Along with many others, we descended on Glacier Park Lodge in July for the hotel’s first ever reunion celebration for its former employees.
During one summer of his college days, my husband worked in the lodge’s laundry where he washed, dried and folded sheets with other college age folks. Surrounded by washers, driers and piles of white fabric, they became close friends. Another friend drove one of Glacier National Park’s iconic Red Bus Tour busses, and another worked in guest relations.
Regardless of the jobs they held, their stories have a common thread. The time spent working at Glacier Park Lodge is among their finest experiences. As a person who married into this group, I’ve added Glacier Park Lodge and its surroundings to my “Places I Love To Go To” list.
Opened June 15, 1913 by the Great Northern Railroad, Glacier Park Lodge is located on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation at the edge of the town of East Glacier. The two teepees on the front lawn, and the two totem poles at the lodge’s entrance, indicate the resort’s native American ties. The lodge’s architecture, and the ground’s manicured lawn and gardens, however, evoke images of Europe–the rustic version.
Outside looks like a rambling Swiss chalet where a flower bed of riotous colors stretch from the hotel’s entrance towards the historic train station that serves passenger trains twice daily.
Inside, the magnificence of the hotel’s design is stunning. First, there’s the lobby made from 60 Douglas fir trees with trunks that measure 40 feet tall and at least 3 feet in diameter. The hotel rooms in this main part of the lodge are situated around the lobby’s perimeter on the 2nd and 3rd floors.
The ceiling, a mix of tree trunks and skylights, is angled high above the floor in a pattern of vertical and horizontal lines. The railings and light fixtures add to the visual interest. The Western Arts and Crafts design of the building and fixtures are complimented by the lobby’s Mission/Monterrey style furnishings.
The lodge’s bar, restaurant, snack shop and gift shop are all situated around the lobby, as is the walkway to the hotel’s annex. In 1916, a 111 room addition was added to Glacier Park Lodge in response to the high demand for hotel rooms. The original 61 rooms weren’t enough almost as soon as the hotel opened.
Today, there are 161 guest rooms that range from one double bed to a family room with four queen beds. Each room has its own configuration that verges on the quirky. Over the years, rooms have been reconfigured so that each room has a private bath. Pipes are often visible and some bathrooms have claw bathtubs, and some rooms have old-fashioned pedestal sinks that are part of the bedroom.
I find the rooms’ quirky qualities charming and part of Glacier Park Lodge’s authentic appeal. Besides, the beds are comfortable and the rooms are well cared for. If you’re spending a lot of time in your room, you’re missing out on the glorious surroundings anyway.
One room to ask for is one with a private balcony that overlooks the swimming pool. The view of the mountains from this vantage point is splendid.
Along with the friendly, impeccable service, the lodge’s appeal is in its low-keyed offerings. We played shuffle board and pitch n’ putt. I also saw games of frisbee golf on one side of the expansive front lawn. The pitch n’ putt golf course was on the other side. There is also a 9-hole golf course and board games are available to check out at the front desk.
Between the more formal The Great Northern Dining Room, and the casual The Empire Bar, food options range from sandwiches to classic and creative upscale cuisine.
Glacier Lodge does have a spa that offers massages and other treatments, although I forgot to look for it. I was too busy taking advantage of the lodge’s proximity to Glacier National Park. The closest Glacier National Park entrance from East Glacier is Two Medicine, about 1o minutes away.
My son and I did go on a two-hour horseback riding from the riding stable near the lodge. The stable is owned and operated by the Blackfeet Indians, and this particular ride took us across meadows of wildflowers, through woods, and up into the mountains. You can get information about the horseback ride at the lodge’s front desk or just walk over to the stable.
Because the Glacier Park Lodge (and most of East Glacier) closes down towards the end of September, Glacier Lodge might be a place to consider for next year. If you ever get a chance to visit this part of the U.S., don’t miss it.
Currently room rates range from the Value Lodge room at $140 to a Suite at $377. Book online here. Phone: 406/892-2525 or 403/236-3400 from Canada.
* The rooms don’t have TVs, Internet access, or air-conditioning, by the way. Montana gets cool at night, so air-conditioning isn’t needed. You can ask for a fan.
Post and photos courtesy of Jamie Rhein, member of the Midwest Travel Writers Association