My parents have recently been very into visiting national parks around the country, having recently been to Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Death Valley, Zion, Canyonlands, etc. So when my mother mentioned that they were planning to visit Glacier National Park in Montana, I told her I wanted to join them. I had already been talking with a friend about setting up a trip to see Glacier National Park but it never came to fruition so this was the perfect opportunity.
Since Glacier is right on the border of Montana and Canada, my mom’s itinerary also included driving up to Banff National Park in Canada as it was only a few hours drive away. They planned to take a week to visit these two parks and I agreed to join them for the whole trip. My brother was limited on vacation days and decided to only join for the first portion, Glacier.
Getting to the Glacier area was not very difficult for my brother and I, being based in Los Angeles. Many of the airlines have seasonal flights to Glacier Park International Airport (“FCA”) near Kalispell, Montana just outside the park and American Airlines happened to have direct flights from Los Angeles (“LAX”) which is what we took getting there.
The pro is that it was a direct flight, the con is perhaps the timing. Our flight left LA at 10:50 AM which was nice in that we did not have to get up too early but it did not arrive until 2:37 pm which means you already lost half the day to travel. (Glacier is in the Mountain Time Zone.) No matter what flight you take though, Glacier Park International Airport is a tiny airport with three gates so getting in and out of the airport is a breeze. It was quite packed when we arrived though with a lot of people milling around. If you are at gates 2 or 3, you’ll board or deplane via a jet bridge whereas if you are at gate 1, you’ll board or deplane from a ramp sort of like at remote gates.
Our parents had already arrived about 3 hours before us and had already picked up the rental car which was a Nissan Rouge from Enterprise. We then headed to our hotel to drop off luggage. My parents are IHG Rewards members (think Holiday Inns, Crowne Plazas, etc.) so they booked a room at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Kalispell. They were upgraded to a suite with a more separate living area which gave us a little more space. The hotel was located outside of central Kalispell and seemed to be in a more newly developed area full of chain stores. We were surrounded by Costco, Walmart Supercenter, Target, Home Depot, Applebees, Five Guys, etc. It did make it very convenient for picking up water, snacks and getting gas from Costco which was a little cheaper than other gas stations. However, in terms of convenience getting to the park, it was about a 45 minute drive from our hotel to the West Entrance by Apgar Visitor Center so a bit out of the way.
But the hotel did have some nice side benefits. There was complimentary breakfast with eggs, sausages, biscuits and sausage gravy, cinnamon rolls, yogurt, cereal, fruits, etc. They also had a freezer with small individual ice creams at all times of the day. During the afternoons, they would sometimes have popcorn and at nights they would put cookies out.
We did not do much this first day since my brother and I arrived so late in the day. When visiting national parks, it’s best to get an early start to avoid crowds and actually find parking at famous spots. Instead we did some shopping, buying water, snacks, etc. At night we ate at MacKenzie River Pub & Grill which is a chain restaurant with quite a few locations around Montana and a few in other states. We had their burgers and pizza and both were pretty good. I had a thin crust pizza with bison crumble, potatoes, mushrooms and mozzarella cheese. The portion size though is very large and I was only able to eat about half of my pizza. So if you eat here, you might consider sharing.
After dinner, we went back to the hotel and ended our night since most of us only got 3-4 hours of sleep the night before and we wanted to get up early to get a head start the next day.
This post is part of a series:
- Glacier National Park, Montana & Waterton Lakes National Park, Canada: Day One
- Glacier National Park, Montana & Waterton Lakes National Park, Canada: Day Two
- Glacier National Park, Montana & Waterton Lakes National Park, Canada: Day Three
- Calgary, Alberta
- Banff National Park, Alberta and Yoho National Park, British Columbia: Day One
- Banff National Park, Alberta and Yoho National Park, British Columbia: Day Two
- Kootenay National Park, British Columbia
- Last Day in Montana