6 Lessons I Learned Planning A Trip to Glacier National Park (Part 2)
As I mentioned in my last post, one of the things on my bucket list has been to visit Glacier National Park in Montana, and this year I did it! Last week, in Part 1 of my post about Glacier, I wrote about three lessons I learned getting there, lodging in the park and how long we stayed. This week is Part 2, and I’m about three more lessons I learned planning my trip to Glacier National Park! So here's 4 through 6!
4. Where'd we eat?
The food in the park was surprisingly really good! We ate at the Lake McDonald Lodge (where we stayed) for dinner each night (just in the bar/lounge area called Lucke’s). It was delish! According to the menu, all of the concessioner's food for the lodge has to be locally sourced from within 500 miles. We also had lunch one day at a diner in the park called Eddie’s (good, but it was diner food, so nothing spectacular). We had the continental breakfast two days at the Lodge dining room, which sounds formal and perhaps unappetizing, but it was fine.
*Note: breakfast is not included, so if you want breakfast you’ll have to pay. You've got the option of either the continental or the full breakfast. I had the continental, which had things like oatmeal and fruit. Hubby got the full breakfast that included things from the continental option plus eggs, pancakes and breakfast meats. The breakfast food was generally pretty good.
We went “off campus” for lunch a couple times (Lake McDonald Lodge is 10 miles into the park). On those days, we had lunch one day at La Casita, an awesome Mexican place recommended by our rafting guide. We each had burritos (me bean, hubby chicken). They may have been the biggest burritos I’ve ever seen. Advice: I like hot and spicy foods, and I mean hot, but I got the tomatillo sauce on my burrito and it about blew my top off. Go for the milder sauce.
We also headed into Columbia Falls one day, about 10 miles away from the park entrance and ate at Backslope Brewery. We definitely had to get the fried pickles and we each had a burger. I had the veggie burger and the Hubby had a meat burger. Each came with parmesan garlic fries. Oh. My. Gosh. We of course, sampled the beverages as the brewery… also tasty!
Another recommendation our rafting guide made was for breakfast at the gas station right outside of the park entrance called Glacier Highlands. What? A gas station? Okay, go with me for a minute. It’s a gas station with a general store and a real restaurant attached. It looked like mostly locals eating there, which was a good sign to me. Well, it was fantastic! We both had huckleberry pancakes. ‘Nough said. After you’re done eating in the restaurant, you pay at the convenience store. Not a coincidence I would say. Rather, brilliant marketing, since there were tons of souvenirs for sale in the convenience store. I picked up some huckleberry licorice…yum…
Lesson: Ask the locals about where to eat. They know what they’re talking about!
5. What’s there to do?
Well, lots! And while there are a lot of things to do, our time was limited, so we focused on the two things we were most interested in – rafting and hiking.
Raft: While many people may think only about hiking (which is spectacular), the highlight of our Glacier trip was probably the half day rafting trip on the Flathead River with Glacier Guides. The water levels were a bit high, but the trip was still a go. At first, it was drizzly and cold (again), and the water was 41 degrees – Yikes! But we went anyway! We threw on wet suits and paddle jackets and we had so much fun! It was just our guide, my hubby and me since the other people scheduled to raft backed out due to the weather (their loss)! Our guide, Lauren, was a transplant from the east coast of the U.S. and she was awesome! She's the person who gave us recommendations for those incredible places to eat that I mentioned!
As soon as we got on the water, the sun came out and it was a fantastic day! We mixed fun rapids with a bit of a relaxing ride and even learned a bit of history about the area! How great is that?!
Hike: And of course, the hiking. We got in two hikes – one was called Avalanche which led to Avalanche Lake. It had been closed and only opened up during our stay - we were so lucky! Even though it was only about a 3 or 4 mile hike, it was sort of drizzly and cold, but don’t worry, we warmed up hiking. The views along the way were awesome and Avalanche Lake was crazy beautiful.
The other hike was the Fish Creek Bike Path - a short 1.2 mile hike on the opposite side of Lake McDonald from the Lodge. The portion we did was a pretty easy hike and it took less than an hour. Also, we were hiking about 6pm and didn't want to be out too late.
If you’re not into hiking, the park has lots of other things to do, like ranger led hikes and Instagram meet ups (those things take place as of June 1, but we were out of luck since we were there in May). I was a bit bummed that neither would start until after we left, but oh well...
Lesson: (1) The NPS website for Glacier has really good information about what to do which is how we found Glacier Guides! (2) Go rafting with Glacier Guides – it’s a great way to get a different view of things!
6. What'd we pack?
The Lake McDonald Lodge (actually, the concessioner, Xanterra) has an awesome packing list and the NPS blog has suggestions about what to put in your day pack or pack for a camping trip. They know what they’re doing, since you know, they do it for a living…..
As for us, we took collapsible water bottles, energy bars, hiking socks, rain gear, and layers, layers, layers - of quick dry fabrics and fleece. We also packed two pairs of hiking shoes not in our packs, but for the trip generally), just in case...
Bear spray: To buy bear spray can be pricey, anywhere from $40-60 dollars. I live at the beach and my need for bear spray is, shall we say, limited. But, you can rent bear spray in the park. I swear! There’s bear spray information on the National Park Service (NPS) website! And when you pass through Apgar village on the west side of the park, Glacier Outfitters a huge bear spray rental sign in front! Just take a look! Anyway, if you don't own bear spray, rent it since there are signs everywhere that say something like “Bear Zone” and “Have Bear Spray Available”.
Good thing we packed quick dry items and rain gear. It rained a good portion of the time we were in Glacier. Sometimes it was a drizzle and sometimes more, but never a downpour. Still, woulda been nice to have better weather…
Lesson: (1) The NPS website for Glacier has tons of great information, including stuff you might not even think of! (2) Take rain gear even if you think you won’t need it.
Have you been to Glacier National Park? I‘d love to hear about it on Facebook or in Traveleidoscope’s comment section!