by Joseph A. Sprince – Photography by Gerald B. Allen
The Glacier National Park Travel Guide is a resource for those planning to tour Glacier National Park and/or Canada's adjacent Waterton Lakes National Park. The adjacent national parks are typically visited at the same time and offer a variety of experiences. Both parks offer outstanding opportunities to view wildlife.
Glacier National Park has lodging facilities at Apgar Village, Lake McDonald, Many Glacier, and Rising Sun. There are also two backcountry chalets offering lodging to hikers or backpackers. Accommodations vary from rustic cabins to motel-style (e.g., modern, full bathroom) rooms. Links are provided below to check availability or to reserve on-line. Reservations are strongly advised well in advance for any lodging within the park, or for the backcountry chalets.
In-park rooms generally don’t have telephones, TVs, Internet access, air conditioning, etc. Additional accommodations can be found outside the park in nearby towns such as West Glacier, East Glacier, Essex, Kalispell, Columbia Falls, and Whitefish. More amenities (such as cable TV, indoor/outdoor pool, Internet access (Wi-Fi), and free breakfast) can generally be found outside the park. Links are provided below.
Park lodging seasons generally run late May to September. For current open and closing dates and current rates, use the links provided below.
Waterton Lakes National Park has numerous motels available at the Waterton townsite, as well as the classic Prince of Wales Hotel.
There are several classic lodges in the area which were built in the early part of the 20th century by the old Great Northern Railroad to promote tourism. They offer a charm not found in conventional motels, such as great rooms (usually part of the lobby) with enormous fireplaces, elegant restaurants, and spectacular settings. In Glacier National Park, Lake McDonald Lodge (which was originally a hunting lodge, not built by the railroad) and Many Glacier Hotel feature old-time style in wonderful settings. At Waterton Lakes, the Prince of Wales Hotel offers one of the most spectacular settings in the world. GNR lodges just outside of the park (near the railroad stations) include the Belton Chalet near West Glacier, the Glacier Park Hotel at East Glacier, and the Izaak Walton Lodge at Essex.
Many tourists still visit the park via train. Amtrak’s famous Empire Builder® offers service here on the main line run by BNSF Railway (formerly the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway bought by billionaire investor Warren Buffett in 2009.). Freight trains using BNSF Railway tracks are squeezing the ability of Amtrak to operate its passenger trains from the Northwest to Chicago on schedule.
Lodging in and around Glacier National Park
Lake McDonald Area, Glacier National Park (West Side)
- Apgar Village Lodge. Late May to end of September. Rustic cabins and motel-style rooms at Apgar Village, two miles from west entrance. All rooms include private bathrooms. Some rooms with view of lake or creek. Most cabins have kitchenettes. Restaurant, stores, and gift shops in Apgar Village. Boat cruises, ranger programs, golf, and fishing. 406-888-5484
- Village Inn at Apgar. Early-June to mid-September. Motel-style rooms on shore of Lake McDonald near Apgar Village, three miles from west entrance. All rooms include private bathrooms and lake views. Kitchenettes and two-bedroom units available. Restaurant, stores, and gift shops in Apgar Village. Boat cruises, ranger programs, golf, and fishing. 406-892-2525
- Lake McDonald Lodge. Late May to late September. Classic lodge constructed in 1913 originally as a hunting lodge. On the shores of Lake McDonald (ten miles from west entrance), the lodge offers rooms in rustic cabins, lodge rooms, and motel-style rooms. All have phones and private bathrooms. Beautiful lobby with fireplace and huge veranda overlooking lake. Lounge, restaurant, and store. Horseback rides, boat tours, ranger programs, etc. 406-892-2525
- The Historic Belton Chalet. Open year-round. Classic lodge constructed in 1910 by Great Northern Railroad. Located at Belton station, near West Glacier. Rustic motel rooms with or without balconies. All have private baths. Also, cottages with three bedrooms, living room, fireplace, refrigerator and microwave. Grill Dining Room and Taproom. Fishing trips, golf, off-season packages.
Many Glacier – Glacier National Park (East Side)
- Many Glacier Hotel. Early June to late September. Classic lodge constructed in 1915 by Great Northern Railroad. On the shores of Swiftcurrent Lake (18 miles west of US-89, north of St. Mary), the lodge features enormous mountain views as a backdrop behind the lake. It offers rooms in rustic lodge rooms, some with views of lake and/or mountains. All have phones and private bathrooms. Beautiful lobby with fireplace. Two lounges, restaurant with picture-window views, and gift shop. Horseback rides, boat tours, ranger programs, etc.
- Swiftcurrent Motor Inn and Cabins. Mid-June to mid-September. Modest motel and cabins suited to hikers, photographers, and wildlife enthusiasts. About one mile from Many Glacier Motel. Offers rustic cottages with or without bathrooms (common shower/bathrooms nearby). Standard motel rooms have private bathrooms. Casual restaurant, camp store, laundry, and showers. Recreational activities located at Many Glacier Hotel.
St. Mary, Two Medicine Valley, Cut Bank – Glacier National Park (East Side)
- Rising Sun Motor Inn. Mid-June to mid-September. Modest lodging across from St. Mary Lake, on Going-to-the-Sun Road, six miles west of St. Mary town. Offers rustic cottages, rustic motel rooms, and more modern motel rooms. All rooms include private bathrooms. Restaurant, showers, camp store and gift shop located nearby.
- Glacier Park Lodge and Resort. June to September. Classic lodge constructed in 1913 by Great Northern Railroad at East Glacier Park. Noted for immense wood log columns 40 feet tall and 36-42 inches across. Lobby features enormous stone fireplace and seating. Lodge is run today as a resort with a heated pool and golf course, as well as park's recreational activities. Rooms have all amenities of modern motel rooms (private bathrooms, television, phones, A/C, etc.). Fine dining, lounge, country mercantile, and gift shop.
Food and Lodging – Glacier National Park (Backcountry)
Lake McDonald Area
- Sperry Chalet. Located high in the Glacier National Park backcountry and is accessible by hiking trail only. Generally open from early July to early September. Features 17 private guest rooms, ranging in occupancy from one to five guests, and a separate dining room. No heat, electricity, or running water in rooms. Towels and linens provided. Toilets and sinks in separate building (no showers or hot water). Dinner and breakfast are served table d'hôte, a sack lunch is also provided. A la carte lunch service is available for purchase to everyone.
Logan Pass Area
- Granite Park Chalet. Located high in the Glacier National Park backcountry and is accessible by hiking trails only. Generally open from late June to early September. Granite Park Chalet is a hiker's hostel (with 12 rooms) where you bring your own sleeping bag and prepare your own meals in their kitchen. Private bunk bed rooms assigned at time of reservation and can accommodate up to six guests. Freeze-dried food and bed linens may be pre-ordered at an extra charge. No heat, electricity, or running water in rooms. Bottled water may be purchased.
Polebridge and North Fork of Flathead River, Glacier National Park (Northwest)
- Polebridge Mercantile and Cabins. Open year-round. This unique outpost is located on the Inner North Fork Road, en route to the remote lakes of northwest Glacier National Park. Polebridge is located just outside of the park. The historic mercantile offers groceries and supplies, as well as fresh ground coffee and a variety of home-baked treats. Very rustic but expensive "camper cabins" are offered with propane stoves and refrigerators, wood heating, and propane lights. Good way to access very beautiful and less traveled part of the park. 406-888-5105
Waterton Lakes National Park – Alberta, Canada
- Prince of Wales Hotel. Early June to late September. Classic lodge constructed in 1926-7 by Great Northern Railroad. On a bluff overlooking Waterton Lake north of Waterton townsite, the lodge offers one of the world's greatest settings with lake and mountain views. The lodge features motel-style rooms, many with views, and elegant suites with lakeside views. All have phones and private bathrooms. Noted for traditional British atmosphere. Elegant dining room, lounge with spectacular views, tea room, and gift shop. Afternoon tea, boat cruises, and many recreational activities nearby. 406-892-2525
- Waterton Park Chamber of Commerce. Complete listing of accommodations within the park.
- Waterton Park Chamber of Commerce. Nearby bed and breakfasts, guest ranches, and full-service campgrounds.