Glacier on a Budget

Photo by Becky Lomax

Prime in-park lodging without spending big bucks

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At Glacier National Park, prime lodging locations are not just for those with big bucks, but budget travelers, too. Location, location, location. Many visitors assume that staying inside the park will be pricey. But thanks to jaunty automobile travelers in the 1940s who demanded less expensive accommodations, the park has several budget options.

With budget motels and cabins under $150 per night, expect to find rustic older facilities. Rooms will be simple and plain without televisions or air conditioning. Without steps, you’ll haul your luggage up stairs to second floors. Bathrooms will be small, often with showers only. Some properties have shared bathroom facilities.

Budget lodging is only available in summer, usually June-September. Demand for these in-park accommodations is high, so make reservations at least a year in advance.

To explore Glacier on a budget, spend a minimum of two nights on the east side and two nights on the west side. For the four-night/five-day trip, drive Going-to-the-Sun Road over Logan Pass in between the two lodging locations on the third day. Add more days at either location for additional time to hike, horseback ride, raft, sightsee or fish.

East Side of Glacier (2 nights minimum)

On the east side, plan to stay in the historic  Swiftcurrent Motor Inn and Cabins in Many Glacier. Built in the 1930s when traveling by motorcar gained popularity along with the demand for simpler lodging, the cabins and motel rooms are throwbacks to the early park decades.

The Swiftcurrent complex has plain, rustic cabins with en suite bathrooms or communal restroom and shower facilities in another building. Especially for hikers, the Swiftcurrent location gains the benefit of multiple trails, so you can park the car and travel on foot for several days. Trails climb to Iceberg LakePtarmigan Tunnel, Swiftcurrent Lookout and Grinnell Glacier. One mile to the east are scenic boat tours and horseback rides.

===> Explore more local itineraries via the RELATED links below.

West Side of Glacier (2 nights minimum)

On the west side, visitors have three budget choices at Lake McDonald at two locations: the Lake McDonald Lodge complex or in Apgar. Both locations have horseback riding, boat rentals and shuttle stops for Going-to-the-Sun Road.

At historic Lake McDonald Lodge, stay in Snyder Hall. The hall has hostel-style rooms with shared bathrooms and showers upstairs. Located in the same complex but behind the store, Motel Lake McDonald squeaks into the budget category only during early summer and fall. Prices for the circa 1950 two-story motel rooms go above $150 mid-summer. From either lodging location, you can catch the tour boat on Lake McDonald or hike to Snyder Lakes, Mt. Brown or Sperry Chalet. A shuttle ride connects to the trailhead to Avalanche Lake.

In Apgar, the Apgar Village Lodge tucks budget motel rooms and cabins under tall cedars. Some motel rooms are under $150 all summer. A few cabins drop to budget price points in early summer and fall. Many of the cabins flank McDonald Creek, and you can walk five minutes or less to reach Lake McDonald. This location is closer to rafting the Flathead’s Middle Fork and hiking Apgar Lookout.

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