Glacier’s East Side: An Insider’s Guide

It’s no surprise that every square inch of Glacier National Park is gorgeous. But locals know: some of its best views are east of the divide, and they’re easy to reach along US 89. High points include:

Two Medicine Lake

A scenic campground and the historic Two Medicine Store on the lake make this area a spectacular basecamp for hiking and boating. Cross the lake on the tour boat Sinopah for stunning views of the upper valley, or hike along either shore for a chance to spot moose. But carry bear spray—grizzlies and black bears often frequent the area all summer.

Insider Secret: Drive in from East Glacier but leave by going north on Highway 49—the Looking Glass Road. This route climbs to amazing views of the Two Medicine valley and the park’s eastern ramparts before rejoining US 89. But drive carefully, the road has a rough patch or two.

Two Medicine lake scenic overlook glacier national park two medicine lake glacier national park moose in two medicine lake glacier national park

The St. Mary Valley

If you only have one day in Glacier, drive the Going-To-the Sun Highway. Montana’s most spectacular road begins at St. Mary and climbs to the Continental Divide at Logan Pass. Start early in the day to beat traffic, stop at the many scenic pullouts, and cling ever tighter as the road winds upward on the shoulders of giant peaks.

Insider Secret: Want more of St. Mary to yourself? Go after Labor Day. Crowds disappear, aspen leaves turn gold, elk bugle, and light snows dust the peaks. Fall is stunning and secluded in the St. Mary valley.

st. mary's lake glacier national park glacier national park red bus mountain goat near st. mary's lake glacier national park

 

Many Glacier

A hub of activity, this area’s anchored by the historic, timber-framed Many Glacier Hotel. This massive lodge overlooks Swiftcurrent Lake and several valleys’ worth of peaks. Trailheads here depart to such classic hikes as Iceberg Lake, Grinnell Glacier, and Cracker Lake. Horseback rides and tours aboard Glacier’s iconic red “jammer” buses start here as well. The Swiftcurrent Motor Lodge and Many Glacier campground provide additional lodging, and boat tours grant easy access to jewel-like Josephine Lake.

Insider Secret: Many Glacier is packed. For solitude, park at the Apikuni Falls trailhead and hike 3 miles up the Poia Lake trail to Swiftcurrent Ridge Lake. Small but scenic, it’s at the end of a moderate climb with great views across the Many Glacier valley.

many glacier national park many glacier national park kayaking in many glacier national park

 

Eric Heidle is a creative director at Banik Communications where he writes, designs, and photographs for a range of awesome tourism, agriculture, healthcare and financial clients. His writing has been published in magazines and literary anthologies, and his photos appear in Montana Outdoors, Backpacker, and elsewhere. He lives right here in Great Falls with his best gal Dagni and some cats, and when he’s not working he’s often outdoors trying to stay on top of cliffs, upright in kayaks, and ahead of the bears.