448050911201448 7 Tips for an Amazing Trip to Glacier National Park Summer 2021 | Polka Dots and Protons - Interactive Science Notebooks & More

My goal is to make interactive science notebooks engaging for 5th grade and middle school science students while improving science test scores. NGSS expert, teacher, tpt author, mom, & widow

7 Tips for an Amazing Trip to Glacier National Park Summer 2021

 I am SO SO SO proud of Addy and I! We are exploring Glacier National Park like pros. We have our bear spray, lots of water, a First Aid kit, a little Jeep, and an awesome condo. We have seen bears, marmots, mountain goats, mountain sheep, deer, chipmunks, and more. This is a big deal because we have always explored the outdoors as a family of 5 and now things have changed. I became a sudden widow two years ago. Little by little I am finding my strength. I am capable and can continue doing amazing things like exploring Glacier and feel the healing power of being in incredible beauty. We have always been a camping family but I am changing it up since I don't have my main partner to spoil me with his camping skills. Also, it turns out we hit a heat wave so camping wouldn't have been such a treat. AC wins on this one.

Deer at Grinnell Lake | a boat ride and walk from Many Glacier

Turns out everyone wants to head to National Parks right now. I only booked this a couple of weeks ago so I feel really fortunate to be pulling this off. It was time for a vacation after having Addy's graduation, moving back into the house after the fire, and getting Cole off on his two year mission all within a week. I booked the trip on Expedia. I love booking hotel and a flight together if possible because I seem to get better accomodations and nonstop flights. I couldn't get a rental car with the package so before booking, I called the resort we would be booking and asked about rental cars. I got a lead and then booked the rental car. In chatting with other travelers, I learned about Turo which is like Airbnb for cars. I would use that to book if needed. Rental cars are crazy expensive right now but Turo seems like a good option when the big rental companies don't have cars.

Weeping Wall on Going-To-The-Sun Road

Tip 1: Book your flight and hotel together with Expedia or another site. Before booking you flight and hotel, get your rental car set up.

We heard stories of people flying to Salt Lake, Helena, or Spokane just to get a rental car. Rental cars are hard to get right now because companies sold their fleets during the pandemic. 

We have also heard of people who are staying at a different hotel or VRBO each night because that is all they could book. We feel so fortunate to have an awesome condo and little Jeep! We do have some help from my angel husband.

It is nice to get a condo, room with a kitchen, or free breakfast. Food takes up so much of our travel budget if we aren't careful. We are staying in a condo at Meadow Lake Resort. It is AWESOME. We have kitchen with a full size fridge, two couches, a jacuzzi tub, washer and dryer in our condo, nearby steam room, sauna, and hot tub.... I highly recommend it. There is a shuttle from the airport to Meadow Lake Resort but you need to let them know 48 hours prior. 

Tip 2: Get your Going-To-The-Sun road ticket

Now that you have your rental car, flight, and hotel, you need your Going-To-The-Run road ticket from recreation.gov. The Going-To-The-Sun road ticket is only $2 but you must have a pass to enter between 6 am and 5 pm. Tickets are sold with minutes at 8 am MT two days before the ticketed day. The ticket is then good for seven consecutive days. You don't have to enter the park on the first day of your ticket. It is hard to get a Going-To-The-Sun road ticket. I tried on a Saturday for a Monday ticket and couldn't get one. I was signed in to my Recreation.gov account and ready but no luck. Sunday morning, I had another account set up with another email and had my daughter make an accout also. Sunday morning at 8 am MT we were logged in to the three accounts and snagged a ticket. What a relief! I learned you can get in to the park before 6 am and after 5 pm without a Going-To-The-Sun road ticket. Verify this gem of info. We had a year pass to national parks but still needed this entry ticket.

The northwest is in a huge heat wave. Be ready for anything. We have ponchos, a flashlight, and First Aid kit in our backpack and purchased a styrofoam cooler, ice, and water.

Logan Pass hike to Hidden Lake Overlook

Tip 3:
 Get bear spray, a styrofoam cooler, water, etc.

I ordered groceries through Instacart before we flew up here to be delivered just after we arrived. This worked out well. We also found a nearby grocery store called Super 1 Foods. It is great! We bought our bear spray there for $29. We saw the same bear spray in the park for $49. Yes, you need bear spray just in case. There are bears. Our styrofoam cooler was $3.99 and a life saver in this heat. I freeze water bottles an put some in the fridge each night. We stick these in the cooler before leaving in the morning.

Tip 4: GyPSy app

I think of myself as an extrovert but I might have become more of an introvert these past couple of years. I still love chatting with temporary friends on trips. We learned a lot from others while here in Glacier. A family told us about the GyPSy app. The app is free but then within the app, you purchase the Going-To-The-Sun tour for $4.99. You download this when you have wifi and then you can use it in the park where there is no wifi. It is like having a tour guide and historian with you. We learned a lot and saw amazing sights we might have missed without this app.  Worth the $4.99!

Tip 5: Plan easy and great food

We love trail mix, drink mix ins, chocolate muffins, and teriyaki beef jerky. Oh, and I pack some Diet Coke in our cooler with our water. It makes me happy. 

Simple breakfast: Bakery muffins, packaged apple cinnamon oatmeal, cereal, frozen breakfast burritos you can warm up

Simple lunches: Uncrustables, chips, and carrots or a party platter of cheese, turkey, ham, and crackers. We take the ham, cheese, and crackers one day and the turkey, other cheese, and other tube of crackers the next day. We don't eat it all. It is nice because it is already packaged.

Simple dinner: Naan bread, mozarella cheese, pizza sauce, and pepperoni and a sunflower bacon salad package

Tip 6:
 Suck it up and get into the park super early at least one day

In talking to others on our first day in the park, they recommended arriving early like at 5 or 6 am to beat the traffic and not worry about parking. Wednesday we did this and it was easy to get around. This is also the day we saw the most wildlife. Going in the afternoon works too to beat the crowds. 

Tip 7: Talk to people

I call this making temporary friends. I learned about hikes and the tips I am sharing by talking with others on the trip. We met people from New York, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, and more! If we didn't talk with people we would've missed great hikes and spotting wildlife. My favorite thing is when you are hot and tired and someone tells you that you are close to the end of the hike, the gem, the view, the lake. I try to do this for others. 
Our itinerary: June 28, 2021-July 3, 2021

Monday: Flew in to Kalispell, MT, took the shuttle from the airport to Meadow Lake Resort, groceries were delivered to our condo from Smith's through Instacart, got settled.

Tuesday: Got our rental car, got our styrofoam cooler, water, ice, and bear spray at Super 1 Foods. Did the Trail of the Cedars hike and Avalanche Lake. Visited Lake McDonald Lodge. Loved the vibe. Went to Apgar Village for waffle cone ice cream at Eddie's Cafe and Mercantile. Don't you love the word mercantile? Downloaded the GyPSy app. Went in the hot tub at the rec center and tried out the steam room. Weird but fun to try.

Wednesday: Left our condo at 6 am to get into the park early. Listened to the GyPSy app while traveling Going-To-The-Sun road. Saw a bear at the loop turn (the only switchback on the road). Hiked Hidden Lake overlook behind Logan Pass Visitor's Center. (Listed as an easy, family friendly hike but.... it was so scarry to go uphill over slippery snow- this one is easy when the snow has melted but not easy when it is covered in snow.) Had the ranger who told us it was easy ever been on this trail? I lived to tell about it. Drove to St. Mary and Many Glacier (long bumpy dirt road.) Put our name on the waiting list for the Many Glacier boat ride and went to eat lunch. We were the last on the wait list to make it on to the 2 pm boat ride. Yeah!!! It was a two and a half hour drive back to Columbia Falls which was a bit too much for one day but it was a great day and I actually wouldn't change it.

Thursday: Our easy day- we slept in and drove to Whitefish. We ate at Amazing Crepes and checked out the shops in downtown Whitefish. Then we drove up Big Mountain and took the chair lift to the summit and back down. I am afraid of heights and did great on the way up. You can take an enclosed gondola but it was hot so we took the chair. On the way back, I did nervous singing to keep positive. I sang about how awesome I was. Addy didn't appreciate my made up songs and asked if my counselor suggested I do this. I said no, and that I figured out on my own that singing weird made up songs helped me get through situations. We checked out cute shops on the way back. We liked Scout + Gather and Shops and Station 8. We rested at our condo, we like doing this. Just a little walk on path to go eat at Meadow Lake Bar & Grille here at the resort. We played pool after eating. I don't really get pool and need to watch some beginner how to videos. Addy beat me. There was a huge thunder and lightning storm with some rain. We watched it on our walk back to our condo. We camped as a family before my husband passed so it was great to be out in a storm for a bit and then enjoy it from our covered balcony.

Chair lift on Big Mountain in Whitefish

Friday: Slept in and stopped in Hungry Horse area at Willows Huckleberrland for a Bear Poop shake which is delicious! It is huckleberry and chocolate. I giggled while I ordered Bear Poop. We bought shirts too. We did the Going-to-the-Sun road again. Made sure we saw everything we wanted and got two great shirts each.

This has been just the right combination of rest and adventure. My confidence is growing as I stretch myself and do more on my own. It's not always pretty but I've got this.