Chicago to Glacier National Park
Our Train Vacation (Part 2) took us from Union Station in Chicago, IL to Glacier National Park on Amtrak’s Empire. Here’s a summary of our itinerary:
Day 3: Amtrak’s Empire Builder: North Dakota , Montana – arrive at Glacier National Park!
We awoke to the grasslands of the “Northern Prairie State” of North Dakota and it was hard to take our eyes off the scenery. I was concerned that the train would be boring, but it was anything but. When I wasn’t gazing out at the amazing scenery, we were playing games, enjoying a cup of coffee, or sharing stories with other passengers.
The terrain morphed as the day wore on, as the grassy plains turned to rolling hills, canyons, gorges, and eventually the snow-capped mountains of Glacier National Park. The Sightseer Lounge, with its floor to ceiling glass windows helped ensure that we didn’t miss any of the spectacular scenery as the train rolls through Glacier. We ate our last delicious Empire Builder meal in the dining car and the train rolled into Glacier Park station at 6:45pm where we only had to walk approximately 200 yards to the majestic Glacier Park Lodge!
We walked around the Lodge’s grounds during the evening; checked out the giant teepees; sat in the rocking chairs on the porch; and listened to the singing and guitar entertainment in the lodge lobby.
Day 4: Glacier National Park
Glacier Park Lodge is located in the village of East Glacier Park, Montana, United States. The lodge was built in 1913 as part of the Great Northern Railway’s effort to bring tourists to Glacier. It’s huge timber construction make it a sight worth seeing.
With just one full day in Glacier Park, we chose to the most inclusive all-day tour that our schedule would allow – “The Big Sky Circle Tour”. The tour departs from and returns to the Glacier Park Lodge which was very convenient. We rode in the classic “jammers” tour bus with open-air top and we had a great tour guide! The tour starts by taking you over the Marias Pass; has a wildlife viewing stop at Goat Lick; and a tour of the historic Izaak Walton inn. You’ll then drive through cedar and hemlock forests on your way to Lake McDonald Lodge for a lunch stop. Here you’ll have some time to eat and take pictures, as the scenery here was amazing.
The highlight of The Big Sky Circle Tour was the ascent up Going-to-the-Sun Road. This takes you through the heart of Glacier Park and gives you the best views. We had many “prairie dog stops” where we’d all pop our heads out of roof and take in the scenery – amazing!
The tour took us to Logan Pass and through the Saint Mary Valley and winded back down to where we began at Glacier Park Lodge.
We had a few hours after the tour ended so we wrote out a few postcards in the lobby; walked around the lodge’s property and out towards the golf course where a few moose sightings were reported; and we even grabbed some ice cream cones just across the rail road tracks.
The Empire Builder pulled in that evening and we enjoyed a nice dinner as we watched Glacier National Park’s scenery from both sides of the rail car.
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