East Glacier Park

Gateway to Indian Country, Doorway into the Rocky Mountains

East Glacier Park is the small town on the East entrance to Glacier National Park. The town is a is the gateway to both the Rocky Mountains and the Blackfeet reservation (depending on which way you are facing when you're there). It truly has unfabricated wild west all over it.

Pulling into town on HWY 2 or stretching as you hop from a train, you see an idyllic town that still holds a bit of wild west in it. East Glacier has one main street and a few sub streets, some of them still dirt roads. There's the brown grocery store on the end that has been in it's place as a true wild west trading post for natives and explorers. It's not a flagship Safeway, and it does it not cater to "special needs" like Whole Foods. However, it has what you need to survive in this area: sandwiches and mosquito spray. 

Next door to the brown grocery store is the best diner in the world. Fair prices for excellent food; clean amenities and dishes; "vintage" machines still used for making milkshakes, grilling and other cooking activities. The diner employs friendly employees, most of whom are residents of the town and can give good guidance for the best places to see.

Further down the street is a gift shop and laundry mat. Perpendicular to the brown grocery store is a Mexican restaurant I have been told is pretty good, for Mexican food in the mountains. Further down this perpendicular street is the post office, in case you have anything that you need to send out.  

Across the main street in East Glacier Park you will see an old-time tunnel with train tracks that run over it. This leads to the entrance to Glacier National Park, though the entrance is actually 20 miles or so further. It also marks the edge of the reservation. On this other side of town, referred to by the locals as "the other side of town", you can find the Glacier Park Lodge. Even if you're not going to stay at the lodge, it's worth it to go in and explore the building, and walk around The Lodge grounds. The Lodge is familiar with this kind of visiting and would love to answer any questions you might have about the area or the park or the Lodge. The Lodge is like the concierge for the whole area.  

Also on this side of town are the summer homes. This is the area where non-native peoples come to live in the Summer times. It's also where the motels are. There's another grocery store on this side of town, but it's about the same as the brown grocery previously mentioned. During the winter, this side of town is pretty empty; the town population drops back down to its normal 250-300 or so.

On this side of town, too, are more affordable motels and cottages. A great option, quaint and affordable, is a row of cute studio freestanding cottages that are at the far end of town as you head into the mountains.

There are many pull-off points on the road. A traveler can pull over almost anywhere that is not fenced-off in order to go swimming in a nearby lake or river. 

Lake McDonald is one of the best places on the planet. You can find information on this lake in The Lodge. It's part of Glacier National Park. There's another Lodge at the base of the Lake with a decent but not great restaurant. Swimming in the lake during the hottest month (August) is excellent.

A do-not-miss is taking a day long drive on Going to the Sun Road. It's a road along the face of the Rocky Mountains. At the top of the drive is a visitor center and restrooms. This is where the trailhead to the glacier the area is named after. Mountain goats commonly walk the parking lot and are not aggressive.  Going to the Sun Road is often under repair because it is in a wild are of the country and the winter environment is unforgiving on man made structures. Do not drive on it if you can help it with anything larger than a sedan because the gaurd rails in many places have decayed and fallen off.

Warmer weather over the last decade or so has caused the glacier after which the park is named to recede so much that it's become a 5 hours hike to reach the glacier and get back to the road.  

Bring sweaters wherever you go in Montana because it gets cold every night, even in the summer.  

You will see a lot of wildlife in this area. Bears and skunks (and other wild things) wandering into East Glacier are common. Don't ever feed wildlife. Here's why: First, the wildlife may be dangerous. Second, you are facilitating the wildlife being comfortable with coming close to people and roads, making it more likely they will be struck, killed, and/or dependent on humans for food. They become a nuisance and are usually dead after a winter or killed.  

Local Secrets:

Locals make secret fun of bear bells but bear bells are common and useful. Alternatively a traveler can bring a spray. The spray is available at all grocery and gift shops. Heed all bear and wildlife signage--it's not there for decoration. This are of the country is still very wild.

One of the largest native festivals in the US is located 13 miles from East Glacier Park. Look online for Indian Days, Browning MT.   There are two "Two Medicine" campgrounds. Lower Two Medicine is usually run by local natives. It's a great and quiet place to camp, and to camp on rivers. Upper Two Medicine is run by the NPS, and is on the lake.

Super Secret Tip: There's a waterfall off the road to the right as you are heading out of town, just past the small flatlands. In the spring locals play in and jump off this. There is a jutting stone in the middle of the river at the top, and the drop is about 20 feet into a smoothed-out pool. The jump is only good during the spring when the watershed is still high making the pool deep enough to land in, but not so high you can't get to the middle of the falls (the jumping off point).  

Have fun!