I’ve been lucky. I’ve been to Yellowstone. I’ve been to Yosemite. But, like all the northwest, Glacier National Park had eluded me. From time to time I would trace it on a map but always it seemed too far off our beaten path. So when we began planning the family visits to Sun Valley and Missoula it came into clear focus – we would be in striking distance!
We headed north from Missoula, driving through the Flathead Indian Reservation and skirting the west edge of magnificent Flathead Lake. Passed through Kalispell, then stopped for lunch at the Buffalo Café in Whitefish, but couldn’t persuade my fellow travelers to dally in the cute shops there. Maybe next time…
I started planning our visit back in November, but it wasn’t soon enough. No lodging available in West Glacier, which seemed the most popular place to stay. So we would arrive on the park’s west side but would then drive across its expanse along the famed Going-to-the-Sun Road to reach our lodgings in St. Mary on Glacier’s eastern edge.
It was a thrill to see this sign! We were there!
I’d been told that Glacier is surprisingly accessible – much of it can even be seen out of a car window for us unfortunates who can’t do the vertical hikes. It was even better than I’d hoped – many, many places to pull off the road and gape at the views.
Lovely Lake McDonald:
I could have stood here all day:
We’d been told that the park would be crowded and that traffic could be bumper-to-bumper. Luckily, this turned out not to be the case, but there was a little gridlock around one of the park’s most popular hikes, Trail of the Cedars. It’s just a one-mile loop and it’s even wheelchair accessible, so anyone and everyone can enjoy it.
We were grateful to have that leafy interlude, because soon we were creeping along Going-to-the-Sun Road with sheer rock face on one side and sheer drop off on the other. And yes, it was crowded. Going-to-the-Slow Road might have been a better name, but I’m not sure anyone would drive over twenty miles an hour on those steep curves anyway. A once-in-a-lifetime experience, and for us, probably only once. Amazing. And a little terrifying…
We even saw a mountain goat, but too far away to get a good photo. Luckily, we found a willing stand-in:
We were dusty, dizzy, tired and hungry by the time we arrived at the cheerful St. Mary Lodge late that afternoon and so relieved to find that our accommodations there were top notch.
Loved the hanging flower baskets :
Loved our cozy room:
Loved the view of the stream from our balcony:
And loved our dinners at the Lodge’s Snowgoose Grill:
With the heavenly but harrowing Going-to-the-Sun Road in the rear view mirror, we quickly decided that “roughing it” wasn’t all that tough. We slept very, very well that night, looking forward to discovering Glacier on the morrow. So excited to have finally made it here!