Exploring the Fantastic Bowman Lake and Polebridge Mercantile Glacier National Park

Our journey to Glacier National Park was, quite simply, amazing. From the hiking opportunities to the majestic mountain and lake views to the many, many kinds of wildlife and even the new friends we made along the trails, it was an adventure of a lifetime. You absolutely must make it a point to visit Glacier National Park at least once in your lifetime! You will not be sorry you did.  In this installment we will be covering exploring the fantastic Bowman Lake and Polebridge Mercantile in Glacier National Park!

Exploring the Fantastic Bowman Lake and Polebridge Mercantile Glacier National Park
Kayaking Bowman Lake Glacier National Park

As part of our journey to Glacier, we traveled to Bowman Lake and Polebridge, Montana. We found some fantastic views and wonderful places to visit along the way. Here are some ideas for your own trip to Glacier and the Bowman Lake and Polebridge areas.

Polebridge, Montana

Polebridge is a small town in Montana a few miles away from Bowman Lake. When I say small town, I mean small town. Mostly what you will find here are a sprinkling of a few houses, some cabins and of course the wonderful Polebridge Mercantile.

Exploring the Fantastic Bowman Lake and Polebridge Mercantile Glacier National Park
Exploring Polebridge Glacier National Park

The Polebridge Mercantile

Glacier National Park was first designated as a national park in 1910, and the Mercantile was built in 1914. The Mercantile has been around just about the whole time that Glacier National Park has been a park.

William L. Adair

William L. Adair built the place, and his former homestead eventually became what is now the Northern Lights Saloon where you can still grab an adult beverage on your visit to Polebridge. Originally, the Mercantile area was called Adair’s after the owner. An interesting tidbit about Adair is that he planted an elm tree—it is still standing today.

Exploring the Fantastic Bowman Lake and Polebridge Mercantile Glacier National Park
Exploring the Fabulous Polebridge Mercantile Glacier National Park

Modern Times

These days, the Mercantile is now quite well known for its amazing bakery goods, get a huckleberry “Bear Claw”. The bakery has only been around since 1994, so it doesn’t have the rich history of the rest of the place, but it is still fabulous. You definitely need to make time to stop in for a donut or a bear claw while you are here. They also have some fun things to browse and buy in their shop, and the whole place is super cute.

Exploring the Fantastic Bowman Lake and Polebridge Mercantile Glacier National Park
Northern Lights Saloon Polebridge Glacier National Park

It is worth noting that you if do need supplies, you will need to get them at the Mercantile. There aren’t any other shops nearby, so you may want to double check your water and any snacks you might want for your hike.

Exploring the Fantastic Bowman Lake and Polebridge Mercantile Glacier National Park
Sasquatch Art Polebridge Montana

You will also want to know before you go that that the Polebridge Mercantile is not open all year long. As with many things throughout Glacier National Park, you will want to check their hours to see if they will be open when you are here. Depending on when you schedule your visit, they may have shorter hours than usual, or they may be closed entirely for a period of time.

About Bowman Lake

After a visit to the Mercantile, it was time to turn our thoughts and our steps toward Bowman Lake. The morning we set off was quite brisk at about 30 degrees. But we had clear, crisp skies that eventually warmed up into a glorious autumn day. It is hard to beat that!

Exploring the Fantastic Bowman Lake and Polebridge Mercantile Glacier National Park
Exploring the Fantastic Bowman Lake Glacier National Park

Bowman Lake Location

Bowman Lake is situated in the northwestern-most area of Glacier National Park and is actually only about 14 miles away from the Canadian border. It is the third largest lake in the park. It runs about a mile wide and about eight miles long. And it sits at just over 4,000 feet above sea level, so it has a fairly significant altitude. At least for those of us who come from lower lands like Minnesota.

Exploring the Fantastic Bowman Lake and Polebridge Mercantile Glacier National Park
Incredible Views from Bowman Lake Glacier National Park

The lake gets it water from the snowmelt of the nearby mountains, which explains why it is so beautiful. The water is just clean and so very clear here. It also explains how cold the water is, even during the summer months.

These characteristics also mean that there really aren’t too many fish living in the lake, so you likely won’t have much luck if you try to go fishing here. However, you can get to many other lakes that do have more fish by starting at Bowman Lake, so you may see a few people with fishing equipment as you explore the area around this lake. You will also notice once you arrive at the lake that there are no buildings to speak of, so it is relatively undeveloped.

Bowman Lake History

According to the National Park Service, Bowman Lake may have been named after Fred Bowman. He was a trapper who ended up in Montana after coming from Wyoming. Apparently, he made this move in 1885 and decided to begin trapping on the North Fork of the Flathead, which is in the area near Bowman Lake.

Regardless of who the lake was named after, it is so incredibly peaceful here! Hardly anybody goes there, so it likely will not be overcrowded if you choose to visit. In light of this, consider bringing along a picnic lunch so you can spend some time in the quiet of nature simply enjoying good food along with some wonderful views.

Exploring the Fantastic Bowman Lake and Polebridge Mercantile Glacier National Park
Pristine Beauty Bowman Lake Glacier National Park

Bowman Lake Access Road

Getting to Bowman Lake means driving on an access road to start your hike. Don’t let this scare you off, but it can be rather rough at times. The town of Polebridge itself is on a dirt road, which really isn’t too bad. The rougher road is basically an access road which gets you to Bowman Lake.

It took us about 31 minutes to go about seven miles down this access road, which is also a dirt road. It was really very rough and contained a lot of bumps. We even encountered potholes which kind of made us feel right at home in Minnesota! In all honesty though, some of those potholes were huge. We actually bottomed out a couple of times in the trusty rented Acura, but we made it safely through.

Exploring the Fantastic Bowman Lake and Polebridge Mercantile Glacier National Park
A Hint of Autumn on the Road to Bowman Lake Glacier National Park

Just be sure to take your time and watch for the biggest ruts and potholes so you can try to safely avoid them. Going slow is just fine, and it has the added bonus of allowing you to savor the views all around you and the feeling of being up in the mountains and the forests of Glacier National Park.

Enjoying Bowman Lake

We arrived at Bowman Lake and discovered it was absolutely amazing. We were so lucky that the beautiful autumn day made the lake absolutely gorgeous and so calm. The skies were just so blue, providing such wonderful color. And of course, the mountains you see around the lake are majestic. You will be surrounded by pine trees here at the lake, making things feel so cozy and so peaceful.

Exploring the Fantastic Bowman Lake and Polebridge Mercantile Glacier National Park
Iconic View Bowman Lake Glacier National Park

We took our time enjoying a relaxing picnic lunch along the lakeshore. We were so glad that we thought ahead to bringing our lunch here. It gave us the perfect excuse to linger while just savoring the views everywhere. Pops of fall colors could be seen here and there too, making it just perfect.

Exploring the Fantastic Bowman Lake and Polebridge Mercantile Glacier National Park
Experience Magnificent Beauty While Kayaking Bowman Lake Glacier National Park

There is a wonderful little bridge over the lake that you should really check out while you spend some time here. It, of course, has its own wonderful views and plenty of charm. The fallen logs here and there just give the whole area such a picturesque feel—it seems as though you are in a painting, or perhaps a gorgeous photograph. You can look up and see the rolling clouds in a vibrant blue sky and you just feel at peace here. It is good for the soul!

A Day in Paradise

We enjoyed such a wonderful day in Bowman Lake. The Polebridge Mercantile was a wonderful way to begin our hike here with a sweet treat, and our picnic lunch by this gorgeous lake was amazing. After we hiked back from the lake, we decided to treat ourselves with an adult beverage or two at the Northern Lights Salon by the Mercantile.

As you plan your own excursion to Glacier, make time for visiting the Mercantile and, if you can, adventuring to Bowman Lake.  If you have any questions, feel free to Contact Us about the amazing paradise! And until next time, get out and capture the adventure!

Co Author: Brittany VanDerBill – www.bvanderbillconsulting.com

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Exploring the Fantastic Bowman Lake and Polebridge Mercantile Glacier National Park

Written by Wayne Moran - Visit Website
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