If you’ve been in Calgary a while and already checked off most of your Banff bucket list, Montana is a whole new frontier.
In the same amount of time it takes to drive from Calgary to Edmonton (approximately three hours), road trippers can be at the gates to one of America’s most incredible national parks, Glacier National Park, also known as the US side of the UNESCO World Heritage Site the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park.
Once you pass through the Peigan Border Crossing, start your trip in the tiny town of St. Mary. It only opens for the summer, but quickly becomes host to thousands of visitors who flock there for world-class hiking and camping.
While the campsites within the park book up quickly, the KOA just outside the town site offers options for all types of nature lovers, from trailer camping, to simple cabins that sleep four, to this whole “glamping” thing you keep hearing about.
If you love the outdoors but don’t want to sleep in them, there are also various lodges (Many Glacier Hotel is the real deal) and private cabins (Glacier View Cabins are a particularly romantic option).
Avid hikers will love the variety of the park, with easy-yet-breathtaking trails like Virginia Falls, and longer, more challenging hikes that take you so close to the glaciers you’ll hear them cracking as they melt. Some notable routes include the Highline Trail (don’t skip the Garden Wall), Grinnell Lake Trail, Swiftcurrent Pass and Otokomi Lake.
If the elevation gain robs you of your will to grill, treat yourself to the biggest, juiciest steak you’ve ever encountered at Cattle Baron Restaurant just down the road in Babb. Ignore the dated exterior; a meal here will be memorable, we promise.
If you have another day or two and conditions permit, drive through the park on the iconic Going-to-the-Sun Road. This jaw-dropping route is not recommended if you’re afraid of heights, as it winds you across the Continental Divide and spits you out in the town of West Glacier, where a surprisingly impressive resort and golf course will appease the non-campers in the car. If your legs are screaming to get vertical, the Apgar Lookout and Trail of the Cedars are close by.
Driving back the way you came will probably tempt you, but a slightly faster route takes you back to Calgary via Whitefish (another Montana must-do) and the Crowsnest Pass.
So if you’re sick of the crowds in Banff but still want a mountain adventure, check out this hidden gem.