The phone rings around here a lot this time of year, breaking the quiet of the West Glacier spring. Questions pour in from soon-to-be visitors from across the world. I mostly enjoy chatting with these folks, as I help them plan their trips to our gorgeous little corner of the world. One of the problems I often help to solve is: I have only one day in Glacier National Park. What do I do? Well, the first thing you need to do is extend your vacation! But if you can’t, here are my suggestions for one perfect summer day in Glacier National Park.
Only One Day in Glacier National Park: The Itinerary
6:00am — Glacier Guides Lodge, West Glacier, Montana
Rise and shine, sunshine! You’re headed up the iconic Going-to-the-Sun Road before the rest of the world even wakes. The traffic will likely be nonexistent. The wildlife watching could be amazing. Taking in the sunrise from Logan Pass absolutely will be. Once the sun lights this fragile high alpine environment, head up the wooden boardwalk from the Visitor’s Center to Hidden Lake Overlook. Commune with the mountain goats, take pictures in the soft morning light, and enjoy breakfast on the trail. Round trip distance: 2.7 miles
Pro Tip: Peanut butter and huckleberry jelly smeared on a bagel, an apple, and coffee in a thermos, makes a heck of a good trail breakfast — don’t forget your water bottle, too!
9:30am — Logan Pass
Continue driving east on the Going-to-the-Sun Road, taking time to enjoy the interpretive overlooks and capturing ridiculous amounts of pictures. It’s hard to take a bad photo in Glacier National Park, but you should try. Wild Goose Island Overlook is the most photographed spot in the park for a reason, so you might as well pull over, too.
11am — St. Mary
When you arrive in St. Mary, take a right onto highway 89 and head south. There is a lovely gift shop in the St. Mary Lodge, and good coffee, too, if you’re in need of a pit stop on your only one day in Glacier National Park adventure!
Pro Tip: There are bathrooms at the St. Mary Visitor Center and immediately north of the St. Mary Grocery Store.
11:45am — East Glacier Park
You’ll get to East Glacier just in time for lunch — there are a number of good places to eat. We’re especially fond of the “Grizzly Bait” at Luna’s — a wild caught Alaskan salmon burger with avocado, pepper jack, and a lemon caper aioli. If your sweet tooth is talking, definitely grab a slice of huckleberry pie at the Two Medicine Grille or at the Rock n’ Roll Bakery “downtown.” If time allows, stop to tour the gardens and lobby of the Glacier Park Lodge. Walking inside the lobby, supported by enormous Douglas Firs, is like stepping back in time and experiencing the Glacier National Park vacation of the early 1900s.
1:30pm — Highway 2, Glacier National Park’s Southern Border
Your next destination: whitewater rafting in West Glacier. In East Glacier, take a right onto Highway 2, making a loop around Glacier National Park. Highway 2, and the Middle and North Forks of the Flathead River, actually form Glacier’s southwest borders. You’ll get gorgeous views into the southern area of the park, and a little preview of your river trip, as you drive.
2:45pm — Glacier Guides and Montana Raft, West Glacier
If you have only one day in Glacier National Park, I highly recommend a half day whitewater rafting adventure! Arrive at Glacier Guides and Montana Raft in time to get ready for your 3:15pm BBQ Dinner Whitewater Rafting trip! You’ll enjoy an approximately three hour long trip on the Middle Fork of the Flathead River, along the southwestern boundary of Glacier National Park. You’ll be going through John Stevens Canyon, where the rapids are rated class II and III, which makes it a fun and splashy whitewater raft adventure. Following the simple commands of the guide, you will actually become part of the crew that maneuvers your craft. After your rafting adventure you’ll return to the Glacier Guides and Montana Raft campus, and you’ll have time to change into some dry clothing before your dinner of steak, chicken, or wild salmon is served. Glacier Guides and Montana Raft has a wonderful kitchen staff that prepares all its delicious food, which is largely locally sourced and organic. Dinner does not include alcoholic beverages, but you can BYOB.
8pm — Belton Chalet, West Glacier
After returning to your room at the Glacier Guides Lodge, walk down the hill and grab a table on the deck at the historic Belton Chalet, as you watch the sun begin its descent — it is light in Montana until around 10pm in the height of summer. The Belton’s taproom has an excellent selection of local beer, wine, and spirits.
Pro Tip: Order a locally crafted beer from Kalispell Brewing Co.
10pm — Lights out! Your only one day in Glacier National Park adventure should give you sweet dreams of returning for more.
*p.s. This blog is written for summertime visitors, and this exact itinerary won’t be possible if the Going-to-the-Sun Road has not yet opened for the season – be sure to check road conditions!*
*p.p.s. Questions about your one day in Glacier National Park itinerary? I’d be happy to help! Give me a call at 406-387-5555*