Historical Railroad Chalet in Glacier National Park
In 1939, the Great Northern Railway built a chalet to lodge snow-removal crews working along the railroad in Montana’s Glacier National Park. Now called the Izaak Walton Inn, the property draws visitors from around the world for its location in the park as well as abundant hiking, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing opportunities. But the inn hasn’t neglected its past; railroad-themed décor, vintage train schedules, and restored railcars pay homage to the historical Great Northern Railway. Amtrak and Burlington Northern Railroad trains chug past Izaak Walton Inn each day, sometimes pausing at the nearby Essex stop before journeying into the snow-capped wilderness.
Frommer’s notes that “The inn [is] also a great spot to stay in winter for cross-country skiers,” and that’s because 33 kilometers of cross-country ski trails surround the chalet, with ski instructors on hand to give lessons or guide fledgling skiers along custom routes. Half-day snowshoe tours trek past centuries-old larch trees and over suspension bridges. In warmer months, the meticulously groomed trails thaw and wildflowers bloom for picturesque hiking. Nearby, Flathead River rushes with rapids for whitewater rafting.
With no telephones, televisions, or coffeemakers, guest rooms maintain a peaceful rusticity. Inside Empire Builder rooms, duvets are trimmed in locomotive engineer stripes and emblazoned with the Burlington Northern Railroad’s logo. At the onsite Dining Car restaurant, entrees range from bacon-wrapped buffalo meatloaf to pistachio-crusted sea bass. A heated patio provides a scenic setting in which to sample the inn’s signature huckleberry cobbler.
Essex, Montana: Historical Railroad Town in the “Crown of the Continent”
Nearly equidistant from northwestern Glacier National Park’s eastern and western entrances, Essex began as a tiny town along the Great Northern Railway and has changed little since its humble beginnings. Snow-capped pine trees still surround the remote village, now the only flag stop on Amtrak’s Empire Builder route.
Called the “Crown of the Continent” by naturalist George Bird Grinnell, the surrounding Glacier National Park spans more than a million acres with blue-tinged glacial mountains and more than 700 miles of hiking trails. Weather permitting, the park’s signature red Jammer buses cruise from the inn and into the western entrance via the picturesque Going-to-the-Sun Road, famous for its tight turns tucked along the mountainside. Sights include Lake McDonald and Wild Goose Island, where migratory geese vacation for spring break.