Lake McDonald Lodge offers guests the opportunity to relax on the shores of the largest lake in the park. The lodge is easily accessible via West Glacier along the Going to the Sun Road.
The lodge offers ADA-accessible rooms and evening programs at the Lake McDonald Lodge auditorium.
Lake McDonald Lodge
Lake McDonald Lodge is a National Historic Landmark nestled on the shores of Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park. The Lodge opened its doors in 1914 and is one of the finest examples of Swiss Chalet-style hotels in the United States.
The floors in the lobby have messages in Kootenai which translate to “welcome” and “new life to those who drink here”. Guest rooms are split between the main lodge, duplex-style cabins, Snyder Hall, and the Cobb House.
Guest rooms have modest amenities and Old World style accommodations resulting in a one-of-a-kind experience.
The lobby fireplace is where the famous Montana cowboy artist Charles M. Russel used to tell cowboy stories to visitors.
There are 79 newly renovated guest rooms and cabins along with four suites. Rooms include both king and queen size beds. Each room has an alarm clock, telephone, hairdryer, iron and ironing board, fan, and some rooms have coffee makers.
The lodge is located 10 miles from the park entrance at the West entrance of Glacier. You can easily take red bus tours, Lake McDonald boat cruises, and numerous other activities and enjoy easy access to the Going to the Sun road.
Lake McDonald Lodge - Cabin
We stayed in a cabin near the shores of Lake McDonald and it was amazing. The cabin comes with either double beds, queen, or king beds depending on the size of the cabin.
Each cabin has a private bathroom. The cabins share a shared entrance and most have stairs leading up to them.
The sink and mirror are near the door in the main room of the cabin. This is fairly common in National Park Lodges but just in case I wanted to let you know. There was a great assortment of coffee and tea available with a coffee maker.
We found the cabin to be really comfortable and would definitely stay there again. Even with other rooms sharing the same cabin it was really quiet and we enjoyed a great night's sleep.
Lake McDonald Lodge History
Lake McDonald Lodge is located within Glacier National Park in northwest Montana. This Swiss Chalet style lodge is located approximately 10 miles inside the park’s west entrance.
The lodge sits on the eastern banks of the largest lake in Glacier National Park.
A glacial feature, Lake McDonald began as a basin during the Ice Age. The lake is surrounded by mountains on the north and south sides and the Continental Divide is just a short distance to the east. The mountains act as a natural rain block.
The lake is nearly ten miles long and 500 feet deep. One thing that makes the lake so incredibly beautiful and pristine is the clear water. Due to the extremely low year-round temperatures of the water, plankton is prevented from growing.
One thing hidden under this pristine water is referred to as the “most beautiful pebbles in Montana.” The rocks were formed during different eras, each breaking down into tiny fragments and then floating away, eventually settling in the lake.
Over time, water erosion turned the fragments into smooth pebbles. The pebbles tell the story of landforms in Montana through the centuries.
The group of people who can also tell stories about Lake McDonald through the centuries is the native Kootenai people. The Kootenai people lived along the Kootenai River in Montana and Idaho.
Their name for the ancient lake meant “Sacred Dancing” and it is thought that the tribes performed their sacred ceremonial dances at the lake. The Kootenai people were hunter-gatherers who hunted local game and gathered roots; salmon was also a vital staple to their diet.
It is believed that the present day name of the lake is named after Duncan McDonald, a trader in the area who carved his name into a tree on the banks of the lake in 1878.
Duncan McDonald was born on Montana’s Flathead Reservation to a Nez Perce mother and a Scottish father. This unique background equipped him to serve as a translator for many meetings between natives and white settlers.
After the Nez Perce War in 1877, McDonald wrote newspaper articles sympathizing with the natives and their unfair treatment by the U.S. government.
He even traveled to Canada and interviewed Sitting Bull. McDonald was also an entrepreneur and established general stores, restaurants, mining companies and a ranch with apple orchards.
An avid mountain explorer, McDonald visited the Glacier Valley in 1878 and famously carved “Duncan McDonald” in a tree which led to the naming of the famous lake.
Originally known as Lewis Glacier Hotel, Lake McDonald Lodge was completed in June of 1914. John Lewis, a land speculator bought the land and began construction of the hotel. This time period saw the Great Northern Railway Company eager to construct lavish hotels in the mountains to entice visitors to ride the rails to these destination resorts.
The Swiss chalet style of the lodge was typical of the Railway resort style at the time. The main building is 3 ½ stories tall with a stone foundation and wood framing.
The exposed stone has largely been covered by white stucco. The grand main lobby is three stories tall and features numerous taxidermy mounts of animals hunted and trapped by John Lewis.
Lewis often used trapping as a way to support the hotel business. Balconies were built to line the second and third floor, gaining easy access to the outside and beautiful Lake McDonald in front of the lodge. The guest rooms and lobby were meant to feel rustic but cozy and comfortable.
There are multiple furnishings that have remained in the lodge since 1914. Hickory chairs and the piano found in the lobby are over a century old.
In 2013, the lodge acquired a massive mural of Lake McDonald painted by Ace Powell in 1962. New Mexico native Asa Lynn “Ace” Powell was an American sculptor and painter who created images relating to life in the west.
Powell was largely inspired by another famous artist from the late 1800s, Charles M. Russell. It is believed that Russell, the “American Old West Artist” spent time at Lake McDonald Lodge and carved pictographs in the original fireplace hearth of the dining room.
In 1930, the hotel was bought by the Glacier Park Hotel Company who changed the name to Lake McDonald Hotel. It would be changed to Lake McDonald Lodge in 1958. The main lodge was dedicated as a National Historic Landmark in May of 1987. It is considered one of the best examples of Swiss Chalet in America.
Lake McDonald Lodge Restaurants
Russell’s Fireside Dining Room
This restaurant was named after legendary Montana artist Charlie Russel. The restaurant offers a comfortable environment to enjoy a meal while gazing out at Lake McDonald.
The restaurant is decorated with hunting trophies and Western Red Cedar beams. Creating a hunting lodge atmosphere including a fireplace.
Lucke’s Lounge offers Montana craft beers, wine, and liquor options. They also have late-night appetizers and a all-day bar menu. There is a TV in the lounge.
Jammer Joe’s Pizzeria
Jammer Joe’s offers an all-you-can-eat lunch buffet or create your own pizzas. They also have sandwiches and salads available.
The pizza was pretty good but not amazing. The pizzas were larger than we expected so we had a great number of leftovers. They have a very bready and thick crust.
The gift shop is located in the main lobby of the Lake McDonald Lodge.
Things to know when planning a visit to Lake McDonald Lodge
Quiet Hours – 10 pm to 6 am
Check-in time – 4 pm
Check out time – 11 am
Smoking and vaping are prohibited in all guest areas unless designated.
Service Animals are permitted in the hotel. No other animals are allowed in the rooms
Guests with hearing impairment can get alternative communication devices including TTYs, phone flashers, door knockers, bed shakers, and alarm clocks from the front desk.
ATM – Located in the lobby of Lake McDonald Lodge
Box Lunches to Go – You can order box lunches to go from the restaurant. Orders need to be placed by 8 pm. Lunches can be picked up the next day before 10 am.
Check out all of the Glacier National Park Lodging options! We try to move around to different lodges each night as we explore the park.
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