I’m very pleased to have on the blog today Rachael, with the blog Pingel Sisters, for our latest Travel Exchange series. For this exchange, Rachael tells us all about her family’s trip to Glacier National Park, and why it was one of her family’s most memorable family vacations.
Rachael and her sister started the Pingel Sisters blog “as a way to reach out to other savvy millennial women to give career advice, travel tips and book recommendations”. Rachael is a stay-at-home mom to 4 young kids in Utah and developed a deep love of travel after she got married. She and her family love to road trip and says, “to keep costs down, my husband and I have been hauling our kids around the country on road trips seeing as many places as we can.”
When I asked Rachael what one of her most favorite trips was, she said Glacier National Park. As I still have yet to take my kids to a national park out west (we’ve been to Acadia National Park on the east coast), I couldn’t wait to hear all about her experience. Here is our interview:
What is your favorite destination for a family vacation?
After living in Utah for so many years, I have developed a love for our nation’s national parks. Each one is simply magnificent. One of my favorites would have to be Glacier National Park in Montana.
How did you decide on Glacier National Park as a destination to take a family vacation?
I have no idea when I first though up visiting Glacier National Park. My sister and I have a friendly competition to see who can visit all 50 states first. As a consequence, I’ve compiled a list of places I most want to visit in each state, and Glacier National Park is considered the jewel of Montana.
We went with another family who are close friends of ours. At the time, I had three kids – ages 5, 3 and 1 – and my friend also had three kids, ages 9, 6 and 1.
What time of year did you go and how was the weather?
We visited in mid-August right before school started up. Our trip started out beautiful, but it did rain at the tail end of our trip.
Where did you stay and how did you discover it? What were the accommodations and amenities like?
To make our trip even more interesting and affordable, I decided to turn it into a week-long camping trip. Let me tell you, camping for a week with kids is definitely an adventure. I had never camped for that long before, so it was a learning experience.
We first camped at the Fish Creek campground on Lake McDonald. It was the most beautiful location, shaded under magnificent tall trees. Later in the week, we switched to the Saint Mary Campground on the east side of the park, and it was pathetic. Don’t ever camp there if you can avoid it.
If you’d prefer not to camp, the park has several lodges or you can stay just outside the park in Kalispell, Montana.
What were the highlights for you?
The highlight of Glacier National Park is the scenic drive up Going-to-the-Sun road to the Logan Pass Visitor Center. The views are spectacular. Just be prepared for the heights as the road winds along the ledge.
What kind of activities did you do on the trip?
Other than the scenic drive, all visitors should go on a hike. Our favorite, the Trail of the Cedars, is a boardwalk through gorgeous cedar trees. From there, we continued up to Avalanche Lake. With so many young children, we had to stop frequently, but the lake at the top was completely worth the effort.
Our biggest regret is that we didn’t rent a boat on Lake McDonald. There are boat rentals at Apgar village, and we just didn’t have time to fit it in our schedule. We have it as a top priority if we can ever go again.
How was the food? Did you discover some favorite restaurants?
We ended up cooking all our own food, which was a lot of work. However, it saved us a lot of money, and made the trip more affordable.
Were there any challenges?
Unfortunately, it started to rain at the end of our trip. I really would not recommend camping in the rain with little kids. Keeping everyone’s spirits up and keeping everyone dry was definitely the biggest challenge on our trip.
What are your top tips for taking this kind of vacation?
The biggest tip I can give you is to concentrate your attention on the west side of the park. The East side is not really worth your time. Though, if you have a chance, a quick trip to Waterton National Park in Canada is amazing.
Did you feel the trip was good value for what you got?
National Parks always give you a great value because most everything in the park is free. And if you are willing to camp, the trip is extremely affordable. Else, your cost really comes down to how much you spend on accommodations.
Would you recommend this vacation to others?
I know it’s out of the way, but I wholeheartedly recommend Glacier National Park as a family vacation destination.