When we roadtripped from South Bend, Indiana to Seattle for our big move two years ago, many people told us we should spend time in Glacier National Park, Montana. Except, it was an additional 3 hours from our route and we weren’t exactly in the right frame of mind to enjoy it (car packed to the max + baby Colin + Colby Jack on his carsickness meds + anxious to just GET TO WASHINGTON ALREADY) so we put Glacier on the bucket list and continued on our way to Seattle.
To kickoff 2015, John & I sat down and mapped out travel ideas for the year and after particularly exhausting holiday travels, we gravitated towards options that didn’t involve two small kids on an airplane. Glacier National Park topped the list!
In short: Glacier National Park is breathtaking. Actually, I can’t even think of adjectives that properly describe the awe of it all. It is absolutely a sight to see (the photos in this post don’t even do it justice). It’s a trip I recommend to all, but mostly my fellow Seattle dwellers who can roadtrip there pretty easily.
Are you SOLD? Ok, great! Hopefully this post has some helpful ideas/tips for you!
our roadtrip to glacier national park
We loaded up the car with lots of snacks, drinks, activities, but most importantly an iPad filled with episodes of Daniel Tiger and Bubble Guppies… and headed EAST!
Spokane, Washington is a nice place for a break (really, there’s very little in the way of stopping points through the middle of Washington). We enjoyed a meal and a quick visit to Riverfront Park (see above). The giant Radio Flyer slide was A HIT with Colin. Mega tantrum when we told him it was time to leave… always a sign of serious toddler fun. There’s also a carousel nearby, and it just so happened to be 105 degrees during our visit so we had the place to ourselves. (lucky us???)
first stop: coeur d’alene, idaho
To break up our trip, we spent the first two nights in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho. We drove through CDA (apparently that’s what they call it) when we moved to Seattle. At one point, the highway hugs the lake (it’s STUNNING!) and John & I agreed we most definitely wanted to return in the future.
CDA is just 25 minutes from Spokane (about 5 hours total from Seattle) and after checking into our hotel, we headed to Lake Coeur D’Alene… the main attraction there. We boarded a 1.5 hour boat cruise. Perfect way to see the lake & get some general facts/historical info about the area. Totally kid friendly. Highly recommend.
The next day we visited Coeur D’Alene Cellars for a wine tasting (see above). They have a light (yet delicious) menu and welcome children. From there, we wanted to visit a brewery but since none of the local breweries served food, kids weren’t allowed. Instead, we checked out Crafted Tap House + Kitchen for dinner. It was perfect! Delicious food, great beer (plus many cider offerings for me!) and kid friendly.
Overall, Couer D’Alene was beautiful & fun & highly kid-friendly. About five hours from Seattle, it’s a great roadtrip in itself.
next stop: glacier national park, montana!
The second leg of the journey was a ‘quick’ 3 hours (it’s all relative) to Glacier National Park. We rented a cabin in Columbia Falls, Montana.
After checking in, we headed directly to the park to do the Going to the Sun Road. It’s a two lane road that runs from the west side of the park to the east side (or vice versa, obviously… that’s how roads work). The road really hugs the mountains, which brings a healthy dose of anxiety, but traffic moves pretty slowly and it’s very well paved. It takes roughly 2 hours to travel the entire thing without stopping, but since we had to stop many times for photos (hello! I’m a photographer!), it took us about 3 hours.
Seriously. It’s even better in person.
After we finished Going to the Sun Road, we figured we might as well tack another 30 minutes onto our trip and head north to Many Glacier Hotel. My cousin spent a few summers working there and after her stories/photos, we wanted to see it for ourselves. WHAT A COOL PLACE! Totally isolated and nestled right in the mountains. Check out the view from the hotel balcony…
While we waited for a table at the hotel restaurant, we played by the lake with the kids. I mean… come on… what a gorgeous spot!!
After dinner, we had quite a bit of ground to cover to get back to our cabin in Columbia Falls (nearly THREE HOURS!). Glacier National Park is MASSIVE!
The next morning, we headed back into the park for some hiking. Sidenote: it’s only $25 for park admission and that lasts a full week! We did Avalanche Trail, on the west side of the park. It’s a fairly easy 4 mile hike (made a bit more difficult when carrying over 50 total pounds of toddler/baby… John taking the more significant of those loads) that leads to Avalanche Lake (below).
The next photo is my favorite from the whole trip. How crazy is it that on the day Jill turned nine months old, she saw a sight that was potentially the most beautiful sight I’d seen in 32 years. It’s a shame she won’t remember this… we’ll just need to come back!
After the hike we drove to the Lake McDonald Lodge and took a boat tour of the lake (above). It was overcast and chilly… such a dramatic change from the 105 degrees we had in Coeur D’Alene! I bet it would be breathtakingly beautiful on a clear day, with full mountain views, but it was still a very nice trip. And there were two park rangers on board who gave us a great general history of the park.
After the boat tour, we left the park and headed back to the cabin. Not before stopping to buy some huckleberry jam, of course.
The next morning we got up early for the 8 hour return trip to Seattle. As we drove, John & I did the math… the kids spent over THIRTY HOURS in their car seat in five days. SO thankful they behaved (for the most part) because the trip was SO WORTH IT!
Have you been to Glacier National Park? What was your favorite sight?