Glacier National Park has four areas with separate entrances. They consist of Going to the Sun, Many Glacier, Two Medicine, and North Fork. Each entrance requires a vehicle reservation (for one day only) during the summer from 6am to 3pm AND the usual park entrance fee. A vehicle reservation is only for the area for which the reservation was made. Reservations are difficult to come by but they can be had if you are persistent. Details about entrance logistics can be found on their website.
Going to the Sun Entrance is on the west side of the park about 3 miles from our campground in West Glacier. Since we had a boat rental reservation at Apgar Village at Lake MacDonald then this included a vehicle reservation. We departed early one morning for Apgar. The park was very organized with staff working the entrance lane and checking vehicle reservations for 3 vehicles simultaneously. Then the vehicles would proceed ahead to the entrance kiosk to deal with park entrance fees/passes. A vehicle in the lane beside us was a bit concerned whether they would fit under the kiosk overhead so they fixed the problem by someone hanging out the window and lifting the height sign (see below). That’s one way to do it.
West Glacier Village is the first village we drove through on our way to Apgar. The village has a variety of amenities including rafting tours, restaurants, an Alberta Visitor Center (still closed for Covid), and shops.
Apgar Village is just a short distance from West Glacier and has the Glacier National Park Visitor Center nearby along with lodging, boat rentals, cafe, and shops.
The Apgar Boat Rental dock is along the south shore of Lake MacDonald in Apgar Village. It is run by a concessionaire, Glacier Boat Company, and provides boat rentals and tours throughout the park. We had originally wanted to rent a canoe or kayak and made the reservations months prior but there were none available so we rented the last 10HP boat. We arrived at the dock on time and received our instructions and off we went in a boat named “‘”Cannon” which is quite appropriate for us (as in Canon cameras).
We knew the lake was about 10 miles long and we weren’t sure if we could make it to one end and back in the allotted two hour rental time but we did. It was a beautiful day and we enjoyed touring the lake. We were the only ones out there once we got about a half mile past the dock. The other boats were kayaks, paddle boards, and canoes and they all stayed pretty close to the dock.
Lake MacDonald Lodge sits more towards the north end of the lake and it is a quaint, charming lodge and is also the location for the Lake MacDonald scenic boat tours. We cruised by the lodge and the tour boat was currently docked which left us all alone out there.
As we returned to the dock it was against the wind and the waves were a bit bigger and the travel was a bit bumpy (to say the least) but we had fun!! We enjoy seeing the canoes/kayaks in the lake against the backdrop of the beautiful mountains. We got back in exactly two hours and enjoyed our time on the water.
North Fork Area – On another day we wanted to tour around the North Fork area of the park . We have been to Glacier a number of times and have driven Going To the Sun, Many Glacier, and Two Medicine so we wanted to explore a different part of the park. North Fork, on the very northwest side, is considered to be the least crowded and the most remote area of the park. We did not have a vehicle reservation but they DO open up more reservations 24 hours in advance. I knew the reservations would be sold out in a minute or two but I gave it a try and was all prepared and I got one!! So the next day off we went to the North Fork Entrance of the park.
The drive from West Glacier to the North Fork entrance is about an hour drive and many of the roads are gravel so it can be slow going in parts.
Polebridge is a town next to the North Fork entrance and is steeped in history. The town has been around for over 100 years and is off the grid with no power lines or cell towers. It lies about 22 miles south of Canada and has a few cabins, houses, a saloon, and the famous Polebridge Mercantile!!
The merc has been in business since 1914 and has a variety of offerings including sandwiches, drinks, t-shirts, souvenirs, etc. but it is most famous for its’ bakery!!
People can be lined up waiting to get their hands on the famous Huckleberry Bear Claws, cinnamon rolls, sticky buns, cookies, etc. We lined up and purchased a variety of goods including a few of the bear claws which were excellent. We even bought some bear bells to give out as Christmas ornaments.
Next to the merc is the famous Northern Lights Saloon, cabins, outside seating, and a variety of interesting artifacts.
The entrance to North Fork Glacier National Park is less than one mile from Polebridge. Basically the only places you can visit are Bowman Lake, which is a 6 mile drive, and/or Kintla Lake, which is a 15 mile drive. All roads in this part of the park are dirt/gravel roads and the conditions can vary. Be sure to ask the ranger the conditions and whether you vehicle can make it.
Kintla Lake – We talked to the ranger and he said our car could probably make the drive to Kintla but it was rocky and rough in some patches. So off we went for the hour drive to Kintla Lake. What a beautiful lake.
It was a lovely drive with very little other traffic. Most of the drive is one lane so you need to be careful with speed and going around corners. It turns out that the road was in, what we considered, good condition. Our traveling speed varied between 10 to 20 MPH but we did not encounter any deep ruts or holes. We thought it was one of the best dirt/gravel roads we have encountered in our travels but, of course, that all depends on the day and the recent weather AND the recent traffic.
There was a small campground at the end of the road and most campers were there to fish or boat. It was a lovely day and a lovely drive and we would highly recommend it.