A few weeks ago, my husband and I decided to take a last-minute road trip. To Montana. More specifically? Glacier National Park.
It was the best decision.
With only five days, including travel, we didn’t have long. What’s more, we were so last-minute in our planning that we hadn’t actually done any planning at all! No campsite reserved. No “must see’s” on our list. Just the two of us, a trailer, Google Maps, and a long weekend. What’s more, we knew we were headed to a popular national park during it’s peak season. When I called one of the ranger stations to ask about nearby camping locations, he told me that my timing was “terrible”.
So like any great traveler would do, we loaded up and headed that direction.
This post is quite picture heavy. I am planning another post in the near future with more details about our trip, but for now my goal is this: I aim to convince everyone and anyone that if Montana (more specifically, Glacier National Park) has not been on your bucket list, it needs to be. Ideally, right up near the top.
Because we were leaving on a Friday and wouldn’t be pulling in until Friday evening, we knew getting a campsite inside Glacier would be impossible. While there are thirteen campsites within in the park, reservations can only be made in a few of them, and the idea of trying to get one that same day in the middle of August is laughable. Some of the popular sites are booked out a year or more ahead. There is no wonder why the ranger told me my timing was terrible.
However, I’m so glad I didn’t let the ranger deter me! There are so many fantastic options for camping nearby. Just outside the park in all directions are handfuls of RV parks if that is your sort of thing. The park is also surrounded on almost every side by National Forest areas, which are full of beautiful campsites. If you don’t mind a little bit of driving (through absolutely beautiful scenery), you have so many options within just a thirty minute drive of the park.
Because we arrived late Friday night (again, terrible timing!) even the Flathead National Forest campsites we were checking on the west side of Glacier were full. We drove into the Hungry Horse Dam Recreation Area. It was getting dark and our chances were looking slim, but one of the camp hosts suggested we look in a “pullout” alongside the road. He explained that there are quite a few of these pullouts, most of them tucked behind trees (and complete with fire rings!) that we could stay in for free. At first, we thought we’d just park for the night and find something better in the morning or in a few days as campsites became available, but we actually ended up staying put. We enjoyed the privacy, and we were so busy exploring during the day that we didn’t spend much time at our spot anyway. The only thing that could have made it better would have been a view of the lake, but we were quite happy with our little (free!) camping spot.
Also, Hungry Horse Reservoir is breathtakingly beautiful. If you are planning a trip to Glacier, you should definitely plan a side trip here (the lake is especially amazing first thing in the morning or just before dusk). Our campsite was about a beautiful thirty minute drive to the West Glacier entrance.
(The dam, itself is huge and deserves a stop. After a little research, we learned that it is the 10th largest dam in the United States.)
Now on to Glacier as promised. Once again, I’ll be posting more trip details in the upcoming month. Until then, a few pictures to convert you to one of our new favorite places.
(Trail of the Cedars)
Bears! We did see one our last evening there, but didn’t happen to see any while hiking (which was both a disappointment and a relief!) We were told that early in the mornings and at dusk are the best times to cross their paths with one, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Polebridge, Montana. This tiny little spot deserves it’s very own post. One of the “last best places”, it is only miles from the Canadian border and is accessed by dirt roads. It lies on the North Fork, and is the least visited area of Glacier, which makes it even better. As we talked around, this was the spot no one talked about, but one of our favorite areas and one we will definitely visit again. Also, the Polebridge Mercantile is famous for their Huckleberry Bearclaws- with good reason. Yummmmm.
(Bowman Lake – North Fork)
(Hidden Lake Trail)
(View from the Going To The Sun Road)
(Because you have to take a picture at the iconic National Park sign, even if it’s in the dark 🙂
Have I convinced you yet?
Truly, Glacier is a place that should not be missed. We were reminded that so often, we set our sights on far away places. We save our money and vacation days for exotic locales that can only be reached by plane, while sadly, some of the most beautiful places in the world are right around the corner. This was a destination that we had placed on the back burner, a “someday” vacation. For some reason, it seemed close enough to lie beneath the “must see’s” and too far away to find the top of the “weekend road trip” destinations of our bucket list.
For some magical reason, we had five open days (let’s be real here-we made ourselves five open days because open days never just happen). We are so thankful that Montana called our name. Next time, we’ll clear our calendar for more than five! As we drove home, we were already planning our next trip.
Beautiful, wild Montana- you have found a permanent spot at the top of our list.