Glacier National Park – Whitefish, MT

shoreline sunsetFrom Jackson we drove over Teton Pass and north through Idaho into Montana, with our sights set on Glacier National Park. My college advisor went to college in Missoula and always would tell me that I had to go there, so we routed Missoula into our plans. We stopped to get ice cream at this awesome place called Sweet Peaks and then went to the grocery store. The city reminded me a little bit of Portland, ME without the ocean. It was quaint and beautiful, surrounded by mountains.

We drove north from Missoula heading towards Glacier National Park. Before leaving for the trip I searched for free campsites in all of the destinations we were stopping at. The only one we ended up staying at was one of my favorite of the whole trip! After driving on the east side of Flathead Lake (the biggest freshwater lake in the US!) we arrived in Kalispell. I had written directions to Ashley Lake Campground so we followed those to the south side of Ashley Lake. There were only 3 spots on the south side and they were full, so we tried the north side and almost gave up before we found a beautiful site with a picnic table and a fire ring right next to the lake!

dinner at ashley lake
Dinner at Ashley Lake
ashley lake campsite
Our Campsite at Ashley Lake

The water was warm in the evening after baking in the sun all day and it was very clear. We skipped rocks, set up the tent and made a delicious stir fry dinner that smelled so good it attracted our neighbors over to ask what we were cooking!

In the morning we woke up to a magnificent sunrise on the lake. I felt like I could have stayed at that campsite forever, and we didn’t even have to pay! But we had plans to drop Shea off at a doggie daycare and go explore the park, so we packed up and hit the road. We dropped Shea off at Three Dog Ranch in Whitefish, and I knew she would love it there without as many dogs as at DogJax and some more down time to relax.

Sunrise on Ashley Lake
Sunrise on Ashley Lake

We drove into Glacier and found a campsite first thing at Sprague Creek Campground right on McDonald lake. It’s mostly a tent campground and we were so happy to be away from any generators or RVers. There weren’t any spots available right on the lake, but we were close enough that we could walk down a short path to the rock beach. The water was even more clear than Ashley Lake.

Lake McDonald, at Sprague Creek Campground in Glacier National Park
Lake McDonald, at Sprague Creek Campground in Glacier National Park

We thought about going on a hike or run somewhere but also know we should rest our legs for the race coming up, so we decided instead on renting kayaks. We headed down to Apgar Village to find about about rental prices. We rented from Glacier Outfitters for a very reasonable price for 2 hours.

Kayaks on Lake McDonald
Kayaks on Lake McDonald

It was a beautiful day and being out on the lake was awesome! The view of the mountains behind the lake was superb! We kayaked over to a little beach and went for a swim and then just sat in the middle of the lake for awhile and had some beer. It was one of the best days of the whole trip! Afterwards we went to pick up Shea and watched the sun set over the lake. The colors were stunning. I took so many photos, I couldn’t get enough. I just wanted to capture the image forever!

Sunset on Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park

sunset pano2

The next morning was overcast and since we had Shea anyways we decided to do a driving tour of the park. We drove over the Going to the Sun road, up into the clouds at the summit. I can’t believe they built that road back in the early 30s! On the east side of the pass we saw what was left of the forest from a recent wildfire. It was sad but I always try to remember that it is a natural process. We drove to Many Glacier and I wished that Shea hadn’t been with us because I really would have loved to hike around that area. There were showers and laundry over there so we took some time to do that while we ate lunch.

many glacier
Many Glacier at Glacier National Park
wall glacier
Cliffs above Going to the Sun Road

We drove back over the pass to our campsite, made dinner and relaxed before going to bed. In the morning we would take off again on a long ride to Washington, where we stayed with Matt’s aunt in Duvall for the night. The smoke from the fires on the drive through washington were saddening. We originally planned to go to North Cascades National Park for the night but then changed plans at the last minute because there was a large fire east of the park and it would have been dangerous to be in the area. Matt’s aunt’s house was set into the woods on a big hill and was beautiful! We were happy to sleep in a real bed too!

(to be continued…)

Part 1: Jackson, WY – Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks