By Robert Lucke
For many folks a trip to Glacier Park is only a trip over Going-To-The-Sun-Road. However, there is much to be seen on the east side of Glacier without every venturing over the pass and best of all its only three hours from downtown Havre.
East Glacier is an interesting tiny hamlet to visit. It is small but offers a sampling of art galleries, good restaurants and the only golf course almost in the park on the east side. The flower gardens at the Glacier Park Lodge are spectacular this time of year and even when fighting the terrible winds that sometimes rock that part of Montana, a walk along Midvale Creek can be a beautiful experience.
There are a number of motels in East Glacier and there is the adventure of staying in the historic Lodge, the first one built in Glacier by the Hill family of Great Northern Railway fame. The lodge is unbelievable and most of the time the food is even good.
Lodging itself is plentiful on the east side of Glacier. There are large Glacier Lodges at both East Glacier and Many Glacier and there are lots of accommodations at St. Marys.
No stop on the east side of Glacier would be complete without traversing the historic and scenic highway 49 north of East Glacier.
While on that highway, stop at Two Medicine. There is a beautiful lake, a very historic camp store (the only building left there of that famous Two Medicine Chalets where President Franklin Roosevelt once gave one of his fire side addresses). There is camping there, a great boat trip across Two Medicine Lake, hiking for the beginner and up, and some of the best scenery that Glacier has to offer.
Further up Highway 49 is the Cutbank Valley. There is a campground in that beautiful valley and even though there is not a lake without hiking a bit, the creek and forests and meadows are very beautiful and normally not crowded at all. Most folks miss this beautiful part of Glacier completely.
The town of St. Marys lies north of Cutbank Creek and is a main entrance to Glacier because it is one of the ends of Going-To-The-Sun-Road. Even if not going over the pass, it is a good place to spend more time. The town is full of good eating places, lots of places to stay and gift shops galore.
A quick run up Going-To-The-Sun-Road a few miles will result in the quaint retreat called Rising Sun, a boat ride up St. Marys Lake, and a visit to Sun Point, site of another set of Great Northern Chalets. Nothing is left now but a sign, some foundations and the most beautiful point in Glacier according to some.
If taking the boat ride around St. Marys Lake, dont miss seeing the island just across from Sun Point. To this day there is an old barn on the island. That was the site of a villa belonging to Louis Hill. It was just one of several places he had built for he and his family to vacation in what he considered to be Hills Park.
Just a few miles north of St. Marys is the place that many people think is the most beautiful of all Glacier valleys. Many Glacier sports Glaciers largest hotel, sprawling along the shore of Swift Current Lake and the Many Glacier valley is the base of hikes up five major valleys that can take walkers into the Belly River country, back up to Going-To-The-Sun Road, over Swift Current Pass to Granite Park Chalet, one of the last of the back country chalets still open, or up walks to incredible lakes that seem to hang on ledges far above valley floors.
There is hotel lodging, cabin lodging or campground lodging at Many Glacier.
Going-To-The-Sun is spectacular but do not miss the east side of Glacier. There is a summers worth of recreation there and it is only three hours from Havre.