I've seen pictures of Glacier National Park plastered all over social media for years, and every image looks too pretty to be real. I just had to see it for myself. And as it turns out, Glacier doesn't need filters or editing to drop jaws on social media (or in real life). It's absolutely gorgeous!
After spending a few days in Kalispell, Montana — the campground we went to after leaving Happy's Inn early — we headed north toward Glacier National Park. Our campsite was located only nine miles from the park, so we were excited to have a few days to explore.
The campground, Mountain Meadow RV Park, was very nice. The campsite sat way up on a hill in the woods. It was a bit small but very private. We enjoyed the quiet of the woods and walking around the mountain.
We arrived at the park in early afternoon. The plan was to make dinner, enjoy the night, and spend all day the next day in Glacier National Park. When we checked in, the staff at the park suggested that we go to Glacier immediately that day. They said we could probably catch the sunset and miss some of the crazy traffic to get in. After a quick debate, we decided to take their advice. We scarfed down our dinner and headed out with LunaBear in tow.
We consulted the park map and made our way to the "secret" entrance suggested to us by our Navy friend from Happy's Inn. The entrance booth that was under construction was just after a long dirt road off to the side of the main entrance. Of course, we didn't know how bumpy the road was by looking at the map...
I'll just put it this way: The road was so bumpy and filled with unavoidable grooves, it actually broke my toolbox in the back of the truck. All the bouncing and vibrations made us consider turning around a few times! But since it was later in the day (maybe 5pm?) and we already made it this far, we decided to continue onward!
Finally, after bouncing our way several miles down the dirt road, we made it to the park entrance. And just like our Navy friend said, there was nobody at the booth! We got into Glacier National Park for free!
Since we were after 5pm, we also didn't need a reservation to take the Road to the Sun — the main road going through Glacier National Park. Today's adventure didn't cost us a dime. Just one broken toolbox.
If you ever make it to Glacier, I highly suggest driving the Road to the Sun. Every turn brings more dramatic scenery and incredible views. And the higher you get, the better the sights. Here are just a few highlights from our drive up the mountain:
I will say that the road was a bit hard to drive, especially in a giant truck... I actually had to pull my side mirrors in to pass other cars around some of the turns. It was tight, but we made it!
At the top of the mountain, we got to see some of the locals. Some wild goats had made their way near the road to munch on the grass. They were super cool to see, but it also reminded us why we don't really like National Parks. Everyone was stopping right in the road to take pictures and selfies with the goats. They didn't pull off; they just held up traffic to get their shots. Tourists are the worst...
We also got to grab a few pictures with the glaciers hanging out on the side of the road. It's called "Glacier" National Park, so we couldn't resist.
Once we reached the top of the mountain, we decided to turn around and head back to camp. The sun was starting to go down, and we didn't want to get stuck in the park after closing. At the bottom of the hill, we stopped at Lake McDonald, which is one of the most photographed lakes in the world. It's easy to see why...
We sat on the shore and watched the sun set over this incredible lake. It was quite a picturesque moment that we won't forget.
Fun fact: My shirt is actually on backwards in this shot. I didn't think about ruining pictures when I put on my "Bear Poop Extra Dark Stout" shirt I got in Wyoming... As funny as it may be, it's not great for serious photos. Here's the original:
Anyway, there are several gift shops, restaurants, and grocery stores around Lake McDonald. So once the sun went down, we explored a few of the shops to grab some souvenirs before heading back to camp for the night.
Glacier National Park has two main entrances. West Glacier, where we went the first night, and East Glacier, which was a bit of a drive from the campground. Since we got a jump start and did West Glacier when we arrived, we decided to spend the second day exploring East Glacier.
It took about an hour to get to the East Glacier entrance, and since we didn't have a secret entrance this time, we had to pay the admission fee. I'm not opposed to paying admission to National Parks. I know it goes to a good cause. But I am opposed to spending $30 every single time you want to get into the park. One admission fee felt acceptable.
While West Glacier has the Road to the Sun driving portion, East Glacier is mostly known for its hiking. We parked Eugene in the main entrance parking lot and got to walk some of the trails.
Our favorite part of East Glacier was Running Eagle Falls. It was named after a female Blackfeet warrior and leader named Pitamakan. The story says she spent four days on a vision quest in the area around the falls. She became such a great warrior and leader that she was given the name Running Eagle. She was the only female in Blackfeet history to be given a man's name.
Looking at the falls and the surrounding area, it's easy to see why she chose that spot. The falls itself is super cool. Runoff from the glacial mountain cuts its way through the rocks and pours out of an opening and down a 40-foot drop. All around it, you can see the colorful rocks below the surface of the crystal-clear water.
It's no wonder Running Eagle saw visions there. It was such a peaceful place.
While we might not be the most hardcore hikers, we did have to stop our hiking a bit early. One of the trails was closed due to bear activity. And although we definitely would love to see a bear, perhaps running into a massive grizzly in the middle of the Montana wilderness wouldn't have been the best way to meet one...
On the way back to the campground from East Glacier, we stopped at West Glacier village, a popular tourist spot with all sorts of junk shops and restaurants. We got a few more souvenirs, and I finally got to meet a friendly bear that didn't want to eat my face off.
With our curiosity about the beauty of Glacier National Park satisfied, we grabbed our full camera memory cards and started making our way across Montana to Miles City.
He likes pizza.