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Summer escape: Glacier National Park, Montana

By David Hanson
Cottage Living

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Majestic mountains and clear lakes make Glacier National Park a refreshing summer destination.

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Montana
Tourism

(Cottage Livingexternal link) -- Yellowstone got the hot springs, geysers, bison, more central location and crowds. That left Glacier -- tucked into Montana's temperate, remote northwest corner and spilling into Canada -- with majestic mountains, sapphire rivers and long, valley-filling lakes. In early summer, the vivid green bases of the mountains erupt in flowers every color of the rainbow.

Guided hikes, horseback rides, red bus tours and organized river floats mean you can experience the park whatever way suits your mood. The surrounding towns offer saloons, historic diners and younger coffee houses with a couple of upscale dining options that inspire a good cleaning up after a day in the park. And when you want a little Aspen swankiness, Whitefish has the scene to satisfy (though it's still wonderful Montana, where nothing gets too pretentious).

Where to sleep

Rent a cottage

Glacier Outdoor Center, (800) 235-6781 or glacierraftco.com/cabin.htmexternal link. One- to two-bedroom log cabins are a half mile from the park's west entrance and near restaurants (if you don't get domestic in your cabin's kitchen).

The historic park lodges -- Glacier Park, Many Glacier, and Lake McDonald -- are not included in our list below. Check out nps.gov/glac/pphtml/lodging.htmlexternal link for more info and options.

So you're not into roughing it

Belton Chalet, (888) 235-8665 or beltonchalet.comexternal link. The park's first railroad hotel sits just off Highway 2 above the Flathead River. The dining is excellent, especially if you can sit on the deck. Simple but pampering rooms, combined with an on-site spa, make you feel like a century-old traveling baron.

You love camping

Many Glacier and Two Medicine campgrounds, (800) 365-2267 or nps.gov/glac/pphtml/camping.htmlexternal link. On the park's east side, the Many Glacier access point has it all: a classic old lodge, diamond-studded blue lakes and massive peaks rising from the water. Two Medicine lacks the lodge facilities of Many Glacier, but this option makes for a more quiet wilderness camping experience while retaining the amenities of bath facilities.

Where to eat

Breakfast

Park Café and Grocery, (406) 732-4482 or parkcafe.usexternal link. The wait on the porch is well worth the home-cooked breakfast and grill fare. Don't leave without a piece of pie -- the huckleberries likely just came from the mountains.

Montana Coffee Traders, (800) 345-5282 or coffeetraders.comexternal link. They brew it strong, but they'll also whip up a latte and a full breakfast at this restored log café just off Highway 2 as you head to the park from Kalispell.

Our picnic pick

Brownie's Grocery and Deli, (406) 226-4426. A simple grocery store with all the basics plus home-baked bread, pastries and bagels.

Après hike

Serrano's Mexican Restaurant, (406) 226-9392. Trust me, at some point on the trail your mind will wander to overflowing tacos and cold margaritas. Serrano's will satisfy.

Tupelo Grille, (406) 862-6136 or tupelogrille.comexternal link. This inventive Cajun and Southern cuisine restaurant, set in an upscale backdrop, is one of the reasons Whitefish has become the hippest town in the Glacier area.

More summer escapes:

Acadia National Park, Maine

Badlands and Black Hills, South Dakota

Olympic National Park, Washington

Isle Royale National Park, Michigan


Copyright 2004-2006 Cottage Living magazine. All rights reserved.
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