Lodge at Whitefish Lake, where the wedding was held. The Lodge is beautiful, and a wonderful venue for a wedding with its setting right on the lake. We got the reduced “blocked room rate” for a price of $250 per night. This was our most luxurious accommodation. Our room is very large, and the bathroom is luxurious with a good sized walk-in shower stall.

St. Mary’s Village in St. Mary:

We spent 3 nights at St. Mary’s Village after leaving Whitefish. I think the rate is closer to $300 per night. Because the toilet in our first room wasn’t working, they upgraded us to a king suite at no additional charge. Our room is large with a fireplace and balcony overlooking the mountains and a river. Gorgeous views! I think St. Mary’s is a little dated, but you pay for the location, literally right outside the St. Mary’s entrance to GNP.

Historic Tamarick Lodge in Hungry Horse:

We spent our last 2 nights at the Tamarack Lodge. It is the most rustic of our accommodations. The price is only $120 per night. There are rooms in the lodge, where we stayed, and a motel and some cabins. Our room is on the second floor. There aren’t any elevators and we were responsible for carrying our luggage upstairs. The restaurant was closed because their kitchen help quit 2 months ago. They have a coffee bar and cocktail bar. The roof in our room was slanted at the head of the bed and with log beams this made the room seem smaller and dark. We had a porch off our room but because of the way it is constructed, the view was obstructed. Our room was clean, and the bathroom was the most barebones of our lodgings. If you don’t want to spend a lot of money, it’s a good choice.


While in Whitefish, in addition to the wedding and meet and greet the night before, we spent a lot of time at Big Mountain in Whitefish. We took the chairlift to the summit, and hiked the one-mile Easy Rim trail. (I think that’s the name). There is a downhill section but most of the trail is flat. The views were gorgeous and the trail was lined with huckleberry bushes that were red and purple, and yellow vegetation, so lots of color. We also did the alpine slide which was a lot of fun! But I was pathetic putting on the brake too much. My husband made it down much quicker than me, and videotaped me coming down the mountain.

Took a 2-hour drive one day to the National Bison Range in Moiese. This was awesome. It’s a 19-mile drive around the range, and we saw bison up close and personal, a pronghorn, and some mule deer. The drive to get there was partially around Flathead Lake, a very pretty drive. It was well worth the 2 hours to get there from Whitefish.

Visited Kalispell on a drizzly day. It was Saturday, and unfortunately the History Museum of Northern Montana was closed. But we did visit the Hockaday Art Museum, which we really enjoyed. The paintings are by local artists, and the featured artist right now is Linda Tippetts. Her paintings are beautiful!

Also went to a rodeo in Columbia Falls, located right behind the Blue Moon Night Club. It was a lot of fun, and only cost $14.00. I guess it’s obvious we aren’t from Montana when the rodeo clown asked us where we are from!!

Glacier National Park hikes:

Drove over the Going to the Sun Road, of course. It is magnificent, and all of GNP is just beautiful. We were in the French Alps in August with our daughter who lives there, and I can honestly say GNP rivals the Alps!

These are the hikes we did. I purchased the Best Easy Day Hikes at Glacier. My husband and I don’t really hike any more so I chose only easy hikes. We wore hiking shoes and I sometimes used my walking stick.

Running Eagle Falls in Two Medicine Valley – beautiful falls cascading from a cave

Appistoki Falls in Two Medicine Valley – there wasn’t too much water but the hike is very pretty through a lovely forest

St. Mary Falls in St. Mary Valley – gorgeous views of St. Mary’s Lake along the way to the falls. You can see a lot of the lake because of a fire in 2015. The falls are very impressive.

Trail of the Cedars near Lake McDonald – this is the easiest hike in the park. You walk along a boardwalk amongst giant ancient cedar trees. A relaxing, peaceful, and lovely walk.

Bullhead lake in Many Glacier – we didn’t hike all the way to Bullhead lake. We hiked as far as Redrock Lake and the falls. Passed lovely Fishercap Lake. I think this was our longest hike, about 2.5 miles.

IMO, Many Glacier is the most beautiful, dramatic, and rugged part of the park. The scenery is just stunning! You run out of adjectives after awhile trying to describe this area. Please go to Many Glacier, even if you don’t hike. The drive to Many Glacier Lodge is worth it. Right now there are construction delays, however, but still worth it.

Also drove to Polebridge while staying at Tamarack Lodge. It’s a one hour drive through lovely scenery. You have to try the huckleberry bear claws at the Polebridge Mercantile. They are delicious! What I like about the bear claws is that they are not overly sweet. The batter is closer to a bread or cake batter. Just perfect with tons of huckleberries!


Our best dining experiences were in Whitefish. By the time we reached Glacier NP on September 14, all the lodges inside the park had closed except for Lake McDonald Lodge which closes on September 22. So most of the restaurants near St. Mary, such as in Babb, have shortened hours and will be closing soon. We also weren’t too impressed with the restaurants near the park.

Our favorite Whitefish restaurants: for dinner, Tupelo Grill and Wasabi, for breakfast, Loula’s Café, Buffalo Café, and Swift Creek Café. For ice cream, Sweet Peaks Ice Cream.

Near St. Marys: Two Sisters Café – my husband was disappointed in his pork shanks. He said they were bland. However, I had one of the best salmon dishes I’ve ever had!

Cattle Baron Supper Club in Babb – it’s very expensive. We were with my cousin and his wife. They really enjoyed their beef. Mine was good but a little stringy. My husband was disappointed in his. I admit he can be picky but we expected better for the price. Potato and veggies were okay.

We enjoyed the Glacier Edge Café in Babb for breakfast.

Near Tamarack Lodge – We were disappointed in Vaqueros and Night Owl in Columbia Falls. But we liked Carolyn’s Café in Hungry Horse and Glacier Highland Restaurant in West Glacier for breakfast.

September is an awesome time to visit GNP. The crowds have thinned out, and we always found parking along the trailheads EXCEPT for Logan Pass. The temperatures are comfortable for hiking. I hate walking/hiking in 90 degree temps! We had sunshine for most of our trip, except for 2 drizzly days. We did see some very brief wet snow in Many Glacier. Keep in mind that many lodges in the park close by around September 14 except for Lake McDonald. The St. Mary’s end of the park is quieter than the West Glacier side. All the trails are snow free so you can hike wherever you want.

Remember to buy bear spray once you arrive in Montana. The Hidden Lake trail at Logan pass was closed due to grizzly activity, along with some other trails. A park ranger told me that Hidden Lake Trail was only open for about a month this summer.

I hope my report helps future travelers/hikers!

kureiff Sep 21st, 2021 07:46 AM

I am glad you had a good trip!

oldemalloy Sep 21st, 2021 09:55 AM

Sounds like a wonderful trip. Glacier is on my bucket list.

Thanks for the report.

Patty Sep 21st, 2021 10:00 AM

Nice report! We were in St Mary in early October one year and the Cattle Baron was just about the only place to eat. We had reservations at Many Glacier last summer but the east side never opened.

KarenWoo Sep 21st, 2021 12:11 PM

Originally Posted by Patty (Post 17288458)
Nice report! We were in St Mary in early October one year and the Cattle Baron was just about the only place to eat. We had reservations at Many Glacier last summer but the east side never opened.

Did you like the Cattle Baron?
Were you able to at least drive to Many Glacier to see the stunning scenery?

Patty Sep 21st, 2021 12:32 PM

We canceled our trip last year since there was no east side access at all and it wasn't worth it for us to just go to the west side but yes, we've been to Many Glacier previously. We saw moose at Fishercap Lake, a grizzly sow and cub along the road and heard about another grizzly sighting on the trail to Bullhead Lake so we turned around and also didn't make it. I agree it's the most stunning part of the park and the east side in general. The Cattle Baron was just OK. The rest of the time we subsisted on microwaved canned soup and hot pockets from the convenience store in St Mary :lol:

darnwright01 Sep 30th, 2021 08:16 AM

Wonderful trip report! We’re planning a trip for August 2022. Do you remember if any of the parking lots had handicap parking?
Most of our visit will be limited by what we can see without long hikes. Any suggestions would be helpful. Thanks, Leslie

jmilk Sep 30th, 2021 09:44 AM

Loved Polebridge!!!

Jsm1 Sep 30th, 2021 10:39 AM

What a wonderful trip! Thanks for posting!

KarenWoo Oct 4th, 2021 06:23 PM

Originally Posted by darnwright01 (Post 17291295)
Wonderful trip report! We’re planning a trip for August 2022. Do you remember if any of the parking lots had handicap parking?
Most of our visit will be limited by what we can see without long hikes. Any suggestions would be helpful. Thanks, Leslie

Hi Leslie, I apologize for replying late. I've been babysitting my grandchildren but I am now back home.

The parking lot at Logan's pass is large so there is definitely handi-capped parking. But the parking lot gets filled up early in the day. We stopped there twice, later in the day, and were not able to find parking. Because the park is a national park, there is handi-capped parking at most, if not all parking lots. However, the parking lots at some of the trailheads are small. But in September the only place where we were unable to park is at Logan's Pass.

I highly recommend purchasing Best Easy Day Hikes in Glacier and Waterton Lakes National Parks by Erik Molvar. This is where I found all the hikes we took. Of the trails we hiked, the two easiest are Trail of the Cedars and Running Eagle Falls. Both are flat; and Trail of the Cedars is wheelchair accessible. Part of the trail is on a boardwalk and then packed earth.

We didn't have time to walk the Swiftcurrent Nature Trail at Many Glacier, but according to my guide book it is rated the second easiest trail in the park. (Trail of the Cedars is the easiest.)

I highly recommend driving to Many Glacier even if you don't do any hikes there. It really does have the most dramatic and stunning scenery in the park. Other things you can do to appreciate the park is to take a boat tour. There are quite a few boat tours to choose from. And in August they should all be running. In September the only boat tour still running is at Lake McDonald. Another easy thing to do is to drive to Polebridge. It is located in a remote area of the park. You drive through lovely scenery, and the Polebridge Mercantile is a fun place to shop and browse. You have to try the huckleberry bear claws! You can get a drink at the Northern Lights Saloon but I believe you have to sit outside. We were there on a cool overcast day so we didn't have any desire for a cold alcoholic beverage. Not sure if they serve non-alcoholic beverages.

I hope this helps.

darnwright01 Oct 5th, 2021 08:27 AM

Hi Karen, thanks for responding. All the information you gave is very helpful. My daughter & I are looking forward to this trip & your suggestions will make it so much more enjoyable. I just turned 70 & my daughter has epilepsy so planning is crucial. Thank you for taking the time to share your experience. Thanks, Leslie

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 06:57 AM.