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Glacier’s Swiftcurrent Motor Inn: Should you stay here? An honest review

Swiftcurrent Motor Inn in Glacier National Park

The Many Glacier area of Glacier National Park is the most beautiful of all.  In fact, it’s home to my favorite hike of all time, Grinnell Glacier.  There are a couple of in-the-park options for lodging in Many Glacier, including the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn.

Located within the Many Glacier area of Glacier National Park, the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn is a great budget option.  It has no air conditioning, TV, or impressive lobby. But it has a store, counter service restaurant, and great access to the attractions of the park. If you can’t stay at Many Glacier Hotel, I recommend staying at the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn.

Swiftcurrent Motor Inn in Glacier

I’m Cheryl and I’m a special education teacher who loves to travel with my husband Matt. I’ve been lucky enough to stay at 6 of the Glacier National Park Lodges. 

Read on to see if the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn is right for you.

At a Glance

ProsCons
Easier to secure lodgingNot as nice as other lodges
Great locationRoom had some imperfections
AffordableBed could be more comfortable
Feels retro instead of rusticBad Wi-fi
Close to hiking trails, ranger programs,
and Swiftcurrent Lake
Dirt parking lot
No stairs
Cabins are cute and private
Store near by
Counter service restaurant on site

Location

Located in the Many Glacier area of Glacier National Park, the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn is located near some of the most beautiful and popular attractions in the park.  You can save valuable time by staying within the park as well as enjoy more wildlife and scenery.

Map of Glacier National Park

The Many Glacier Area contains the very famous Grinnell Lake and Grinnell Glacier as well as Red Rock Falls. Guests can view waterfalls, bike, ride horses or boats, and of course, hike!

Our Cabin

motel

All the rooms at the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn are in small buildings consisting of an individual room or a row of rooms.  Our two-person room contained a full bed, a round table with two chairs, a chest of drawers, and a fan with a wood stand.

inside of room

Notice that I didn’t mention any AC?  That’s right.  Glacier National Park is known for being cold most of the year. Plus, the National Park Service lodges rarely include AC

However, it can get warm in July and August and I wished I had more than a fan to cool my room.

The buildings are located within the trees which provided some secluded shade.

cabin

You may have also noticed, no TV.  That is also a national park thing.  I guess they want to encourage you to interact with your fellow travelers and enjoy the beauty around you.

room

I thought our cabin’s rustic décor was cute.  Our bed and linens were adequate but not of the high quality found in most of the other lodges in the park.  

bathroom

Our bathroom wasn’t dirty but didn’t look super clean either.  I think because it was old.  The shower had poor water pressure and our toilet never stopped running.  The sink was located in the bathroom which was a bit inconvenient when I wanted to get ready while my husband showered.

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Amenities

Since this was designed to be a budget option, there aren’t many amenities. No free breakfast, swimming pool, or weight room (this isn’t standard for lodging inside a national park anyway). To get those things, you’d need to stay outside of the park.

The Lobby

front desk

The lobby is usually a pretty big deal for national park lodges.  Most have impressive views, oversized couches, a grand piano and a cozy fireplace. 

The lobby at the Motor Inn is small with no piano, fireplace, or view. The couches are made of vinyl for a retro feel.  Games are available at the front desk. 

lobby

Even though the lobby wasn’t that great, Matt and I hung out there a bit and talked with fellow travelers and the girl working the front desk.  We also took advantage of the very spotty Wi-Fi that only seemed to work in the lobby.

Shop

A small souvenir shop is connected to the lobby.  You can buy your t-shirts, shot glasses, and anything huckleberry you can imagine.  Nothing too fancy but plenty to choose from.

Ambiance

bed and room

The Swiftcurrent Motor Inn was built in the 1930s in the Many Glacier area of Glacier National Park to accommodate the middle-class traveler. This is in contrast to most of the lodges within Glacier, which were built by the Northern Railroad to attract the super-rich. 

So it’s kind of like comparing apples to oranges when comparing the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn to the Many Glacier Hotel.

The Many Glacier Hotel is beautiful and luxurious in a rustic way.  But I enjoyed the vibe of the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn. It had its own charm.

While the Many Glacier Hotel takes you back to the Victorian era of the early 1900s, the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn takes you back to the 1950s when automobile travelers drove on highways and stayed in quaint motels.

cabin

Matt and I have 4 children. Even though they weren’t with us on this trip, this is where I would choose to have my family stay.  A little bit of privacy is great and I think the kids would think it was fun.  

‘Nell’s, the attached restaurant, has kid-friendly foods that I know would have been a hit.

Just a couple of yards away is where nightly ranger programs are presented which are always geared towards kids (but interesting for adults too).

ranger program

One of my favorite things at the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn was that we were right by the trailhead for the Red Rock Falls hike. We did it at dusk and saw a lot of wildlife along the way – including a couple of black bears!

waterfall in mountains

‘Nell’s Restaurant

‘Nell’s is the only restaurant on site and offers traditional American food served counter style.  Matt and I ate there.

bbq mac and cheese

I ate a wrap and it was OK. Matt had the BBQ Mac and Cheese and really enjoyed it. I was impressed that Nell’s offered plenty of pizza, sandwiches, and salad options as well.

Other Food Options

ptarmigan dining room
Ptarmigan Dining Room

When staying at Swiftcurrent, you’re only about a mile away from the Many Glacier Hotel, so you can get some culinary variety by driving there and eating at the fancy Ptarmigan Dining Room or the quicker Swiss Lounge. We talk about both these restaurants in our article 9 great places to eat in Glacier National Park.

Know before you go

You can book your Swiftcurrent Motor Inn room as early as a year in advance. Get on it because all the lodges in Glacier sell out early!

The Swiftcurrent Motor Inn was one of the easier ones to secure a reservation for and we were able to get ours around 4 months in advance.  

sign
History sign in front of Swiftcurrent Motor Inn

This was the least expensive of all the lodges we reserved.  Other lodges can cost more than $500 a night!!  We were happy paying around $170 at Swiftcurrent Motor Inn. 

This is still an expensive room, but cheaper than the other in-the-park lodges, and we feel staying inside the park is VERY important.  

Should you stay here?

Even though the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn was a pretty big step down from the fancier lodges in the park, I think it is still worth considering.

It makes my heart happy to know there is an option for middle-class travelers, such as myself, to be able to stay within the national park.  The cabins are a bit older but clean. Plus the easy access to a hiking trail and ranger program made it all the more enjoyable.

Next time I visit Many Glacier with my children, I’ll be staying at the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn.  If it’s just Matt and I, I’ll try to stay at the Many Glacier Hotel.

Alternative lodging in Many Glacier

The only other lodging in Many Glacier is the Many Glacier Hotel. The towns outside the park on the east side of Glacier National Park are very small and remote.

Babb, Montana, is the nearest town, but you’ll find more options at St. Mary, which is only a 30-minute drive from Many Glacier.

We recommend using booking.com to find lodging outside the park!

If you’re looking for lodging near other areas of the park, check out our reviews on the Prince of Wales Hotel in Waterton Lakes, CA, the Glacier Park Lodge in East Glacier, or the Belton Chalet and Lake McDonald Lodge in West Glacier.

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.

ABOUT US

Matt and Cheryl

We’re Matt and Cheryl, and we’re in the Rockies. :) We are both teachers. Cheryl teaches special ed, and Matt teaches American history. We love the American West and the national parks. We want to help you have a great vacation on your next trip to the Rockies.

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