Last week we decided we needed a break and looked at our nearby travel options. So, without much thought or research, we booked a week in Helena, Montana! It’s only just over the border, so not too far to travel and it’s a state we have not visited before.
We got up at 5:30 am to get an early start. There are a couple of driving routes to reach Helena and we decided to take the scenic route through Glacier National Park. It would add a couple of hours to our journey and some extra miles, but we thought it would be worth driving through on our way as opposed to making a special journey once at our destination. After all, if we loved it we could always go back during the trip.
The journey down to the border was completely uneventful as it is literally one road all the from Calgary to the crossing. The weather was good and the road (Highway 2) parallels the Rockies all the way, so decent views, if only to the west.
This was the view of a pretty good mountain view close to the US border.
Having never used this border crossing before, we had no idea what to expect. In Ontario, the border could be completely empty of cars, or we have had to wait an hour or more to cross. well, we got to the border and not another car was in sight. The border agent greeted us and asked us to park up and come inside. As UK citizens we have to complete a visa waiver when we cross, so unless we already have one in place we have to go inside to fill out the paperwork. This can take some time but on this occasion, it took no more than 5 minutes. This has to be the quickest and most pleasant crossing we have experienced. The building is also really unique as it is like a log cabin to fit in with the local scenery.
Once in Montana, we drove a short distance to a place called St. Mary. We stopped off at a cafe to get something to eat as it was 10:30 am and we had been up for hours. However, the cafe did not open until 11:00, so we decided to continue into Glacier National Park and find something to eat there. The entrance to the park is just down the road and we had to pay $35 USD for a 7-day pass which is pretty good.
The road you enter on is called Going-to-the-Sun Road! These are our first views of the park.
Not too long after entering the park we came to an area called Rising Sun. There is a campground, hotel, restaurant etc, so we stopped off to see if we could get some lunch. Luckily we found an eatery called Two Dog Flats Restaurant. We were seated by the window with beautiful views of the mountains. The food was really good. Chris ordered a cod sandwich and I had a pulled pork one. As you can see from the photos they were presented really well and tasted really good. For these meals, tea and coffee we paid $35, so not too bad.
When we exited the restaurant we saw an old classic car in the lot which we couldn’t resist taking a few pics of. Also saw a long red vehicle which looked pretty cool too. We later realized these are the tour buses they use to transport visitors around the park. As there are length and height restrictions, these are ideal.
The scenery here is beautiful and the next set of photos are of St. Mary Lake which is just stunning. As we entered the park pretty early, there were only a couple of people here, so we were able to see it in all its glory. In our opinion this is much better than the famour Lake Louise in Banff National Park.
As you would expect Glacier National Park is so called because of its glaciers. In the mid-1800’s there were 150 of them, these days there are only 26 and they are shrinking at an alarming rate. Studies carried out over 50 years saw the average shrinkage rate of 39% over that period.
The first glacier we came across was actually impossible to see as it was shrouded in fog. But it still made for a stunning sight, seeing the fog rolling over the top of the ountains.
Here are some more photos of the scenery in the area of this glacier, including a few waterfalls and our truck surrounded by majestic beauty.
Next are some beautiful river shots.
By mid-afternoon the crowds were getting crazy and we were very glad we got to the park early and managed to see most of the major sights before being inundated by people. Because of the huge number of cars and the growing inability to even park at some of the best sight-seeing spots we decided to leave and possibly return another day. But it was so worth the visit. It is an amazing park and definitely one for the bucket list.
After exiting the park we made our way to Helena which was quite a long journey due to our “slight” detour! We reached our hotel, Hampton Inn at around 6:30 pm. We were starving, so dumped everything in our room and went out to find some dinner.
There was a restaurant called Perkins, 5 minutes from the hotel, so we went there for convenience. We had been to one of these in Saskatchewan last year, so knew they were normally okay.
Chris ordered a chicken salad and I had a skillet. I personally didn’t enjoy my meal. The Denny’s version of a skillet is far superior, but it filled a gap. Chris liked his salad although there wasn’t much chicken in it. The two meals with coffee and tea cost $19, so very good value. We would return, but I would choose something different next time.
Back at the hotel, I unpacked everything and we didn’t do a lot more than watch a bit of TV as we just wanted to chill out. The hotel room is okay with a king bed, sofa, desk and of course a TV. There is also a fridge and microwave. The bathroom is a good size with a large shower, no bath. Overall quite happy with it. However, the internet is another story. It is dismal. When I did a speed test it was only 0.9 mbps down and 0.2 upload. You can pay $5 per day to upgrade, but I really begrudge doing this especially as we are Hilton Honors members and it says that the speed will be 2-3 times standard speed, so this is pretty crappy too. Oh well, we’ll see how it goes.
NOTE: The internet remained crap throughout, sometimes not even able to download emails, so this blog was updated once we returned to Calgary.