The Following is a TripAdvisor comment written by Richard R. from Westminster, Colorado.
It was too beautiful not to share
It was too beautiful not to share
“The Grand Railroad Lodges of Glacier National Park, Montana and Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada." What images that sentence stirs up in the mind’s eye. The date is 1914 and you are headed off for the adventure of a lifetime, destination: the remote and wild Glacier National Park. I can only imagine what it must have been like to board a steam train in a major metropolis and ride it into the Western interior of Montana. I wanted to experience that myself, but in 2014 the old ways are gone…………almost.
I didn’t have the luxury of time to ride in a modern train. Steam is gone. So I had to settle for the automobile. Coming from the greater Denver metropolitan area, route finding to Glacier National Park is easy. Go North to Montana and turn left. There are plenty of services along the way as well as amazing scenery. So getting there was part of the fun. One of our destinations (and the first) on this vacation was the Glacier Park Lodge on the Eastern edge of Glacier National Park. Officially, the lodge lies just outside the park in the small village of East Glacier.
The last city of note on your drive through eastern to western Montana is Browning. From there it is a short drive to the village of East Glacier. To get to the Glacier Park Lodge you drive to the south end of the village, turn right and go through a very short tunnel that goes under the rails of the Great Northern Railway. As the road bears to the right and climbs a small hill you will notice the train depot to your right and an expansive lawn on your left in front of the lodge. If you look more closely you will also notice a long straight sidewalk that goes from the front door of the train depot to the front door of the lodge. During the vacation season the walk way is bordered by beautiful flowering gardens.
Imagine you are back at the turn of the last century and just arriving at the depot after many days in a train rolling across the country. You get off the train, find a porter to handle your luggage on to the luggage cart, head through the depot and walk out the front door to see a huge lawn with massive trees, a sidewalk bordered with flowers, Indian Tepees, families playing out on the lawn and strolling about. Your immediate decision, do you walk to the lodge through the gardens, or take the carriage. I think I would walk.
|Glacier Park Lodge, 1920's|
Back to the present. You continue to drive to the North entrance road, turn left and drive the loop up to the front entrance of the great lodge. You are greeted by the bell staff and they quickly unload your luggage and stage it for delivery to your room. After the luggage is unpacked from your car you drive the remainder of the great circle back to the parking area on the north border of the lawn. Now you get to take that beautiful walk back to the lodge.
|Glacier Park Lodge Modern Day|
Once inside you go to the registration counter, get checked in and are handed the keys to your room. Go back to the bellmen’s station and make arrangements to have the luggage delivered to your room. There are no elevators in the lodge and it can be quite a walk to your room. If you have difficulty with stairs, make sure you get a room on the first floor. You are not at sea level and the walk and stairs could be strenuous if you have any physical limitations. If you are traveling light, you can do the luggage transport yourself. If you have heavy or an abundance of luggage, or you just don’t mind having someone else carry it for you, the members of the bell staff are ready to serve. Our bellman hailed from central Europe and was a joy to talk to. He was really enjoying his experience in the United States and especially Glacier.
Now it doesn’t really matter which side of the lodge you reserved as far as the view. The east side faces the beautiful lawn and garden area, while the west side faces the mountains. Yes, there are mountains to the west of the lodge, but they are nothing compared to what you will see when you go into the park. So a mountain view may not be that big of a prize. We opted for the garden side for the beautiful sunrises and views of the flowers. We also got a room with a shared balcony so we could sit outside and enjoy a glass of wine while watching the entertainment below or just enjoying a quiet moment. The East side faces the rail road tracks. You will have trains running back and forth every hour. If you are a train buff, you are in for a treat. If you are not a train buff let me say that the sounds of the trains did not bother us at all.
|Sights in Glacier National Park|
Our room on the third floor of the South wing was fairly large with a comfortable king bed. The mattress was in great shape. It was simply appointed with older furniture. Old doesn’t mean decrepit. Old means it was constructed out of real wood and had stood up through decades of use. So the furniture is well used. We had a dresser and a desk with two chairs. The closet was probably 3 to four feet wide with a door. We could get all our luggage inside the closet, hang clothes and still have a bit of room left inside. The bathroom is small. That means one person at a time. Small but not cramped. There was a shower and sink with shelf space so you could leave out all the necessary toiletries and razors and brushes etc. The window in the bathroom opened out to the shared balcony so the curtains needed to be drawn at times for privacy. The room was basic, it had everything you needed, but there were no extra amenities. Back in the days of rail travel I think people spent their time in the great room, breezeway and lounge or outside. The room was for changing, bathing and sleeping. The maid service was excellent.
Once you get to the room, call the restaurant and make a dinner reservation. Do it now. Don’t wait. The food is excellent and there will be a long wait if you just show up at dinner time. If you have to wait, you can get bar service and enjoy charm of the great room or the energy of the lounge, maybe even get a television fix. The great room has the lounge on the west side as well as a coffee bar. There is a small gift shop with a variety of drinks and snacks and the typical consumables or things you forgot.
Meals at the restaurant were wonderful for us. We did not try the lounge or snack type foods, so I cannot comment on that. The restaurant menu was varied so almost any taste could be accommodated. There is a nice wine selection so no problems matching wines to dishes. Service varied from very prompt to a reasonable wait when the restaurant was completely full. All the servers we met were wonderful. They enjoyed what they were doing and loved being at a classic old and historic lodge. They came from all across the United States and other parts of the world, so conversation with them was fun and interesting. There are fast food places on the other side of the train tracks in the village, but for us the restaurant met all our needs. We were very happy with all the dining arrangements for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The great room is probably the one thing you will remember from your stay at the lodge. The interior space is cavernous. It is huge. It is beautifully constructed. It is modeled after the Forestry Building from the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition held in Portland, Oregon, 1905. You will be amazed by the huge tree trunks still adorned by their bark. A huge fireplace sits on the south end of the great hall. There are chairs and couches to enjoy the warmth of a crackling fire. The restaurant is situated at the north end of the great room. The gift store is on the south east side. There is a spa on the second floor above the restaurant. Along the entire length of the great room there are chairs and couches and low tables. The single feature that will impress you the most is the size of the great room. Did I mention it was huge? It is just amazing.
|Glacier Park Lodge Lobby, 1920's|
If you need to get your electronics fix, the great room is the place to get your Wi-Fi connection. Remember, you are nearly in the middle of the wilderness. The connection in the great room is slow. The data transfer bit rate is slow. You will see many, many people with their phones, tablets and laptops all vying for a piece of that small amount of available band width. Did I mention that it will be slow? Remember the hotel is over 100 years old and I doubt that a fiber optic cable has been connected to the facility. There is no Wi-Fi in the rooms. So, if Wi-Fi, connectivity and data transfer rates are a deal breaker, then you might as well stop reading and start looking for a room in Whitefish. Oh, and by the way, there isn’t a television in your room and the only place you will find a television is in the lounge off the great room. If you live and breathe tech and electronic amenities, this is not the place for you and it was and probably never will be advertised as such. So don’t be surprised when you get to the hotel and the laptop won’t connect. Just thought I would mention that.
The gift shop is a great place to visit to find a treasure to remind you of your stay, or a gift for someone at Christmas. You can spend a great deal of time there exploring the local crafts and unique gifts. There are the typical post cards you can buy for scrap booking or for writing on in the great room. Tons of t-shirts, hoodies and jackets so you can be stylish while emblazoned with glacier logo wear. The list goes on and on, so if you like to shop, you will be happy with the gift store in the Lodge.
The facility has lots of activities you can participate in. There is a golf course and an outdoor swimming pool. On the east lawn there is room for volleyball and soccer, Frisbee, there is even a small executive golf course. The children love playing in the teepees. You can walk and look at the flowers and gardens. Mornings and evenings bring out the wildlife and don’t be surprised if the doorman tells you to keep an eye out for a bear early in the morning. There is something to see everywhere.
|Golfing Glacier Park Golf Course|
In the breezeway between the main lodge and the south wing there are an abundance of tables and chairs. You can look out the windows to both the east and the west to take in the views. There are also cards for playing any number of games. We particularly like the puzzle tables. The lodge staff out did themselves by selecting wickedly difficult puzzles to put together. It truly is a community effort for the entire lodge to finish up a puzzle.
The great room has many historical displays that provide very interesting information on the area’s history, the Great Northern Railway, construction of the lodge and early history of the park. The photos and display items are wonderful for the history buff. The lodge and park service have programs everyday by the fireplace. They are entertaining and interpretational. You will not be bored by the presenter who may be a seasoned park ranger, an author or a musician.
The great room also has music, whether it be a pianist playing the old piano or musicians playing guitars and singing, strings or even woodwinds soloists. If you are bored, it is probably your own fault.
|Glacier Park Lobby, Picture by Richard R.|
The lodge can act as your base for all the off-site activities you choose. There is access to hiking and biking, horseback riding, rafting, fishing and guided tours. Our favorite is the Red Bus Tour. The Red Buses are a famous activity that dates back half a century. The Great Northern had a fleet of the buses that ran all over the park taking guests on a variety of adventures. Today the fleet has been completely restored and each bus is taken care of with tender loving care. When the weather is inclement or cold, the fabric top is tied down in place to close the cab and keep you comfortable. But when the sun is out and it is nice, the top is rolled to the back and you have an unobstructed view all around as well as above. There is nothing else like it and if you want to experience a true turn of the century activity, take a Red Bus Tour. Make your reservations early at the activity desk by registration.
All in all, the Glacier Park Lodge was one of our three favorite lodges on the tour. It is 100 years old, so keep that in mind when deciding what returns you want or expect from your lodging experience. We wanted to go back in time and we had a wonderful experience. We wanted to experience the adventure people had in 1914. When there was a clash with modern technology we just smiled because this Lodge is not about modern technology. It is about the elegance of a time gone by, when travel was slower and more of an adventure, and by those standards the Glacier Park Lodge was the standard bearer for destination comforts and a great experience while visiting Glacier National Park. I hope you try it. If you love history and the national parks, you will love the Glacier Park Lodge.