Glacier National Park is known as the ‘Switzerland of America,’ thanks to its glacially carved valleys, tranquil lakes, and lush green terrain. It’s a beautiful masterpiece of northern Montana landscape situated on the Continental Divide that everyone should witness firsthand at least once in their lifetime!
I went to Glacier National Park for the first time recently, after spending a couple of days in Billings for a conference. In fact, I actually celebrated my birthday in Glacier National Park, and it could not have been a more beautiful place to ring in 26 (yikes, but 26 is still mid-twenties, right? Lie to me if you have to).
In total, Glacier National Park covers 1,583 square miles. It’s a massive park and one that requires a couple of days to explore. If you’re planning a trip up to Glacier National Park and researching where to stay, read on for 3 lodging options at any budget!
Where to Stay in Glacier National Park: 3 Options for Any Budget
1. Camping ($)
Average Cost: $10-$65
Perfect For: Adventurous travelers, road trippers with appropriate camping gear, travelers who want to stay in or as close as possible to the park
There are over 1,000 campsites to choose from in Glacier National Park, and even more in the surrounding gateway towns, like Saint Mary and West Glacier. I believe most campsites in the area cost between $10-$25/night, and you should plan on bringing cash to pay for the number of nights you will be staying when you arrive. Many campsites that require on-site payment with cash are first-come first-served, and you can simply pay for the number of nights you wish to stay by putting your money into a provided envelope and depositing the payment for your campsite into a box or tube. You should see an envelope receipt that you can tear off and clip to your numbered site to indicate that it’s been paid for.
Alternatively, there are a number of sites that can be reserved in advance and paid for online. Fish Creek, Saint Mary, Apgar, and Many Glacier offer sites that can be reserved ahead of time.
Here’s where you can find additional information about each campsite that allows advance reservations:
Here are other highly rated campsites that offer first-come, first-served campsites:
For more details on these sites and more, the National Parks Service offers some good information here.
2. Cabins ($$)
Average Cost: $45-$100
Perfect For: Travelers flying in to visit Glacier National Park with limited camping supplies, travelers who like close proximity to the park, people who enjoy campfires and feeling at one with nature (without sleeping on the ground)
When we went to Glacier, we actually rented a cabin because we were all flying in from out of town, and we didn’t want to lug sleeping bags and tent equipment with us from California. The cabin we rented was a rustic cabin (read: bring your own bedding!) and cost us $45 – $65/night. If you’re up for sharing bathrooms with the surrounding cabin guests, and not having many amenities other than a roof over your head, rustic cabin camping is a super affordable alternative to spending the night in a hotel, and doing so allowed us to stay as close as possible to the entrance of the park.
Check out the rustic cabin we stayed at in West Glacier here.
Of course, rustic cabins aren’t the only way to go. You can also find some beautiful amenity-stocked cabins available for booking as well if you’re open to paying a bit extra.
3. Hotels ($$$)
Average Cost: $200-$400
Perfect For: Travelers who enjoy amenities, easy access to food and drinks, and a comfortable bed at the end of a long day of exploring
From motels to luxe lodges and resorts, there is a lot to choose from in the areas surrounding the park. Here are some nearby towns and regions you can look to narrow down your search.
A small village on the eastern side of Glacier National Park, this will likely your entrance point if you’re coming from Billings, like I did. Here, you’ll find motels, some restaurants, a grocery store, car rentals, shuttle services, gas stations, and of course, beautiful scenery (and it’s only just the beginning!).
Saint Mary is a teeny town on the eastern side of the park, located on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. It’s at the east entrance of Going-to-the-Sun Road, and close to Two Medicine and Many Glacier, so the location can’t be beat.
West Glacier will likely be your starting point if you’re coming from Bozeman or Spokane. You’ll find some lodging options, good restaurants, a grocery store, and a small camp store for basic supplies.
Unlike some of the smaller, scanter towns in the area, Whitefish is lively and bustling by comparison. It’s a mountain resort town and sort of a hub of happenings in the area. Here, you’ll find a downtown with restaurants, breweries, shops, and bars; accommodations and transportation; and several tours that depart from Whitefish to explore the surrounding area daily.
Just 20 minutes away from Whitefish, Kalispell is another comparably sized town and also the location of the FCA airport. Downtown Kalispell is home to a slew of restaurants, breweries, distilleries, art galleries, and more. There’s also the gorgeous Flathead Lake in Kalispell, in case you need a reminder of just how incredibly gorgeous this part of Montana really is.
Whether you want to be one with nature from your sleeping bag or from the comfort of a king sized bed, there is a place to stay in Glacier National Park for you. I personally love cabin camping in national parks whenever it is an option, but with the abundance of campsites, motels, inns, and lodges available at such close proximity to the park, you’re bound to find something that makes sense for you.