Glacier National Park, West Glacier KOA
JULY 29, 2023
We made it!! We arrived at West Glacier KOA Resort around 2pm. https://koa.com/campgrounds/west-glacier/ . The drive in was not as bad as I expected given what I think about mountain drives. On our first RV trip renting from cruise America, we drove into Yosemite, if you have a fear of heights and shutter at the idea of no guard rails with Empire State Building drops into the tops of trees, skip the drive up Yosemite, lol. I have some PTSD from that trip. We now call those road ways death cliff drives, and we try to avoid them in the RV at all costs. (Big Sur scenic byway being another nail biter). The drive into Glacier though was much nicer. We had some steep grade to climb up and down (which on a gas engine towing a jeep can be taxing and slow going), but we took our time, enjoyed the views and made it safe and sound to our final destination and pivoting point of this trip. We took a walk around the park, which has a ton of site, cabins, walking trails, a beautiful pool, a nice store, live music and a beer garden! We made some really nice friends by the pool (campground people in our experience are some of the nicest people we have ever met. Everyone is on the road exploring, and enjoying a slower pace too.)
JULY 30, 2023
Where to explore first! These trips are so much planning in themselves, we decided to create our daily actives in each area we traveled to once we arrived. We had a general idea, but having to book all the sites for this trip almost a year in advance was enough. This creates a time schedule for travel days that needs to be met to stay on track for each arrival date. You could probably wing it on a whim and a prayer, but in such a large rig, you could end up in some rest stops and Walmart parking lots, which isn't the end of the world, but let me tell you, a couple days without electrics, water and all that good stuff is not that fun.
Montana Coffee, downtown Whitefish. https://coffeetraders.com/ . If you want to try some amazing coffee, click that link and order some, it's all fantastic! The coffee shop in downtown is equally as good as their coffee! Some of the cutest retail items all in one place. Mugs, bags, all the things. The town of Whitefish itself?... Fell in LOVE! We would live here. Everything about it. A ski mountain, lots of hiking, a nearby beach, the cutest town, and not to mention 35 minutes from Glacier. To get into National Parks day of in special places you need an app called recreation.gov, through here you can book tickets, tours, camping, lotteries, see nearby attractions, hikes, etc. In our case we used it for the going to the sun road, the most magical road in Glacier. We had heard all kinds of rumors about getting tickets, booking boat tours to get tickets, release of the passes, and it was all really overwhelming. This app itself also is anxiety provoking! You have to sign on at 8 am, be sure to have an account already and your credit card on file, then you have to start hoping and wishing, along with the millions of other people trying to claim the 500 tickets a day they release at 8:01 sharp to drive the road. It looks us 3 or 4 tries, but we needed up snagging one. Once you have one, its good for the following day (not day of, don't make the same mistake we did). and it's good for three days. Also, it's only 2 dollars. Since we learned its good for the NEXT day after you purchase, we decided to check out Whitefish mountain and town. We took the chairlift to the top, the views were gorgeous, and we hiked the east rim (there are some steep sides on this hike), also beautiful. https://skiwhitefish.com/ . There was another train that went from top to bottom called Danny on, which is on our list for next time, it goes from top to bottom. You can also bring your mountain bike to the top and ride down, and they have an alpine slide and a zip line. We browsed town a bit after, did a little shopping, our last stop was for lunch at Blackstar Brewery. THE BEST SMASH BURGER I HAVE EVER HAD. https://www.blackstarmt.com/. Do yourself a favor, if you ever visit Whitefish, get yourself a smash burger and fries.
We finished off our first full day at Apgar Village, at the east entrance of Glacier. From what we have heard, this is the best wide span view of the entire park other than what you see on the going to the sun road. The village is adorable. Lots of little shops, a few places you can stay right in the park, water access, kayak and small boat rentals, swimming, ice cream and rainbow rocks. What more does one need.
JULY 31, 2023
IM MISSING YOGA! Tylere and I found a hot yoga studio in Whitefish called LOVE YOGA MONTANA https://www.loveyogamontana.com/ . We booked a 7am vinyasa class and drove into town! It's a 35 minute drive one way but worth it, I am practicing often on my own and virtually with my studio, but its not the same as being in a hot room on my mat and checking out. We loved it, and we had an excuse to go back to Montana Coffee after!
Day one inside the park for us today as well. Because of the dogs, we have to limit everything to a max of 6 hours away from the RV. Which is a pain in the ass, but totally worth having them with us. We took a slow start to the morning, hung with the pups, did a little swimming at the pool, had snacks and decided to head into glacier a little before out 5:30 boat ride on lake McDonald. The boat ride left from Lake McDonald Lodge https://www.glaciernationalparklodges.com/lodging/lake-mcdonald-lodge/ . This place would be a pretty awesome place to stay! You are inside the park, it's right on the lake, and you are close to all the things. It's an older lodge for sure, with a lake vibe, and private cabins as well. Lots of water frontage and swimming access. Beautiful spot! We brought our beach chairs, lunch and everything we needed to swim and then take the tour. The weather was perfection, the water temp was refreshing and it was by far a MAJOR highlight for us. To just relax inside the park, take in the scenery, swim, and just be. This part of the trip was Summers favorite. She wore her goggles, and stayed under the water exploring, more than she was above. The ledge on the lake underwater was breathtaking and eerie. Formed millions of years ago by a glacier, within 8 or 10 feet of being able to stand, its drops off sharply to 400 feet. The water is so cleat, you can see so much. Spooky actually. We finished off our time at the Lodge with a one hour boat ride and learned some cool facts and things. The boat ride was ok. It was really hot in the sun making it a little less enjoyable. A one time thing for sure, but fun to get on the lake and learn some cook stuff. We bought the tickets because another way to get a day pass to the sun road is to book a boat cruise.
August 1st. Half way point of our trip!
Today is the day to explore the going to the sun road! We set the alarms for 5 am, because we got advice that the parking lots for the hikes we want to get in fill up early and become a feeding frenzy of people anxiously looking for spots. This is the truth!! You can also get into the park before 6am without a pass (you don't even need a national park pass which seems wild) you can also enter after 3pm without one. Todays agenda, Avalanche Lake Hike. https://www.hikinginglacier.com/avalanche-lake.htm . 5 STARS. Perfect for families, all skill levels, and enough to give the person looking for a good work out (me) a feeling of accomplishment. The hike in and out took us a couple hours and was about 5 miles, and 800 ft elevation gain (roughly). Path was clearly marked and we felt very safe. the scenery is STUNNING. We brought our bear spray, but never felt a moment where we would need it (a very popular hike, enough people to keep animals generally away). Our hike in early was quiet and peaceful, the lake was breathtaking. Our hike back the trails were filing up with more people, we are happy that we went early. You also enter into Avalanche hike through a smaller hike called Trail of the cedars, this section is also jaw dropping beauty. Highly recommend. We capped off the day finishing out the drive down the Going to the Sun Road, this road is gorgeous but not for the faint hearted or anyone with a fear of heights, but with that said it really is a must see and the highlight of the park. Dinner was spent in Whitefish, yes, we went back and got another smash burger and fries.
August 2, 2023
I've lost track of days and times all together and that feels pretty amazing. I also feel like I have watched my 6th grader turn into a 7th grader over these past few weeks. Today is our last full day in Glacier. 5am alarms went off to get the drive to Logans Pass under our belt to get a parking spot for the hike to hidden lake https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/montana/hidden-lake-trail . This parking lot is also a bathroom stop and the trailhead for the highline hike which is very popular too and on our list for next ( timehttps://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/montana/highline-trail?search=trueso ) it fills very quickly. On our 6:15 arrival we got one of the last spots. We arrived to long horn sheep (rams) roaming the parking lot as if it was a casual thing! The hike was gorgeous. The mountain lines, sunrise, and company made it pure perfection. Today is our last day with Tylere and we have enjoyed and soaked in every minute. We did not hike down to the base of hidden lake, its 800 feet of steep sand and gravel and bear activity had recently been reported, but you can get wonderful views from the lookouts right before the decent. It also adds at least an hour, and again we are on borrowed time with the dogs. I bought a book in the gift store called Night of the grizzlies https://www.amazon.com/Night-Grizzlies-Jack-Olsen/dp/0943972485. I'm not quite sure why this book is so expensive on amazon, but it's also on kindle and audible regular priced. It's a true story about 2 grizzly bear attacks on the same evening, that changed the rules of Glacier National Park forever. I'm almost finished reading it, it's interesting and a great read. (also pretty intense).
Summer and I finished the evening off grocery shopping and Brian and Tylere got in 18 holes at the Glacier golf course.
AUGUST 3, 2023
We hit the road today! Making the slow trek back home and still packing in some adventure! Tylere is flying out of a local airport so we are leaving him behind in Montana. There was a gap between his flight and our need to depart, so Summer and I took this opportunity to drive him into Whitefish so he could hang for the day until his flight, and we could take one last yoga class at LOVE YOGA. If you are ever in the area, stop in and visit them. We got some Starbucks, and hit the road!
Our next few days are mostly one night stops, and we have one two night stop in South Dakota Black Hills area to rest a bit.
AUGUST 4, 2023
Our first night was spent in Montana still, lol, these states are HUGE. We spent a quick sleep in Billings at the first KOA ever! Kinda cool https://koa.com/campgrounds/billings/
AUGUST 5/6, 2023
Second stop was in the black hills at Rafter J Bar Ranch for 2 nights. https://www.rafterj.com/ (Only a few miles from the Mount Rushmore KOA we stayed at on the way in, still to date our favorite campground.). We were smack in the middle of the Sturgis Bike Rally! If you can't beat em', join em' right? We went into town on our down day and took it all in, it was fun!
AUGUST 7, 2023
One more overnight on this long haul. Milton Wisconsin. https://koa.com/campgrounds/milton-wi/ . This campground was clean and in a great location. We had to get the hell out of the RV for a little bit, so we found a restaurant close by and had a quick dinner.https://www.anchorfun.com/ .