If you're into fresh air, huge mountains, and views that take you breathe away - go to Glacier National Park
JT and I have always wanted to explore Glacier so we rallied both our families this summer and headed to Montana in a mini van, or as I like to lovingly refer to it, the silver bullet. Having all of our favorite people under one log-roofed cabin with tons of exploration/adventure at our fingertips for a whole week was a dream!
We made Whitefish, MT our home base and stayed in a cabin that was nestled quietly into the Montana hillside. Here we spent our nights cooking and relaxing together before each new day began, filled with non-stop hiking, fishing, and even white water kayaking. This was my favorite part - the togetherness.
Here are a few snapshots from the trip + some recommendations if you ever find yourself in Glacier National Park.
Unfortunately, we didn't get to do as much of this as we would of liked. JT and I are avid backpackers, and plan on making a trip back to explore the park a little more extensively and primitively. Since this trip was with family, we made sure to pick trails that fit every skill level. The good thing is, the 2 trails I am going to share are family friendly and have stunning views.
Avalanche Lake: This is a 4.5 round trip hike. The trail head is located off of the Trail Of Cedars, and winds you past rushing rivers, creeks, and some of the tallest trees you'll ever see. At the end of the trail you get to experience the beauty of a glacier lake. Avalanche Lake is huge and is great for wading, fishing, and wild animal sightings. This hike is what we like to call "low risk, high reward". This was most of our groups favorite hike.
Snyder Lake: This is one of the hardest and prettiest hikes in West Glacier. It is an 8.8 mile hike round trip. And I am going to be honest - it is all uphill. I would rate it as easy/moderate for experienced hikers and those who mountaineer often. For everyone else it would definitely be strenuous. There is a 2000 ft elevation gain which is what makes the uphill sections so hard. However, the reward is totally worth it. This trail is much less traveled and we finished it by crossing a bridge that overlooked a beautiful, isolated glacier lake and not a single other person was there. We brought our fly fishing gear and caught 17 fish in less than an hour. If you want to work for your views a little more - then this is the hike for you. Word to the wise - bring bug repellent! The mosquitoes were losing their minds.
Whitefish did NOT disappoint on the food side of things. We left every place we ate in a food coma.
Piggyback BBQ: Guys, hands down one of the best BBQ places I have ever been - and I am from Texas, so that is saying a lot. They had tons of homemade sauces, like spicy BBQ & sweet & spicy chili sauce - sauces are my love language so I was sold right away. I ordered a pulled chicken sandwich and sweet potato fries (might be the best I have ever had). The sandwich was slathered in their house BBQ sauce and then I poured some of the spicy mustard sauce on top for good measure. BBQ heaven, people. JT ordered their Southwestern BBQ salad - and it was like drool-all-over-yourself good. It was full of organic greens with your choice of BBQ meat, fresh cut veggies, crispy tortilla strips & the best honey lime jalapeno vinaigrette. ORDER THIS. Just do it. Did I mention that all of their meat is sourced locally AND they have outdoor seating that makes you feel like you are on your best friend's back porch with a perfect view of those Montana mountains?
Craggy Range Bar & Grill: I have 2 words for you - truffle fries. 'Nuff said.
For those who have never had the life changing truffle mushrooms - don't question me, just order all da truffle fries you can fit in your mouth. Your welcome.
Craggy Range was another favorite spot of our groups. It has that typical bar and grill feel - lots of locals fill the seats, but even as a tourist you still feel like you fit right in. Craggy Range literally had options for every taste bud - vegetarian, spicy, BBQ, Tex-Mex, Asian - you name it, they had it. But again, can I just say truffle fries? I ordered a burger called Deep South - a 1/2 lb Angus burger topped with house pimento cheese & fried pickles on a toasted brioche bun. We will definitely be back!
I would never lie to you - so I won't pretend we were blown away by the coffee shops here because we most definitely were not. But if you are in a dire need of a cup of jo or shot of espresso, or maybe you just want a nice place to relax and read a book - I can point you in the best direction available.
Montana Coffee Traders: This place was pretty cool from a vibe perspective. It had the rustic, Montana vibe you would expect with a killer gift shop at the front of the store. We picked up tons of cool trinkets/souvenirs and really enjoyed their selections of good. Drinks wise - do not get an espresso drink. Just don't. Stick to plain drip coffee. I got a cappuccino, and it was definitely below average. However, my mother-in-law got a homemade raspberry Italian cream soda that made me want to move to Italy if they would let me drink this thing everyday. So I would say stick to novelty drinks and baked good at this stop.
Red Caboose Frozen Yogurt + Coffee: They serve Stumptown coffee -can't go wrong there.
Glacier Rafting Co: The group consensus was that one of our favorite things we did was white water kayaking. It was around $60 per person and you can either have a single or a double kayak. The guides were friendly and knowledgeable, and the class three rapids were perfect for our group of first time white water kayakers (we all had experience rafting and river kayaking just not in rapids). Glacier Rafting Co is a great company to go with - I would definitely recommend. They do discounts for larger groups and have a great gift shop and outdoor store to keep you entertained while you suit up for your trip.
Downtown Whitefish: By the end of the week our whole group was pretty beat, so we decided to spend a day hanging in downtown Whitefish. This ended up being a great decision - Central Avenue is a long strip full of local shops and boutiques. The rustic culture of Montana translated seamlessly into each of the little stores we visited. We ended up with a haul full of new fly fishing gear, touristy coffee mugs, local jewelry, and local jams and honey. Whether you are looking to spend money or just want to window shop, if you have a free morning/afternoon I recommend spending some time there.