The Many Glacier Hotel

The Many Glacier Hotel is the grandest of Glacier’s celebrated hotels. Completed in 1915, the historic lodge was created in the Swiss-tradition. It resembles the great chalets of the Swiss Alps, which is fitting considering the jagged peaks in Glacier National Park look a lot like those in the heart of Switzerland.

The brown paneled hotel is five stories tall and spans a long stretch of shoreline along the eastern side of Swiftcurrent Lake. From a distance it looks like a massive log cabin. There are 214 guest rooms, a lounge, and a nice dining room inside. But what makes the hotel especially impressive is its colossal lobby. It is four stories tall and framed by huge wooden beams. It looks like tall trees hold up the surrounding balconies. The sheer size of the mammoth lobby is overwhelming. Large soft chairs and couches circle a huge fireplace in the middle of the lobby. A gift shop sits at one end.

I was very excited to stay at the famed Many Glacier Hotel. I had spent time in its lobby on my previous two trips to Glacier and looked forward to eventually spending a night there. Once Ashley and I began planning our trip I made spending a night at the hotel a top priority. The problem was that it was undergoing extensive renovations, limiting the hotel to half its normal capacity. It is normally very difficult to book a room, but that made it considerably harder. There were only two days in August to pick from, so we decided on one and planned the rest of the trip around our stay.

It’s not just the historic look and feel of the place and the grand lobby that attract me to the Many Glacier Hotel. There is a large wrap-around balcony elevated above Swiftcurrent Lake. It provides panoramic views of the idyllic lake below serrated glacier-clad mountains. I longed to sit on that deck watching a sunset while drinking a Montana microbrew.

In addition to the abundant views, the Swiss-themed lodge is secluded within pristine wilderness. It is off the beaten path, away from the traffic and crowds of Going-to-the-Sun Road. Likewise, it is home to a trailhead that leads to multiple backcountry destinations and is close to a couple of other trailheads.

Once we checked in we climbed the stairs with our suitcases, because the old hotel has no elevators. We found our room in a far corner of the third floor. The room was small, but cozy. There was no TV, air conditioning, or refrigerator. Just a double bed and a tiny bathroom, but the room had quite a view. The beautiful lake could be seen right from our bed. We unpacked and showered. Ashley took a short nap, but I was too wired, so I walked downstairs to explore the lobby and gift shop.

Later, we went down the road to the Italian Garden Ristorante beside the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn for dinner. We shared a small pizza and salad. The food was alright, but didn’t compare to the Park Café or Two Sisters Café, just outside of the park. After dinner we headed back to the Many Glacier Hotel for an evening of relaxation.

Canadian Rockies and Glacier National Park 349

It grew colder out, so we grabbed sweatshirts from our room, then headed back outside. We settled down into a pair of Adirondack chairs on the hotel’s large deck. The scene before us was perfect. The sun was beginning to go down and Swiftcurrent Lake glistened softly in the fading light.

Canadian Rockies and Glacier National Park 353

Ashley was caught up in her journal, writing about the last few days of our trip. I was reviewing photos in my camera and drinking a beer. We were perfectly relaxed, enjoying the serene moment. Perhaps a big part of it was the fact that the Many Glacier Hotel was the first hotel of our trip without a TV. That meant we had to find another form of entertainment. I’d have to try pretty hard to come up with something that could top the perfect view from the deck. It surely topped anything we could have watched on TV.

As the temperature continued to plummet, most of the people moved inside to the lobby. We soon followed and found a pair of comfy chairs near the fireplace.

There was a brightly burning fire in the large fireplace that gave off a surprising amount of heat. The entire lobby was warm. I got so hot that we actually moved away from the fireplace.

The atmosphere inside was almost as nice as the one out on the deck. Everyone was exceptionally friendly, whether they worked there or were guests. A performer was playing a violin, which was nice although it was a little loud.

After a little while I noticed colors changing outside and several people walking back out to the balcony. I got up to get a better look through the window and noticed that the sun had dropped out of view behind a mountain. Apparently it hadn’t fully descended into the horizon though, because the sky was incredibly illuminated.

Swiftcurrent Lake sunset

I grabbed my camera and ran back out to the deck. Ashley decided to stay in the lobby to keep warm. It was pretty cold out by then, so I had my sweatshirt zipped up tight. The scene over Swiftcurrent Lake was well worth a moment in the cold. Wide pink and orange streaks filled the sky over Mount Gould and Grinnell Point. The whole sky transformed to a bright pink, then orange. The mountains were very dark, like black silhouettes, due to the sun behind them. It provided extreme contrast as the dark mountains and bright orange sky reflected in the peaceful waters of Swiftcurrent Lake, providing a perfect mirror image. The lake glowed radiantly as the colors in the sky began to fade away. The amazing scene did not last long. Within ten minutes the sky went dark and I returned to the lobby.

I sunk into the chair next to Ashley and showed her some of the photos I just took on my camera. We relaxed in the lobby a little longer, but grew tired early. Soon, we retreated upstairs to our guest room for the night.

Our peaceful night in the lodge was a perfect ending to our stint in Glacier National Park. After taking a long hike earlier in the day we enjoyed watching a beautiful sunset and sitting by the fire in the lobby. I’m confident that Glacier will continue to be one of my favorite places on Earth as long as I live. Every time I leave there I look forward to the next time I’ll return.


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