Avalanche Lake, West Glacier, MT
Montana was our most recent family vacation. And it was mostly amazing. I planned everything so well (I thought), but having a toddler and 11 family members obviously doesn’t always go according to plan. But my main piece of advice about Montana is GO!
First off, the glaciers are melting at alarming rates and will most likely all disappear by 2030. This is not the trip to put off.
Second, I already want to go back. So get there now because you will inevitably have to plan another trip in the future to return.
Now, let’s get down to the nitty gritty details.
We stayed in West Glacier, less than a mile from the Glacier National Park entrance. This was so convenient but the park is HUGE. Like 2 1/2 hours to get from one side to the other. There are a ton of great hikes in West Glacier, but there are also amazing hikes in Many Glacier and they are as far away from each other as you can get. So while I did not do this on this past trip, in the future I would split my time between the two sides. Stay 3 or 4 nights in West Glacier, and then 3 or 4 nights in Many Glacier. It makes life much easier, and there is nothing worse after a 7 hour hike than to have another 2 1/2 hours in the car. If you do stay in West Glacier, this house was beyond amazing and easily slept all 12 of us!
The thing about National Parks is to actually stay in the park is usually very expensive (about $300 a night and they are not super-luxurious). They also book up REALLY fast, not able to book last minute. The house we stayed in cost $400 a person for the entire week! And we were able to save money by cooking some of our own meals, and drinking at the mountainside bar with amazing views, aka our porch. I recommend renting a vacation home, and using VRBO. I find they have less fees than Air BnB and better quality houses. We booked ours in December for our August trip, and there were already a lot of homes booked.
National Parks are no joke when it comes to where you stay. I found that out the hard way when I road tripped through the Utah 5 and legit paid $200 to stay in the most disgusting hotel ever.
If you are a camper, that’s awesome, go you! Campgrounds book up about a year in advance though, so you definitely need to be on top of that. You can start booking 13 months in advance and if that’s the route you want to go GET ON IT!
Amazing house we stayed in- thanks Marcey!
Spectacular backyard views
Next up, the bear spray. Everyone and everything will tell you to buy it. So we did. 2 cans for $80. And then we got to our house and found 8 cans of unused bear spray. Because everyone buys it and you can’t return it or fly with it because it’s considered a weapon. So, don’t buy it until you get to where you are staying. A house might have some extras lying around and hotels have some you can rent. This will save you time, and honestly we did see a few bears, but never close enough to se the spray. It just made us feel safer than we had it.
You are always aware of the bears– make lots of noise! Bring your spray!
If you have a choice, go in August! We went the last week before Labor Day it was ideal. Not as crowded because a lot of kids have gone back to school. All the trails are opened (some are still closed in mid-July because of snow), and the wildflowers are still in bloom!
Get up early! Seriously, parking is major pain in the butt in this park, but if you get there before 9am you are good. It is almost like there is a little ticking clock, because at exactly 9 am the last parking space gets filled. And then you have to drive in a circle FOREVER hoping someone hates the hike. This is especially true at Logan Pass, Many Glacier, and Avalanche Lake areas. St. Mary’s actually seemed to have a lot of parking at all times…
Hidden Lake hike at Logan Pass
Finally, there are hikes for all ages and fitness levels. We were there with my parents, and my toddler. We all had a great time. My husband actually carried our daughter on his back for almost every hike, one that was 12 MILES, & 7 HOURS LONG! My dad did every hike including Grinnell Glacier which was by far the most strenuous hike we’ve ever done. Avalanche Lake is a great trail, Rocky Point, Hidden Lake, etc. I will do a future post where I really go through each individual one. This is just some of the basics when you begin to plan! Happy trails!