(2004) We flew into Calgary and drove about 190 miles to the east side of Glacier National Park. Since the park is so large, we decided to stay at two places on opposite sides. We enter the park at St. Mary and take the Going-to-the-Sun Road to Lake McDonald. Wow! What a drive.
I planned this trip after seeing a special on the park on the Travel Channel. I was alarmed to hear that the glaciers would probably all be melted in 20 years or so. The breathtaking scenery and abundant hiking sealed the deal.
If you want to take full advantage of the hiking, there is only a few months of year to visit. The summer months are very busy, so plan a visit in late August or September to avoid the crowds.
Book your reservation early to stay inside the park. We got a cottage at Lake McDonald Lodge. If you stayed in national parks before, you know the accommodations are very modest. But they are inexpensive and so convenient.
The next day we hopped on one of the restored red buses to ride on the Going-to-the-Sun Road to Logan Pass. The scenery was amazing, and we learned that mountain goats love to eat antifreeze (they were licking the parking lots).
The trip was planned around hiking. So the next morning, we got up early to drive to the other side of the park to Swiftcurrent Motor Inn, where several popular trails begin. In order to do one way hikes to maximize the scenery, we booked shuttles and boat rides ahead of time. We took the morning boat to the popular Grinnell Glacier trailhead and hiked 3.8 miles and 1,600 feet in elevation to Grinnell, one of the largest remaining glaciers in the park. We opted for a ranger led tour. That was a great call since directly us how to safely walk out on part of the glacier.