Glacier National Park

Let me start this by saying I could write 100 posts on Glacier National Park, and I would still have more to say about this wonderful place. Glacier is hands down my favorite place on this planet and nothing will ever change my mind. Go ahead and try, but you will be wasting your time.

Here are the top 6 places of interest (in my opinion) you need to visit on your first visit to Glacier National Park.

6. Cattle Baron Supper Club

When heading to the Many Glacier side of GNP, you will pass briefly through Babb. Where the road forks to head to the park or continue to Babb, there is a place you MUST stop and have dinner: Cattle Baron Supper Club. Is it a little pricey? Sure is. Is it worth it? SURE IS. Vegetarians, skip to number 5, sorry. This is probably the best steak I have had in my life, and your girl here loves a good steak. I even took a picture of the food before I ate, and that is something I NEVER do. Definitely check this place out when you visit Glacier National Park.

5. Avalanche Lake Trail

This is the most liked trail in the park, per AllTrails, and for a very good reason. Most of the time, hikes to a point of interest can become monotonous. However, on the Avalanche Lake Trail, there is constantly small points of interest for you to relax, catch your breathe, and enjoy the views. AllTrails gives the hike a moderate rating, but I would rate is somewhere between easy and moderate. We hiked this trail in the morning, around 10:00am, but I would suggest hiking this trail in the afternoon. As you can see from my picture of the lake, the sun’s positioning is just not ideal in the morning. My parents went during the afternoon when they visited GNP, and their pictures had much better light quality. Also, prepare to circle and circle and circle the parking lot for quite a while to find parking.

4. Baring Falls | St. Mary Falls | Virginia Falls

I grouped these three together because you can visit all three falls in one hike! We started at the Sun Point parking area. First stop is Baring Falls. The hike to Baring is very short and sweet. After that, you head towards St. Mary Falls along St. Mary Lake. After a good little hike, (nothing too strenuous!) you make it to St. Mary Falls. Once you cross a bridge, take a few photos, and eat a little snack, it is time to head to your last destination. After a little uphill hiking (again, nothing too strenuous!), you make it to Virginia Falls. Personally, I think if you make it to St. Mary Falls and want to head back, that would be worth the hike. St. Mary’s is for sure the best out of the three waterfalls. There are several different starting points for these waterfalls, but I feel this is the most efficient way to see all three in one hike. For some reason, I do not have a picture of Virginia Falls, but pictures of the other two falls are below.

3. Boat Ride | Hike to Twin Falls

On our last full day, we headed down to the Two Medicine section of Glacier National Park. We were curious and asked how much boat tours cost. We were surprised they were only $13(ish) dollars. We had not taken a boat ride yet, so why not!? The boat ride included a ride across the lake and a short, easy hike to Twin Falls. The hike was nice and we learned a lot of facts and history about the Two Medicine area of Glacier National Park. There are several different boat/hike combination tours throughout the park. However, I suggest this one because there were no crowds and it was one of the least expensive tours.

2. Ptarmigan Falls Trail

Ptarmigan Falls is a stop along the trail to Ptarmigan Tunnel. Unfortunately, the trail to the tunnel was still closed due to snow and there were bears on the way to Ptarmigan Lake, so this is as far as we could go. Even though the waterfall is a little lackluster (you can not really see it from afar, only from the top of the falls), the hike itself gives you some AMAZING views of the park. The first section of the trail is steep and a little rough, but once you are finished with this first section, the hike is a breeze. Once to the top of the falls, there are plenty of areas to rest and enjoy the sound of the waterfall. This is definitely a must do hike when at Glacier National Park.

1. Polebridge | Bowman Lake

Mark my word, I will live here one day. The only thing stopping me is that my body does not like to function when it is less than 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and it gets COLD in northern Montana in the winter. This teeny, tiny town in Glacier is the most magical place I have ever seen. There is not much here other than a bakery, restaurant, and a few places to stay. We stayed at the North Fork Hostel & Square Peg Ranch. I LOVED this hostel, and it is completely different than any other place I have ever stayed. It is important that you research this hostel ahead of time though because it is not for everyone. There are outhouses and limited times during the day when there is electricity. Back to Polebridge, it is a rough ride to get here. There were small sedans that were driving to and from Polebridge/Bowman Lake, so it is possible for almost any car to make the drive, slowly. We drove to Bowman Lake and spent a bit wandering around. It is a very peaceful lake and we only saw a handful of people around the lake/camping area. Back in town, we checked into the hostel and headed to eat dinner at Northern Lights Saloon & Cafe. The next morning, before leaving Glacier and heading to Yellowstone, we stopped at the Polebridge Mercantile & Bakery. Even if you only make it to Polebridge for a day visit, go to the Mercantile & Bakery and buy something sweet! This is definitely the best kept secret of Glacier!

Hope you make it Glacier National Park soon! Let me know if you visit any of these points of interest!

Peace.

Small Town Shoutout

If you despise traffic, chain restaurants, and high rise hotels as much as I do, then my Small Town Shoutouts will be must reads for you!

Any time I am planning a vacation/getaway/road trip/etc., I always try to find those small town gems. The towns that are overlooked or forgotten and away from the interstate. This town checks all the boxes.

What town is it, you ask? Greybull, Wyoming.

Greybull, Wyoming
© Savannah Hamlet

Greybull, Wyoming

I am from a small town, and while I will most likely never move back to such a small town, I do love staying in them while on trips. I do not even remember how I found this place. If I had to guess, I was trying to find somewhere to stay between the Black Hills and the entrance to Beartooth Highway. Whatever I did to find this town, I am sure glad it happened!

The first thing I look for in a small town is a quirky motel or an old hotel. Let me tell you, I hit the jackpot when I found the hotel I stayed in while in Greybull! We stayed in The Historic Hotel Greybull & Speakeasy.

Entrance to front office and The Speakeasy Restaurant
© Savannah Hamlet

This hotel was once a speakeasy during Prohibition. The speakeasy area, located in the “basement” area is now restaurant: “The Speakeasy Restaurant.” The rooms are decorated with vintage decor and are all unique in their own way. Some rooms have bathrooms and showers, some have just a sink. There are bathrooms in the halls if you room does not have a bathroom. There are even a few rooms that have full kitchens. Here is link to their website if you are interested in learning more about the accommodations and/or restaurant: https://www.historichotelgreybull.com/

We did not stay in Greybull but one night. We got to town around 3p.m. and immediately checked in. Once we were settled in our rooms, we went and had dinner at the Speakeasy. After that, we walked down the main road and took some pictures. Of course, with Greybull being such a small town, nothing was open. However, we did get some pictures of vintage signs throughout the town.

There are a few points of interest close to Greybull. One of these is Shell Falls Interpretive Site. At Shell Falls, you can park and take a short walk on a paved pathway to see a gorgeous waterfall.

Shell Falls
© Savannah Hamlet

Greybull is also only about an hour drive to Bighorn National Forest. It was raining while we drove though Bighorn NF, but it is a beautiful area. I would love to go back to Bighorn NF and spend some time camping and hiking in the forest. Greybull is only 53 minutes to Cody, Wyoming and 1 hour and 50 minutes to Red Lodge, Montana. It is an excellent choice, in my opinion, to stay in this charming town if you are on a road trip in the area. I hope you enjoyed this Small Town Shoutout.

Peace.

24 hours in Black Hills NF

In between Badlands National Park and heading to the Beartooth Highway, my friend, Sara, and I were lucky to spend 24(ish) hours in Black Hills National Forest. Was it enough time? Definitely not. Did we make the most of the 24 hours? Yep! Here are the top 5 things I feel everyone should see while in the Black Hills with limited time.

5. Mt. Rushmore

I debated putting this on the list. Is it something you should see in your lifetime, yes. Did I think it was cool, eh. Personally, I felt that we could have spent that time more wisely, but when in the Black Hills for the first time, you go to Mt. Rushmore.
https://www.nps.gov/moru/index.htm

4. Sylvan Lake

Jumbo rocks and water, what’s NOT to love? We did not get to explore as much of the lake as we would’ve like for two reasons: There was a wedding in progress by the lake (#goals) and we had limited sunlight left. I definitely want to spend more time here when I come back to the Black Hills, on my Harley, of course.
https://custerresorts.com/lodges-and-cabins/sylvan-lake-lodge/

3. Needles Highway

Holy Moly, what a drive! We took the drive up Needles Highway during sunset. I am sure the drive is still amazing with gorgeous views during anytime of the day, but when you go at golden hour, and the sun is hitting the rocks….that is something you can not beat! We had to park the Jeep several times because the views were too amazing to continue driving. You also get to drive through some awesome (and narrow!) tunnels!

2. Devil’s Tower

Okay, so technically, this is not part of the Black Hills, but if you are going to be in the area, this is a MUST. You are driving along a nice countryside in Wyoming, and then all of a sudden, BOOM, Devil’s Tower. You may have to wait a few minutes to get in due to limited parking at the base of the tower, but it is worth the wait. Once you do get in, there is an area where you can stop on the way (you must) and see prairie dogs. If you read my previous post about the Badlands, you will know ya girl loves some prairie dogs. Anyway, back on topic here, go to Devil’s Tower. There is a nature walk that goes around the whole tower so you can see the Tower from many different view points. In my opinion, the best view is when you pull off to see the prairie dogs. If you are feeling super adventurous, you can obtain a permit and climb the tower.
https://www.nps.gov/deto/index.htm

1. Crazy Horse Memorial

A lot of people may disagree with me, or maybe not, but we had the BEST time visiting Crazy Horse Memorial and seeing history being made. We did arrive a little late in the afternoon and missed the bus that takes you all the way to the memorial, bummer! We did get to take a short ride closer to the memorial, however, and hear the history of its beginning and future plans. After the bus ride, we toured the museums on site. After walking around for a while, we were beginning to leave when we received the best news ever: if you come back before nightfall (times vary throughout the year), you could re-enter the site and watch a Legends in Light Laser Show which is projected on the Crazy Horse Memorial mountain side. I wish I had pictures that could serve the laser show justice! I am glad I don’t though, so you can see it with your own eyes! Fun fact: They have the largest lasers used in the laser-show industry. If you would like more information on the Legends in Light Laser Show, here is a link to their website, it also gives approximate times when the show will start throughout the year: https://crazyhorsememorial.org/visit/special-events/legends-in-light-laser-show

Honorable Mentions

  • Dinner at Hitchrail Bar and Restaurant in Pringle
  • Sturgis
  • Scenic US – 16 (Biker’s paradise)

Badlands National Park

As previously stated, the Badlands is one of my favorite places I have visited. I feel it is extremely overlooked. While there is not a lot of hiking, the views from some of the pull offs in the park make up for the lack of exploring you can do at this National Park. There is no shade on any of trails in the park so make sure you bring plenty of water, sunscreen, and wear a hat.

Entrance on SD – 240
© Savannah Hamlet

Where to Stay

Wall, South Dakota

When visiting Badlands National Park, most people stay in Wall, SD. Wall is located North of the Badlands National Park. Now, don’t get me wrong, I understand the appeal of this town for most people. There are tons of attractions, shops, and restaurants to choose from, as well as many affordable hotels, motels, and campgrounds. However, growing up in Tennessee, I can compare it to “The Gatlinburg of the Smoky Mountains.” If you enjoy that type of town and enjoy being around attractions, then Wall is the place for you! Even if you do not decide to stay in Wall, it is worth a visit to have dinner and to walk around and see the town. The National Grasslands Visitor Center is also located in Wall and is a very interesting place to visit and learn more about the Grasslands in the United States.

Interior, South Dakota

Interior is located south of the Ben Reifel Visitor Center. There are a few campgrounds and one motel between the visitor center and the small town of Interior. The original plan was to tent camp at Badlands Interior Campground. However, it was very rainy and windy, so luckily the campground also had a motel. The staff was friendly, and did not charge for cancelling our campsite reservation for a motel room. If you would like to check out this campground/motel, here is a link to their website: https://www.badlandsinteriorcampground.com/

Where to Eat

Wall Drug Store Cafe

While we did not personally eat here, my parents had lunch here when they stayed in Wall. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. Typical American style menu with burgers, chicken, and homemade desserts. Wall Drug Store Cafe is located on the main downtown strip of Wall, you can’t miss it!
Here is a link to their website: http://www.walldrug.com/things-to-do/restaurant

Wagon Wheel Bar & Grill

If you want a small town bar menu and a cold beer, this is the place for you! Your choices on food are limited, but your choice on alcohol is large. My one suggestion: get the cheeseballs. The food was great, the beer was cold, and the atmosphere was laid back.
Here is a link to their Facebook website: https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Bar/Wagon-Wheel-Bar-and-Grill-102210229908005/

Wagon Wheel Bar & Grill – You can “decorate” a dollar bill and hang it in the bar
© Savannah Hamlet

Where to go

Prairie Dogs Field

I am a kid at heart, and o.m.g. did we hit the jackpot entering Badlands on SD – 240. When heading on 240 from Interstate 90 towards Interior, on your right will be Badlands Ranch Store. You will know you are there when you see the BIG prairie dog statue. Basically, you can get as close as you can to the prairie dogs and cry happy tears. Prairie dogs are the cutest animals on this planet and no one will ever change my mind. In my opinion, this is a must do!

Statue at Badlands Ranch Store
© Savannah Hamlet

Ben Reifler Visitor Center

This is kind of a “DUH,” but I always love going into Visitor Centers. I always head straight for the cancellation stamps for my passport book. Did I mention I am a kid at heart? You can also receive tons of information and park maps at the visitor centers. As well as souvenirs for your family and friends.

Fossil Exhibit Boardwalk

This kid friendly boardwalk is technically a trail, but I would consider it more of a place to go in the park. The boardwalk has interpretive panels with fossil replicas you can read along the way.

What Trails to Hike

Notch Trail

If you have looked into visiting the Badlands, this has surely popped up in your searches. Notch Trail is a very interesting trail and why it is the number 1 rated trail in the park. AllTrails rates the in and out hike as moderate and is only 1.3 miles long. I feel the only part of the trail that is moderate is the ladder you have to climb. I really enjoyed this hike and it was only one out of two we were able to hike due to the fact it started raining as soon as we got back to the car and did not stop until after we left. Be considerate when you get to the ladder. When we were descending, a couple decided to climb up at the same time and were completely rude telling us to “move.” Be nice, folks.

Castle Trail

This trail is a bit on the lengthy side at 10.5 miles and is rated moderate on AllTrails. Many of the comments say it is an easy hike, however. People also say that while it is a beautiful hike, it can become a bit boring because the scenery is the same throughout the loop trail.

Door Trail

From the same parking lot for Notch Trail, you can take an easy breezy short .8 mile walk to some amazing views. Great for kids and non-hikers to enjoy. You can also see beautiful flowering plants along the way.

View from the end of the Door Trail
© Savannah Hamlet

Where to Stop

Winding through the park is a 31 mile scenic drive with many pull-outs and overlooks where you can see some amazing sights of the Badlands. Here are a few must stops along the scenic drive.

  • White River Valley Overlook
© Savannah Hamlet
  • Yellow Mounds Overlook
  • Pinnacles Overlook
© Savannah Hamlet
  • Big Badlands Overlook

Hopefully if you were on the fence on whether or not to take time to visit the Badlands, my post has convinced you to not miss this National Park! If there is anything I forgot to mention or you have any questions, leave a comment below!

Peace.

Just a Jeepin’

During the summer of 2018, my best friend, Sara, and I took a 3 week road trip of a life time. We drove in a 4 door Jeep from Tennessee to South Dakota to Wyoming to Montana and then back down to Wyoming. We were able to visit 4 National Parks, 3 National Forests, 2 National Monuments, and many more spectacular places. I will give a brief overview of where all we went, and have more detailed blogs in the near future of each location we visited.

Our first stop after two LONG days of driving was Badlands National Park. I was extremely excited about Badlands National Park. I personally feel that the Badlands do not get enough credit. C’mon guys, look at the views!

Door/Notch Trailheads parking area
© Savannah Hamlet

Next, we headed to the Black Hills National Forest. We only had one night in the Black Hills, so we made the most of it. Within 24 hours, we saw Mt. Rushmore, drove the Needles Highway at sunset, saw a laser show at Crazy Horse (SO COOL), visited Sylvan Lake, visited Sturgis (our dads, both bikers, were extremely jealous), AND went to Devil’s Tower. Needless to say, we had a blast and saw A LOT.

Sylvan Lake at sunset
© Savannah Hamlet

After a couple of days of exploring the Badlands and Black Hills, we were Montana bound! We took a scenic route through Bighorn National Forest, and stayed in a charming small town, Greybull, WY. We then took the Beartooth Highway and stayed the night in Bozeman. I know, weird, but it was the only way we could drive the highways and not have to backtrack.

Shell Falls between Bighorn National Forest and Greybull
© Savannah Hamlet

After leaving Bozeman, we took a long, rainy drive to Glacier. We stayed an entire week in Glacier and WOW WOW WOW. If you have never visited Glacier, cancel your current travel plans and go, now!

Two Medicine Lake at Glacier National Park
© Savannah Hamlet

The last week of our trip, we visited Yellowstone and Grant Tetons National Park. I have nothing to say about Yellowstone, you will see a whole blog about Yellowstone later on. Grand Tetons were GORGEOUS. Just fab, y’all. 10/10 would recommend.

Grand Teton National Park
© Savannah Hamlet

This post really does not serve a purpose except to set up the next few blogs I post about each location. You at least got to see some awesome pictures taken with an iPhone, pretty impressive for a phone, huh?

Peace.