Travelers: Sarah and Nathan
Type: Yellowstone to Glacier road trip and mini-honeymoon
Budget: Budget ($500-$1000)
We stationed ourselves on the eastern side of Glacier, which turned out to be the perfect plan — NO ONE was around. In Glacier, we started in the Two Medicine lake section, then went north to Many Glacier Lake (my favorite area!).
We then drove around the park to the western section to Apgar, a city that was incorporated before the park was created, so it looks like a tourist mountain city (not the best area). Then drove over Going-to-the-Sun road — an engineering marvel that was hand-chiseled into the very hard rocks on Logan Pass.
We then drove through Yellowstone, where we stayed at Mammoth Hot Springs near the huge travertine terraces and Bay Bridge near Yellowstone Lake. On the way home we drove through Grand Tetons, which is Nate’s favorite park.
What did you do? We planned on camping the whole time, possibly even doing an overnight backpacking trail, but the weather did NOT cooperate with us. While camping at Many Glacier, a really nasty storm blew in overnight which definitely tested the durability of our relatively new tent. It stood up really well, almost better than us — but we did get slightly sprinkled on.
The next morning it was clear, so we went on a horseback ride — which was interesting since I have never been on a horse before! We thought the weather would hold, but alas, the torrential downpour returned for the last few miles — we got SOAKED. The not-great weather followed us for a couple days, but we were able to hike and explore enough.
Exploring is made easier in Glacier by boats — most of the huge lakes in the park have these boats that take you to the far end, enabling you to hike to alpine lakes in three miles instead of 12. Most of the boats are 80+ years old.
The other thing that helped was we decided to up our budget a little and stay in hotels — two days of getting soaked was enough for us! Glacier has so many gorgeous old hotels. Some are very old and creaky, but it was better than outside.
Our last day we took a Red Bus Tour, which are antique (refurbished from the 1930s) tour buses. We decided to let someone else drive so we could sit back and enjoy Going-to-the-Sun road — it was great! It felt very touristy, but it was a great way to relax and enjoy the scenery without the stress of the road. The road is extremely stressful, and had been closed that morning due to an avalanche. Hairpin turns, rain, snow, construction (so one lane of traffic) and LOTS of cars made us happy with our decision.
In Yellowstone, we whitewater rafted just outside the park on the Yellowstone River near Gardiner, MT. It was awesome! We were the only people who signed up for the full day trip (it was a Wednesday, they fill up on weekends and later in the summer) so we had the boat, and our super-fun guide to ourselves. And because we are experienced rafters, we did some fun goofing around things. Overall, we saw six moose throughout the trip, and four bears, including a mom and her cubs!
What would you have done differently?
- Remembered our passports! It is so easy to add a trip into Canada from Glacier.
- We also would have packed better. We packed for a summer trip because literally the REST of the country was in a heat wave, everywhere but Glacier! We just happened to have our jackets and we used them, but alas we did not have our super fancy backpacking rain gear — it really would have come in handy!
What’s your best travel advice for other offbeat honeymooners? Don’t be afraid of the uber-touristy things in moderation! The average visitor to Glacier is about 70, arrives by train, stays in the hotels, takes the water boats, and the Red Buses. I did not want to take the Red Bus, but it was a way to see the beautiful Going-to-the-Sun road without dealing with the driving — totally worth it! Our fellow bus riders were all off the train types, but they were all nice enough. Our driver was very fun, and we found out, lived right around the corner from us.