Missoula MSO to Glacier National Park Road Trip

Scenic Drive from Missoula to Glacier National Park

View of tiny Wild Goose Island in St. Mary Lake at Glacier National Park
Goose Island Overlook, St. Mary Lake, Glacier National Park

Missoula to Glacier Drive Overview

The drive from Missoula MSO to Glacier National Park is about 138 miles and takes 2.5 hours to the west park entrance. (Your travel time will vary if you choose to make stops along the way).

This scenic drive is not just about getting to the park – the drive from Missoula, MT to Glacier National Park will be a memorable part of your trip to Glacier. In fact, there’s so much to see and do along the way you can spend all day to Glacier. Or even spend a couple days in the Mission and Flathead Valleys.

This road trip will take you through the Mission Mountain Valley, along the east shore of Flathead Lake and on to West Glacier. From here, head through the west entrance of Glacier National Park, and drive east on the famous Going to the Sun Road through the magnificent Rocky Mountains of western Montana.

From Missoula, take Exit 96 from I-90 and head north on US highway 93. Near the interstate there are several large gas stations if you need to gas up and grab some drinks and snacks.

Ariel view of Missoula Montana in summer with mountains in the background
Missoula, MT in summer.

(If you’ve flown into MSO – Missoula International Airport, it’s about 3 miles to the I-90/Hwy 93 interchange). The total distance from MSO airport to Glacier National Park is 131 miles.

Flathead Reservation and Mission Mountain Valley

Panorama of an abandoned cabin and the Mission Mountains
Panorama of an abandoned cabin and the Mission Mountains, Lake County, Montana, USA

Seven miles north of I-90, you’ll enter the Flathead Indian Reservation. Watch for road signs that include both English and Salish/Kootenai place names.

Arlee

A few miles past the town of Arlee, turn right on White Coyote Road to reach the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas. This peaceful, magical place features not only Buddha statues, but plaques with wise quotes from Buddha as well. Walk up to the prayer tent for an amazing view of the garden.

Ravalli/Moise

North of Ravalli, you can take a little side trip to spend a few hours at the Bison Range in Moiese. Previously known for over 100 years as the National Bison Range, this 18,766 animal sanctuary is home to as many as 500 bison and many other animal species.

Bison with trees and mountain views in the Bison Range
Bison in Bison Range

St. Ignatius

Take a quick stop in St. Ignatius to see the picturesque St. Ignatius Mission built in the 1890s. You can see the brick church from the highway but it’s worth a stop to see the intricate frescoes inside.

Interior of St. Ignatius mission church features white walls with colorful murals of religious scenes.
Interior of St. Ignatius Mission

In St. Ignatius you’ll also find Three Chiefs Culture Center (formerly the People’s Center in Pablo) with exhibits featuring the Salish, Pend d’Oreille and Kootenai Tribes.

Along this part of the drive, the jagged peaks of the spectacular Mission Mountain Range rise to the East.

Charlo/Ninepipes

About 8 miles north of St. Ignatius, you’ll discover the Ninepipes National Wildlife Refuge.

(It’s Ninepipes, not Nine Pipes. Ninepipes is named for the Bitterroot Salish leader Chief Joseph Ninepipes).

You can walk around Ninepipes reservoir, or from Ninepipes Picnic Pullout, take the short Ninepipes Interpretive Nature Trail.

Ninepipes National Wildlife Refuge with lakes, trees and mountains.
Ninepipes National Wildlife Refuge

Stop at the nearby Allentown Restaurant at the Ninepipes Lodge for a bison burger or some street tacos. The dining room has giant windows with a stunning view of the Mission Mountains reflected in the glacier-formed kettle pond.

Next door you’ll find the Ninepipes Museum of Early Montana. This collection contains numerous Western Plains Indians artifacts. Spend an hour or two perusing this interesting historical collection and make sure you visit the gift shop that sells local items and books about the area’s history. Learn more about the Ninepipes Museum of Early Montana on their informative website.

Ninepipes Museum of Early Montana. Log museum building with snowy Mission Mountains in the background.
Ninepipes Museum of Early Montana

Continue north, stopping at the Mission Mountains View Point for a marvelous photo op.

Polson

If you’re up for another museum, check out the quirky Miracle of America Museum in Polson. Dozens of buildings hold an enormous collection of Americana, such as vintage motorcycles and a soda counter.

Polson is also the home of local favorite Richwine’s Burgerville with fantastic burgers and milkshakes.

Flathead Lake

Pink sky of sunrise over snowy mountains along Flathead Lake.
Flathead Lake, Montana

If you continue on US 93, the highway will take you up the west shore of Flathead Lake, but I recommend turning off on Montana highway 35 (aka S Shore Road), which will take you along the east shore of the lake.

You’ll drive along beautiful Flathead Lake, the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi River. You’ll drive along the lake shore for about 30 miles, passing campgrounds and cherry orchards.

Depending on the time of year you might be lucky enough to find fruit stands selling local Flathead cherries. Or stop at a U-pick orchard and pick your own. Montana cherries make a refreshing and delicious (although sort of messy) road trip snack.

About 15 miles past Bigfork, you’ll turn onto Montana Hwy 206 headed north. Just southeast of Columbia Falls you’ll meet up with US Highway 2 that goes northeast to West Glacier.

Glacier National Park

Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park goes through a tunnel dug through a steep mountain.
Going to the Sun Road Goes Through Tunnel Toward Logan Pass in Glacier National Park/NPS

The west entrance of Glacier National Park is right across the river from the town of West Glacier. Upon entering the park, you’ll be on the Going to the Sun Road.

Going to the Sun Road

The Going to the Sun Road will take you from West Glacier to St. Mary, taking you over the Continental Divide. Along this breathtaking scenic drive, you’ll see soaring mountain peaks, alpine meadows, crystal waterfalls and clear blue lakes. This 52-mile route is a 2 to 3-hour drive without stops. (Note: Glacier is open year-round but because of deep winter snow, the Going to the Sun Road is only fully open during the summer months, starting in late June or early July).

In 2022 you’ll need a special vehicle reservation for the Going to the Sun Road. Read about vehicle reservations on the National Park Service website.

(If you can’t get one of the limited passes, there are a few other ways to get into the park, like taking the shuttle, or booking an activity (such as a Red Bus Tour, a boat tour) along the Going to the Sun Road).

Upon entering the west entrance to the park, you’ll encounter the Apgar Visitor Center. The road takes you along the shores of Lake McDonald, and you’ll spot  Lake McDonald Lodge.

Logan Pass

At the highest point of the Going to the Sun Road you’ll find the Logan Pass Visitor Center atop the Continental Divide. Located here are the trail heads to the popular trails to Hidden Lake Overlook and the Highline trail. Take a short hike or just enjoy the breathtaking view from the visitor center.

Steep mountains in Glacier National Park with alpine wildflowers in the foreground.
Wildflowers near Logan Pass in Glacier National Park/NPS

St. Mary and the East Side of Glacier National Park

The Going to the Sun Road ends on the east side of Glacier National Park at the St. Mary entrance. You’ll find lodging here, both inside and outside of the park. From St. Mary, you can drive north to Many Glacier or south to East Glacier and Two Medicine.

The east side of the park has fewer commercial services than on the west side, but you’ll still find lodging, dining, gas and groceries.

In East Glacier, there is more lodging, including the historic Glacier Park Lodge.

Throughout the park, be on the lookout for Glacier’s famous wildlife, such as grizzly bears, black bears, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, and moose.

Bighorn sheep ram on a mountain in Glacier National Park
Bighorn Sheep on a Mountain in Glacier National Park/NPS

If you want to add another country to this road trip, you can drive up to the adjacent Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada.

The Return Trip to Missoula

To return to Missoula, you can drive back over the Going to the Sun Road, and it’s just as enjoyable going the other way. Alternatively, take US Highway 2 back to West Glacier. This route runs outside the southern border of the park.

On the return trip, you might change things up a little and drive along the west shore of Flathead Lake.

Alternatively, north of Flathead Lake, take Montana Highway 83 and drive through the Seely-Swan corridor, connecting to Highway 200, I-90, and back to Missoula. Going through Seely Lake is pretty, but I find it gets monotonous driving through miles and miles of forest with little else to see. Watch out for deer. Seriously, these woods are teeming with suicidal deer who will jump out in front of your car. Especially at dusk.

Can I do this Missoula to Glacier National Park trip in one day?

Yes! I recommend taking your time to really explore the area. BUT if you have only one day to zip up and see the “Crown of the Continent”, you should do it! With minimal stops, it takes about 10 hours to drive from Missoula, over the Going to the Sun Road to St. Mary, back across to West Glacier, and returning to Missoula.

During the long summer months (again, the only time Going to the Sun Road is fully open) you’ll have plenty of daylight for this trip.

Missoula to Glacier as a weekend getaway.

Here’s a sample of a 2-night itinerary.

On Friday afternoon, drive to West Glacier and spend the night.

Saturday morning, get on the Going to the Sun Road as early as possible, as parking lots along the road fill up early. Stop along the way to enjoy the scenic vistas. Take a hike if you can. Spend Saturday night in one of the lodges on the eastern side, such as the Many Glacier Hotel or Glacier Park Lodge in East Glacier. Enjoy an afternoon hike, dinner at the lodge, and a beautiful sunset.

On Sunday, explore the east side. If you stayed in East Glacier, try to catch sunrise at Two Medicine Lake. You may also enjoy hiking and wildlife viewing at Many Glacier. Sunday afternoon, return to West Glacier and Missoula. 

Missoula MSO to Glacier National Park Road Trip

Your NEW New Year’s Resolutions: Making Good Habits That Will Stick

How to make habits that will stick.

We all have changes we’d like to make to improve ourselves and our lives. But after failed attempts, we stop believing we can ever form lasting good habits.

Something feels so new and fresh about starting over on January 1st.

The blank boxes on that brand-new wall calendar shine with possibility.

The spine on your brand-spanking-new journal creaks a little when you open it for the first time. Blank pages lie before you, waiting for you to record your amazing story.

(Note: if you’re reading this in June, you can still start anew. The cool thing is, since this is MY life, I can start over whenever I want. My birthday, Monday, or the ever-popular “tomorrow.”)

Sadly, New Year’s resolutions sometimes have an air of guilt and futility about them. Some people don’t even make them because they know they won’t keep them.

Think about it.

We make these promises, that we will fix what is wrong with ourselves, and it all ends up sounding like punishment.

That’s the opposite of inspiring, right?

 

What are some resolutions that get made and broken over and over?

Work out more.

Spend less.

Quit smoking.

Eat better.

Sleep around less. (Hey, we’re not all at the same stage in our lives.)

Grind my own flour on a rock.

Stop procrastinating. (I’ve been putting this one off for years!)

Get out of debt.

Will you stick to these? How will you know if you reached your goal?

What will you do the day you break your resolution? Will you give up until next year?

Why do we pick miserable-sounding, boring, vague, negative resolutions?

Why are we so mean to ourselves?

 

A new way to view your resolutions.

I’ve been around for a while and I know myself pretty well. I know what I am likely to do and not do. I have 48 years of anecdotal evidence.

With this insider knowledge, I have resolved to make realistic new habits that I will want to follow.

I’ve been thinking of ways to turn these resolutions into desirable-sounding activities.

I don’t mean to get all woo-woo, la-la, new age on you, but positive-sounding actions are just more fun to embrace than negative ones. I guess what I’m saying is that I want to learn some good habits that sound appealing. Habits that make me feel like I’m rewarding myself, not just adding chores to my already busy day.

 

Turning your old-fashioned resolutions into positive habits.

1. Let’s start with the most popular resolution: Lose weight. Eat less. Never eat anything good ever again. That doesn’t sound fun!

Let’s word it more positively: Provide myself healthy choices. Try one new recipe a week. Order a CSA produce box this summer. Keep the fridge stocked with delicious and nutritious options. Enjoy occasional splurges on tasty tidbits that are completely worth it. Grant myself the 5 minutes it takes in the morning to make a fabulous smoothie, even though it’s noisy and makes a mess.

2. Negative (and vague): Get out of debt. Quit buying so much dumb shit.

Positive: Make a plan for my financial security. Pay $500/month of my credit card. Start making a monthly budget, and see where I’m spending too much. Revise it every month this year until I have a budget model that works for ME and my life.

Set an amount of how much I can spend on dumb sh…I mean frivolous purchases. This is actually quite liberating. Instead of an uneasy, guilty feeling that you should spend less, or spend nothing, you’re giving yourself permission to spend $X.00. And that feels like more!

3. Vague: Work out more.

Specific and positive: Go to the gym twice a week for 40 minutes.

Think about how this habit realistically fits into your life. How will you afford it? What times and days will you go? This isn’t set in stone, but at least make a plan for how you will make it work right now.

Ambitious, wannabe CrossFit me says I should go 5 times a week. Realistic me knows that my schedule is sometimes crazy and 5 times isn’t going to happen. Realistic me also knows that last year I went ZERO times, and that twice a week will be much more effective than zero.

And visualize how it will feel. I see myself at World Gym on Tuesday and Thursday mornings after Hannah goes to school. AC/DC music is blasting on the speakers, and I’m actually liking the feeling of stretching and challenging my muscles as I lift weights. And I’m gonna feel better all day because of it.

4. Vague: Hike more.

Specific and positive: Take a hike every Saturday. Plan these at the beginning of each month, so there’s always something to look forward to. Make a Pinterest board of interesting hikes around where I live.

Not every hike has to be a trek up the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu or the Na Pali Coast of Kauai. Some days are going to be a quick jaunt around the wildlife refuge up the road. Remind yourself why you made this resolution. Fitness? Nature? Companionship? Tiring out your crazy hyper dog? Plan your activities accordingly. And make it fun.

5. Negative: Stop shooting at my neighbor’s chickens when they cock-a-doodle-do.

Positive: Learn to love the chickens and embrace the…wait, nevermind, this one is over my head. I can’t help you. Talk to the neighbor, move to a new neighborhood or get some psychiatric help.

6. Negative, vague and overwhelming: Clear the clutter in my house.

Positive: Select one room or area to focus on decluttering each month this year. Keep and enjoy the things you love or need. Set the rest free to help someone else.

This is another time to visualize what this will feel like, as you’re doing it and when you’re done.

Feel the weight lift as you haul bags of…whatever…out of your house.

And imagine the delight someone else will experience when they get your awesome but no-longer-needed castoffs. That gorgeous dress that never quite fit you right will look stunning on your sister. And those stylish slacks (that you always meant to hem, but never, ever will) are just what the woman at the domestic violence shelter needs for her job interview.

In your mind’s eye, look around the neat, organized, feng shui room. Look at all those unrumpled clothes hanging in your closet. They’re all items that fit and look great and express your personal style. Open your kitchen drawer and grab exactly what you need from the organized dividers with half as much stuff crammed into them.

 

Focus on what benefit you’re gaining, not on what you’re losing.

The new habits you want to incorporate into your daily life exist to make your life better.

Healthier. Fuller. Happier.

Not just on that magic day in the future when you accomplish your goals, but on an ongoing basis.

 

Allow yourself to imagine how your life will feel.

Visualize yourself implementing the new habits. What does your day look like? Let me paint a picture of what I envision for myself.

I wake up on time, and well-rested because I went to bed on time last night. I slept well, because I have decided against filling my brain with worry and I know I’m doing my best to control what I can and adapt to what I can’t.

I shower and get dressed into clothing I love. The zipper on my pants glides up a little more easily, now that I’m getting lots of activity and eating tasty food that’s good for me.

I whip up a breakfast smoothie, which allows me to start my day off with a big wallop of nutrition.

I make a go-cup of tea and grab my lunch from the fridge.

I drive to work, listening to my favorite educational podcast. Learning a little something during my 30-minute commute makes me feel extra productive.

I have a great day at work, using my knowledge and skills to the best of my ability. I introduce myself to an employee I have never met before. She seems nice.

There are donuts in the break room. None of them are really my favorites, so I skip them today, mentally promising myself that I’ll indulge next time if I see an apple fritter.

I listen to music on the way home. I greet my husband and my daughter and my dog, who are all thrilled to see me.

I prepare a beautiful tasty dinner, which we eat together at the table, then we take a vigorous stroll on the walking trail that runs behind our house.

I pack tomorrow’s lunches while I’m still feeling healthy and invigorated from our walk, and I’m likely to make good food choices. We sit together in the living room and watch the TV show(s) we agree upon.

I put Hannah to bed. Griff continues watching TV because that’s what he wants to do. It’s his life.

I stay up to peacefully read for a while, then I go to sleep feeling healthy and accomplished.

Life feels good. I feel good. My day-to-day life is pleasant.

I’m still me, but becoming more of the ME I want to be.

The ME I know I can be.

I can’t wait to get up tomorrow and do it all over again.

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It’s Time To Start My Blog

 

I am writing for the person who wants to be happy. I am that person.

More than anything, I want to write about how to squeeze the most life and joy out of every single day. That doesn’t mean deep inspirational writings. I’m not your life coach. I’m just some lady that wants to enjoy life, and I want to share what I learn with you.

Happiness doesn’t have to come from visiting Paris or getting that CEO job. Everyday delights might be even better because you get to feel them every day.

I feel a little giddy and accomplished when I open my Tupperware cabinet and it’s all organized.

Or I find pants on sale that make my waist look tiny and my bum look perfect.

Yesterday, I awoke to the tree in my front yard bursting with pink blossoms.

Those are the kind of things we need to notice and enjoy every day.

I have wanted to start a blog for over a year now. I love that I can set up my own website and write about anything I want. I have an exhausting, high pressure job. I’m also working on a Master’s Degree. I’m as imaginative as I am technical and my left brain yearns for some artistic expression.

Blogging sounds like the fun creative outlet I need.

I’m eager to share about cooking, travel, organization, personal finance…whatever I’m into at the time.

I have so many ideas, but I don’t know what to write first. I’ve been paralyzed with indecision about where to begin. I’ve been told that I need to pick a “niche” that I write about, like recipes or fashion or hedgehogs.

Alternatively, a “lifestyle” blog covers a variety of topics. That sounds more like what I want.

A lifestyle blog is like a magazine. I love (and still read) paper magazines. I’ve often dreamed of having my own magazine, full of beautiful layouts and useful content. With articles written in my voice, which is kind and calm and, well yeah, sarcastic.

A magazine full of real people, with real schedules, living real lives. Full, happy lives.

I have some knowledge and experience I’d like to share with my readers. I’m always learning, and I will share that with you too, for better or worse. (Everyone loves seeing a dramatic DIY “fail” right?!)

I chose my own name for my website because I’m not sure where my blog musings will lead, and I don’t want to be typecast by naming my site EllenMakesNachos.com or anything too specific.

I’ve read a few books and articles about how to buy a domain name, set up site hosting, apply WordPress and a WordPress theme, and much more. I did these first things, and I need to just get posting. If I wait until I have it all figured out, I’ll never get started.

Today, with this simple post, I’m jumping in. Hello World! Welcome to my blog!