A Warm Winter Drive to Hungry Horse Dam and Lake McDonald in Montana
If you are lucky enough to visit Montana during the winter, I hope that you get a sunny day. Depending on what part of Montana you visit, Montana can be cloudy in the winter. Summer, on the other hand, is guaranteed to be sunny throughout the state from July to September.
Northwest Montana seems to get more clouds during the winter than the rest of the state. So when you get a sunny day around the Flathead Valley and Glacier National Park, you want to take advantage of it.
We understand how traveling with small children can be difficult. Somehow to go for a short trip we have to leave the house with three bags full of diapers, toys, extra clothes, hats, you name it, we probably we have it. And then of course I can never find exactly what I need when we stop, so I end up tearing apart all the bags to find things, and scattering them all over the car. But even when you can’t get out and do a lot in the mountains, driving is a wonderful way to see Montana and get some amazing photographs to remember it by.
Today we woke up to a beautiful, blue sky, with the sun rising, and decided to drive up to Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park. Sometimes it clouds over in the afternoon, so you want to go while it’s nice. If you think you know the weather in Montana, wait five minutes.
We headed out to drive through Whitefish, Columbia Falls, and up through Hungry Horse.
We decided to take a detour to go see Hungry Horse Dam while we were heading up to Glacier National Park. As you drive through Hungry Horse heading toward Glacier (east), you will see a sign on your right showing you where to take a right to see Hungry horse Dam. If you take that right, it is 4 miles up the road to see the dam. Lion Lake is a lake you will pass along the way. Very small and pretty in the summer, with access for swimming. Today there was a family out ice fishing.
We drove all of the way up to the dam, enjoying the beautiful glittering snow.
As you drive up, you can pull over to see the dam. The restrooms and Visitor Center remain closed during the winter, and the large amount of snow helps make sure they stay closed.
You can drive across the dam to get a good view over each side, with Hungry Horse Reservoir on one side, and the dam dropping off into the creek below on the other. But there is no parking allowed on the dam. You can walk on a pathway across the dam.
We then headed back down the road and headed up toward Glacier National Park.
Usually the entrance to the park in the winter is completely empty, with no line. There was actually a line of a few cars today, but that is to be expected with the beautiful weather! You will have to buy a pass to enter Glacier National Park, and it is the same price in the summer and winter, despite the fact that most of Glacier National Park is closed in the winter due to the tremendous amount of snow.
But you are able to drive in from the west entrance and take beautiful pictures of Lake McDonald.
You can walk right down to the lake and see the beautiful clear water with the rocks underneath, or you can walk along a path over to the dock. You can get great pictures off of the dock.
What could have been the worst part of the day was when I dropped my husband’s iPhone 4 into Lake McDonald. Oops. I was so busy snapping photos of my baby girl that the phone just slipped right out of my pocket and I heard a “thunk,” into the water. At the very end of the dock, of course. I don’t even know how deep it is off of the end of the dock. But we had some very nice people on the dock with us who had ski poles, and they let Matt borrow them. Inch by inch he managed to pull the phone back to shore so we could retrieve it. He is amazing, by the way. He was not upset at all. “It’s just stuff,” he said. Have I mentioned he is amazing?
The phone worked one last time to take a photo, and is no longer working.
You can stroll through Apgar in the winter. The Visitor’s Center and the gift shop are open.
All in all, it was a beautiful day!! We really enjoyed our drive. A walk along Lake McDonald at any time of the year will put a smile on your face. Come visit Glacier National Park!!
Warmest Wishes from Big Sky Country,
Montana Vacation Blog