Despite this being a poorly planned trip, I think we did pretty well. My fiancé, brother-in-law, and I spent seven gorgeous days in Montana the second week of July. We were in the silver and gold state for a wedding.
The wedding would be in Great Falls, which is in central Montana. We knew we wanted to visit either Yellowstone National Park—4 hours south or Glacier National Park—4 hours north. We only had three days to spare, so we decided on Glacier after talking to friends and reading about the recent Bison goring in Yellowstone.
Hungry Horse, Montana
Finding a hotel was not an option as they did not exist near West Glacier. After calling around, we lucked out with the Mini Golden Inn in Hungry Horse, Montana—only 10 minutes outside the park entrance. The place was clean, with free Wi-Fi, free breakfast items and coffee, and excellent room service.
Be sure to pencil in some time to visit the local shops! Our favorite was the Montana Fur Trading Company as it was filled with unique authentic Indian treasures.
Parking & Ticket Information
The first thing you’ll need to do is purchase a $2.00 ticket online to access anything along the Going to the Sun Road. That is basically where all the fun is. Tickets are released at 8AM two days prior and all 300 of them are usually sold very quickly. If you don’t have this $2.00 ticket you can only access the Going to the Sun Road before 6AM and after 5PM.
You’ll also need to purchase a 7-day vehicle pass for $35. Click here for site pass options.
Day 1: Hiking Avalanche Trail
We chose Avalanche Lake on the recommendation of a local shop owner we bought bear mace from. He suggested a local hiking guide which included in-depth information on each trail. Avalanche Trail was 4.6 miles, an elevation gain of 575 feet, and was rated challenging. And to be honest, it was tough but well worth the stunningly beautiful nature.
Day 2: Kayaking Lake McDonald
We decided to go kayaking, but there are tons of other water-related activities available. You can rent paddle boards, canoes, rowboats, and motorboats. Kayaking Lake McDonald was an awesome experience. Glacier water is so beautiful and clear! We even found a small private beach and had a picnic. Words won’t do justice, so check out the photo gallery below.
PRO TIP: If you have trouble getting in the park because you forgot your $2.00 Going to the Sun Road ticket, call Apgar Rentals. Set up your kayak rental ($15.50/hour) and they’ll get you in the park. Glacier Outfitters is another option right inside the main entrance to the park. They also offer whitewater rafting.
Hiking St. Mary’s to Virginia Falls
Using the same local hiking guide, we decided to hike Virginia Falls to see a few waterfalls. To get to Virginia Falls, you had to hike St. Mary’s trail. I highly recommend the St. Mary’s trail for its unique scenery. In 2015, the east side of the park, in the St. Mary’s area, was destroyed by a massive fire. Today the area is still in bad shape, but the bare charred trees create stunningly beautiful views.
Day 3: Going to the Sun Road
The Going to the Sun road is about 50 miles and will take you around 2 hours to drive with no traffic. The highest point is 6,646 feet! While two hours seems like a long time, the beautiful scenery is so distracting time will fly by. Remember, you need that $2.00 ticket in advance to get on this road and into the main park. Otherwise, they will not let you in between 6AM and 5PM.