Glacier National Park is arguably the most beautiful place on our planet. With one million acres of forested wilderness containing turquoise lakes, glacier-covered mountain peaks, cascading waterfalls, and valleys blanketed with colorful wildflowers, it’s no wonder that 3 million visitors travel there yearly.
Lodging within Glacier National Park contains 3 Swiss chalet-style luxury lodges ($219 and up) and 5 budget options ($159 and up) including motor inns, motels, and cabins. Staying within the park is worth the price because of the closeness to desired sites and activities.
I’m Cheryl and have grown up in the West. I’m a special education teacher and spend my summers visiting the national parks with my 4 kids and husband, Matt, who writes travel itineraries and audio guides. I’ve stayed in 6 of the Glacier National Park lodges and I’m hoping this post will help you find the right lodging for your trip.
Because of the sheer size of Glacier National Park, I’ve found it very beneficial to stay within the park (or very close) to a park entrance. In fact, I actually switch locations throughout my trip to Glacier so that I don’t have to do as much driving.
For that reason, this post will only cover lodging within the park or lodging very close to an entrance of the park.
Between the years of 1910 and 1914, the Great Northern Railway was looking for a way to sell more train tickets. They came up with the idea that if they could convince wealthy tourists to travel within the United States instead of heading to Europe, they could pull a pretty reasonable profit.
The railroad had tracks leading to Glacier National Park but there were no suitable accommodations for guests once they arrived. They built some fancy Swiss-style chalets and marketed Glacier as the Alps of America.
Their plan worked and now guests today have the opportunity to stay in these charming and stunning lodges and hotels built over 100 years ago.
With that being said, here is what you can expect if you stay at any of the luxury lodgings within Glacier (Many Glacier Hotel, East Glacier Lodge, Lake McDonald Lodge, Belton Chalet, and the Prince of Wales Hotel of Waterton).
- You’ll be given an actual key– No key cards to swipe here. It’s a really charming touch that I’m glad they’ve kept as they’ve renovated throughout the years.
- Grand Lobbies– All the lobbies have a beautiful fireplace, grand piano, expansive and comfortable seating, and beautiful chandeliers. Most have large windows and balconies so guests can view the natural surroundings. People actually hang out and mingle and it’s one of my favorite things about staying in a national park lodge.
- Very basic and small rooms- The lobbies are grand but the rooms are not. Most contain a comfortable bed with nice linens, a nightstand, a writing desk, and a fan. That’s about it. The rooms are clean and rustic.
- Bathrooms are also small– Most of the time, a pedestal sink is located outside of the bathroom in order to leave room for the toilet and shower (no bathtubs here!) Thankfully, the bathrooms have usually been renovated a few times and the water pressure for the shower is excellent. The toiletries and towels included are luxurious.
- Rustic Amenities-There is no A/C, TV, fridge, or microwave in any of the rooms. Also forget about pools, fitness centers, and free continental breakfasts. Head over to Whitefish for those.
- Bye, bye Wi-Fi– If you look online, all of these lodges claim to have high-speed Wi-Fi. The truth is that the Wi-Fi will NOT work in your room and will only work in the lobby if you stand on your head. If we needed to get online, we’d drive to St. Mary and use our cell phones.
- Lots of stairs– I’m sure elevators were invented when these lodges were built but most don’t have them and if they do, it’s limited access to certain floors. Be prepared to walk up and down lots of stairs and to give your bellhop a good tip.
- Fine Dining– Be prepared for white linen tablecloths, locally sourced food and game, and a wide selection of spirits. Most dining rooms have expansive windows so guests can enjoy the scenery during their meal. Casual attire is accepted but you may want to clean up a bit. Dinner will generally cost $30 and up and most often they do not accept reservations.
- Lounges, Cafe’s, and Coffee shops– All of the luxury hotels have at least some of these and most likely all of these. Lounges generally serve the same menu items that are on the lunch menu for the fine dining restaurant. The coffee shops sell gas station-type foods and snacks.
- Gift shops- There is nothing special about these gift shops. They all carry the traditional souvenirs. However, all of them sell huckleberry-flavored treats including chocolate, honey, soda, and licorice.
- Red buses, trains, and boats- You can count on each of the lodges to have on-site access to at least one of these things and often two of them.
- $$$$- It is not uncommon to spend over $300 per night for a standard double occupancy room. I’ve seen prices as low as $133 at Lake McDonald Lodge to as high as $639 at the Many Glacier Hotel.
- Not family friendly– Most of these rooms will not accommodate more than 4 people. With the rooms being very small and the lobbies very fancy, I prefer to visit these lodges when it is just Matt and I.
- Close to major sites- Guests pay top dollar to be close to the action. Most of the luxury lodging is right on the bank of a lake with views of the mountains.
As early as the 1930s, it became apparent that more than the super-rich wished to visit Glacier National Park. With that in mind, various businesses began obtaining permission to build a new sort of lodging- Motor Inns.
The invention of the car enabled tourists to travel across the country in their automobile without having to purchase expensive train tickets. The Motor Inn’s were built less grandiose and marketed as a lodging option for middle-class families.
Since then, motels and cabins have been added to the available accommodations for those wishing to stay within a more modest budget.
Here is what you can expect with the budget options at Glacier National Park
- Modest lobbies- At the luxury lodges, the lobby is a place to relax and visit in the evening. The lobbies at budget lodging are more what traditional hotels are like where few people mingle. There is basic seating and maybe a few board games but no fancy views or grand pianos.
- Larger rooms– Because all of these accommodations were built more recently, it’s common for the room size to be more the size of hotel rooms today. Budget lodging for the win!! Cabin options are great for larger families. The beds and linens aren’t quite as nice but the rooms are still clean and comfortable.
- Larger bathrooms- The layout of the bathrooms has a traditional style sink instead of a pedestal one because the bathrooms are bigger. The towels aren’t quite as nice, nor is the water pressure. You can expect a shower but no tub (to my knowledge).
- Less rustic amenities- Value lodging stays consistent with luxury lodging in that there is no A/C or TVs. However, many of the cabins include a full kitchen which can save you a pretty penny if you want to pack picnic lunches and prepare your own meals.
- Poor Wi-Fi– While in Glacier National Park, just plan on unplugging. You’ll be able to relax if you aren’t expecting to be able to get the hotel’s Wi-Fi or for your cell phone to get reception.
- Grills– Most budget lodging has a grill onsite or very near to it. A lunch or dinner costs between $18-$20 and the food is good but nothing special. Plan on burgers, sandwiches, and pizza. Eddie’s Cafe of Apgar Village and Two Dog Flats Grill on the Going to the Sun Road was our favorites.
- Close to the action– the locations of budget lodging are a small degree below the locations of luxury options. Most are less than 1/2 a mile away! If you only care about the location, a budget option will get the job done and save you lots of money.
- $$$– Even though there are several budget options, plan on spending over $100 a night for a standard room. Some cabins and rooms for larger groups can be over $300. Cheaper options are available in Whitefish or Kalispell but I still think it’s worth it to pay the extra money to not have to drive 45 minutes to get into the park every morning.
- Family-friendly– It’s nice to have options more suited to younger children. I would feel comfortable taking my children to any of these budget options. Keep in mind that not all of them will accommodate a group larger than 4.
- Cabins offer a more wilderness feel– I really enjoyed staying at my cabin at the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn and Cabins. I was surrounded by pine trees and a lake with a hiking trail nearby. Even though the luxury lodges are also near lakes, the grounds are landscaped and you don’t feel immersed in nature as I did at my cabin.
Whether booking value or luxury lodging, it’s important that you book your accommodations as soon as you know your travel dates. All lodging fills up fast and guests can book as early as 13 months in advance.
Conditions for cancellations are pretty lenient for both concessionaires who manage the lodges. For this reason, cancellations are common and you may be able to snag a room last minute if you check the website daily…. but I still recommend reserving your lodging as soon as possible.
The Layout of Glacier National Park
Now that you know what is available within the park or close to an entrance, let’s do a brief overview of the park so you know where you want to stay. Before securing your lodging, there are a few things about Glacier National Park that you need to know.
- Glacier is broken into 3 sections: West Glacier, East Glacier, and Waterton
- It takes over 2 hours to drive from East Glacier to West Glacier, without stopping
- The Going to the Sun Road connects the East and West side of the park
- Glacier is technically called Wateron-Glacier International Peace Park and the Waterton section is in Canada.
Although I loved my stay at the Prince of Wales Hotel in Waterton, I will stick with lodging on the American side of Glacier.
- Planning a trip to Glacier can be overwhelming! We offer travel itineraries that will tell you what to see and when to see it. We will get you everywhere you’ll want to go.
West Glacier is by far the most visited section of the park. With its proximity to larger cities like Whitefish, Kalispell, and Big Fork, and the quickest access to the freeway, it’s the most convenient to get to.
Home to Lake McDonald and Apgar Lake, West Glacier is also what I consider the most family-friendly area of the park. The Trail of the Cedar’s hike is easy and fun for kids and Apgar Village has several shops that rent SUP and kayaks to play with.
I never visit West Glacier without hiking to Avalanche Lake, renting a motor boat to cruise around Lake McDonald, and taking the journey along the stunning and scary Going to the Sun Road.
West Glacier Lodging
|Apgar Village, Lodge and Cabins||$159 and up||In the park||Budget. Motel rooms and cabins featuring full kitchens. Can sleep up to 6 guests.|
|Belton Chalet||$170 and up||6-minute drive to West Glacier||Luxury. Near Amtrak train station. |
Famous Belton Chalet Tap House and Restaurant. No lake views. Many rooms have private balconies.
|Cedar Creek Lodge||$119 off-season, about $400 summer||Columbia, 30-minute drive to West Glacier||Luxury. Open year-round. New and includes a fitness center, pool, A/C, TV, and complimentary breakfast. Suites and standard rooms.|
|Lake McDonald Lodge||$133 and up||In the park||Luxury. Cabins and standard rooms. Beautiful lake views and fine dining at the Charlie Russel Dining Room. Red bus pick up and Glacier Boat Tours behind the lodge.|
|Village Inn at Apgar||$123 and up||In the park||Budget. Standard, family rooms, and rooms with kitchens. Right on Lake McDonald. Recently renovated in 2015.|
|West Glacier Cabin Village||$209 and up||In the park||Budget. Modern cabins sleep up to 4. Full kitchens. Amenities include A/C, TV, mini golf, and kids playground.|
I’ve personally stayed at the Belton Chalet and Lake McDonald Lodge and wanted to give you a quick overview of my experience.
Lake McDonald Lodge
|Closer to headliner attractions like the Trail of the Cedars|
and Going-to-the-Sun Road
|Terrible Wi-Fi and no cell connection|
|Gorgeous views from the outdoor seating area||No TVs or AC|
|Red Bus tour pick up||Pricey and books up early|
|Cozy and comfortable rooms||Small rooms|
|Charlie Russell Dining Room||No dedicated parking|
Overall: Next time I go to West Glacier, I want to stay here again. I loved the views and carrot ginger soup from the Charlie Russell Dining Room. I also loved being right on Lake McDonald. It was great to be close to the Going to the Sun Road and the Avalanche Lake trailhead. Learn everything about my stay at the Lake McDonald Lodge.
|You feel like you are in the woods||No AC/TV|
|Across the street from the Amtrak station||Small/Cramped lobby|
|One of the first lodges built by the Northern Railway||Creaky floors|
|Rooms are rustically delightful||25 minutes from the best sites of West Glacier|
|Free continental breakfast and cookies||Located on a busy road|
|Fine dining||My least favorite of the lodges|
|Large recreation room|||
Overall: The Belton Chalet was nice, I would just prefer to stay at Lake McDonald. The Belton Chalet is located on the main road and it takes 25 minutes to drive to the sites of Glacier, and that’s if there’s not a line at the entry station.
There is a charming tradition of guests waving to the Amtrak train as it arrives and departs. I probably won’t stay here again but I did have a good experience. Learn everything about my stay at the Belton Chalet.
East Glacier lies on the other side of the mountain and the other side of the Going to the Sun Road. It is home to 3 distinct areas including Many Glacier, Two Medicine, and St. Mary’s. Glacier National Park is beautiful everywhere you look but Many Glacier is the crown jewel of this amazing park.
Many Glacier is the most beautiful area. Grinnell Glacier is the best hike with the prettiest view I’ve ever experienced. But even if you aren’t a big hiker, Swiftcurrent Lake and Grinnell Peak are breathtaking just from the valley.
St. Mary’s is an unincorporated town with some lodging, gas stations, and stores. There really isn’t much to do there.
Two Medicine is a less developed and less visited area of the park. There is no lodging here and only one parking lot, which is the jumping-off point for hiking trails, boat tours, and the visitor center.
Two Medicine and St. Mary’s are passable in my opinion, I try to spend 2 days in Many Glacier if I can.
East Glacier Lodging
|Glacier Park Lodge||$100 and up||Black Feet Nation:|
12-minute drive to Two Medicine
1 hour and 5-minute drive to Many Glacier
|Luxury. Value, standard, suites, and family rooms. Impressive lobby with giant wood beams. Fine dining in the Great Northern Dining Room. No lake view. Access to the Amtrak train station. Grounds include a golf course. Sun Bus Tour pick up station.|
|Many Glacier Hotel||$257 and up||In the park on Swiftcurrent lake|
1-hour and 20-minute drive to Two Medicine
|Luxury. Standard and deluxe rooms accommodate up to 4 people. Shared balconies. Fine Dining at the Ptarmigan Dining Room. The lobby has impressive views of Swiftcurrent Lake and Grinnell Peak. Best lodge in the park and the most difficult to get reservations.|
|Rising Sun Motor Inn and Cabins||$220 and up||Located on the Going to the Sun Road in the park|
30-minute drive to Many Glacier
|Budget. Cabins and motel rooms that sleep up to 4 people. Two Dog Flats Grill is across the street.|
|St. Mary Village||$160 and up||30 minutes to Many Glacier|
1 hour 20 minutes to Two Medicine
|Budget. Several options include suites and standard rooms in the motel and lodge. Cabins are also available. |
Amenities include TV, AC, and Wi-Fi that actually works.
|Swiftcurrent Motor Inn and Cabins||$142 and up||In the park by Many Glacier Hotel.|
1 hour 20-minute drive to Two Medicine
|Budget. Rustic cabins and motel rooms that sleep up to 4. Right next to the Many Glacier Hotel. Quick access to the ranger programs and hiking trailheads. Nel’s Grill is onsite.|
I’ve personally stayed at the Glacier Park Lodge, Many Glacier Hotel, and the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn. Here’s a quick overview of my experiences.
Glacier Park Lodge
|Beautiful grounds||The area surrounding the lodge is run down|
|The best lobby of the Glacier Lodges||The rooms are old (not in a good way)|
|Close to Amtrak train station||Bathrooms are very small|
|Sun Tours access point||Poor Wi-Fi|
|Closest lodging to Two Medicine||No TV, AC, microwave, or fridge|
|Huge with lots of room options||No lake view|
|Free tours of the hotel||Two Medicine is one of the least scenic areas of Glacier|
|Less expensive than some of the other lodges|||
Overall: The lobby at the East Glacier Lodge was the most impressive, even though it did not have a lake view. My room was not up to the standards of the other lodges. My biggest problem was the location of the Glacier Park Lodge. It’s too far away from the most scenic parts of the park and for that reason, I probably won’t stay there again. Learn everything about my stay at the Glacier Park Lodge.
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|Larger, charming rooms with shared balconies||Most expensive|
|The best lobby of Glacier lodges (Matt’s opinion- I like the East Glacier Lodge)||Rooms are in high demand|
|Located at the most scenic area of Glacier National Park||Accessing the parking lot requires a lot of climbing|
|Delicious fine dining onsite at Ptarmigans||Poor Wi-Fi|
|Walking distance to boat tours||No TV, A/C, microwave or fridge|
|Huge with lots of room options|
|Free hotel tours|
|Pick-up location for Red Bus Tours|
|My #1 choice for lodging in Glacier National Park|
Overall: If you are lucky enough to secure a room and have some extra cash, you should stay here. The lobby has the best view in the park of Swiftcurrent Lake and Grinnell Peak. The hotel is close to my favorite hike ever, Grinnell Glacier, and I loved eating at Ptarmigans Dining Room. I’d stay here again but probably not bring my kids. Learn everything about my stay at the Many Glacier Hotel.
Swiftcurrent Motor Inn and Cabins
|Easier to secure lodging||Not as nice as other lodges|
|Great location||The room had some imperfections|
|Affordable||Bed could be more comfortable|
|Feels retro instead of rustic||Bad Wi-fi|
|Close to hiking trails, ranger programs,|
and Swiftcurrent Lake
|Dirt parking lot|
|Cabins are cute and private|||
|Counter-service restaurant on site|||
Overall: Even though it wasn’t grandiose like the Many Glacier Hotel, I loved my rustic cabin in the wilderness. It was fun to hike to Red Rock Falls and attend the nightly ranger program without having to drive anywhere. It’s right in the middle of the best part of Glacier National Park and I highly recommend staying here. Learn more about my stay at Swiftcurrent Motor Inn.
The lodging within Glacier National Park is the best I’ve seen within any national park. The Swiss chalet style of the luxury lodges is absolutely charming and actually adds to the beauty of the surrounding nature.
The budget lodges are a great alternative and both budget and luxury lodges are at the heart of the action within the park. This is the main reason to stay inside the park.
Because Many Glacier is the most majestic section of the park, the Many Glacier Hotel is my top pick but I would happily stay at the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn and Cabins to be close to my favorite sights.
The Lake McDonald Lodge is my 2nd pick. West Glacier is a great area with lots to do and Lake McDonald Lodge is right in the middle of it.
I don’t recommend staying outside the park, even if it means you’ll have more amenities. Enjoy unplugging and connecting with other travelers and stay in the most beautiful areas.
If for some reason you can’t get lodging inside the park and find yourself needing lodging outside the park there are many options. There are many hotels, VRBOs, and Airbnb’s in West Glacier, Kalispell, and Whitefish. We recommend using booking.com to find the best deals for lodging in the areas that are outside of the park.
Bonus Review: Prince of Wales Hotel in Waterton Canada
Waterton has a completely different feel than East and West Glacier. It’s more developed with a bike path, several places to eat and stay, and fewer rules- feel free to bring your dog!
Waterton is not as scenic as Glacier, but the Prince of Wales hotel is so amazing I had to let you know about my experience.
Prince of Wales Hotel
|Fancy and formal style lobby with amazing views||Paid parking|
|Lovely piano music||$300 and up per night (peak season)|
|Superb service||Reservations needed for restaurant|
|Royal Dining Room- afternoon tea||No AC|
|Comfortable rooms||The Waterton area is not as pretty as Glacier National Park|
|Great view from rooms||Limited elevator use|
|Gift shop with a wide selection|
|Walking path to Waterton|
Overall: I felt like a princess staying in a castle at the Prince of Wales Hotel. The afternoon tea in the Royal Dining Room was one of the highlights of my entire trip. This felt like more of a romantic getaway than an adventure to a national park. As long as you don’t expect Waterton to be as scenic as Glacier National Park, and don’t mind spending some money, this is a great place to stay. Learn all about my stay at the Prince of Wales Hotel.
Is there anything else I should know?
Yes! Planning a trip to a national park can take days. It can be overwhelming and stressful. Let us lighten the load. Check out our must-have Travel Itinerary to Glacier National Park.
Our itinerary provides you with a daily (yet flexible) plan to help you efficiently see the park. It will get you to the most important places, at the right time to avoid the crowds, by telling you exactly how to do it. You can’t go wrong.
- Glacier National Park Itinerary
- Glacier Trip Planner Page
- Glacier Park Boat Tours: An expert’s advice and helpful tips
- Can I swim in Glacier National Park
- Do I need bear spray in Glacier?
- Glacier’s Lake McDonald Lodge: my complete review and tips
- Glacier’s Belton Chalet: should you stay here?
- Glacier Park Lodge: should you stay here?
- Many Glacier Hotel: should you stay here?
- Glacier Park Lodge (East Glacier): Should You Stay Here? An Honest Review
- How to to do the Grinnell Glacier Hike & Many Glacier Boat Tour
- 9 great places to eat in Glacier National Park
- Glacier’s Swiftcurrent Motor Inn: should you stay here?
- Prince of Wales Hotel in Waterton Lakes: my honest review
- Glacier National Park Official Website