Stay on Glacier National Park’s East Side at the Rising Sun Motor Inn
I couldn’t believe my luck when I booked a fairly last-minute booking at Rising Sun Motor Inn, the only place to stay on Glacier National Park’s east side that is located on the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road (GTTSR).
Glacier National Park is notorious for selling out of its east side accommodations within the park pretty much the second they become available. So in the weeks leading up to my sort-of-last-minute trip to Glacier National Park, I was checking daily hoping that Rising Sun Motor Inn or Many Glacier Lodge would open up.
I was especially hoping for Rising Sun Motor Inn since then I wouldn’t need to worry about getting trying to get a Going-to-the-Sun Road vehicle reservation as well. (If you don’t know what that means, click here for more info on the GTTSR vehicle registration.)
How I Got a Booking at Sold Out Rising Sun Motor Inn
A few weeks before we left, I fell asleep on the couch one night watching TV. I woke up shortly before midnight, and before I groggily stumbled into my bedroom, I thought to check the Xanterra site one more time. (Xanterra is the company that runs several of the lodges within Glacier National Park.)
I refreshed the page for probably the 20th time that day and… Voila! There was a room with two queen beds available for the date I wanted to stay there. I was thrilled and immediately booked it.
Pro Tip: When these cancellations at lodges with Glacier National Park become available they never last very long so be ready to book.
What is Rising Sun Motor Inn?
Rising Sun Motor is one of the more affordable accommodations in Glacier National Park. Still, the duplex-style cabins looked updated on the site and the location is wonderful, a quick drive away from Saint Mary Lake and some of the best hiking trails along Going-to-the-Sun Road.
I was excited, but still a bit unsure what we would find once we arrived.
When we got there, it was easy to see why Rising Sun Motor Inn is on the more affordable side of the park. The duplex cabins are quite small.
And if you have a noisy neighbor you’re definitely going to hear them. Luckily the people next door to us didn’t check in till late that night and they were quick to get settled so we didn’t hear too much noise.
This is an inherently peaceful place though, and I would assume most visitors intuitively know this is a place to soak in nature, not to party.
Read More: Best Things to Do in Glacier National Park
Rising Sun Motor Inn Accommodations
Indeed, it felt quiet and peaceful while we were there. We even took a nap before dinner with the windows open and enjoyed the sounds of the birds chirping.
The mattresses were comfortable and I loved the headboards and accent pillows for the beds.
Despite the small size, it was cozy in the room. The bathroom, though tiny, appeared to be recently painted and the flooring looked new.
The sink is located within the sleeping area separate from the bathroom.
I think of this as being dorm room style since it’s usually convenient for friends traveling together when one might need to use the sink while the other is using the shower or toilet. In this case, it worked well for my mom, my two daughters, and me.
Motel Rooms at Rising Sun Motor Inn
Rising Sun Motor Inn also has motel-style rooms. These are located in a couple of long buildings that have several rooms and front porches. Some rooms also have peekaboo views of St. Mary Lake.
The motel rooms are located near the duplex cabins so you’ll still need to walk a few minutes to get to the restaurant and reception.
Things to do at Rising Sun Motor Inn
After our nap, we walked down to the reception desk which is connected to a small gift shop and a restaurant called Two Dog Flats Grill.
The reception area is the only place that has Wi-Fi I thought this meant the whole building had it and I was looking forward to sending some work emails during dinner, but alas, this is Glacier National Park, and Wi-Fi and cell service are hard to come by.
What does that mean? That the Wi-Fi truly only worked within a few feet of the reception desk and was very slow. Just sitting 20 feet away in the restaurant and I couldn’t connect.
So once again Glacier National Park reminded me I should be living in the moment. Instead of email, I focused on some yummy trout I got for dinner paired with a local huckleberry blonde ale.
We also went to the restaurant for breakfast the following morning and got a hearty breakfast before heading to our St. Mary Boat Ride followed by a drive up Going to Sun Road to Logan Pass to do the Hidden Lake Overlook Hike.
Access to Going-to-the-Sun Road for Rising Sun Motor Inn Guests
Now, this brings up an important thing to know about staying at Rising Sun Motor Inn in relation to the famed Going-to-the-Sun Road.
As I mentioned earlier, staying at Rising Sun Motor Inn lets you enter the park between the hours of 6 am and 4 pm when you would otherwise have to have a GTTSR vehicle registration ticket.
Just show proof of your reservation that you’re staying at Rising Sun that night and you’ll be let in.
Now here’s where it gets tricky. I thought that staying there meant you were already in the park, on the Going-to-the-Sun road and so you could just continue to drive the road the following day if you didn’t leave the park.
We found this to be the case after spending the night at Apgar Village on the west side of the park. (Though I wouldn’t guarantee this in case the checkpoint location moves.)
However, it was not the case at Rising Sun. You leave on the east side of the hotel and enter on the west side of it. Guess where the checkpoint for vehicle registrations is: in between those two entrances.
Thankfully, we had the boat registration at St. Mary, which counts as a Going to the Sun Road ticket. If we hadn’t, the park ranger at the checkpoint said we wouldn’t have been able to get in despite staying at Rising Sun Motor Inn the night before. Our whole day would have been messed up since we wouldn’t have been able to get to Hidden Lake Overlook Trail until close to 5 pm, which would have been too late for my young daughters to happily do a hike.
So, now you know. Drive the GTTSR and do your hikes the day you are checking in, or try to get a vehicle ticket for the day after your stay at Rising Sun Motor Inn if you still want to explore the drive and access hiking trailheads off this road.
Or get that boat ride ticket – we loved the St. Mary Lake boat ride, which included a stop to get off and see Baring Falls.
Rising Sun Motor Inn Review Bottom Line
Rising Sun Motor Inn is an easy-on-the-wallet accommodation option on the east side of Glacier National Park.
Accommodations are small, but peaceful. Staying there will get you access without a vehicle registration ticket to Going-to-the-Sun Road on the day of check-in, but not the day you check out.
Plus, check out our First Timer’s Guide to Montana!