A Hitchhiker’s Guide to Polebridge

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A Hitchhiker’s Guide to Polebridge

One of our favorite destinations in the summer and fall is taking the North Fork Road to Polebridge.

Are you searching for a quieter, less touristy corner of Glacier National Park? Look no further than Polebridge, Montana. Nestled on the western border of the park, this charming community offers beautiful scenery, outdoor activities, and a taste of local life. In this post, we’ll guide you through the hidden gem of Polebridge, sharing tips on how to get there, where to stay, and what to do. Let’s explore this off-the-beaten-path Montana destination.

How to Get to Polebridge

Polebridge, Montana, lies on the North Fork of the Flathead River, just 22 miles south of the Canadian border. It’s positioned on the western edge of Glacier National Park, making it an ideal base for exploring the park’s less crowded areas. You can access Polebridge via two main routes. From Columbia Falls, take Nucleus Drive, which becomes North Fork Road, leading to Polebridge Loop. Alternatively, you can drive from West Glacier Village right past River Haus at the entrance to Glacier National Park, taking Camas Road to North Fork Road. Although it’s a mostly dirt road journey, the scenery along the way is worth the ride.

Where to Eat in Polebridge


Polebridge might not offer breakfast dining options, but you can satisfy your sweet tooth with the famous pastries from Polebridge Mercantile. The world-famous bear claws, huckleberry macaroons, and gooey cinnamon rolls are must-tries. For dinner, you can choose between Northern Lights Café and Saloon, which is located next to Polebridge Mercantile, or Home Ranch Bottoms, known for its authentic Texas-style barbecue. Both options provide a taste of local cuisine, making your Polebridge experience even more memorable.

Sasquatch Grill, a unique food truck in Polebridge, Montana, offers a diverse menu featuring everything from green curry to pulled pork sandwiches. Founded by Will Hammerquist, the head of the Polebridge Mercantile café and gift shop, the food truck provides an alternative to the Merc’s bustling café. With a wide range of dishes and a focus on accessibility, Sasquatch Grill caters to various dietary preferences, making it a hit among locals and an anticipated destination for tourists when it moves to Polebridge during the summer. You can find the truck in Columbia Falls until mid-May before it relocates north to serve its unique offerings in the scenic North Fork area.

CAIT’S LOCAL PRO-TIP: I like to bring my own picnic foods and then have a picnic next to the Polebridge Mercantile in their huge grassy lawn. Their picnic tables catch the evening sun late into the summer night. Sometimes we can catch the live music playing nearby at Northern Lights Saloon, other times we just enjoy the peace and quiet of the remoteness while our kids happily play on the playground equipment which is old-school and still fun (and slightly dangerous!).

What to Do in Polebridge

Explore the pristine beauty of Bowman Lake within Glacier National Park, offering a perfect backdrop for outdoor adventures. In Polebridge, outdoor activities take center stage. Whether you’re hiking, kayaking, or exploring, there’s something for everyone. After indulging in baked goods at the Mercantile, you can venture into Glacier National Park. Don’t forget that a vehicle reservation is required to enter from May 26 to September 10 (from 6 am to 3 pm) at the Polebridge Entrance Station. From there, you can explore Bowman and Kintla Lakes. These lakes offer stunning natural beauty, perfect for picnics, hiking, or even kayaking. For those who prefer to stay closer to Polebridge, consider exploring the Flathead National Forest, adjacent to the Glacier View Ranger District. Dirt roads lead into the forest, providing excellent views, wildlife sightings, and access to hiking trails. Make sure to carry bear spray when exploring the outdoors. Polebridge is a hidden gem that offers a unique perspective of Glacier National Park. While it might not have the amenities of a bustling resort town, it more than makes up for it with its natural beauty and serene atmosphere. Discover Polebridge, and you’ll find yourself in one of Montana’s best-kept secrets.

Best Hikes in Polebridge

While the quaint town of Polebridge, Montana, offers its own unique charm, one of the main draws for outdoor enthusiasts is its proximity to the breathtaking hiking trails found in Glacier National Park and the surrounding Flathead National Forest. Whether you’re an avid hiker or just looking for a scenic stroll, there’s a trail for everyone. Here are some must-visit hikes in the area:

Nestled in the heart of Glacier National Park, these three pristine lakes—Bowman Lake, Kintla Lake, and Quartz Lake—offer hikers the opportunity to connect with the park’s natural beauty, wildlife, and serenity. Each lake presents a unique experience, making them must-visit destinations for outdoor enthusiasts.

Bowman Lake Hike:

Tucked away in the northwest corner of Glacier National Park, Bowman Lake is a hidden gem, renowned for its pristine wilderness and stunning mountain backdrops. The hike to Bowman Lake is relatively easy, making it suitable for hikers of all levels. The trail meanders through lush forests, providing ample shade and occasional glimpses of local wildlife. As you approach the lake, the lush surroundings give way to the breathtaking sight of Bowman Lake’s clear, glacial waters. This magnificent lake offers opportunities for picnicking, hiking, or even kayaking. Take in the serene beauty, enjoy a picnic along the shore, or paddle out onto the crystal-clear waters for a truly immersive experience.

Kintla Lake Hike:

Located in the remote northwest corner of the park, Kintla Lake is the perfect destination for those seeking solitude and serenity. The hike to Kintla Lake is a bit more challenging than Bowman Lake but is incredibly rewarding. This remote alpine lake is surrounded by rugged wilderness and lush forests. The trail offers a peaceful setting for hiking and allows you to immerse yourself in the scenic splendor of Glacier National Park. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast or an avid hiker, Kintla Lake’s tranquil beauty is bound to captivate your senses.

Quartz Lake Loop Hike:

For those looking for a shorter hiking adventure, the Quartz Lake Loop provides an excellent opportunity for a quick exploration. Located near Polebridge, this trail offers breathtaking lake views and is an accessible choice for hikers of various skill levels. The loop allows you to take in the pristine wilderness of the area, all within a manageable distance. The trail surrounds you with lush vegetation and provides picturesque views of Quartz Lake. It’s a perfect option if you’re short on time but still want to experience the natural beauty of the region.

CAIT’S LOCAL PRO-TIP: Remember to check trail conditions and obtain any required permits or passes before hitting the trails.

Your journey to explore the pristine beauty of Glacier National Park starts with a comfortable stay at River Haus – the closest Glacier Park Vacation Rental. We’re perfectly situated to be your basecamp for all your adventures in this remarkable area. I look forward to sharing my local knowledge and ensuring you have an amazing experience.


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