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6 Lessons I Learned Planning A Trip to Glacier National Park (Part 1)

Traveleidoscope:  Glacier National Park

One of the things on my bucket list has been to visit Glacier National Park in Montana. Well, this year, I did it! What started out as a visit to Glacier only, evolved into a super cool road trip, which I’ve been writing about over the last several posts. And, as with my road trip, my post about visiting Glacier also evolved - into a two-part post. So, if you’re thinking about heading to Big Sky country, specifically to Glacier National Park, and need planning tips, this post is right up your alley!

1. How did we get there?

You can fly into Kalispell, the closest airport to Glacier National Park, but you’re going to pay a pretty penny. Instead, we flew into Seattle from Philadelphia for about $400 per person. It’s about an 8-hour drive from Seattle to Glacier, so we made a road trip out of it, stopping at some really cool places along the way that I wrote about in earlier posts. Our actual itinerary will be an upcoming post.

Lesson – Think outside the box when arranging your trip. Flying to Seattle and driving to Glacier seemed crazy, but it ended up being a crazy good idea!

Traveleidoscope:  Lake McDonald Lodge, Glacier National Park

2. Where did we stay?

As I’ve written before, I’m a big Hilton fan (sorry guys, I’m not on the Airbnb bandwagon, and we didn’t camp), so we stayed at Hilton Hotel properties – mostly Hampton Inns and Homewood Suites – except in Glacier.

In Glacier, we wanted to stay in the park, and after looking at our park options, we chose the Lake McDonald Lodge. Once you get into the park, it’s about a 10-mile drive to the Lodge. At the Lodge, the scenery was beautiful, the hotel staff couldn’t have been nicer and the rooms were clean. If you’re visiting in high season, staying in the park is absolutely the way to go in order to avoid long lines of vehicles waiting to get into the park. We went in the early season, towards the end of May, and we didn’t really have to deal with those long lines.

As for the lodge, it was very nice, but I have three criticisms.

(1) For the price (and we were there before it got even more expensive), our room was minuscule, uh, I mean cozy! There wasn’t really anywhere to put your luggage (we each had one rolling bag that's basically a carry on and a small backpack. The bathrooms were Lilliputian in size (it was difficult for me to turn around in the shower, and I’m only 5’1”)! The bed was fine, but I found the room to be generally uncomfortable.

(2) It was noisy. Our room, 215, was overlooking the lodge common area. There was a sign in the common area indicating that quiet time was from 10pm-6am, which wasn’t really respected. I’m not saying it was a bacchanal in the common area every night, but voices carried. When I’m on vacation, one of the things I like to do is go to bed early. For me, it’s a total luxury since, when I'm at home I go to bed late and get very little sleep. As a result of the noise, I didn’t really get to do that.

(3) This may be a bit controversial, but the wi-fi stunk and there was no television - anywhere. I get that the point is to unplug and I absolutely have no desire to be tethered to social media 24/7, but I would like to know what’s going on in the world. Wi-fi was incredibly slow and only in the common area so if you wanted to get online in your room, forget about it – you’ll be in the common area for quite some time waiting to connect to the internet. I couldn’t even read a book on my tablet. While I thought I read the Lodge’s website before we left, I might have missed the part about the bad wi-fi. We found ways to entertain ourselves – hiking during the day and playing chess at night (and got crushed every time...).

There are various lodging options in the park, from camping to lodges. We knew we absolutely wanted to stay in the park and Lake McDonald Lodge was the best option for our needs. It just wasn’t everything I had hoped. Alternatives to staying in the park might also be to stay in the town of West Glacier or even about 30 miles away in Whitefish, a cool little town! Our visit to Whitefish is an upcoming post!

Lessons – (1) Think about all your lodging options carefully. (2) Bring a real book. (3) Brush up on your chess game.

Traveleidoscope:  Glacier National Park

3. How long did we stay?

We stayed in the park for three nights. Since we were there in May two nights probably would have done it only because the road that goes across the park, the Going to the Sun Road, wasn’t completely open due to a huge 80 foot snow drift. It was only open to Logan Pass - just a few miles past the Lake McDonald Lodge. Consequently, not all of the hiking trails were open. Don’t worry – there were plenty of trails open and lots to do as you’ll see next week when I cover what we did!

Lesson – Keep an eye on the status of the weather, roads and trails on the NPS (National Park Service) website.

So, that’s all for the first part of this post! Come back next week for Lessons 4-6!

Have you visited Glacier National Park? Where did you stay? What did you think? I’d love to hear from you on Facebook or in Traveleidoscope’s comment section!

Traveleidoscope:  Glacier National Park
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