Glacier National Park’s “Many Glacier” – Crown of the Continent!

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.

Approaching Many Glacier in Glacier National Park Montana-min

As we approached Many Glacier the mountains rose before us in the distance.

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.

Waterton Lakes National Park abuts Glacier National Park along the US/Canadian border, shaking hands across the border in what is officially called Waterton-Glacier National Park in both countries.

First views entering Many Glacier at Glacier National Park Montana-min

We got a glimpse of Lake Sherburne as we drove in.

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.

Lake Sherburne and wildflowers Many Glacier Entrance Glacier National Park Montana-min

Many Glacier at Glacier National Park in Montana

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.

Wildflowers blooming at Many Glacier National Park Montana-min

Wildflowers were in bloom everywhere.

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.

Mountains and Swiftcurrent Lake at Many Glacier in Glacier National Park Montana

Wow!

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.

Thunderous waterfall Swiftcurrent Creek Many Glacier at Glacier National Park Montana-min

The waterfall on Sherburne Creek was roaring!

Huge waterfall Swiftcurrent Creek Many Glacier at Glacier National Park Montana-min

Montana had big snows and a rainy spring, so the water was rushing at full throttle.

We walked along a short trail on the edges of the waterfall to get a closer look.

Waterfall at Many Glacier in Glacier National Park Montana-min

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Rushing waterfall Many Glacier at Glacier National Park Montana-min

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At the end of the road leading into Many Glacier we crossed another area of rapids that is just upstream from the waterfall.

Rapids on Swiftcurrent Creek at Many Glacier section of Glacier National Park Montana-min

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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.

Many Glacier Hotel Swiftcurrent Lake Glacier National Park Montana-min

Swiftcurrent Lake at Many Glacier!

Many Glacier Hotel in Glacier National Park on Swiftcurrent Lake-min

Many Glacier Hotel is a Swiss Chalet style hotel that was built in 1914-15.

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!!

Butterfly at Many Glacier in Glacier National Park Montana-min

A butterfly flitted through Mark’s pic!

The weather was constantly changing with the clouds chasing the sun away and then the sun trying very hard to chase the clouds away.

Pine tree at Many Glacier in Glacier National Park Montana-min

Many Glacier is so photogenic we had a blast wandering around taking pics.

Mountains at Swiftcurrent Lake Many Glacier Entrance of Glacier National Park Montana-min

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The valleys left by the immense earth-moving forces of the glaciers are all U-shaped with sloping sides and rounded bottoms.

Glacier carved valleys across Swiftcurrent Lake Many Glacier National Park Montana-min

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Pine tree at Swift Current Lake Many Glacier in Glacier National Park Montana-min

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There is a small gravel beach along the shoreline and a dirt road wanders around the hotel property.

Swiftcurrent Lake at Many Glacier in Glacier National Park Montana-min

A dirt road wanders near the shore and hiking trails go all over the place.

Beach at Swiftcurrent Lake in Many Glacier section of Glacier National Park Montana-min

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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 Glacier Hotel Glacier National Park Montana-min

Many Glacier Hotel

Many Glacier Hotel Glacier National Park Montana-min

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Many rooms not only have lake views but have a porch that opens onto the lake.

Balcony view of Swiftcurrent Lake at Many Glaicer Hotel in Glacier National Park Montana-min

Some rooms have a little porch and a fabulous view.

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!”

Wow!!

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.

Swiss Chalet style Many Glacier Hotel on Swiftcurrent Lake Glacier National Park Montana-min

Climbing up on the hillside opposite the hotel we got some wonderful shots.

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!

Many Glacier Hotel on Swiftcurrent Lake Glacier National Park Montana-min

What a place to call home for a few days or a few months!

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!

Many Glacier Hotel viewed across Swiftcurrent Lake in Glacier National Park Montana

Looking back across Swiftcurrent Lake at Many Glacier Hotel.

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:

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East Glacier Scenic Drive – Treasures OUTSIDE Glacier National Park

June 2018 – America’s stunning National Parks get all the press, but sometimes the drive towards them is almost as beautiful. As we made our way to the eastern side of Glacier National Park in Montana via US-2, the image of a mountain reflecting in a pond caught our eye.

Mountain reflections in a lake at Glacier National Park Montana-min

US-2 is a beautiful drive. These pretty reflections made us stop.

We just had to pull over for a closer look. The day was a big gloomy but the landscape was lovely.

RV trip to the east side of Glacier National Park in Montana-min

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The wildflowers were beginning to bloom, a perfect foreground for these snow capped peaks.

Wildflowers and mountains Glacier National Park Montana RV trip-min

Pretty wildflowers were in bloom!

Huge snows last winter and a bunch of rain this spring has made all of the rivers and streams in Montana swell almost beyond the riverbanks, and there are waterfalls, big and small, everywhere.

Waterfall Glacier National Park Montana RV trip-min

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Hopping back in our rig, we drove alongside the eastern side of Glacier National Park on US-89, and the scenery got better and better.

Mountain views east Glacier National Park scenic drive in an RV-min

Spectacular views east of Glacier National Park.

Big rigs can’t drive the narrow and twisting Route 49 that goes to the Two Medicine entrance of Glacier National Park. Instead, we had to route through the town of Browning, but the views we saw as we headed north towards Saint Mary were fabulous.

Scenic Drive east Glacier National Park Montana RV trip-min

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Scenic drive East Glacier National Park Montana RV trip-min

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Suddenly the U-shaped valleys of Glacier National Park that were carved by glaciers eons ago came into view. Again, we had to pull over, if only to get a shot of our rig in such a setting!

Snowy mountains east Glacier National Park scenic drive in an RV-min

Rounded valleys carved by glaciers come into view.

RV trip east Glacier National Park Montana-min

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Upper St. Mary Lake is located inside Glacier National Park, and we loved exploring it two years ago, but Lower St. Mary Lake is located outside of the Park, and pullouts along the road offered some fabulous views too.

Lower St Mary Lake Glacier National Park Montana RV trip-min

Lower St. Mary Lake outside Glacier National Park

When the sun is out, St. Mary Lake is a rich and luscious shade of blue, but on this overcast day the air was perfectly still and the mountains were able to check out their reflections in the silvery water.

Lupines blooming at St Mary Lake Montana-min

Lupines were blooming on the hillsides.

Reflections St. Mary Lake Glacier National Park Montana-min

St. Mary Lake can be a vivid blue with waves twinkling in the sun, but we caught it on a pensive, reflective day.

Lower St Mary Lake reflections near Glacier National Park on RV trip-min

The water was like glass.

The most famous part of Glacier National Park is the Going to the Sun Road that traverses the park via Logan Pass between the east and west sides. This road is so high that it is buried in snow well into the Spring, and the risk of avalanches keeps the road closed until mid to late June (or even early July!).

Mountain reflections Lower St Mary Lake near Glacier National Park on RV trip-min

The east side of Glacier National Park may be its more beautiful side.

For Park visitors that arrive early in the season, like we did, the views outside the Park are almost as stunning as the Going to the Sun Road, and there’s very little traffic.

Lower St Mary Lake reflections near Glacier National Park Montana-min

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US-89 runs through the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, and some lucky souls have homes overlooking the lake. We spotted one on the far shore. How cool!

Reflections Lower St Mary Lake Glacier National Park Montana-min

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Out in the pastures we saw some horses romping around too. Beautiful!

Horses running near Glacier National Park Montana-min

Horses ran free in a nearby pasture.

Our goal this year was to visit Many Glacier, one of the most spectacular spots in Glacier National Park and a place we had never visited before. As we anticipated, our photos from there will fill an entire upcoming blog post! Once we finished our visit, we were back out on glorious US-89 once again heading south, this time with sunshine.

Mountain views east of Glacier National Park Montana on an RV trip-min

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At one pullout a dirt road beckoned us to take a walk towards the mountains.

Trekking down a road towards Glacier National Park Montana-min

Buddy leads us into the mountain views.

Stream and mountain views Glacier National Park Montana-min

A river runs through it.

The wildflowers were blossoming in all their glory.

In the past, we have searched high and low for fields of wildflowers to photograph, often with little success. But it seems that the best way to find anything super special in this life is not to go looking for it! Here we were soaking in the awe-inspiring mountain views when we discovered we were surrounded by fields of wildflowers.

Glacier National Park mountains with wildflowers-min

Mountains and wildflowers.

Wildflowers in northern Montana-min

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Buddy posed by some flowers for a pic.

Puppy in wildflowers in Montana-min

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The flowers inside Glacier National Park might be more plentiful and the mountains might be taller and craggier than what we saw on this special scenic drive outside the Park, but it was pretty darn gorgeous.

Glacier National Park mountains with wildflowers-min

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Wildflowers and views of Glacier National Park Montana-min

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Wildflowers east of Glacier National Park on Montana RV trip-min

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For RVers heading to Glacier National Park, the trek from the more heavily visited west side to the less visited east side is a 100 mile trip. But despite the extra miles it is well worth doing, not just for the majestic scenery inside the Park at Two Medicine, St. Mary and Many Glacier, but for the eye-popping views you’ll see on the way there and back!

RV trip to the east side of Glacier National Park Montana at St Mary Lake-min

US-89 is easy to drive with a big rig and there are lots of large pullouts where you can stop and savor the view.

Please note that there was construction on US-89 when we drove it in June 2018. We experienced long delays as a pilot car led groups of vehicles through the lengthy construction zone. Hopefully next year the road improvements will be finished and it will be a breeze to drive!

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Glacier National Park Entrances on the East Side:

More info about the eastern side of Glacier National Park:

Other blog posts from Waterton-Glacier National Park:

PLUS – All of our blog posts from Montana
PLUS – Links to all our visits to the National Parks

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“Going to the Sun” from Glacier National Park’s East Side – Breathtaking!

June 2016 – During our visit to the east side of Montana’s Glacier National Park, we saw lots of storm clouds roll in and out, and at dawn and dusk the sky lit up in astonishing patterns and colors.

RV at sunset Glacier National Park Montana

We saw some amazing light shows in the sky.

The Going to the Sun Road is the famous and extraordinarily scenic drive that cuts through the center of the park from west to east, and one great way to do it is on one of the Red Bus Tours. Many of these buses were built by the White Motor Company in the early 1900’s but have been converted to run on propane and gasoline. Some have been in service since the 1930’s!

Glacier National Park Red Bus Tour

Here’s a fun way to tour Glacier National Park – with a Red Bus Tour!

We saw the red buses all over the place. They have tours of the west side of the park and tours of the east side of the park.

Red Bus Tour Glacier National Park Montana

What a classy ride!

Sometimes we saw them in groups of two or three. With the top of the bus rolled back, folks could stand up inside to take pics of the mountains with a totally unobstructed view. This seemed like the best way to enjoy this incredible drive, as the traffic can be pretty intense. Why not leave the driving to someone else?

Three Red Bus Tours Glacier National Park Montana

We saw the red buses everywhere!

Of course, there are many ways to enjoy the Going to the Sun Road, and driving it in a Led Zeppelin van looked pretty cool too.

Stairway to Heaven on the Going to the Sun Road

Take a drive up the Stairway to Heaven on the Going to the Sun Raod!

The views of Saint Mary Lake on the east side are just gorgeous, and we marveled at the ever changing colors of the water and the sky as the storms rolled in and out.

Saint Mary Lake Glacier National Park Montana

Saint Mary Lake – teal blue water under misty gray skies.

One of the nice things about driving your own vehicle (especially if you have a sweet hubby who chauffeurs you around) is that you can stop in every single pullout and see what’s there. We found wildflowers blooming on the banks of Saint Mary Lake.

Wildflowers Saint Mary Lake Glacier National Park Montana

Pretty flowers throw a splash of color in the greenery.

At the beginning of the Going to the Sun Road, we were greeted by tall, craggy, gray mountains that didn’t have a whole lot of snow on their peaks.

Going to the Sun Road Glacier National Park Montana

Going to the Sun!!

As the road twisted and turned and rose higher, the mountains grew taller too, and they were dressed in their snowy white best. The road snuck right through a mountain at one point too!

Tunnel Going to the Sun Road Glacier National Park Montana

The Going to the Sun Road has snowy peaks and cool tunnels!

The temperatures quickly cooled as we climbed higher, and the snow on the highest peaks got thicker.

Snowcapped mountains Glacier National Park Montana

Mid-June in Glacier National Park!

Near the top, we found ourselves rounding a tight curve that took in an incredible view of the vivd green valley floor. What a setting!

Happy camper Glacier National Park Montana

The views down into the valleys from the Going to the Sun Road are stunning.

There were patches of snow on the ground in the valley, and the tall evergreens seemed miniscule so far below us.

Snow and trees Going to the Sun Road Glacier National Park Montana

Patches of snow were tucked between the trees in the valley.

In 1995, Waterton-Glacier National Park was named a World Heritage Site.

A century earlier, America and Canada joined hands across the border to to unite their adjacent National Parks, Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, Canada, and Glacier National Park in Montana, USA.

12,000 years ago, thick, moving slabs of ice and snow — glaciers – carved the valleys between these towering mountains, giving them a distinctive U-shape.

Glacier valleys Glacier National Park Montana

Eons ago, glaciers carved wonderful U-shaped valleys.

Waterton-Glacier National Park is referred to as the “Crown of the Continent,” and no wonder. The spiky mountains that encircle the valleys and lakes look like a crown.

This area also straddles the Continental Divide, the ridge that runs north-south down the continent and separates the water flow through the eastern states provinces from that going through the western ones. The water that spills down the mountains from the Continental Divide in streams and rivers heads towards the two opposite and very distant oceans, the Atlantic and the Pacific.

Happy Campers Glacier National Park Montana

Happy campers on the Crown of the Continent.

Far below us, tucked between the cliffs and grassy slopes and pine trees, we spotted a waterfall that was about a quarter inch tall from our vantage point. No doubt this is a tall cascade that plunges down with a thunderous roar.

Waterfall Glacier National Park Montana

Far below us we saw a tiny waterfall.
A zoom lens brings it in close!

We found another waterfall right alongside the Going to the Sun road near the top of the continent’s crown. This one was wide and shallow, and it scurried this way and that as it rushed downhill between the rocks.

Waterfall Going to the Sun Road Glacier National Park Montana

We explored a beautiful wide waterfall right by the road.

Up near the visitors center at Logan Pass, the snow was still very deep in places.

Thick Snow Glacier National Park Montana

Mark stands by a wall of snow at the visitors center.

Snow covered much of the ground, and it was really fun to follow the little animal tracks in the snow until they disappeared into round and deep holes. We didn’t see anyone peeking out of their burrows, but we knew they were under there. We threw a few snowballs at each other too!

Snow Glacier National Park Montana

The Going to the Sun Road had just opened at Logan Pass when we were there in mid-June!

There are three entrances to Glacier National Park on the east side. The Going to the Sun Road starts/ends in Saint Mary, but 37 miles south of there is the entrance at Two Medicine, near the town of East Glacier Park Village.

Two Medicine is home to a fabulous historic log building that was once part of the Two Medicine Chalet rustic vacation destination built by the Great Northern Railway in the early 1900’s. Today it is just the Two Medicine Store, but it offers a little bit of everything to visitors.

From souvenirs to guidebooks, hiking gear and tourist info, they also serve fancy fluffy lattes and yummy lunch fare and bottled microbrew beer. This cute cabin in the middle of nowhere has everything the modern hiker needs!

The Lodge at Two Medicine Glacier National Park Montana

This simple log building serves up cheap beer and lattes as well as yummy lunches and souvenirs.

We were shocked at how reasonable the prices were too, especially after visiting the village of Waterton in the heart of Waterton Lakes National Park where the prices of certain essential food items (beer) were more than double the norm.

We were also very intrigued to chat with our latte barista and find out she was a college student from Colorado who was working at the store as a summer job. Her boyfriend was also working a summer job nearby at Amtrak’s East Glacier Park station.

People often wonder how to make a living while RVing full-time. One option is to get fun seasonal jobs at popular tourist destinations. You just have to be as much of a go-getter as a college kid and be willing to do things like make espresso drinks or work at a train depot!

Inside the lodge at Two Medicine Glacier National Park Montana

Inside the historic Two Medicine Store.

Mark had just purchased a Rokinon 12 mm lens for his camera, and he was absolutely loving the very wide angles that it could capture. He also found it made fantastic starbursts, so he had a wide-angle-starburst theme going for a lot of his photos at Two Medicine.

Starburst Two Medicine Glacier National Park Montana

A fiery sun shines on Two Medicine Lake.

Two Medicine Lake is a beauty. We wanted to get out on it for the little boat ride that goes across, but we ended up saving that treat for our next visit!

Beach Two Medicine Glacier National Park Montana

Two Medicine offers Glacier National Park beauty with a bit of peace and solitude to go with.

There are lots of canoe rentals, and this lake would be a great place for a kayak too, especially in the mornings before the wind picks up.

Canoes Two Medicine Glacier National Park Montana

Rental canoes wait for a ride at Two Medicine.

Besides camera-created starbursts in the sky, we also loved seeing the stunning crepuscular rays at sunset when the sun lit the sky on fire.

RV in sunset Glacier National Park Montana

The changeable weather at Glacier National Park created some wonderful sunrises and sunsets.

On the morning we left Glacier National Park, the gods treated us to some unbelievable theatrics in the heavens. It began innocently enough with a beautiful pastel sunrise over the mountains. The thick forest of dead trees below seemed to mirror the shades of gray in the heavy moisture-laden clouds.

Sunrise over dead trees Glacier National Park Montana

Storm clouds mirror the dead gray forest while pink shades dance in the sky.

As we drove, the sky began to turn wild shades of yellow and orange, and heavy rain fell from the clouds in the distance. We pulled over the enjoy the spectacle and were stunned by the light show that followed.

RV in dawn stormy skies Glacier National Park Montana

As we were leaving, the sky went wild.

The rising sun cut across the valley and lit the mountains in the distance with soft orange hues while rain fell from black clouds. Suddenly a brilliant rainbow appeared.

RV in rainbow stormy skies Glacier National Park Montana

Wow.

We ran around like mad snapping photos, and as if in joyful response to our excitement, the rainbow got brighter and brighter.

RV under rainbow Glacier National Park Montana

The rainbow seemed to jump out of the clouds!

Then a second rainbow appeared outside the first one. This surely meant double good luck — but which one led to the pot of gold??

RV in a double rainbow Montana

And then there were two rainbows, one inside the other.

The outer rainbow eventually faded, so we knew it wasn’t that one! Off in the distance the remaining rainbow seemed to fall right into the heart of the valley below.

Rainbow Glacier National Park Montana

The rainbow ultimately aims right at the pot of gold down in the valley at Glacier National Park.

As clouds slowly parted and we made our way back to our buggy, we were breathless with excitement. What a sensational light show that had been.

Rainbow Glacier National Park Montana

The rainbow lands in the middle of the forest of dead trees, promising a new beginning.

We loved our visits to Glacier National Park this year, both the west side and on the east side. If you have a hankering to take an RV trip there too, there are more links for planning your adventure below.

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More info about the east side of Glacier National Park:

Other blog posts from our RV travels to Glacier National Park:

Other blog posts from our travels where the Sky went Wild

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Glacier National Park’s Quieter Side – Saint Mary

June 2016 – After nearly six weeks in the Canadian Rockies, it felt funny to cross over the border with our trailer and be “home” again in America. And what a gorgeous spot we landed in — the east side of Glacier National Park in Montana! We were welcomed home with some incredible sunrises and sunsets.

RV at sunset in Montana

The mountain clouds gave us some incredible sunrises and sunsets.

Glacier National Park is joined with Canada’s Waterton Lakes National Park just over the border from the eastern side of Glacier National Park to create Waterton-Glacier National Park, and the beautiful scenery around St. Mary Lake was very reminiscent of the vivid blues and towering mountains we had been enjoying in Waterton Lakes National Park for the last two weeks.

Saint Mary Lake Glacier National Park Montana

Saint Mary Lake is reminiscent of Upper Waterton Lake just over the border in Canada.

There are three entrances to the eastern side of Glacier National Park, one at Many Glacier, one at St. Mary and one at Two Medicine.

Glacier National Park’s eastern side is adjacent to the Black Foot Indian Reservation, so the communities have a distinctly Indian flavor. We were amused to see a series of teepees set up for visitors who wanted to camp the way the Indians used to.

Indian Teepees in East Glacier Montana

Tired of your RV? Try a teepee!

The main entrance to Glacier National Park’s eastern side is at the tiny community of Saint Mary where the eastern half of the Going to the Sun Road that bisects the park from west to east comes to an end after passing by stunning Saint Mary Lake.

St Mary Lake Glacier National Park Montana

Saint Mary Lake

There are many different hikes in Glacier National Park on both the eastern and western sides and in the middle too! We were on the hunt for wildflowers, and a ranger told us there were some beauties on the Beaver Pond Loop trail right by the ranger’s station at the St. Mary entrance.

So we set out on that trail behind a mom and her three year old daughter who was a real trooper. This is a flat and easy hike that took us out towards the bright blue lake.

Beaver Pond Loop Hike Glacier National Park Montana

The easy Beaver Pond Loop hike is not notable or exotic or a signature hike, but we enjoyed it very much.

The ranger was right about the flowers. They weren’t in thick abundance in vast fields the way we’ve seen in some photos of Saint Mary Lake, but they were definitely there, scattered about the meadows.

Wildflowers Glacier National Park Montana

Wildflowers were in bloom… wonderful!

Lupine wildflower East Glacier National Park Montana

A pretty lupine (“loopin”)

The flowers were so pretty it was impossible not to sit down among them.

Little girl in the flowers East Glacier National Park Montana

Simple pleasures.

Daisy blooming East Glacier National Park Montana St Mary

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The trail also took us through some nice stands of aspen and other wooded settings. Mark was totally in his element. He is a woods guy and a true tree hugger.

Tree hugger Glacier National Park Montana

Mark embraces his roots.

The most beautiful parts of the trail were a few off-shoots that went down to the pebbly beaches on Saint Mary Lake.

Saint Mary Lake Glacier National Park Montana

Saint Mary Lake has the lovely teal blue color created by glaciers.

The wind was quite strong and small waves lapped the beach, one after another.

Sitting at Saint Mary Lake Glacier National Park Montana

The strong wind kept the waves coming.

The hike crossed the meadows before turning into the woods and then delivering us to the beach again.

Hiking Beaver Pond Loop Trail Glacier National Park Montana

Hiking across the meadows.

Saint Mary Lake Glacier National Park Montana

What a view!

Near the end, we came across the original Park Ranger’s cabin for the eastern side of Glacier National Park. Built in 1913, the stories on the plaques told amazing tales of what it was like to live in this remote outpost with nothing but nature all around back in those days.

Ranger's cabin St Mary East Glacier National Park Montana

Back in the 1910’s, this is where the ranger and his family lived. No car, no stores…

One of the early rangers, Chance Beebe, went out hiking on patrol one day (there were no roads for cars in those days, and he preferred hiking to riding a horse). His wife and child were back at the cabin patiently waiting for him to return.

Suddenly, she heard something rattling around up in the attic of the log cabin. It was a mountain lion! He had jumped in from a tree through the open attic window!! Luckily, the mountain lion eventually went on his way, and she and her child were okay. When she told her husband about it later, he knew she wasn’t making it up when he saw lion paw prints in the dust in the attic!

The attic window has a wooden door covering it now, but the ground level window gives a glimpse of the simple life lived by the ranger’s family 100 years ago.

Ranger's house St Mary Glacier National Park Montana

Life was so rustic, the ranger’s wife discovered a mountain lion in the attic. Yikes!

One of the duties for rangers, both then and now, was to keep an eye on wildfires and try to extinguish them. In recent years, due in large part to mismanagement of the forests and wooded areas for a century, wildfires have become particularly intense.

Towards the end of the Beaver Pond Loop hike we came across a stand of trees that had been bleached silver by the sun during the years since a wildfire swept through the area. The tree trunks swayed and creaked in the breeze, as if they were talking with one another.

Live and dead trees East Glacier National Park Montana

Remnants of wildfires are prominently visible in all of the National Parks, and we found a ghostly tree community that was ravaged a while ago.

It was eerie and beautiful at the same time. We felt as though we had come across a community of ghostly tree spirits standing in each other’s company today just as they had for decades, but without even a hint an animal’s footsteps or the faintest rustle of a leaf.

Wildfire dead trees Glacier National Park Montana Saint Mary

The tree tops bent and swayed and knocked into each other and made wonderfully eerie noises.

We stayed among these skinny souls for a long time, looking for ways to capture the wistful beauty of this silver world.

Dead trees Glacier National Park St Mary Lake Montana

There was a special aura here that gave us a feeling of reverence.

The most famous part of Glacier National Park is the Going to the Sun Road, and we drove it many times during our stay. For a few days, the weather was misty and soggy, and the towering mountains were as mysterious as they were majestic.

Going to the Sun Road Saint Mary Glacier National Park Montana

The Going to the Sun Road looked more like the Driving Into the Mist Road.

On July 21, 2015, a wildfire erupted right along this road, sending huge plumes of smoke in the air and torching the forest. Again, we found ourselves wandering through wildfire devastation, but this one had happened just one year prior. And again, we found ourselves witness to an unexpected beauty.

The trees were wet from the mist and rain, and they still bore the scars of charring from the fire. The bark was peeling off many of them, revealing rich brown wood beneath, and tiny hints of life grew at their feet.

Stand of dead trees from Reynolds Creek Wildfire Glacier National Park

Last year’s fire was a fresh memory for these trees.

One of the surprise blessings of a big wildfire like this along a famous scenic road is that it opens up the view.

As the years have gone by, many of the most scenic roads in America’s National Park system have lost their views because the trees that were saplings when the road was built have grown tall and strong — and totally blocked the view.

We found this was true on much of the Blue Ridge Parkway, and we have seen it on many other scenic drives as well. So, although our hearts broke at the way the woods were stripped of life in a matter of days last summer, we loved being able to see the lake between the remaining trunks!

Continuing on, around one bend we noticed a thicket of bright blue wildflowers that jumped out from the misty backgdrop of mountains. They were growing right along the rocky cliffs.

Wildflowers on a cliff Glacier National Park St Mary Lake Montana

The gods threw a splash of color onto our gray day with wildflowers growing on a rocky cliff.

We snuck closer and saw they were growing against orange lichen covered rocks. Mother Nature had chosen a very colorful palette for her handiwork once again.

Wildflowers on cliffs Glacier National Park Montana

Bright blue flowers and orange lichen on the rocks. Wonderful!

There were several different types of blue flowers, each a slightly different shade. We loved them all!

Wildflowers Glacier National Park Montana

The wildflowers at Glacier National Park were delightful.

The East side of Glacier National Park is the much less visited side. The villages on the east side are tiny, with just a few stores and family restaurants for the tourists. But in many ways it is the more beautiful side.

Although the Going to the Sun Road is not a good road for any but the smallest RVs, it is easy to reach Saint Mary and the other eastern villages from the western side of Glacier National Park with an RV simply by driving from west to east on Route 2 south of the park.

It is also an ideal jumping off point for a visit to eye-popping Waterton Lakes National Park just a few miles over the Canadian border.

RV Sunset Glacier National Park Saint Mary Montana

The east side of Glacier National Park is the less visited side, but it may be the more beautiful too!

There are more RV trip planning links below…

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A Little More info About Saint Mary and the East side of Glacier National Park:

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Waterton Lakes Nat’l Park – Starry Skies, the Milky Way & Wildflowers

June 2016 – Waterton Lakes National Park enchanted us. After all the grand and imposing majesty of the Canadian Rocky Mountains that we had seen in our RV trip on the other side of this mountain range at Banff and Jasper National Parks, there was an intimacy, charm and quiet elegance to Waterton Lakes that was very refreshing.

Prince of Wales Hotel Waterton Lakes National Parks Canada

Waterton Lakes National Park… Stunning!

The Prince of Wales Hotel really sets the stage for this special feeling at Waterton Lakes. We snuck down to the water’s edge one evening to get some photos of it reflecting its inviting warmth onto the lake.

Prince of Wales Hotel at night Waterton Lakes National Park Canada

The Prince of Wales Hotel has an inviting glow at night.

How rare it is to find this unique combination of natural beauty juxtaposed with man-made beauty in a National Park.

Prince of Wales Hotel Waterton Lakes National Park Canada

Prince of Wales Hotel, Waterton Lakes National Park

There was something about that hotel glowing across the water that just looked so appealing. It must be quite a place to stay!

Prince of Wales Hotel at night Waterton Lakes National Parks Canada

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One thing we discovered quickly is that the night skies in Waterton Lakes National Park are extremely dark and absolutely jam packed with stars. The park is 35 miles away from the nearest “big” town, and by “big” I mean 3,700 people. So there aren’t any city lights to block out the view of the stars.

We crept out in the wee hours of the morning one night and got a quick pic of the buggy hanging out under the Milky Way. Wow!!

RV Roads Less Traveled Milky Way Waterton Lakes National Park Canada

Our buggy loves camping under the Milky Way!

This gave me an idea to set up a time-lapse video showing the Milky Way moving across the sky. Watching the result after I woke up in the morning was a total thrill!

So I did it again the next night and again the next. I combined all three nights into one 36 second video (below) which is very cool.

The first two sequences in the video show the movement of the stars between an hour after sunset and an hour before sunrise, revealing the entire night passage of the Milky Way on two different nights.

Since it was mid-June, we were nearly at the Summer Solistice, and because we were above the 49th parallel, the nights were darn short! So, the time-lapse videos from each night run from 11:45 pm until 4:15 am. There’s not much nighttime in those parts at that time of year!!

The third overnight sequence in this time-lapse video captures a bit of the Northern Lights playing in the sky for a short while just after midnight. Then, suddenly, the sky clears and you can see the Milky Way’s march across the sky that goes on all the time as our planet does its pirouettes across the heavens.

Shortly after we had all this fun capturing the Milky Way in still images and time-lapse videos, we read an article that said that 80% of the earth’s inhabitants have never had the good fortune to see the Milky Way, because our night skies all around the world are so full of artificial light.

The article went on to say that during a city-wide power outage in 1994 in Los Angeles which was caused by the huge Northridge earthquake, the police got calls from frightened residents claiming there was a big scary silvery cloud hovering overhead!

As the time went by during our stay in gorgeous Waterton Lakes National Park, we found our days were action packed.

Besides taking the wonderful Waterton Shoreline Cruise on the historic ship MV International along the length of the park from Waterton down to Glacier National Park in Montana and back (blog post here), we also got out on our bikes on the fabulous paved trail that wanders along the water and out of town a ways.

Bike Prince of Wales Hotel Waterton Lakes National Parks Canada

We loved the paved bike paths (and walking/running trails) around Waterton Lakes.

What a fantastic trail this is. The mountains soared into the sky all around us.

Bicycle Path Waterton Lakes National Parks Canada

Mark rode off ahead of me into the pages of a cycling brochure!

It is a fun, rolling ride that has a few tight turns. Reminders on the pavement — in French as well as English — kept us from going too fast!!

Sign on pavement at Waterton Lakes National Parks Canada

It was fun seeing official signs in French as well as English, even on the pavement.

We ran on this trail and walked on it too. We never got tired of the views!

Bicycle path Waterton Lakes National Parks Canada

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There’s great cycling on the roads as well, and we saw some cycling groups going by. This is a fairly remote place, so the traffic on the roads was pretty light, making for some great road riding.

Cyclists Waterton Lakes National Parks Canada

The roads around Waterton Lakes National Park are great for cycling too.

But Waterton Lakes can be enjoyed by other means besides a shoreline cruise on a boat or a bike ride. We saw a group of horseback riders out enjoying the views too!

Horseback riders Waterton Lakes National Parks Canada

A group on horseback took in the views across Upper Waterton Lake.

The Red Rock Parkway is one of the main roads in Waterton Lakes, but it was closed for most of our time there. It did open on the weekends, though, and we had a chance to drive this wonderful scenic drive one Sunday.

Akamina Parkway Waterton Lakes National Parks Canada

The Red Rock Parkway took us into more distant parts of the park.

It’s a very pretty drive, and at the end is lovely Red Rock Canyon. It is a neat surprise to see red rocks amid all this green and blue scenery!

Red Rock Canyon Waterton Lakes National Parks Canada

It was such a great surprise to find red rocks in this
mountain-and-lakes National Park.

There was a thin stream of water flowing down the rocks, and we caught it in silky slow motion.

Red Rock Canyon Waterton Lakes National Parks Canada

Red Rock Canyon was a pretty place to explore.

What we really wanted to see, though, was wildflowers, and these were scattered along the meadows on either side of Red Rock Parkway. We didn’t see huge fields of them, but instead we found tiny individual flowers of all different kinds.

Yellow wildflower Waterton Lakes National Park Canada

We found a pretty little wildflower looking up at the sun.

Pink round wildflower Waterton Lakes National Park Canada

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Wildflower Waterton Lakes National Park Canada

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Some of these were just the size of the end of my finger, and they were really delicate too.

Pink Wildflower Waterton Lakes National Park Canada

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Mark discovered a little bed of lady slipper flowers. I’m used to these guys being fairly big (and pink!), but the tiny white ones he found were the size of a marble, if that. I loved the twisted pairs of ribboned leaves on each one. They were like the satin ribbons on ballet slippers… for Thumbelina or Tinkerbell!

Ladyslipper wildflower Waterton Lakes National Park Canada

This tiny lady slipper is so small only Thumbelina’s foot could fit!

Ladyslipper wildflower Waterton Lakes National Park Canada

Ladyslippers… and ribbon leaves to tie them with.

We found Bear Grass and cheerful yellow daisies and more.

Bear grass Waterton Lakes National Park Canada

Bear grass was blooming everywhere.

Yellow wildflowers Waterton Lakes National Park Canada

Some yellow daisies warm their petals in the sun.

Pink Wildflower Waterton Lakes National Park Canada

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Dandelion flower Waterton Lakes National Park Canada

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We were both in our element for a few hours sitting amid the flowers in the meadows. I know there are great hikes out on the Red Rock Parkway, but we couldn’t tear ourselves away from this little dollhouse world of flowers.

Sitting in the wildflowers Waterton Lakes National Park Canada

We didn’t get much hiking or exercise in, but communing with the wildflowers sure was fun.

When we returned to town we were greeted by a pair of friendly deer.

Deer at campsite Waterton Lakes National Parks Canada

The fearless and ever so curious deer at Waterton Lakes were a highlight for us!

And a chipmunk showed us just how tall he could stand when there was a prize to be had.

Chipmunk reaching for food

This little chipmunk did tricks for us.

Waterton Lakes National Park is a really special destination, and it’s ideal for an RV trip. There’s a big campground with a variety of amenities in town and it’s just a stone’s throw over the border from the east side of Glacier National Park in Montana!

Class C Motorhome Waterton Lakes National Parks Canada

Waterton Lakes National Park is a wonderful destination for an RV trip!!

If you are planning an RV road trip to Waterton Lakes, there are more tips and links below.

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More info about Waterton Lakes National Park and RVing in Canada:


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Waterton Shoreline Cruise – A Classy Tour of Waterton-Glacier NP

June 2016 – During our stay in Waterton Lakes National Park, we kept seeing an absolutely gorgeous tour boat parked at the main dock in town, just below the Prince of Wales Hotel. It turned out that this boat is the Waterton Shoreline Cruise and takes people on a two hour tour of Upper Waterton Lake, the main lake in the park.

All aboard Waterton Shoreline Cruise Waterton Lakes National Park Canada

The Waterton Shoreline Cruise is a really fun way to see Waterton-Glacier National Park.

We were intrigued. It would be such a delight to see Waterton-Glaicer National Park from the water!

Prince of Wales Hotel Waterton Shoreline Cruise Waterton-Glacier National Park Canada

The MV International sails past the Prince of Wales Hotel

We read up a little on this cool cruise and found out that the boat, the MV International, cruises down the lake and crosses the international border between Canada and the US several times a day in the summertime.

It leaves from the village of Waterton in Waterton Lakes National Park and sails to the little landing dock at tiny Goat Haunt in Montana’s Glacier National Park.

MV International Waterton Shoreline Cruise Waterton-Glacier National Park

The MV International cruises Waterton Lake every day.

So, we got in line one day and boarded along with a big crowd of eager tourists. Little did we know that this was the maiden voyage for the season. How cool is that!

Taking the cruise midweek in early June, there was no concern about needing to sign up in advance. But on the weekends and on most days later in the season it’s best to get tickets a little ahead of time.

Boarding Waterton Shoreline Cruise Waterton-Glacier National Park Canada

“All Aboard!”

It was a beautiful sunny day, and we took a seat on the wooden benches on the upper deck along with everyone else.

Our host, Kevin, took the microphone and began pointing out the landmarks on the shore and telling us the history of this unique National Park that holds hands across the US/Canadian border with its twin sister, Glacier National Park in Montana.

Prince of Wales Hotel Waterton Shoreline Cruise Waterton Lakes National Park Canada

Our host Kevin told us about the history of Waterton-Glacier National Park

We headed out past the beautiful mountains on the far shore that had grown so familiar during our stay in the tiny village of Waterton.

Mountains Waterton Shoreline Cruise Waterton-Glacier National Park Canada

We cruised past stunning scenery.

And then the new mountains appeared before us as we made our way down the exquisite corridor of Upper Waterton Lake, heading towards Goat Haunt in Glacier National Park, on the south shore.

Kevin explained to us about how a 1909 treaty between the US and Canada joined the Glacier National Park and Waterton Lakes National Park together and created Waterton-Glacier National Park.

We learned that glaciers are huge masses of ice that are in perpetual motion, slowly moving across the landscape and grinding up the rocks beneath them.

Waterton Lakes National Park doesn’t have any glaciers any more but Montana’s Glacier National Park still has 25 of them. They are melting fast, however, and scientists predict that there will be no glaciers left in these parts by the year 2030, a mere 14 years from now.

However, there are loads of glaciers in the Canadian Rockies, and a wonderful place to play on one is at the Columbia Icefields on the Icefields Parkway in Jasper National Park.

Waterton Shoreline Cruise Waterton Lakes National Park Canada

On our way! We headed south on Upper Waterton Lake towards Glacier National Park in Montana!

We were free to move around and explore the boat, and I got a kick out of peering into the pilothouse where our captain, Phil, and his deckhand, Jack, were manning the ship.

Pilothouse Underway Waterton Shoreline Cruise Waterton-Glacier National Park Canada

I snuck a peek inside the pilothouse.

During the course of our ride, clouds began to form and the air cooled down quite a bit. I went down below to warm up for a few minutes, and I found a little boy and girl peering out a window and pointing.

Kids on Waterton Shoreline Cruise Waterton Lakes National Park Canada

Down below two kids were pressed to the windows.

The boy was excitedly explaining something to the girl. I listened to him and then caught snippets of our host Kevin talking on the loudspeaker and realized that a black bear had been spotted on a hillside. Captain Phil had slowed the boat so we could all catch a glimpse of the bear in the distance.

I didn’t see the bear, but the kids were awfully cute!!

Window view Waterton Shoreline Cruise Waterton-Glacier National Park Canada

The big brother pointed out the bear to his little sister.

Shortly after that, our captain slowed the boat again as we crossed the international border between Canada and the United States. It was very cool to look up in the dense woods and see a thin line of cleared trees that defined the border and to see the engraved stone monuments that mark the border by the shore.

This is a true international border, and sure enough, we saw US Border Patrol zip by on their speedboat just as we crossed into the US side of the lake.

US Canadian Border Waterton Lakes National Park

We slowed down as we passed the international border.

We didn’t need passports to do the two hour cruise, but a few people on board were planning to do a hike at our turnaround point in Montana and then catch a later boat back, or even hike the seven miles back to Waterton. So, they had brought their passports and had to clear US Customs and Immigration (a casual affair on a folding table at Goat Haunt) before hitting the trail.

Once we were across the border and had all gotten photos of this unique spot, Captain Phil sped up again. In no time we were at our turnaround point, Goat Haunt in Montana’s Glacier National Park.

Goathaunt dock Waterton Shoreline Cruise Waterton Lakes National Park Canada

We arrive in Goat Haunt, Glacier National Park, Montana!

But we couldn’t get off right away because our captain spotted two black bears on the trail between the boat dock and the ranger station as we tied up! We all stayed on the boat for a few minutes while the bears quietly made their way down the path and off into the woods.

This made for lots of excited chatter between all of us passengers as we got off the boat to stretch our legs and wander along the edge of the water. What a neat sighting!

Goat Haunt dock Waterton Shoreline Cruise Waterton Lakes National Park Canada

Goat Haunt is wonderfully remote.

The hikers all headed to a folding table outside the ranger station to go through the clearance process with Customs and Immigration before beginning their hikes. The rest of us took in the view back up the lake.

Goat Haunt view of Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada

Nice!!

The woods were thick and very quiet. Unlike the other end of the lake where the adorable village of Waterton is filled with tourist boutiques, pretty eateries, a campground, hotels and a treelined shore, this end of the lake was virgin forest.

Wildflowers were blooming and we got a few photos of some pretty ones.

Wildflowers blooming Waterton Shoreline Cruise Waterton-Glacier National Park Canada

Pretty wildflowers were in bloom along the water’s edge.

Our stop was just 30 minutes long, so we wandered back towards the boat. Captain Phil was in the pilothouse ready to go, and he blew the ship’s horn to let everyone on shore know that we’d be leaving in a few minutes.

Pilothouse Waterton Shoreline Cruise Waterton Lakes National Park Canada

Captain Phil in the wheelhouse.

Gradually everyone came up the gang plank and took a seat on the deck or down below.

Goat Haunt Boarding Waterton Shoreline Cruise Waterton-Glacier National Park Canada

When the boat’s whistle blew, we all boarded the MV International for our ride back.

We made our way to the bow of the boat and found a little girl there with her mom. She was just loving the ride. She took a bunch of photos and then spread her arms wide. I’m not sure if she’d seen the move Titanic, but her sheer joy made us smile!

Titanic Waterton Shoreline Cruise Waterton Lakes National Park Canada

A little girl channels Kate Winslet on Titanic.

Bow selfie Waterton Shoreline Cruise Waterton Lakes National Park Canada

We went for a more conventional selife!!

The M/V International is a historic boat that has been taking tourists on rides on Waterton Lake for decades. The boat is in beautiful condition and is lovingly maintained.

Mark tried to order room service up on deck, but there’s no food service on this short tour (LOL).

Ship talk Waterton Shoreline Cruise Waterton-Glacier National Park Canada

Mark tried to order some food from the kitchen… silly boy, that’s an air vent!

We cruised along the shore watching for bears and birds of prey. Soon the Prince of Wales Hotel appeared in the distance.

Prince of Wales Hotesl Waterton Shoreline Cruise Waterton-Glacier National Park_

The Prince of Wales Hotel looks tiny on the far shore.

Prince of Wales Hotel Waterton Shoreline Cruise Waterton Lakes National Park Canada

All too soon, we were back in Waterton where this gorgeous hotel presides over a spectacular landscape!

Our wonderful tour was over much too soon. Our host, Kevin, had done a superior job, and he happily posed for a pic with me as we were leaving the boat. What a great time we’d had!!

With the captain and crew Waterton Shoreline Cruise Waterton-Glacier National Park Canada

Our host Kevin posed for a pic with me while deckhand Jack looked on from the ship.

If you are visiting Waterton Lakes National Park, be sure to get out on the water. There are multiple cruises to Goat Haunt every day, and there are a variety of hikes on the far shore as well.

Next time we visit, we are going to take the shorter cruise across the width of the lake to do the Crypt Lake Hike. This hike has been voted Canada’s Best Hike is rated by National Geographic as one of the World’s 20 most thrilling trails.

Waterton Shoreline Cruise Waterton Lakes National Park Canada

A magical tour at Waterton Lakes National Park!!

For those lucky enough to go on this cruise, here are a few tips:

  • Dress in layers. The wind can blow hard on this lake. We wore jackets for most of the trip out because we had a cold headwind. On the way back, we wore short sleeves because we didn’t even feel the tailwind and the sun was warm!
  • Bring binoculars or a long telephoto lens just in case there’s some exciting wildlife on shore.
  • Bring whatever snacks and water you might need. There’s no food service on the boat. There’s no bathroom either, but there are nice bathrooms at the turnaround point at Goat Haunt.
  • Consider doing one of the hikes at Goat Haunt and catching a later boat back to Waterton. If you hike, bring bug spray, as there can be mosquitos, and bring your passport too.

There is more info and more links for planning purposes below…

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Waterton Lakes Shoreline Cruise Info:

Waterton Lakes National Park and Camping Info:

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Waterton Lakes National Park – Rocky Mountain High!

June 2016 – Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, Canada, is the northern tip of Montana’s Glacier National Park, and the two adjacent parks are united across the border of Canada and America as an “International Peace Park.” We’d heard rumors over the years that it was really beautiful, but when we got there, we found it is much more than that.

Waterton Lakes National Park is breathtaking!

Prince of Wales Hotel Waterton Lakes National Park Alberta Canada

Here’s the view that greets visitors as they drive into Waterton Lakes National Park. Incredible!!

Where we had found that the four Canadian Rockies National Parks surrounding Lake Louise and Banff are awe-inspiring, with bold, jagged soaring peaks, and stunning scenic drives on internationally renowned highways, with big, trendy towns that give the international public easy access to all there is to see, and while the Kananskis is a spectacular area beloved by locals from Calgary, Waterton Lakes offers yet another twist on Rocky Mountains travel — eye-popping beauty in a remote locale that is intimate and charming at the same time.

Waterton Lakes National Park Alberta Canada

Waterton Lakes!

The glorious Rocky Mountains undulate around the long and narrow Waterton Lakes, and the historic Prince of Wales Hotel stands on a bluff in the middle of it all, completing Nature’s masterpiece with flair.

Prince of Wales Hotel Waterton Lakes National Park Alberta Canada

The historic Prince of Wales Hotel is a stunner.

The Prince of Wales Hotel is as grand inside as out, and as we wandered around inside we were floored by the dining room where you can enjoy a meal with an incredible view out enormous plate glass windows.

Picture windows Prince of Wales Hotel Waterton Lakes National Park Alberta Canada

Fine dining with a view — or High Tea if you wish!

Dining room view Prince of Wales Hotel Waterton Lakes National Park Alberta Canada

What a backdrop.

A little beyond the hotel is the adorable village of Waterton. This cozy little community sits on the shores of the lake. At one end there’s a small marina.

Boats Prince of Wales Hotel 05 761 Prince of Wales Hotel Waterton Lakes National Park Alberta Canada

There is a little marina just below the Prince of Wales hotel in the village of Waterton.

This is a great spot to launch a kayak, and we saw quite a few people enjoying them.

Kayaks Waterton Lakes National Park Alberta Canada

Here’s a nice way to get out on the water.

Kayak Waterton Lakes National Park Alberta Canada

Going for a little afternoon spin…

The community here is very small and very tight knit and it is situated right in the heart of the National Park.

There are just a handful of hotels and one campground, and the whole of Waterton Lakes is miles from anywhere, so anyone coming here generally stays for a few days or a week. Faces become familiar in no time!!

The Waterton Opera House shows all kinds of movies, and it made for an ideal spot to spend a blustery “indoors” afternoon. Next door, the Waterton Coffee and Bagel shop became a frequent haunt for us in the mornings during our stay!!

Movie theater Coffee Shop Waterton Lakes National Park townsite

The town is as cute as a button, and when the weather turns ugly, a matinee at the historic
Waterton Opera House is a great way to go.

There are lots of restaurants and bistros in Waterton, as well as a small grocery store and even a laundromat. Be forewarned, though, that prices are astronomical. Provision up before getting here, and don’t be surprised if a pint at the super cute restaurant overlooking the lake is C$19. We paid a Loonie (that is, C$1) for every two minutes on the dryer at the laundromat.

For tips on currency exchange, gas prices and Parks Canada annual passes, see our blog post: RV Tips for Going to Canada.

Restaurant and pub Waterton Lakes National Park Alberta Canada

One of many little eateries around town.

The Townsite Campground is beautiful, and there are lots of sites that back right up to the waterfront.

Unfortunately, the entire Park is undergoing renovations this year (2016), so the waterfront loop of the Townsite Campground was closed during our stay. Also the two primary roads that lead to the best hikes and bike rides were also closed during our visit (see the link at the bottom of this post for current closures in the park).

Townsite Campground Waterton Lakes National Park Alberta Canada

The Townsite campground is delightful.

But even with only a portion of Waterton National Park open, it was an awesome place to explore, and we stayed for two weeks.

We weren’t the only ones sticking around. A herd of resident deer likes Waterton so much they’ve moved right into town.

Deer sleeping in shade Waterton Lakes National Park Alberta Canada

How many deer do you see in this photo?

They like the shady spots around town, and they seemed to be under every bush and alongside the shady side of every house.

Deer in the grass Waterton Lakes National Park Alberta Canada

These guys are not afraid of people at all.

Deer portrait Waterton Lakes National Park Alberta Canada

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They went about their business, doing their deer thing, as the people around them went about theirs, doing their tourist thing.

Deer nuzzle Waterton Lakes National Park Alberta Canada

Can we nuzzle, deer?

They had absolutely no qualms about people, and they entertained a good sized crowd in the main waterfront park one Saturday afternoon.

Deer in the park Waterton Lakes National Park Alberta Canada

The deer roamed between the picnic tables in the town park.

Deer at picnic Waterton Lakes National Park Alberta Canada

“What are you guys looking at on your phone?”

Deer in the park Waterton Lakes National Park Alberta Canada

“You probably don’t even see me here!”

These guys are so tame you can walk right up to them and say hello!

Deer checking me out

I have a conversation with a deer

I even got to pat one on the nose… how fun!!

Patting a deer

I’ve never petted a deer that wasn’t in a pen. Cool!

These guys probably hang around because they can get free treats.

Deer licking its lips

“Yum!”

Just behind all the deer action at the town park, the views out onto Upper Waterton Lake were gorgeous.

Sailboat Waterton Lakes National Park Alberta Canada

Waterton Lakes is absolutely stunning.

What a lovely place to go out for a sail! We noticed that the wind always picks up in the afternoon and is usually quite strong, funneling up the lake between the mountains.

Sailboat Waterton Lakes National Park Alberta Canada

Every afternoon the wind picks up and the sailors head out.

Waterton Lakes National Park is incredibly scenic and accessible and is very peaceful too.

Shoreline Waterton Lakes National Park Alberta Canada

We loved Waterton Lakes National Park and we stayed for a nice long visit.

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Waterton Lakes National Park is a fantastic destination for an RV trip. When we were there in early June, the Townsite Campground had openings every night midweek, but it was generally necessary to reserve a spot on the weekend. It is a short walk to town, there’s a shower building and flush toilets, and amenities ranged from no hookups to full hookups (eletric/water/sewer).

Blog posts from our RV travels to other parts of the Canadian Rockies:

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Glacier National Park in Montana – Mirrors at Lake McDonald

May 2016 – After enjoying a bit of the cowboy life and ranching life of the Bitterroot Valley in Montana, and then taking a zippy day trip over to charming Philipsburg, we took our RV north to Glacier National Park. This park is tucked right up against the Canadian border in northern Montana.

Lake McDonald Going to the Sun Road Glacier National Park Montana

Lake McDonald at Glacier National Park, Montana

It was early May, and the main road through the park, the Going to the Sun Road, wasn’t completely open yet due to avalanche activity in the appropriately named Avalanche Creek area.

Lake McDonald Glacier National Park Montana

Dawn lights the snowcapped peaks at Lake McDonald

But the road was open as far as Avalanche, so we took full advantage of doing a few drives up and down its length.

Dawn Glacier National Park Lake McDonald Montana

Early morning reflections.

We had been to Glacier National Park once before, back in the late summer of 2007, and we had dashed through the park so fast that we didn’t even notice the large and beautiful Lake McDonald that greets visitors coming in from the southwestern entrance. Oh my!!

Lake McDonald Glacier National Park Montana

Lake McDonald.

The early morning air was very brisk when we drove alongside this stunning lake one morning, and the trees stood utterly motionless and silent. Hardly a breath of wind stirred their leaves.

Trees at Lake McDonald Glacier National Park Montana

Trees hung over the shore at Lake McDonald

The thick woods were lined with a lush carpet of moss, and the sun filtered between the trees.

Trees on Going to the Sun Road Glacier National Park Montana

The woods were thick alongside the Going to the Sun Road

The water was like a mirror, reflecting everything in its depths.

Lake McDonald Glacier National Park RV travel

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And it was so clear that we could see each and every stone on the bottom perfectly.

Lake McDonald Glacier National Park Montana

The lake created perfect reflections with a few rocks peeking through from under the water

We stopped at McDonald Falls where the water coming down from the mountains rushed past us in a blur.

McDonald Falls Glacier National Park Going to the Sun Road Montana

McDonald Falls was moving fast!

A few wildflowers were just starting to peek their heads out here and there.

Wildflower Glacier National Park Going to the Sun Road Montana

Flowers were just beginning to bloom.

It was one of those ideal mornings that you wish could last forever.

When we got to Avalanche, we noticed that cyclists were unloading their bikes from their cars to ride a few miles further up the road. Because the road was closed to cars up ahead, they could do this wonderful bike ride without having to share the road with anyone but other bicyclists. What fun! We hadn’t brought our bikes this time, but made a mental note for the future.

This pre-season bike ride opportunity is similar to cycling the McKenzie Pass outside Bend, Oregon before it opens to motor vehicle traffic, something we had really enjoyed doing two years prior.

RV on Going to the Sun Road Glacier National Park Montana

Only the first third of the Going to the Sun Road was open to motor vehicles.

Nearby, the Hungry Horse Reservoir made for another lovely day trip. Again, we were blessed with crisp air and sunny skies.

Hungry Horse Reservoir Montana

Snowcapped mountains framed Hungry Horse Reservoir.

The road winds along the south fork of the Flathead River and along the reservoir, offering pretty views of the river and reservoir the whole way. We got out at one point and hiked down to a pebble beach where a series of tree stumps made for an eerie scene.

A man sitting in a camp chair at the trail head and working on his laptop while soaking in the view of the river told us that he remembered the river before it was dammed, back when those tree stumps were towering trees at the water’s edge.

Tree stumps at Hungry Horse Reservoir Montana

Before the river was dammed, there were tall trees on the shore.

Crossing the Hungry Horse Dam, we got a terrific view of the mountains backing the reservoir.

View from Hungry Horse Reservoir Montana

There were some beautiful views at Hungry Horse Reservoir

This would be a great road for a bike ride too, and as we stood staring at the lake a cyclist suddenly zoomed by, his eyes fixed on the pretty view too!

Cyclist checks out the view at Hungry Horse Reservoir Montana

A cyclist zoomed by

But it was Lake McDonald over in Glacier National Park that kept drawing us back. We drove the Going to the Sun road as far as we could a second time, late one afternoon, hoping for a knock-your-socks-off sunset to top it all off.

The pebble beach at the Lake McDonald Lodge was very beautiful, and we got a kick out of exploring the cabins at the Lodge, many of which were in the process of spring cleaning for the summer season.

Lake McDonald Lodge Glacier National Park Montana

Late afternoon light lit up the shores of Lake McDonald.

But we thought we might get a better view of the lake at sunset back at Apgar Village where there is a boat ramp that marches right out into the lake and offers a splendid panorama of the mountains.

Dawn at Glacier National Park Montana Lake McDonald Apgar Village

At Apgar Village there is a dock that goes right out into the lake.

We poked around on the shore waiting for this oh-so-sensational sunset to happen.

Apgar Village Glacier National Park Montana

That colorful sunset should be along any minute…

The lake undulated reflections of the mountains in shades of silver and blue.

View of Lake McDonald from Apgar Glacier National Park Montana

Silver and blue hues shimmer on Lake McDonald at dusk.

A couple came down to the dock with a photographer and did a bunch of romantic shots with the mountain backdrop behind them. They had had the same idea of catching this majestic view at the golden hour, sealing their undying love with a beautiful photo at Nature’s golden hour. But the skies just didn’t deliver that night, and the best we all got was a hint of pink.

No matter. This place is gorgeous anyway!!

Romance on Lake McDonald Glacier National Park Montana

Romance on Lake McDonald

We were on a mission to continue our RV travels north, so we didn’t stick around for the Going to the Sun Road to open up all the way to the top a few weeks later. But we loved what we saw and will hopefully be back for some wildflowers later in the season.

RV camping in Montana

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This year we traveled north from Arizona ahead of the crowds by just a bit, and it made a big difference in many ways. Not only were there few crowds (and fewer people in general), but there was still snow on the mountains. However, the flip side was that the nights were often cold and many days barely got warm. Also, we arrived before the rangers had opened certain gates and attractions for the season.

But I have to say, there’s a special intimacy to a place like Glacier National Park when you have the scenery to yourself, even if you’re shivering!

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Glacier National Park, MT – Mountain Goats and Lake Views

Glacier National Park

The air was still hazy.

Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park was engulfed in smoke from wildfires

just days before our arrival.

Red limo tours at Glacier National Park

The best way to see it is to let someone else do the driving.

It is a spectacular drive up and over the mountain range.

Logan Pass boardwalk at Glacier National Park

Boardwalk hike at Logan Pass.

Hidden Lake at the summit of Logan Pass in Glacier National Park

Hidden Lake at the top of Logan Pass

Hidden Lake at the summit of Logan Pass in Glacier National Park

Logan Pass summit views.

Hidden Lake at the summit of Logan Pass in Glacier National Park

A glorious day.

Logan Pass Glacier National Park

A helicopter and pilot stand by as medics attend to an

unfortunate tourist.

Once the unfortunate tourist is onboard, with all eyes from

the visitors center watching, the helicopter rises up and

disappears beyond the mountains.

Mountain goats at Logan Pass in Glacier National Park, Montana

A mountain goat lazes about at the summit of

Logan Pass.

Mountain goats at Logan Pass in Glacier National Park, Montana

National Park animals seem fearless of humans.

Mountain goats at Logan Pass in Glacier National Park, Montana

She kept her baby close by.

A "stressed" forest lined the slopes of one hillside.

Glacier National Park, Montana

September 3-5, 2007 - Traveling east from northern Idaho, we visited Glacier National Park in

northern Montana.  There had been terrible wildfires for most of the summer.  Rangers told us

that two weeks before we arrived you couldn't see any views in the park.  Luckily the smoke had

cleared somewhat by the time we got there, but the air was still very hazy.  We drove from the

west side of the park up to Logan Pass and back down again.

At Logan Pass there is a beautiful

3 mile round trip walk that you

can take to the summit.  Some of

it is on a boardwalk that stairsteps

up the hillside and some is a

gravel path.  At the summit there

is a gorgeous view of Hidden

Lake.

Before we embarked on our little hike we saw a lot of commotion

in the visitors center.  A tourist had a medical problem.  We

ventured on with our hike but stopped midway up to watch a

helicopter fly in, pick up the hapless visitor, and fly him off to the

hospital.

At the summit we watched a mountain goat and her baby munching

the grass.  They wandered in and about the many tourists,

unperturbed by our presence.

Making our way back down the

mountain road to West Glacier we

spent some time enjoying our luxury

accommodations at the West

Glacier KOA.  The hot tub and

swimming pool were just what the

doctor ordered to relax and

ponder the beauties of all we had

seen.  Once our internal batteries

were recharged a bit we took to

the road again and followed the

very scenic south and east

through Montana towards

Yellowstone National Park.