3 Days In Glacier National Park

3 Days in Glacier National Park

Glacier was the number 1 park that I had been looking forward to visiting on our trip.  Having never been, and after lusting after photos of it for years, we planned to spend a good chunk of time on our journey to feel like we really got to experience the best things that the park had to offer, and it did not disappoint.

We arrived late in the evening after our drive from Priest Lake, after stopping for some groceries, some new door hinges (I bent the hinges on our bathroom door when I shut our slide outs without first shutting the bathroom door, pinching the hinges backward, but that’s an entirely other story…lol), and picking up a rental car in West Glacier Village for two days.  The most quintessentially beautiful drive through the park at Glacier, called Going to the Sun Road is limited to vehicles 21 feet and shorter, and we knew ahead of time that Thor wouldn’t make the journey, so I had arranged a rental car ahead of time.

Day 1 was a bit rainy in the morning (we would later learn that the temperature and weather swings in Glacier are frequent, and that you need to be prepared for the full spectrum of weather every day), so we started our day at the Visitor Center, just a mile from our campground at St. Mary’s Lake (which had the most gorgeous views of Glacier’s Valley).  After checking out the Visitor Center and watching a video about the park, we headed out for a drive on Going to the Sun Road, a 50 mile stretch of highway that was one of the most gorgeous drives any of us had ever done.  

We stopped frequently on the drive, as each vista was surprisingly and seemingly more gorgeous than the previous.  We spent some time along MacDonald River. and then finished our drive at Lake MacDonald, where we visited the historic hotel, and had a blast skipping rocks on the lake.  Each of the kids submerged their feet in the river at least once, entirely soaking their hiking shoes, which Justin would dry with a blow dryer the next morning…lol.  

On our drive back, we stopped at a few more scenic overlooks, our favorite of which was where we spotted a herd of mountain goats, including several babies.  The kids loved it.

Our evening ended with a dip in the hot tub, and teaching the kids the game, “Pit,” which has now become a family favorite.  We had to end the game by  the time “quiet hours” began at the RV park, as we weren’t the quietest crew.

Day Two began again in our rental car, driving Going to the Sun to Logan Pass, where we picked up the trailhead to a hike to Hidden Lake.  The hike was gorgeous, and had a good elevation gain, and Quinn needed a little assistance.  We saw some more mountain goats, as well as several waterfalls coming down the sides of the glacial cliffs that surrounded us. 

It was cold on our hike, and by the time we were a few minutes from the summit, we could tell that the massive storm cloud that had been looming on the horizon was close.  Just as we reaching the summit, it started SNOWING on us.  We quickly checked out the view of Hidden Lake, snapped a few pics, and then made our way down as fast as our little legs could carry us.  The kids got a kick out of the fact that it was snowing.

On our way down, we saw a marmot (they were WAY bigger than we thought!), and it was sunny by the end of our hike.  Oh, the weather changes in Glacier!

After we thawed out from our hike, we made a stop at St. Mary’s Falls, which we hiked to with Grace and Hayden.  It was sunny and warm by this point, and we really enjoyed the views of the falls and chatting with them along the way.

Our day ended with some playtime at the park and some more “Pit,” after returning our rental car that evening.

Day 3, we headed out to an area of the park called “Many Glacier.”  None of us really knew what to expect, but we somehow secured the LAST parking spot in the parking lot of the Many Glacier Hotel, the only spot to park when exploring this area of the National Park.  It turned out to be the very best “Parking Karma”, as we had one of our most memorable days of our trip.

After checking our the hotel at Many Glacier, and determining that Grinnell Glacier, the most famous glacier of this area was the thing to see, we knew our kids could never make the hike with an over 1500 foot elevation gain.  We decided that we COULD make the hike to Grinnell Lake, which had been highly recommended, but the over 8 mile hike would be challenging for the kids, especially Quinn.  Knowing that the trail was flat, we decided to give it a go anyway, knowing that we could tag-team piggy back rides for Quinn as necessary.

This hike proved the best of our trip thus far.  We wound halfway around Swiftcurrent Lake, really one of the most picturesque lakes I think we’ve seen thus far on our trip, and then along the South Shore of Lake Josephine, where we stopped for a while to skip some rocks, one of the kids favorite pastimes as of late.

The hike was gorgeous as we wound from Lake Josephine through the forest to Grinnell Lake.

Arriving at Grinnell Lake, we had the most beautiful views of Grinnell Glacier in the background, and rested in the sun, ate a picnic lunch, and the kids even fashioned makeshift “boats” out of tree bark.

We had assessed that, after hiking almost 5 1/2 miles, that we could potentially take a scenic boat trip back to shorten our hike back, helping us bypass Lake Josephine and Swiftcurrent Lake.  The kids were starting to have tired feet, so we hightailed it to the boat dock, about a mile’s hike from where we had just been, to see about getting a ride back.  Only problem was that there were about 40 other people trying to do the same thing!

After waiting about a half hour, we decided to make the 2 1/2 mile trek back to the trailhead.  Justin turned on some music on his speaker, and we hit the trail, expecting Quinn to really fall flat at this point of the day.  Only thing was that he never did…he and I hiked the trail together, and I was able to distract him with a million questions along the way to keep his mind off things.  We had some thunder along the way, and a few minutes of rain, but it was a lovely walk, and the kids were in the best spirits.  I didn’t say a word about it to Justin, worried I would jinx it.

We arrived back at the Many Glacier Hotel, reveling in the fact that our kids had just hiked 8.1 miles.  Quinn, who never received even a short piggy back ride on the journey, was so, so proud.

On our way home, we even saw a grizzly bear!

We returned to our campground that evening in time for dinner, a movie, and some of the best ice cream we’ve had on our trip so far.  It was a great end to a great day.

GLACIER, we love you!

Onward to Waterton Lakes National Park, just north of Glacier!


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