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Millenniums of glacial erosion are responsible for the spectacular scenery of Montana’s Glacier National Park, where towering peaks and plunging valleys are studded with pockets of dense forest and impossibly blue alpine lakes. Outdoor enthusiasts come to the park to hike, bike, fish, and ride in summer; or to go cross-country skiing in winter. In peak season, it’s possible to drive all the way across the park on the iconic Going-to-the-Sun Road. Accommodation inside the park is limited to scenic campgrounds and historic lodges, but in neighboring towns, like Columbia Falls and Whitefish, you can find luxury boutiques and romantic B&Bs. Here, we look at some of the best options for all types of travelers.
Best Overall: Swiftcurrent Motor Inn and Cabins
Built in 1933, Swiftcurrent Motor Inn and Cabins is a rustic option ranked by TripAdvisor reviewers as one of the best choices for those wishing to stay inside the park. It’s located in the scenic Many Glacier region at the head of some of the park’s best trails — including those that lead over Swiftcurrent Pass or to Iceberg and Ptarmigan lakes. Choose from 95 Motor Inn rooms or cabins, all of them comfortable and clean but simply furnished (don’t expect TV or speedy Wi-Fi).
Cabins are a great option for families or groups of friends who want a little extra privacy. Arranged in a circle, some are heated and some have private bathrooms. Wherever you stay, congregate at wood-paneled ‘Nell’s restaurant to swap stories over all-day breakfast, pizzas, and burgers. There’s even a Kids Menu for the little ones. Other useful on-site amenities include a fully stocked camp store and gift shop (for picking up your hiking essentials) and laundry facilities. The inn is open seasonally from June to September.
Best Budget: Apgar Village Lodge
Although there are cheaper options outside the park, affordable Apgar Village Lodge saves you money on traveling backward and forward every day. It’s ideally located at the southern end of Lake McDonald and offers a range of different accommodation types including motel rooms and cabins that start at $150 per night. For $30 extra, you can book a cabin with a kitchen and ultimately save on the overall cost of your trip by self-catering. Family cabins also have a lofted sleeping area for the kids.
All rooms are simple with no TV or air-conditioning, but reviewers say the lack of creature comforts is more than made up for by the views. Spend the money that you save on accommodation at on-site Cedar Tree Gift Shop, the park’s largest souvenir shopping destination. Although there’s no restaurant, you’re a five-minute drive from the dining facilities in West Glacier Village. Boat and bike rentals are offered nearby and you’re close to the Park Shuttle Service at Apgar Transit Center.
Best Historic: Lake McDonald Lodge
Once accessed via steamboat and horse-drawn carriage, Lake McDonald Lodge opened in 1913 and is one of the oldest lodges in the park. Its beautiful Swiss chalet-style frontage overlooks Lake McDonald and is situated on the legendary Going-to-the-Sun Road. Organized activities including boat cruises and horseback rides which make the most of the lodge's stunning location. The lodge has 82 en-suite rooms divided between the main lodge, a row of cabins, Cobb House, and the historic, hostel-style rooms of Snyder Hall.
Cobb House offers three suites, each with a separate sitting area and sleeper sofa. These suites are the only rooms with TV — otherwise, amenities are in keeping with the lodge’s early 20th-century origins. There are plenty of atmospheric dining options. Sample regional steaks at Russell’s Fireside Dining Room, treat the kids to build-your-own pizza at Jammer Joe’s, or pair lake views and Montana microbrews at Lucke’s Lounge. Open from May to September, the lodge also has a general store and gift shop.
Best for Luxury: The Firebrand Hotel
For a more luxurious experience, you’ll need to look outside the park. The Firebrand Hotel is situated amidst the fashionable bars and restaurants of downtown Whitefish (a 40-minute drive from the park’s West Entrance). The decor blends urban sophistication with wood and leather accents inspired by Montana’s outdoor lifestyle. All 86 rooms boast high thread-count linens, a 50” TV, super-fast Wi-Fi, and a dry bar; but for the most decadent stay, book a Skyline Room with a French balcony and fireplace.
In between visits to the park, indulge in a hot stone massage or a couples treatment at the spa, or treat aching muscles to a soak in the rooftop hot tub. Meals are served in the cozy lounge or on the rooftop patio (in summer) and range from made-to-order breakfasts to evening small plates and cocktails. A lobby coffee shop serves fresh pastries and artisanal brews. On Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays you can meet other guests at the hotel’s complimentary evening reception.
Best for Families: Cedar Creek Lodge
Located in Columbia Falls, Cedar Creek Lodge is a 25-minute drive from the West Entrance of the park (either in your own car or on the hotel’s complimentary summer shuttle). It combines the charm of a traditional mountain lodge with the modern amenities needed for a comfortable stay with smaller children. Free Wi-Fi and cable TV come in handy on wet weather days, while all rooms include a mini-fridge and microwave for basic self-catering. Kids will love the indoor pool and hot tub, both of which are open all year round.
Family-friendly floor plans range from Deluxe Rooms with a king bed and pull-out sleeper sofa to two-bedroom suites with a separate living room. Before heading into the park, your family can fill up at the complimentary hot breakfast buffet. For other meals, there are several popular restaurants within easy walking distance for little legs. The lodge also offers a free winter shuttle to Whitefish Mountain Resort and has a fitness center, sundries shop, and complimentary parking.
Best for Romance: Garden Wall Inn
Couples planning a romantic getaway need look no further than Garden Wall Inn, a charming Whitefish boutique located a 40-minute drive from the park's West Entrance. Sheltered by graceful spruce and maple trees, the inn is an old-world sanctuary complete with antique rugs, hardwood floors, and period furnishings. Each of its unique guest rooms set the scene for romance with fresh flowers, luxury mattresses, and Egyptian cotton sheets, while handmade chocolate truffles are left on your pillow each evening.
All rooms come with an Art Deco-style private bathroom. For unparalleled romance, ask for one with a claw-foot soaking tub. The inn is owned by chefs and fine food is a focus. Your wake-up call is accompanied by a cup of locally roasted Garden Wall Blend coffee and breakfast is a gourmet, three-course spread created using the freshest farm produce. In the afternoon, complimentary hors-d’oeuvres and beverages are served by the living room fire. Ask your hosts to reserve a table in town for a special dinner.
Best B&B: Moss Mountain Inn
Moss Mountain Inn receives near-perfect TripAdvisor reviews for its generous hospitality and pristine setting on a six-acre wildlife sanctuary in Flathead National Forest. The three-story cedar chalet is seven miles from the West Entrance of Glacier and boasts a wonderfully cozy, log cabin-style interior. Choose from four unique guest rooms, all with private bathrooms and fast Wi-Fi. Some have walk-in showers, others have soaking tubs, and two spoil with private balconies overlooking breathtaking mountain views.
Each morning starts with a full, fresh-cooked breakfast and drinks from the hot and cold beverage bar. If you’re planning on heading into the park early, you can arrange to have your breakfast to go; picnic lunches, snacks, and sit-down dinners are all available upon request. Make time to explore the B&B’s perennial gardens and nearby trails (bear spray and trekking poles are provided). An elevated birdwatching room, a glass solarium and a living room with cable TV and a crackling fireplace complete the Moss Mountain Inn experience.
Best RV Park: West Glacier KOA Resort
Located four miles from the Western Entrance, West Glacier KOA Resort is known for its friendly staff, stunning mountain vistas and seemingly endless array of amenities. These include heated swimming pools, a basketball court, dog park, and children’s playground. Although it has a variety of cabins and tent sites, it’s an especially great choice for RV travelers. Choose a back-in or pull-through site (maximum 75 feet) and decide whether you need 30/20 or 50/30 amp power. Some sites offer water and electricity only while others are full hookup sites with sewer and satellite facilities as well.
The campground’s Pavilion Lodge features an internet café and espresso bar, while the convenience store sells propane and firewood. If you’re tired of cooking for yourself, head to Lazy Bear Café for hot breakfasts or sign up for a barbecue dinner. In summer, the resort hosts daily activities such as family craft nights and fly fishing casting clinics. In spring and fall, expect reduced amenities and discounted rates.
Best Campground: Many Glacier Campground
Many Glacier Campground is the most popular campground inside the national park with astonishing scenery, convenient facilities, and an excellent ranger program. Located close to Fishercap Lake, the wooded camp is ideally located for hikers and has 109 sites. Although 13 of them can accommodate RVs up to 35 feet in length, they’re mainly suited for tents. For maximum peace and quiet, book a generator-free site. All sites have access to token-operated showers and restrooms with flush toilets and running water.
Amenities include potable water taps and disposal stations, while evening ranger programs are a particular highlight. Make sure to pack your binoculars — if you’re lucky, you may be able to spot bears, moose, and bighorn sheep from camp. Guests also have access to the dining and recreation facilities at nearby Swiftcurrent Motor Inn and Many Glacier Hotel. Although reservations are possible from June 15 to September 4, campsites throughout the rest of the season are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Arrive early to avoid disappointment.