Many Glacier Hotel is not open for the 2020 season due to closures on the east side of Glacier National Park. But read on to start planning for 2021.
In this Many Glacier Hotel review I’ll show you why the historic national park lodge that sits on the shores of Swiftcurrent Lake is the best place to stay in Glacier National Park. But I’ll give you a hint—location, location, location.
I originally wrote the review in July 2015 but have updated it to include the most current information plus lots of interesting historical details. You’ll soon understand why I could come back again and again.
Alan and I were lucky enough to stay at Many Glacier Hotel while on a sponsored hiking program with Road Scholar. We were so thankful to finally check staying in the Swiss-style lodge off our boomer bucket list. One of six National Historic Landmarks in the park, Many Glacier covers all the bases—in my opinion—with its history, architecture and proximity to some of the best hiking trails in Glacier National Park.
Major road construction May 18 to September 20, 2020 on Many Glacier Road will delay traffic up to 40 minutes each way. Read more details here.
How to get to Many Glacier Hotel
Many Glacier Hotel is located on the northeastern side of Glacier National Park in northwestern Montana. From West Glacier, enjoy the ultra-scenic drive along Going-to-the-Sun Road before reaching Highway 89.
Turn north. At Babb, head west on the road into the park for 11.9 miles and the driveway into the hotel. It’s about 2.5 hours driving time.
Highway 2 is another option from West Glacier if Going-to-the-Sun Road is closed or too busy. A longer route, almost 3 hours driving, the road skirts the southern edge of Glacier National Park, eventually reaching Highway 89 and then north to Babb and the park entrance.
Meet a railroad lodge that became a national park hotel
In 1913, the Great Northern Railway hired E. G. Evansta to build Thomas D. McMahon’s design of a chalet-style hotel at the base of Mt. Grinnell. Using timber from the Swiftcurrent Valley, Evansta completed construction of the hotel in 1915 after experiencing delays due to long, Glacier National Park winters.
With 240 guest rooms, Many Glacier was the largest hotel in Montana for decades. And, in my opinion, it’s the crown jewel of hotels in Glacier National Park.
In 1936, the hotel survived a forest fire that threatened to burn the famous mountain lodge down. Much to the chagrin of the Great Northern Railway executives, who were losing money on Many Glacier Hotel, the staff fought valiantly and successfully to save this beautiful piece of history.
I’m so glad they did. Glacier National Park Foundation shares more of the hotel’s history and stories.
Other Glacier National Park lodges built by the Great Northern Railway include Glacier Park Lodge, Prince of Wales Hotel in Waterton (Glacier’s Canadian northern neighbor) and a series of mountain chalets in the park including Belton (still in use as a hotel), Sperry, Two Medicine, and Granite Park.
Sperry chalet, popular as an overnight stay for hikers, burned in the Sprague Fire of 2017. The chalet has been rebuilt and opens to the public in 2020. Make your reservations here.
What do I really think of Many Glacier Hotel rooms?
Most Many Glacier Hotel reviews that I read agree on one thing—the rooms are rustic, basic and serviceable. I’ll be the first to admit that they aren’t anything to write home about.
Like most national park lodges, the luxury comes from staying in historic accommodations in the midst of unparalleled natural beauty. Do others agree with me? Check out the opinions on TripAdvisor.
Unless you book a suite, the rooms hold a double or twin bed arrangement with private bath. You won’t find TV’s in the rooms—or air conditioning. The 5-story hotel underwent a partial renovation in 2016.
I highly recommend splurging on a lake view room with balcony. That’s what Alan and I will do on our next visit. However, since room reservations are hard to come by, we’ll take what we can get.
Make your Many Glacier Hotel reservations as early as possible (start here). The hotel is open from early-June to mid-September. Reservations fill up a year in advance, although I also recommend checking for last-minute cancellations.
Discover charming public spaces for relaxing or socializing
The public spaces more than make up for the 100-year-old accommodations at Many Glacier Hotel. A great room with soaring ceilings, gigantic fireplace and comfortable seating is the place to be after a long day of outdoor activity.
Guests mix and mingle, sharing the day’s activities or advice for which trail to hike tomorrow. Others sit by the fire with a drink and appetizers as they scroll through newly taken photos on their smartphones and cameras.
Or there’s that big beautiful deck overlooking Swiftcurrent Lake. Guests line up to gaze through the spotting scope for a look at wildlife like grizzly bears, big horn sheep, or mountain goats ambling across the mountains on the far side of the lake. Perhaps you’ll see a moose wading on the lakeshore.
Later, step outside to gaze at the stars where the Milky Way smears a bright path across the night sky.
An enclosed breezeway connecting the main building with the annex offers more seating, tables with board games plus another chance to gaze out the window at the spectacular scenery.
Enjoy Dining with an alpine view
Alan and I stayed at Many Glacier Hotel while traveling on a Road Scholar Glacier National Park hiking program. Using coupons provided as part of our program, we enjoyed meals in the Ptarmigan Dining Room that included American or Continental menu choices accompanied by more views of Swiftcurrent Lake.
The food was excellent but the highlights of the meals were the conversations with our servers—college-aged students from around the world. Not only do they serve food, but the musically talented servers entertain at the piano or on other instruments.
Other dining options include the Swiss Lounge or Heidi’s Snack Shop and Expresso Stand.
Things to do at Many Glacier Hotel
A stay at Many Glacier Hotel is not about the building, the rooms, a fine meal or the staff. Nature is the star here because this Montana hotel sits in America’s Alps, one of the most scenic locations in the U.S., if not the world.
My best boomer travel tip—experience the Many Glacier area on foot. The best hiking trails in Glacier National Park are located here. During our trip, Alan and I hiked to Bullhead Lake and enjoyed a morning exploring on a Grinnell Lake hike.
On our next Glacier National Park vacation, we’d like to hike to Iceberg Lake and take the Grinnell glacier trail. And maybe there will be time for a boat ride on Swiftcurrent Lake, a red bus (jammer) tour or to simply sit on the deck for a relaxing afternoon of reading and wildlife watching.
In the evenings, Many Glacier Hotel offers ranger-led lectures and entertainment. Or sit in the great room to swap Glacier National Park stories with fellow guests. If you simply must stay connected, you’ll find limited wi-fi here.
But don’t forget to set your alarm for an early wakeup! The deck overlooking Swiftcurrent Lake is known as one of the best places in Glacier National Park for taking sunrise photos.
Other hotels at Many Glacier
What if the hotel is full? There are a couple of other options at Many Glacier. Swiftcurrent Motor Inn & Cabins is easier on the budget, but just as hard to book. Be careful when reserving your room as not all of the accommodations come with private baths.
Staying at the Many Glacier campground is another choice. Again, reservations fill up far in advance.
And, if you’re staying at Swiftcurrent Motor Inn or in the campground, walk the 1.3 miles along the Continental Divide Trail over to the hotel for a meal. This gives you the opportunity to hang out at Many Glacier Hotel to experience the lodge’s architecture and scenic location even if you can’t stay there.
Booking lodging at Many Glacier Hotel, Swiftcurrent Motor Inn or the campground insures that you’ll have a place to park. The lots often fill up during the peak summer months, closing Many Glacier to daytrippers.
What to bring to Many Glacier
You won’t need fancy clothes for this trip, even in the Parmigan Dining Room.
- Hiking clothes are the dress of the day, although changing into a casual outfit for dinner is a nice change of pace.
- Packing bear spray is a must, even for short walks in the woods. This is grizzly country.
- Hiking poles ease the stress on joints as well as offer stability to those of us with a fear of heights.
- Bring a book to read on that relaxing Many Glacier Hotel deck.
- And don’t forget your camera!
More than anything, bring your appreciation of nature, including knowing how to behave around wildlife.
Try this Glacier National Park 4-day itinerary
For a trip that will thrill any national park lover, especially if you enjoy staying at Glacier National Park hotels that are historic lodges, here’s a four-day itinerary that could be easily stretched into a longer trip.
- Day one: Stay at Lake McDonald Lodge on the west side of Glacier. If there’s time, hike to Avalanche Lake or enjoy the boardwalk Trail of the Cedars.
- Day two: Drive Going-to-the-Sun Road with a stop at Logan Pass to hike to the Hidden Lake Overlook before continuing to Many Glacier Hotel for two nights.
- Day three: Enjoy one of the hikes in the Many Glacier area. Grinnell Glacier or Iceberg Lake are probably the most famous, however hiking to Bullhead Lake is a moderately-easy favorite of mine that includes Redrock Falls. Boat rides are also available, which can cut down on some of the hiking mileage, but book ahead.
- Day four: Drive Chief Mountain Highway (about two hours) for a stay at Prince of Wales Hotel in Waterton Lakes National Park. Bring a passport as you’ll be crossing into Canada. Enjoy an afternoon boat ride on the lake.
Of course this isn’t nearly enough time to take advantage of the world-class hiking, kayaking and white water rafting available at Glacier National Park and Waterton Lakes. Consider this a reconnaissance mission for your next boomer travel adventure to Montana.
Coloring Glacier National Park is the next best thing to being there! Check out my grayscale coloring book for travelers at Amazon.
Road Scholar provided this Many Glacier Hotel experience. However the opinions are my own.