Glacier Park Collection

So you're dreaming of a mountain get-away. Long days hiking in the alpine, cozy evenings in a rustic lodge with a majestic view outside and a roaring fire inside. That amazing dream of a lodge-based adventure in the mountains.

But what, exactly, is a lodge? And how is it different than a hotel? Here in Glacier National Park, lodges are the real deal. It's like this place invented the mountain lodge. Actually, in some ways, it really did.

Glacier lodging has its roots in the railway boom of the early 20th Century. Glacier National Park was established in 1910. Right away, the Great Northern Railway began constructing lodges in Glacier for its passengers at strategically-placed locations. To attract adventurers to the park, they were placed a day's ride apart. Many of the Glacier lodges are still active today.

Glacier Park lodges: America's Switzerland

The Great Northern Railway built an outstanding collection of lodges in Glacier. Some were tent camps and others were remote and rustic chalets only accessible by pack horse. The iconic ones were considered to be opulent at the time. The construction of Glacier National Park's historic hotels—the iconic ones like Glacier Park Lodge, Many Glacier Hotel and Lake McDonald Lodge—was aimed to appeal to high-brow travelers from the east looking for that subtle blend of rustic and refined.

A historic image of cars outside a large wooden lodge.

A group of people golf near a large lodge

Since Montana had been dubbed "America's Switzerland" because so many of the local peaks were more horn-shaped than elsewhere in the Rockies, Glacier lodges were constructed in an Alpine style, with tall gabled roofs, exposed beams and elaborately decorated moldings. Balconies were a key feature of historic lodges in Glacier as well.

Inside, Glacier lodges were designed to feel cozy. There are giant fireplaces that provide a warm welcome after a day exploring the wilderness.

A Lodge vs a Hotel

Louis Hill, the President of the Great Northern Railway and the visionary for Glacier National Park's most iconic historic hotels, envisioned a lodge to be like a village. Inside, there would be many common areas for socializing, reading books, listening to live music and eating and drinking. There was to be tennis courts, a horse stable, golf, and a manicured landscape of lovely gardens.

A couple cheers a drink next to a roaring fireplace.

Lodges in Glacier today are so much more than a place to sleep. A lodge is an experience. A lodge has personality. It makes you feel something you're longing for. It's where the mind settles after a day exploring out of doors. It's a place to share stories, to meet new friends, to gather with loved ones.

A hotel is a building with interior corridors that welcomes travelers. A motel (or motor hotel) has exterior corridors only. You could say that a lodge, especially in Glacier, is a feeling.

Glacier lodging = options!

In Glacier National Park, lodging can range from a small and private cabin on the shores of a lake at Apgar Village to one of the previously-mentioned grand historic buildings, with towering views and ambitious style.

Three cabins underneath trees, with sunshine glowing between branches.

Perhaps the Grand Dame of them all, Glacier Park Lodge has always been ideally located. It's right across from the train platform in East Glacier and at the gateway to exploring Glacier National Park. It maintains an historic charm and yet it continues to draw modern adventurers. There's an element of nostalgia to the classic Glacier Park lodges—no television, no DJs, no workout rooms. Instead, you find a timelessness that connects you to travelers of days gone by.

After all, the views have remained the same.

More Stories Like This


Insider tips, inspiration and deals - delivered straight to your inbox.

back to top