In 2015, Glacier National Park received its 100 millionth visitor since its establishment in 1910. It’s still every bit as enchanting now as it was back then. Hike a few miles into the backcountry from practically any trailhead and you’ll feel like you have the million-acre wilderness to yourself. The real exploration in these parts, however, takes place beyond park boundaries.
Columbia Falls to Two Medicine Lake
Road Trip #1
Total distance: 451 miles; total days: 7-9
The Middle Fork of the Flathead River marks the southwestern boundary of the park. With the Great Bear Wilderness on the other side, paddlers can raft Class II–III whitewater. Glacier Guides, in West Glacier, offers half- or full-day trips. One of the best ways to access the park is the Two Medicine entrance, a short nine-mile drive that ends at Two Medicine Lake, where the water is so clear that on some days the surface provides an exact simile of 9,513-foot Rising Wolf and 8,271-foot Sinopah Mountains.
Made in Montana
What started out as a mom-and-pop Whitefish shop to raise money for two ski-racing sons has evolved into an iconic Montana brand. Buy a Glacier tee and $1 will be donated to the Glacier National Park Conservancy for education, research, and preservation.
EAT & STAY: Two Medicine Grill features locally raised beef and makes a mean huckleberry pie. With amazing views, cascading waterfalls, and access to lots of hiking trails, Two Medicine Campground is one of the most spectacular sites in the park.
This iconic road, which is open only during the summer, winds from one jaw-dropping vista to another. Let someone else do the driving so you can take pictures by booking seats on one of Sun Tours’ daily interpretive bus tours. For a stunning day hike, park at Siyeh Bend and lace your boots up for a 4.5-mile hike up to Siyeh Pass. You’ll be rewarded with fields of wildflowers and panoramic downvalley views.
This resort city is a hub for recreation, with a seven-mile-long glacial lake, the ever-expanding Whitefish Trail, and Whitefish Mountain Resort overlooking it all. Hike Danny On National Recreation Trail to the 6,817-foot summit of the resort, or rent a mountain bike at Village Equipment Rentals and explore the town’s incredibly well-maintained network of multi-use trails. At Whitefish City Beach, rent a SUP or kayak at Paddlefish Sports. Back in town, treat yourself to an ice cream cone at Sweet Peaks Ice Cream and then take a leisurely stroll along the Whitefish River at nearby Riverside Park.
EAT & STAY: Order elk meatloaf and a glass of wine at Tupelo Grille. At Good Medicine Lodge, the breakfasts, like Montana Morning—a trout cake topped by a poached egg—are so delicious that they win national competitions.
Six miles south of the Canadian border, Eureka sits in the far northwest corner of Montana. With easy access to Glacier National Park and Kootenai National Forest, the recreation potential is endless. Stone Hill Climbing Area has 500 routes rated 5.10 and higher and great views to 90-mile-long Lake Koocanusa.
EAT & STAY: Café Jax serves up soups, salads, juicy burgers, and classic old-fashioned malts. Crystal’s Grave Creek Cabins are brand-new and sit eight miles south of Eureka in the heart of the Kootenai National Forest.
For a sense of just how pristine the wilderness around Libby is: The Revenant and The River Wild were both filmed in Kootenai County. North of Libby, check out Kootenai Falls, which crashes more than 90 feet over the course of a mile. Hike across the swinging Kootenai Bridge and continue on Trail #218 up high cliffs overlooking the river to excellent viewpoints for bighorn sheep and peregrine falcons.