Which Amtrak station is best for Glacier National Park?

Glacier National Park sign (West Glacier)

Glacier National Park is one of the easiest destinations to reach via Amtrak train. There are four train stations near the park (all on the Empire Builder route), each with different amenities and lodging experiences. To help with your decision, here’s what you need to know about each.

Best Station Overall: Whitefish

Whitefish Amtrak Station
Photo by Roy Luck (Whitefish Amtrak Station)

Whitefish, Montana is a resort town with many lodging and restaurant options. You can rent a car here and drive to Glacier National Park in about 30 minutes or choose from a variety of tours with Whitefish Outfitters. This station is open year round and is especially a good option if you are traveling westbound as you’ll see more of the Rocky Mountains during the summer months. If you are traveling eastbound, such as from Portland or Seattle, Whitefish will be your first Glacier National Park stop.

Rideshare services are an option in Whitefish and many hotels and resorts have shuttles (view the list).¬†Another perk is that there is an airport nearby so you can fly home if you don’t want to get back on the train.

Best Station for Easy Summer Trips: East Glacier

Glacier Park Lodge
Photo by Acroterion/Wikipedia Commons (Glacier Park Lodge)

The East Glacier Park Station is in walking distance of the historic Glacier Park Lodge (walking time is about four minutes and pickup service is available). Tour buses stop at the lodge and take you into the park, so it is an easy place to stay if you don’t want to rent a car. However, this station and the lodge is only open from mid-spring until mid-fall, and dining options are more limited than in Whitefish. You can eat at the lodge or walk to the area near the Amtrak station for a handful of other restaurants.

Other amenities at the lodge include a golf course, outdoor pool and espresso stand. It’s important to know that there aren’t any elevators, so be sure to book a first floor room if you are unable to go up and down stairs.

Best Station for a Unique Vacation: Essex

Izaak Walton Inn in Montana
Photo by Don Barrett (Izaak Walton Inn)

Editor’s note: The Izaak Walton Inn is closed for renovations in 2023.

Originally built to house railroad workers, the Izaak Walton Inn is a historic and unique place to stay. Lodging choices include rooms in the inn, old cabooses, luxury railcars and family cabins. You won’t find TVs here, and with limited WiFi, you can really unplug and enjoy the great outdoors.

In the winter months, you can explore Nordic trails (ski and snowshoe rentals available), or hike to Marion Lake in the summer. All year long you can enjoy a full bar with games, outdoor hot tub, sauna and a large selection of books. Note that there is only one restaurant on site, so you’ll likely be eating all of your meals there.

To see Glacier National Park, Glacier Sun Tours provides full-day tours (minimum four people) and there are other outdoor excursions available. There are no rental cars or rideshare services here, so you’ll need to book a tour or excursion in order to get off the property. Pickup service from the train station is available (weather permitting) if you coordinate with the inn ahead of time. Otherwise, walking time from the train station is about six minutes.

Best Station for Outdoor Adventures: West Glacier

Lake MacDonald Lodge in Glacier National Park
Photo by David Restivo, NPS (Lake McDonald Lodge)

The West Glacier Station is conveniently next to the Going-to-the-Sun Road, Flathead River and West Glacier Village. The area is great if you are able and willing to walk to lodging, including the historic Belton Chalet, Glacier Guides Lodge, River Haus and the West Glacier Cabin Village. You can also easily walk to the Glacier Raft Company (whitewater rafting and fly fishing trips), the South Boundary Trail, a small grocery store and a few restaurants (including a classy dining experience in the Belton Chalet).

To stay inside the park or connect with bus tours and other activities, you can board a shuttle at the train station (must be booked in advance) and travel to Lake McDonald Lodge & Cabins (kayaking, fishing, boat tours and Red bus tours available) or the Village Inn (lake views with nearby kayak/paddleboard rentals).

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