June 2018 – We have visited Glacier National Park three times, and each time we have seen another jewel in this appropriately named “Crown of the Continent” National Park.
Glacier National Park has several entrances, and all of them head towards the mountains in the crown. Like all the biggest and most famous National Parks, it deserves at least a week of exploring — or many return trips — to experience the beauty in any kind of depth.
The most popular entrance to Glacier National Park is on the west side at West Glacier, but some of the most jaw-dropping views are on the east side, 120 miles away via an easy drive around the park or 50 miles away via the twisty, curvy mountain road that traverses Logan Pass in the middle of the Park.
A few years ago we explored the park at the Two Medicine and St. Mary entrances on the east side, but somehow missed the stunning Many Glacier area. It is the furthest north entrance to the east side of Glacier National Park and is just 50 miles from Canada’s spectacular Waterton Lakes National Park.
Of the 60+ National Parks, Monuments and World Heritage Sites we have visited so far, Canada’s Waterton Lakes is one of our favorites. For anyone visiting Glacier National Park, we highly recommend driving the short distance and going through the very easy and small border crossing to have a look at Waterton Lakes, a vibrant and breathtaking jewel in the crown of Waterton-Glacier National Park.
However, if you don’t have your passport with you, Many Glacier is very similar to Waterton Lakes and is truly awe-inspiring as well.
When we visited Many Glacier this year, we got excited as soon as we saw the mountains appearing down the road in front of us. We stopped to enjoy the glorious wildflowers that were blooming along Lake Sherburne.
Glacial lakes are vivid shades of turquoise and blue when the light catches them just right, and the mountains behind Lake Sherburne were truly majestic.
Montana had an enormous amount of snow this past winter, and the rivers and lakes have been swollen for weeks as the snow has melted.
A waterfall to our left on the road alongside Swiftcurrent Creek that is probably very modest at other times of the year was crashing over the rocks in an all fired rush to get downhill.
We walked along a short trail on the edges of the waterfall to get a closer look.
At the end of the road leading into Many Glacier we crossed another area of rapids that is just upstream from the waterfall.
And then we arrived at the most fabulous view. Jagged mountains formed a fantastic backdrop behind Swiftcurrent Lake. In the distance, the historic Many Glacier Hotel proudly watched over the lake as it has for over a century.
We were mesmerized by the view, and we both shot at least three photos with every step we took as we wandered around on the shore. Looking at our photos later, Mark noticed he had captured a butterfly in one of his images. How cool!!
The weather was constantly changing with the clouds chasing the sun away and then the sun trying very hard to chase the clouds away.
The valleys left by the immense earth-moving forces of the glaciers are all U-shaped with sloping sides and rounded bottoms.
There is a small gravel beach along the shoreline and a dirt road wanders around the hotel property.
In 1914-15, long before Glacier National Park was created in 1932, the Great Northern Railway built the Swiss Chalet style Many Glacier Hotel on the banks of Swiftcurrent Lake. The railroad barrons at the time wanted to encourage people to travel on their trains, so they went to great lengths to create enticing destinations at the ends of their lines.
Another beautiful resort that sprang into existence this way is Sun Valley, Idaho, which was created as a skiing destination for the Union Pacific Railroad.
What a fabulous property Many Glacier Hotel is, and how exotic it must have been to journey there and spend some time over 100 years ago. It would be fabulous to stay there now!!
Many rooms not only have lake views but have a porch that opens onto the lake.
As we wandered around the hotel we noticed two restaurant workers from the fancy Ptarmigan Dining Room taking a break and soaking in the views from the parking lot.
I started chatting with one of them and discovered that he was living right at Many Glacier in dormitory style housing while working at the restaurant for a four month summer job gig. It was his fourth summer doing it, and he absolutely loved it.
“All you need to bring is your hiking boots,” he told me, “and we make great money too!”
He’d had restaurant serving experience before, but he said the hotel was still hiring for this summer and that folks with no restaurant experience bus tables and do other entry level jobs.
Future full-time RVers often wonder how they can make money on the road. Working at a restaurant overlooking a stunning view serving happy guests who are on vacation in one of the most picturesque spots in our country wouldn’t be a bad way to pick up some pocket money.
And for folks who don’t need a summer job themselves but who know young adults who’d appreciate a thrilling summer experience, what a fabulous summer that would be! You have to be at least 18 to apply. I know I would have far preferred working in the Many Glacier Hotel kitchen over the urban kitchen that did employ me my 18th summer so many decades ago!
We just scratched the surface of Many Glacier on a quickie in-and-out visit this time around. But we will be back to explore it in greater depth in the future. Unfortunately, adorable puppies aren’t allowed on National Park hiking trails, which hampers us a little nowadays. For folks without a dog in tow, there are oodles of hikes and alpine lakes and mountain views all around Many Glacier. What a jewel it is!
The restaurant hadn’t yet opened for the season when we visited, so we didn’t have a chance to check it out. But many tables are situated next to big windows that look out on the lake, and the server I talked to assured me the food was really good. Sounds awesome! It is on our list for next time!
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More info about Glacier National Park and Many Glacier:
- Glacier National Park
- Camping inside Glacier National Park
- Details about each campground inside Glacier NP – including current status (full/closed/etc.)
- Campgrounds and RV Parks outside the Park – Zoom out on the map for Two Medicine, St. Mary & Many Glacier to the north
- Many Glacier Hotel
- Dining at the Many Glacier Hotel
- Map showing Many Glacier Entrance and the Hotel
Other blog posts from Waterton-Glacier National Park in Montana and Alberta, Canada:
- East Glacier Scenic Drive – Treasures OUTSIDE Glacier National Park
- “Going to the Sun” from Glacier National Park’s East Side – Breathtaking!
- Glacier National Park’s Quieter Side – Saint Mary
- Waterton Lakes Nat’l Park – Starry Skies, the Milky Way & Wildflowers
- Waterton Shoreline Cruise – A Classy Tour of Waterton-Glacier NP
- Waterton Lakes National Park – Rocky Mountain High!
- Glacier National Park in Montana – Mirrors at Lake McDonald
- Glacier National Park, MT – Mountain Goats and Lake Views
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