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Struggling with 10+ day itinerary- need suggestions

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Struggling with 10+ day itinerary- need suggestions

Hi all,

Love these forums and find them so helpful but I'm stuck on dialing in an itinerary and need some suggestions.

My dad, husband & I are planning a 10-12(ish) day trip to Glacier after Labor day in 2018. We will be driving to Glacier from Northern CA, enjoy road trips, and are flexible in our timeline. I am thinking of renting a VRBO cabin for 3-5 days in West Glacier and then spending 2-3 nights in Swift Current or Many Glacier and finishing off with 3-5 days in a cabin near St. Mary's or East Glacier. Staying inside the park isn't really appealing to us because of the noise & people levels and I don't do "rustic" - been there done that, no thank you!. :)

We are interested in primarily seeing wildlife, easy to moderate hikes (under 5 miles) and relaxing in the wilderness without a ton of people around when we can. My dad & husband are "wanderers" so doing a ton of things each day isn't their style.

We don't mind driving but we would like the chance to see some moose which is why I'm thinking of staying at either Swift Current or Many Glacier for 2 nights. (I realize it's a gamble and we may not see a thing!)

I'm looking for suggestions of staying in the right areas for our interests and how long in each place. I'm trying to include a few days of down time at the cabins as well.

Any thoughts, ideas or suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

Thank you!!

14 replies to this topic
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1. Re: Struggling with 10+ day itinerary- need suggestions

Just my opinion (as someone who loves staying in the park), but the advantage is that you get to be inside the park before and after all the crowds leave, which can give you a much more relaxed experience than having to drive in and out every day. I'm not sure what kind of noise you're specifically concerned about, but inside the park you won't really get any road noise, while in West Glacier or St. Mary you could be directly on a more major roadway (Hwy 2 or Hwy 89).

It depends on what you mean by rustic - but all of the Xanterra properties have been updated over the last few years, and you'll find comfortable beds, really nice linens, "signature" toiletries, and new furnishings. They still do not have TVs or A/C. Personally, I find Many Glacier Hotel to be a little busy and hectic - though sitting out on a semi-private lakeside balcony is a pretty nice way to spend an evening. I prefer Swiftcurrent Motor Inn as I always find it to be a quieter atmosphere. I do enjoy hanging out on the MGH back porch for wildlife viewing opportunities, no matter where I stay.

If you spend several days in Many Glacier, I'm pretty sure you'll see some moose. Take a morning or evening walk out to Fishercap Lake each day. If you're staying at MGH, watch Swiftcurrent Lake in the mornings, or walk to/take the boat tour to Lake Josephine. Keep your ears open for people talking about animal sightings - if there is a moose (or anything else) hanging out nearby, you'll probably hear about it. Also make sure to look for bear, mountain goats, and bighorn sheep while you're in the area. All have been seen from the MGH balcony on nearby hills (bring some binoculars). Also, rangers with spotting scopes will often be set up in the Swiftcurrent parking lot looking for animals.

I stay inside the park, so I don't have any suggestions on cabins. But West Glacier and St. Mary are both very convenient to the entrances, and location wise are as close as you can get if you don't stay inside the park. St. Mary is more centrally located on the east side than East Glacier Park. East Glacier Park is closer to Two Medicine, which is generally the least crowded area of the park, so you might be interested in spending some time there.

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2. Re: Struggling with 10+ day itinerary- need suggestions

Thanks for your reply al_in_al.

My dad & I are introverts and we'd prefer to retreat away from the park to a cabin where we can recharge and just get away from people. We did Yellowstone this way last year and had a great time. Only regret about not staying in the park, was missing out on wildlife in the early morning and evenings although we did see plenty of critters. You said Many Glacier Hotel was busy and hectic and that is my idea of vacation hell! haha! I've read a lot about thin walls and hearing other people talk, screaming children, banging hotel doors at 6am and my tolerance for that is next to zero! Sorry, just being honest.

With that said, Two Medicine sound like my kind of area!

I'm trying to get an idea of how many days we will need on each side if we drive into the park and take one or two shorter hikes each day.

Louisville
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3. Re: Struggling with 10+ day itinerary- need suggestions

We stayed in Travelers Rest in East Glacier this past August. They are very nice cabins, and are very quiet for the most part, with the exception of some noise from trains on nearby railroad. We got used to them after a night or two. It seems a little loud in the evening when everything settles down, but they didn't wake us up at night.

As Al mentioned, the Swiftcurrent Lake / Lake Josephine area might be the best places to see moose in the park. The area around Two Medicine Lake is another good area, as is McDonald Creek on the west side.

Hidden Lake Overlook is a great place to spot mountain goats, The first mile or so of the Highline Trail is another great place for goats and bighorn sheep.

If you're looking for some ideas on relatively short hikes, this list of the best easy hikes in the park should be of help: hikinginglacier.com/glacier-best-easy-hikes.…

Edited: 17 November 2017, 22:08
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4. Re: Struggling with 10+ day itinerary- need suggestions

GoMuskies - I was going to say that I've never seen a moose on the west side, but the GNP Facebook page just posted a screencap from their webcam showing a moose at Apgar Lookout!

Louisville
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5. Re: Struggling with 10+ day itinerary- need suggestions

Sweet! Actually I've seen moose on McDonald Creek twice. Seems to be fairly good habitat for them, so I just assumed they were fairly common there.

I saw the largest bull moose I've ever seen in my life about a 0.25-mile below Rockwell Falls in August as well. He was feeding in the woods, just off the trail. Had the trail not taken a sharp bend, thus directing our sights on him, we may not have seen him at all. I imagine we (hikers, visitors, etc..) walk past a lot of wildlife never knowing how close they are....

Kalispell, Montana
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6. Re: Struggling with 10+ day itinerary- need suggestions

Jill, we too travel as you do and are photograohers, leisurely meanderers and introverts.

Do your 12 days include the drive up from California? We used to live in Napa at one time. Its going to be a wonderful trip because Glacier slows down a little after Labor Day. Even Labor Day is not bad because Glacier is so remote from big cities and freeways that visitors with kids have to leave before that to get back home for school the next day. Be aware that the concessions within Glacier begin to gradually close down after the 2nd and 3rd full weekends in September but if you are staying in VRBOs or B&Bs they remain open....as does the Going to the Sun Road until mid-October...its a great time to visit.

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Below is a basic itinerary for you to work with to plan this trip for you and your own tastes.

First off, its best to begin your trip on the West side of Glacier and move to the East side. That way the scenery, photo ops and hiking just keep getting better and better.

*You should carry bear spray up here. September is foraging season for the bears and they are preparing for winter. Huckleberries will be ripening for them.

A...We recommend 2 nights on the west side, staying either inside the park or in one of the nearby bedroom communities. Often the first night is partially used up by a long drive getting up here. Basic attractions on the west are:

1... A short drive up to Polebridge on the OUTER Northfork road to visit the Famous Mercantile Bakery and perhaps a drive up to Bowman Lake for hiking. Google "A Short Movie About a Montana Bakery” to help you decide.

2...River Rafting and float trips on the river are only available from West Glacier.

3...Touring the Lake McDonald valley's turnouts, the Lodge area and finally at Avalanche, taking the Trail of the Cedars/Avalanche Lake trail. The best trail on the west side.

4...If you want an orientation tour or don't want to drive the Going to the Sun Road, you can book a Red Bus Crown of the Continent Tour which will take you over Logan Summit and down to Many Glacier and back.

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B...Allot 3 - 5 nights on the East Side Core, 3 - 4 if you are auto-tourists & moderate hikers, 5+ if you are avid hikers.

1...After staying on the West Side, traverse the Going to the Sun Road to the Core of the East side, staying in *either St. Mary/Rising Sun or in Many Glacier/Swiftcurrent. SM is most central, MG has more hiking trailheads.

The day you traverse the GTTSR can be totally used up by the overlooks and famous hikes along that route. For example, at Logan Summit the Hidden Lake Overlook and the top part of the famous Highline Trail to Haystack or Grinnell Glacier overlook and back. On the east side descent, you can take a walk up the creek at Siyeh Bend, a short walk up Sunrift Gorge or a hike to St Mary and Virginia Falls. Stop at the Wild Goose Island overlook as you near the far end of St Mary Lake.

2...In Many Glacier Valley, the highlight can be the two-lake boat tour/ranger led hike..or independent hiking according to your ability. Then there is also Iceberg Lake and the horse back tour to Cracker Lake from the MG Stables. There are several ways to enjoy backcountry hikes from there. An evening must-do walk is to Fishercap Lake to see the resident Moose...plural. If you are *not avid hikers, MG can be too remote, can actually get boring and involve too much driving to easily visit other areas of the park like Two Medicine.

You can also rent kayaks and canoes there.

3...You can take a day trip or overnight up to Waterton Lakes, Glacier's sister park. It is very different from Glacier and not very far. You will need passports. But last year, a lot of the park was destroyed by a huge fire...you may want to wait if time is short. https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g14302…

4...You can make a day trip via the 89/49 down to Two Medicine Lake for hiking/boat tours and fabulous scenery.

You can take the easy walk to Trick Falls but in September it will not be two level or “trick”. There are other hikes to take from there for as far as you are comfortable.

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C....Allow a night in East Glacier Park village. Its a small independent village outside the park but very near Two Medicine Valley which is the second gem of the east side. If you are making a scenic round trip tour back to the Kalispell Airport, it makes sense to stay there on your last night. Hikers may want 2 nights in that area. Two Medicine itself has no hotels. Using TM as a home base for the east side is also not ideal...while the 49/89 is uber scenic, it is narrow and curvy and has free ranging cattle on the road...great once or twice but not 2x/day for several days. And its not a good road to drive after dark.

After East Glacier Park you head back to the airport or continue your road trip.

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A great website to explore is the following:

Your Guide to Glacier National Park

https://www.hike734.com

Welcome to Hike 734 where you'll find trail and trip info for every mile of trail in Glacier National Park in description and beautiful ad-free, narrated video form!

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7. Re: Struggling with 10+ day itinerary- need suggestions

I would look at some VRBO cabins and homes near West Glacier. You can save a ton of $$ vs staying in the park Lodges or motels. Be sure to look at a map of where "exactly" they are located because some say "near" and could be 30 - 80 miles away. The ones nearest West Glacier come up first and then the further down you go, you look at units near Whitefish which is wonderful but 30 miles away from the park.

**I would NOT stay in any that say mid-way between west and east Glacier because those require at least a 30 mile, one way trip to either side just to reach either gate....so 60 miles/day before you even enter into the park. And they are in the middle of nowhere vs Whitefish which is a similar distance but is a vibrant small resort town.

I will list a few on the West that I know of but search for others as well. https:/…west-glacier

Near West Glacier: All VRBO: Huckleberry Haven, > Rental 453508, Rental 576316 (Luxury), Rental 836882, Rental 165491, Abbott Valley Homestead cabins-Rental 3974251ha, Rental 246844, etc. Look also at Duck Lake House near Columbia Falls...not the one on the east side, they are different.

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On the east you need to be more selective because there are fewer and the park back up to the Blackfoot Reservation...St Mary first, or Duck Lake or the Babb area are 3 good places to be...East Glacier Park village is a much longer drive to the core area of the east side than you would want to be for too many days. The drive is gorgeous but very tiring if you have to drive it 2x/day...narrow and curvy and very very dark after sunset. Click the VRBO link below and then look at St Mary first. Do NOT try to stay in Browning. On the east side you really have to know the location for sure before you book. And, before you put down a down payment, be sure to know the Cancellation Policies! https:/…st-mary-visitor-center

Stone House and the Duck Lake Loft at Duck Lake are not too far from Many Glacier. Paul's Ranch with its alpacas is 4 miles north of Babb.

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Also below some other independent places not inside the park:

In and near WEST GLACIER village or JUST OUTSIDE the park: West Glacier Motel, Vista Motel, Glacier Guides Lodge, Glacier Highlands and the Belton Chalet. The Great Northern Resort and rafting, SilverWolf deluxe log chalets, Great Bear Inn. Mountain Cleft Wilderness Retreat, a VRBO home. Glacier Outdoor Center cabins and rafting. Cabins at the KOA campground. San-Suz-Ed campground and 8 B&B rooms.

10 miles east of the west gate on the #2, Glacier Wilderness Resort.

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In and around CORUM and HUNGRY HORSE, 9 MILES AWAY from the west gate: Mini Golden Motel, the historic Tamarack Lodge, Lake Five Resort, Evergreen Motel, Crooked Tree, Glacier B&B and Log Cabins. Hungry Horse Motel. Glacier Park Inn B&B. Glacier's Mountain Resort cabins. Abbott Valley Homestead cabins.

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Near COLUMBIA FALLS, 15 -20 minutes from the west gate: Brand new Cedar Creek Lodge. Reclusive Moose Cabins, North Fork Resort Cabins (between CF and Whitefish), Meadow Lake Resort and golf club, Meadow Lake View B&B, Glacier Travel Inn. Along the Northfork road...the Moss Mountain Inn B&B. Smoky Bear Lodge. Bad Rock B&B. Duck Lake House. Columbia Mountain Ranch. Timber Creek Cabin.

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CORE OF THE EAST SIDE of GNP where most of the hiking is located.

In ST.MARY just BARELY OUTSIDE the East Gate: Glacier Trailhead Cabins, The Cottages at Glacier (was called Pinnacle). Johnson’s and the new cabins at the KOA. It may not be MG but it is still beautiful around there.

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Near MANY GLACIER VALLEY In BABB, 15 miles from Many Glacier Valley: Thronson's, a basic but clean older motel. 4 miles north of Babb Is Paul Ranch Montana with its alpacas. * The road from Babb to MG is rough and rutted...you may not want to drive that 2x/day if you are hiking and enjoying other things on multiple days in MG.

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Lodging in EAST GLACIER PARK VILLAGE. Its OUTSIDE the park on the south end of the east side...13 miles from Two Medicine Valley, 40 miles from St Mary and 65 miles from Many Glacier. Ideal for visiting Two Medicine Valley.

Mountain Pine Motel, Sears Motel, Jacobson's Cabins, Whistling Swan, Travelers Rest Lodge and *cabins, The Brown House and Lone Elk Lodge and condo. Glacier Park Circle R cabins and new motel addition. Also a unique hikers cabin/hostel facility, the Backpacker's Inn, behind Serrano's Restaurant and run by the same. *read recent reviews/look at visitor's photos...some are very small and more rustic than you may like.

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8. Re: Struggling with 10+ day itinerary- need suggestions

Hi MaryEllen,

Thanks for your response. It's exactly what I was looking for - being a fellow introvert - you get how we want to travel! :)

The 10-12 days does not include travel time to & from the park. We want to include a few down days wherever we stay to just sit outside and enjoy the sounds of nature, read, relax, etc.

I did see the VRBO's that said midway between West & East Glacier so thanks for warning against that. While in beautiful spots, I think that's just too much driving.

I have been torn between staying near St. Mary's/Babb/Duck Lake and more south near East Glacier but without knowing how the roads are it was hard to make a decision. Thanks to your input, I think the St. Mary's area is best and we will take a day trip down to Two Medicine.

I've been looking at The Cottages in St. Mary's but can't get a good feel for what's around them. Don't mind a few other cabins, but don't want to be smack in the middle of a resort area either.

Thanks again for your input. You've given me a lot of food for thought but that will help me narrow things down.

Jill

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9. Re: Struggling with 10+ day itinerary- need suggestions

You can use Google Maps satellite view to get a good idea of what is around the lodging you're looking at. I haven't stayed there, but it appears that The Cottages at Glacier are removed from the St. Mary Lodge area, so you won't feel like you're in the middle of it. It might be part of your view, though.

Have you looked into Glacier Trailhead Cabins? They get good reviews here, and are more removed from the St. Mary area.

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10. Re: Struggling with 10+ day itinerary- need suggestions

I love the Two Medicine area. If it's more solitude you want, that's a place to spend several days. I highly recommend the short and easy hike to Twin Falls and Upper Two Medicine Lake (4.6 mi. RT w/ the boat shuttle). Upper Two Medicine Lake is filled with moose in the area now after a major fire over the Divide drove them into that area. We saw the biggest moose we ever saw in UTM last August. A park ranger told us last summer there that the odds of you NOT seeing a moose near Upper Two Medicine Lake was <20%.

You could also take the short and easy hike to Rockwell Falls (4.6 mi. RT w/ the boat shuttle). Aster Park Overlook (4.4 mi. RT) is great as well, but you would have to gain 670 ft. in elevation to get to the viewpoint. Running Eagle Falls is also a must (0.6 mi. RT) in the area.

Two Medicine has a way more laid back atmosphere w/o the busyness that the Logan Pass, St. Mary, Many Glacier and west side areas have. In early August last summer, we also didn't see as many children running around, probably because most families don't make the trip there or else don't know about it. You'll always see several people relaxing by the shore of Pray Lake or Two Medicine Lake, but it's never crazy.

Heading up to Waterton Lakes NP for a day may be a good option as well. I didn't think Waterton was busy when we visited last August before their major fire up there. And the Waterton townsite (including the Prince of Wales Hotel) is a quiet place in the first place. Taking a boat tour of Upper Waterton Lake may be a great option for you as you get to cross from Canada back into the U.S. on the south shore of the lake. A few easy short hikes in the area from the boat dock on the U.S. side will also lead you to great wildlife and scenic photo opportunities there.

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