What It’s Like to Stay at Great Bear Lodge in St. Mary Village + More About St. Mary, MT Near Glacier National Park
I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect when I booked my family to stay in St. Mary Village during a recent trip to Glacier National Park.
It was marketed as being the east entrance to the Going to the Sun Road, but it wasn’t actually inside the park. I worried it might seem too busy and commercialized.
Looking for an east side Going-to-the-Sun Road place to stay inside the park? Check out our Rising Sun Motor Inn Review.
And in a way, it was. When we first pulled up, all I could focus on was the paved parking lots flanked by a gas station, supermarket, and gifts shop, all of which backed up to the hotel.
Well, at least it’s convenient, I told myself.
I walked into reception to check in (with a walk through the gift shop…how strategically placed) and felt a bit better as I took in the wood walls and lodge atmosphere. And at first glance, the restaurant looked quite nice.
I booked a room in Great Bear Lodge, which is the building right next to St. Mary’s main lodge. Great Bear Lodge was supposed to be the more contemporary accommodation. Still, I wasn’t sure what to expect as I took the elevator up to our room on the third floor.
I walked down the outdoor hallway to our room, scanned the key (which was in and of itself a nice surprise after many days of clunky keys at the other lodges we stayed at in and near the park), and opened the door…
And felt like I was in paradise.
I mean, I was visiting Glacier National Park. Of course, I was in paradise.
But after several nights in rustic mountain lodges and long days hiking trails and driving narrow roads and having no wi-fi service, the sudden comforts I encountered upon opening that door at St. Mary Village into my room were more needed than I realized.
What did I see?
A large room with two comfy queen beds, an in-room fridge, a coffee maker, and…most surprisingly…a sunlit balcony overlooking a rushing river framed by the towering peaks of Glacier National Park.
I knew there would be a balcony, but didn’t realize it would have such a spectacular view!
The bathroom was clean and well-appointed. The decor blended modern with lake cabin touches.
The pictures on the website did not do the Great Bear Lodge at St. Mary Village justice. I thought it was much more impressive in real life.
Oh, and did I mention the air conditioning? And the in-room Wi-Fi?
Yes, it turned out St. Mary Village was the perfect place to end our Glacier National Park trip. The next day we were doing a hike in Many Glacier and then driving south to Helena and it was the perfect location to end our trip.
How far is St. Mary Village to Many Glacier?
We got from St. Mary Village to Many Glacier Lodge in a little over 30 minutes. This was mid-morning and there wasn’t much traffic. We were a bit worried about parking, but there were lots of people checking out around that time so it wasn’t a problem finding a spot.
Beyond Great Bear Lodge: More Places to Stay in St. Mary Village
We felt so pampered staying at Great Bear Lodge. It was far from the only accommodation option in St. Mary Village, though. I enjoyed seeing the other place to stay, too. These include tiny homes, a motor inn, and cabins, which I’ll detail more below:
St. Mary’s Tiny Home Village
The tiny home village is located across the road from the main lodge, just behind West Motel. The tiny homes at St. Mary Village are a unique lodging option for Glacier National Park since it combines two trends: Tiny Houses and Farmhouse Design.
These colorful tiny homes can comfortably sleep two adults and two kids or three adults with one queen bed and one trundle bed (which doubles as a couch during the day).
Each of the ten tiny homes even fits in a small dining table, stove top, microwave, and mini-fridge. Each house has a little patio with outdoor seating, too.
Across a short walking path, you’ll find your bathroom facility. Each tiny house has its own private and luxurious bathhouse with a toilet, sink, and shower. The tiny homes are painted in different colors, but each bathroom matches its corresponding house, which is a cute touch.
—> Read More: Where to Stay In and Near Glacier National Park
St. Mary’s West Motel
The West Motel just to the front of Tiny Home Village faces the road that takes you onto the Glacier National Park entrance and Going-to-the-Sun Road.
It’s a good option for those who like easy access from their car to the room. It also is budget-friendly compared to Great Bear Lodge and the Tiny Home Villages, while still offering cozy rooms and ensuite baths. The rooms at West Motel have one or two queen size beds.
St. Mary’s Village Cabins
St. Mary Village also has a collection of stand-alone cabins that work well for larger groups traveling together:
This is a beautifully remodeled cabin that was the original residence of the family who originally built the cabins around St. Mary Village. It has a king bed, queen bed, and a twin bed, each in one of the three separate bedrooms. There are also two bathrooms.
The Homestead House has a tree-lined private deck. It’s near the Tiny Home Village and faces the gorgeous mountains of Glacier National Park.
Bonus for families with little kids: There’s a washer and dryer onsite! And a full kitchen!
The Sun Cabin is a good option for those looking for a St. Mary Village place to stay that is a bit more secluded. It is located on a hill to the east of St. Mary’s Main Lodge.
It has a full kitchen, living room, and private, peaceful deck. The floor plan is open with a loft bedroom featuring a king-size bed. The Sun Cabin is an especially great option for couples.
This is a no-frills, budget cabin that is great for families not planning to spend much time in their accommodations or friends looking for a laid-back place to hang out after some epic day hikes in Glacier National Park.
It sleeps up to six people and has two bedrooms, one with a queen bed and one with a trundle. There is also a sleeper sofa and futon. Budget travelers will also appreciate the kitchenette, which you can stock with food items from the grocery store across the street.
More Reasons to Stay in St. Mary Village
While we felt so pampered staying in Great Bear Lodge, simply being in St. Mary Village had its perks, too. For starters, my mom had cell service. She has Verizon as many Montanans do. I was still without it with AT&T which has very limited service in many parts of Montana, but I was just happy for Wi-Fi at the lodge!
St. Mary Village also has gift shops, a gas station, a grocery store, and several choices for where to eat. I’ll detail all that below.
St. Mary Village Gift Shops
The gift shop connected to St. Mary Lodge reception is one of the best we found around Glacier National Park. So many clothing items, artisan creations, and other souvenirs to choose from.
My daughters even finally found the elusive river otter stuffed animal they’d been wanting ever since seeing otters at the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center during our trip to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Park.
There’s also another gift shop right across the parking lot that’s connected to the gas station.
St. Mary Village Grocery Store
This is a small grocery store, but it has items you won’t be able to find in the concessions area of the shops in the park. Case in point: diapers!
I miscalculated how many pull-ups I would need for my youngest daughter and could not find any in the park, not even in the busy Apgar Village. We were down to our last two when I went into the grocery store in St. Mary Village with crossed fingers.
They didn’t have pull-ups, but they did have size 5 diapers, which we made work. So thank you St. Mary Village Grocery Store.
The grocery store also had (limited) fresh produce, such as strawberries and apples. Deli meat was also available as were some pre-packaged freshly made salads.
Where to Eat in St. Mary
As I mentioned earlier, the main lodge has an onsite restaurant called Snowgoose Grille that has a nice ambiance with a mountain theme and views overlooking the river.
The cocktail menu had some locally-inspired creations. The food menu also featured trout, steak, and huckleberries, perfect for a Montanan meal. Even the kid’s menu had a child-sized steak option, which isn’t a common site found on kid menus!
Next to the restaurant is an espresso bar where we got coffee and to-go pastries before we went to Many Glacier. I especially loved the huckleberry monkey bread. It tasted like a dense glazed donut and had actual huckleberries in the middle!
The gas station/convenience center also has meal options. There is another espresso bar plus an ice cream stand inside. You can also get counter-service meals, including salads and sandwiches. Take your food to-go or eat it before leaving at one of the inside tables.
St. Mary Village is also within walking distance (or a short drive) to other restaurants in the area, just down Hwy 89, including a pizza shop, cafe, homestyle restaurant, and a beer garden.
St. Mary Village is a pick-up and drop-off point for shuttles running between St. Mary and Two Medicine plus St. Mary and Many Glacier.
Outdoor Gear Shop
Forgot something for your Glacier National Park adventures? You can hopefully find it (or something similar) at the Trail & Creek Outfitters Outdoor Gear Shop in St. Mary Village.
St. Mary Village all booked up? Also, check out these options in St. Mary: