Despite this being a poorly planned trip, we did well. We 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 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.
Staying in 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, 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, filled with unique authentic Indian treasures.
Parking & Ticket Information
You’ll first need to 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 8 AM two days prior, and 300 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 6 AM and after 5 PM.
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, and we bought bear mace. 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 tons of other water-related activities are available. You can rent paddleboards, canoes, rowboats, and motorboats. Kayaking Lake McDonald was an excellent 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. You had to hike St. Mary’s trail to get to Virginia Falls. I highly recommend the St. Mary’s trail for its unique scenery. In 2015, the park’s east side, in the St. Mary’s area, was destroyed by a massive fire. The area is still in bad shape today, 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 6 AM and 5 PM.
Alexandrea Sumuel is a travel writer and the founder of the Wander With Alex travel blog, where she provides vacationers with trip ideas, travel guides, news, and itineraries. She travels to experience, eat, explore, and escape! Alex’s mission is to help peopl find the perfect vacation destination.