right in our own back yard
By Robert Lucke
Before this summer season winds to a close, take one last trip to Glacier National Park and tour the grand old hotels. They are good as day trips but staying overnight is the very best way to experience them. This time of year, reservations are not hard to come by as there are many cancellations.
A good place to start is by touring the hotels of the east front in the park and as far north as Waterton.
The East Glacier Lodge in East Glacier is headquarters for the hotels. Built first, although not the largest, it is the hallmark of all the rest. People the world over have looked in awe at the bark-wrapped trees that rise up three floors and tie the massive lobby to the roof. The lobby fireplace is usually crackling, and do not miss the beauty of the enclosed breezeway that connects the main building with an annex. The dining room at the lodge is huge and yet intimate with its low ceilings and large fireplace. Dining room windows overlook either the prairie or the mountains, your preference.
East Glacier Lodge comes with a swimming pool and a golf course. It is the only one of the grand lodges in the park that has those amenities.
Many Glacier Hotel, north of East Glacier, is billed as the "Showplace of the Rockies." That it is with its massive lobby, enormous dining room and rooms that seem to curve right around the shore line of Swift Current Lake. It is the largest of all the Glacier hotels and many think the hotel, situated at the apex of five great valleys, provides the most spectacular of any in the park.
The lobby may not be as grand as that of East Glacier Lodge but the vistas from it are sometimes unbelievable. And given that Many Glacier weather is particularly horrible a lot of the time, it is wonderful to view it from the comfort of the lobby.
Many Glacier's lobby has its own fireplace. Two in fact, although only one is used regularly. It is free-standing, and its chimney soars up to the lobby rafters.
The dining room at Many Glacier is huge even though the ceiling was lowered dramatically many years ago. The view looking at Swift Current Lake is great. And at Many Glacier, as at East Glacier, spending time in a comfortable chair in a quirky little enclosed breezeway between wings of the hotel is most satisfying.
The Prince Of Wales Hotel at Waterton, Alberta, is something else. It looks like none of the rest of the Glacier lodges. Called a sort of French/Swiss style, it rises high into the air on a huge bluff overlooking Waterton Lake. Louis Hill, who built all of the hotels except Lake McDonald for the Great Northern Railway, changed plans several times on the Prince of Wales while it was being built. It actually started out to be a carbon copy of Many Glacier. Not only that but a huge wind blew the entire building out of plumb before construction was completed. To this day the upper floors sort of swing and sway in a high wind.
The lobby is, like all the hotel lobbies, massive. However, this one is even more special. The views out of the two-story-high windows of Waterton Lake, Mount Cleveland and Goat Haunt are billed as the most spectacular in all the Rocky Mountains. When visiting the Prince of Wales, if you want to really experience the British/Canadian way of life, have afternoon tea. It is served every day.
Only one of the grand Glacier hotels is located west of the Continental Divide. But many say it is the best of all the hotels. Called Lake McDonald Lodge, it is located on the upper shore of Lake McDonald. It was built by John Lewis and designed by noted Spokane architect Kirkland Cutter.
It is a much smaller hotel than the hotels of the east front but its lobby, spiring up some three stories and lined with trees and trophies, is not to be forgotten. And the fireplace in that hotel! It is the most grand of them all. It is huge. There is always a fire and surrounding it in the cement are drawings attributed by some to Charles M. Russell, who had a summer home across the lake.
The dining room of the Lake McDonald Lodge is more rustic than any of the other dining rooms and very beautiful.
Perhaps the pace of the other three hotels is faster due to the erratic weather that the east front of Glacier produces. Lake McDonald Lodge is located in a weather zone that is much more serene and placid. Maybe that is why the pace at Lake McDonald Lodge is much more serene than that of the other hotels.
All of the hotels and lodges have their own strong points. When experienced, the tourist will soon have his or her own personal favorite. And all are probably the most notable statements in architecture that are to be found in this part of the world.
And all are not to be missed in a tour of Glacier National Park.
Guests can book the famous Many Glacier Hotel this fall for only $49 per person per night. The Swiss chalet-styled hotel is offering a package that includes room, a breakfast buffet and tickets to the David Walburn Show, a one-man Montana history musical. The Fall Hiker's Special Package is available from Aug. 31 through Sept. 17 and is based on double occupancy. It does not include tax and gratuities. Reservations are available by calling (406) 756-2444 or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Additional information about Many Glacier and the other hotels in the park is available on the Web atwww.glacierparkinc.com.