We flew into the Kalispell, MT regional airport on Alaska Alaska airlines, and we rented an SUV for the week. The airport was very small and cute. It was very easy to navigate. It was perfect for getting as close to Glacier National Park as we could!
Glacier National Park
Glacier Under Canvas
We stayed in this amazing property in a Safari Tent for the ultimate Glamping experience. I had been wanting to stay here since I originally booked our first trip here (I had to re-schedule this trip three times because of Mike’s schedule), so I was so happy to finally stay here! They have a welcome tent that is open 24 hours per day with free coffee, hot chocolate, tea, and games to play. They also have an area for everyone to hang out in with picnic tables, grills, a bonfire, volleyball courts, and lawn games. Our Safari tent bed was extremely comfortable, and we stayed warm all night under the thick blankets and our wood burning stove.
Apgar Visitor Center
We entered the park from the west side and we stopped at the Apgar Visitor Center to get a map and learn about Glacier National Park. The visitor center was quite small compared to other national parks, but we were able to accomplish what we wanted, and Mike bought a cute shirt too. 🙂
Lake McDonald is probably the most famous lake in Glacier National Park. The lake is 10 square miles, and it sits on the west side of the park right after the Apgar Visitor Center, along the Going to the Sun Road. The lake was crystal clear with glass still water. We walked down to the lake to look at the rainbow glacier rocks, which we learned are over 1 billion year old! It was truly beautiful and breath taking.
Going To the Sun Road
The sunrise was at 5:30AM, so we woke up early and then set off through Glacier National Park on the Going to the Sun road. This road is famous in Glacier National Park because it boasts incredible views from every turn. The road was not fully opened yet when we were visiting because there was still snow on it (at the end of June!), so we did not get to go all the way along it. Apparently there are mountain goats that like to hang out on the Logan Pass, which is the Continental divide. We were only able to drive to the Avalanche Lake and Trail of the Cedars trail-head. I would love to come back one day to drive all the day down the road. I forgot to take a photo of the road, but here is a photo of the huckleberry jam that we bought at the gift shop on the road; its famous in the region, and its delicious (bears like huckleberry too!).
Hike to Avalanche Lake via the Trail of the Cedars
This trail is 6 mile round trip hike, with a total of 700 ft elevation gain, and it is a very popular hike that begins on the Trail of the Cedars, and then it splits off to the Avalanche Lake. The trail-head is a few miles east of Lake McDonald along the Going to the Sun road. I was really nervous for the hike because my knees are sometimes bad, and they can really hurt when I am hiking. I brought my new hiking poles along with me, and they did help a lot! We wanted to carry bear spray on us, but we did not have time to buy any (better to be safe than sorry!), and the people in front of us actually said that they saw a bear along the trail!
Trail of the Cedars
The Trail of the Cedars is a 1 mile loop, mostly on a wooden boardwalk, or pretty smooth pathway. This hike goes through an ancient cedar forest with trees that are 400 to 600 years old, and also many ferns. The glacial bright blue water gushed past us along this part of the trail, which was so beautiful!
Along the Trail of the Cedars, the path to Avalanche Lake winds along the Avalanche Creek before veering into a mystical, old growth forest. Something that was really interesting to see was the 2011 avalanche path about halfway to the lake, which reminds you of how this national park and lake got their names. Once you get to the end of the trail, it is totally worth it! Avalanche Lake has crystal clear, turquoise blue/green water fed by the Sperry Glacier. It is truly stunning.
Flathead Lake is the biggest natural freshwater lake (by surface area) west of the Mississippi River in the contiguous United States. For lunch, we went to the Flathead Lake Brewing Company, which sits on a hill with an amazing view of the lake. The food was actually very good pub food, and it was definitely worth the view.
Marriott Residence Inn Helena
After a long day of hiking and driving, we got to our hotel and took an amazing shower and nap. I booked the hotel using my work rate, which was really nice. If you work for a large corporation, always make sure to check if you can book with their rates when traveling to save some money on a hotel room!
Montana State Capitol
Helena is the capital of Montana, so we stopped by the Montana State Capitol building, which was beautiful! I also loved how they had flowers out front in the shape of the state of Montana.
Blackfoot River Brewing Co. & Bridge Pizza
We went to Blackfoot River Brewing Co. to try to eat dinner, however, they only serve beer, so we stopped by next door to get pizza at Bridge Pizza, and the pizza was really good!
Montana Grizzly Encounter
We visited the Grizzly Encounter in Bozeman, MT, and it was such a fun experience. The nature center is open daily from 9:00AM – 7:00PM, and costs $7 per person to help maintain the property and feed the bears. The Grizzly Encounter has five rescue bears on the property. The bears they have rescued could not survive in the wild on their own. The bear that was out while we were visiting was Bella. She was 4 years old and loved playing and moving around. They can’t let multiple bears out at the same time because they can fight and be territorial. We listened to a ranger tell us the history of the bears, and also a bear safety demonstration. It was really interesting and we liked watching the bear play!
The Drive from Northern to Southern Montana
Since we drove from the most northern point in Montana to the most southern point, we spent a lot of time in the car taking in the beautiful landscape. The drive was filled with beautiful mountains, forests, farms meadows, and prairies. It made the long drive worthwhile. From here, we went on to Wyoming, to Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park.