In an era when everyone has the entire world in their pocket in the form of a smartphone, it’s refreshing to hear that there are still some places where life is more quaint.
My mind was blown when I heard about the tiny community of Polebridge, Montana, just outside Glacier National Park. A town without traditional electricity? Totally off the grid? Where all power comes from generators? I must visit!
Located 22 miles from the Canadian border, Polebridge consists of a few houses, a cafe/saloon, a hostel/ranch, and the Polebridge Mercantile, the most famous place in the area.
Serving up its famed huckleberry bear claws and other pastries, the Polebridge Mercantile is something of a tourist hotspot, although because this side of the park is off the beaten path, it never really gets too crowded. Don’t pass up the chance to stop by here if you’re visiting the Glacier area.
How Polebridge gets its power
For years, Polebridge was powered by noisy diesel generators and a small solar energy system with 24 panels. Just over a month ago, 87 new solar panels were added, meaning that solar is now responsible for most of the energy in the town, except for the propane ovens that cook the bear claws.
And put away that phone while you’re in Polebridge, because there is no cell service or wifi. Enjoy the nature all around you instead.
The Polebridge Mercantile
The Mercantile itself was established by Bill Adair in 1914, only four years after Glacier became a national park. There’s a National Register of Historic Places marker outside the saloon explaining how Adair came to settle in the area.
Today, the Mercantile is open everyday, though hours are more limited in winter. The renowned bakery offers cookies and other baked goods, as well as basic pantry essentials, hats, water bottles, walking sticks, and tourist trinkets.
Of course, being so close to the border, they accept Canadian currency. Love that silly monopoly money!
Other Polebridge businesses
If you’re looking for a meal in Polebridge, or a stiff drink, you’ll end up at the Northern Lights Saloon. Open during the summer months, the saloon serves food and booze, including some liquors from the area. It also hosts live music and other events when the weather is nice.
Also in the surrounding area are the Polebridge Ranch and the North Fork Hostel. The Mercantile has its own cabins for rent if you care to stay overnight here. The refurbished rental cabins do not offer running water, so it’s rustic living all the way. As it should be!
Walking around the town, you may come across the Flathead River Interpretive Trail. The entire area offers awesome views of the mountains in the national park.
Glacier National Park access
Perhaps the best thing about Polebridge is that it provides access to a part of Glacier National Park that many tourists don’t visit. This side of the park has the coolest welcome sign:
If you follow the winding gravel roads through Polebridge and into Glacier, you can visit Bowman Lake, one of the most stunning parts of the national park. You won’t get the full Glacier experience unless you take a detour from Going-to-the-Sun Road to make a stop in Polebridge.