In July my family went to the Glacier National Park area in Montana for 9 days. Coming from the East Coast, we allowed a day of travel there and back giving us a full 7 days in Montana.
We landed at the airport in Kallispell. It is a small airport, as you can imagine, but we found it well-run and down home. Got our rental car in the terminal and we were on our way.
We stayed in Columbia Falls, MT at the Meadow Lake Resort. It was the nicest place I could find to stay that was outside of Glacier National Park, but still relatively close. The driving distance to the park was about 20 minutes. Most of the accommodations in that area are very rustic. I like a little bit of luxury in my vacations. We rented a 2-bedroom timeshare condo with a full kitchen, living room and 2 baths. It was quite spacious and clean. The decor needed to be updated, it was a little Southwest-meets-90's-green and burgundy, but it was very comfortable. I did mention to the front desk that the photos on the website were of newer condos that had been updated and I felt they had misrepresented what we were renting, but we were there and it was fine and still better than anything else in that area.
There is a historic lodge within Glacier National Park (GNP from now on), called Lake MacDonald Lodge, that looked pretty cool, but from the website it was just basic hotel rooms with no amenities so that you would be forced to either eat at the hotel for every meal or drive a long way out of the park to find other restaurants. We hung out in the lobby of the Lodge for a bit one afternoon before taking a boat ride out on Lake MacDonald. Anyone can go to the ramp and sign up, you don't have to be a hotel guest. The guide on the boat was very informative and we went from one end to the other and back of the lake with beautiful views.
Back to Columbia Falls. There is almost nothing there. A lumber mill, our resort, and some retail stores. There was only one restaurant nearby that we went to several times during our stay, part of a chain called Montana Coffee Traders, that had a good breakfast and lunch. However, their sanitary rating was a B. Not too happy about that, but it was close. Our resort had a restaurant that we ate at the night we arrived. It was incredibly overpriced. We spent $70 on a meal with burgers and sodas and one appetizer. We never ate there again. The food was pretty good though.
We ended up driving over to the nearest town called Whitefish for most of our dinners. This is kind of an eclectic town that's part western, part hippie. Our first few restaurant choices were OK but nothing special, but we finally found a couple of restaurants the last few nights that were pretty good. One of them was a hole in the wall pizza joint that had great NY pizza, but was also overpriced. We bought a variety of slices, a couple of cheese steaks, some garlic knots, and sodas, and the bill was around $60.
We did a variety of activities. One day we drove the entire Going to the Sun Road. The views were spectacular. We encountered Mountain Goats that were hanging around the cliffs beside the road. My kids loved that. One day we went back into the park to hike, up at Logan Pass. We were all wearing Keane sandals and were suprised to find that the entire trail was covered with snow. We went for a while but the combination of the steepness of the trail and the fact that our feet were freezing made us turn back. We had to choose another hike at lower elevation.
(to be continued)