A taste of Glacier in 2 Days only leaves the desire for more Glacier National Park, but even a short trip samples rugged vistas, exquisite wildflower meadows and shimmering lakes. While a two-day road trip must forego remote destinations, it can pick up historic lodges, popular short trails, iconic scenery and the footprints of glaciers along well-traveled roads.
Depart West Glacier early to head up Going-to-the-Sun Road. After driving along Lake McDonald, the largest lake in the park, stop at Lake McDonald Lodge. Tour the lobby and original lakeside entrance of the National Historic Landmark built in 1914. Going-to-the-Sun Road then parallels McDonald Creek, the longest river in the park, before climbing out of the trees to yield views that get bigger and bigger. The ascent changes direction at the Loop, a hairpin turn, before creeping along the cliffs to Logan Pass. Pullouts offer countless photo ops.
At Logan Pass, with a picnic lunch in a pack, hike 1.5 miles up to Hidden Lake Overlook. Perch on one of the rocks to eat while mountain goats wander through thickets of stunted sub-alpine firs nearby. At the overlook, soak in the blues of Hidden Lake and the rugged architecture of the surrounding peaks.
After returning to Logan Pass, continue down the east side of Going-to-the-Sun Road. Stop below the East Side Tunnel to take note of the U-shaped, glacier-carved St. Mary Valley and the towering Going-to-the-Sun Mountain. Several other pullouts yield gawk-worthy scenery: Jackson Overlook, Sun Point, Sunrift Gorge and Wild Goose Island Overlook. When you reach St. Mary, tour the Native American exhibits at St. Mary Visitor Center.
In St. Mary, pull into the St. Mary Lodge and Resort for the night. Ask for a window seat in their Snowgoose Grille to dine on wild game with a view. Cap the evening in their Mountain Bar sipping a huckleberry cocktail. Settle into a third-story room in their Great Bear Lodge for views of Glacier’s peaks lighting up at sunrise.
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After breakfast, head north to Many Glacier. It requires a short drive around Lower St. Mary Lake and up the wildlife-rich Swiftcurrent Valley. Hop the boat tour on Swiftcurrent Lake. The narrated tour crosses the lake, where passengers walk five minutes to Lake Josephine for a second lake tour. If time allows afterwards, take a walk along Swiftcurrent Lake.
Dine in the Ptarmigan Room at Many Glacier Hotel, a National Historic Landmark. A north window seat may yield a little bear watching on the slopes of Mt. Altyn.
Return to St. Mary and drive south on the curvy US 89 and MT 49 that skirts the east slopes of Glacier. Take a detour up to Two Medicine to see the blue lake that crouches between chiseled peaks. On the return, walk into Running Eagle Falls. Drive to East Glacier and turn onto Highway 2 heading westward. Stop at Marias Pass to see the Lewis Overthrust.
Dine where you started at West Glacier. Celebrate the two-day adventure over succulent bison meatloaf paired with a bottle of wine at the Belton Chalet, the first hotel built by Great Northern Railway .