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Eastern Glacier vs Western Glacier NP

Boston...
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Eastern Glacier vs Western Glacier NP

I was planning on checking out the Washington National Parks next August but due to some changes we are now taking a trip from Vancouver to Jasper on the train and then on to Banff with my family. My husband and I have decided to extend the trip from my family and continue on to Glacier National Park.

I'm trying to figure out best plan in terms of where to stay for our days there. I know that hotels book quickly in the park and it looks like the hotels in GNP are pretty well booked up from August 7-11th (the dates we'd be there for). My initial thought is to spend a couple nights on the eastern side of the park, travel through the park, and then spend some time with a base on the western side. This way when we fly out we will be near the airport as well so no unnecessary traveling back and forth through the park just to fly. My question is does this seem to make sense, also how many nights would you spend on each side? We would be heading down from Banff on August 7th and then flying out on August 11th or 12th. We are a little flexible on that end. Thanks in advance.

8 replies to this topic
indiana
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1. Re: Eastern Glacier vs Western Glacier NP

Spend three nights on the east side. St. Mary or Many Glacier area. The village of East Glacier is near Two Medicine but not the east side of the main area of the park. The road across the park is located at St. Mary with Many Glacier being forty or so minutes north of there. For scenery and hiking, get in the Many Glacier valley if possible with St. Mary, including Rising Sun (in park) as a second choice. Then travel across the park and stay a night or two in Apgar. You will be less than an hour from the airport at Apgar.

Spery, Iowa
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2. Re: Eastern Glacier vs Western Glacier NP

Are you planning to rent a car in Canada and return in in the US?

Boston...
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3. Re: Eastern Glacier vs Western Glacier NP

My original thought was to rent a car but had not researched it yet. Since posting I've looked into rental cars and realized it is not really feasible to rent a car in Canada and return it in the US. I think our thought may now be to fly as that seems the easiest, least time consuming and cheapest.

Kalispell, Montana
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4. Re: Eastern Glacier vs Western Glacier NP

You cannot rent a car in Canada and return it in the states without a HUGE drop off fee. Which of late, I have not even heard of...years ago the fee was $500. You can rent a car in one country, travel freely in both countries, but must return it to the country of origin. That will be your first problem to solve.

Flying is your best plan. Fly into and out of Kalispell’s Glacier airport. Are you avid hikers or mainly auto tourists, photographers. If you are avid hikers, make the east side and not the west as your home base.

Below is a very basic itinerary that you can look at and try to modify it for the short time you have for this trip:

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

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

1... 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.

2...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".

3...River Rafting and float trips on the river are ONLY available from West Glacier.

4...Touring the Lake McDonald valley's turnouts, the stopping at Lodge area for a meal and to enjoy its historic interior and walk out back down to the lake short. Finally at Avalanche, taking the Trail of the Cedars/Avalanche Lake trail. The Trail of the Cedars is handicapped accessible...boardwalked and has benches along the way.

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B...Allot 3 - 5 nights on the "East Side Core" (St Mary/Rising Sun, or Many Glacier/ Babb/Duck Lake), 3 if you are auto-tourists, 5+ if you are avid hikers and/or have more time available.

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/RS is most central, MG has more hiking trailheads. If you want a home base on the east, choose SM/RS and not MG.

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. Grinnell Glacier Overlook is a section that is very steep and quite physically challenging. On the east side descent, you can take a walk up the creek at Siyeh Bend for views and photo ops, 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 to Grinnell Glacier. GG is a strenuous hike, gaining 1,700' between the last boat dock & the glacier. Grinnell Lake is an easier/flatter hike...or independent hiking according to your ability. Then there is 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.

You can also rent kayaks and canoes there.

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3...You should try to make a day trip via the exceptionally scenic 89/49 down to Two Medicine Valley. You can hike or take a boat tour/ranger led hike to Upper Two Medicine Lake. Trick Falls (two level when water is running high) is there...the trail handicapped accessible.

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C....OPTIONAL 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. Avid hikers will want to take the spectacular 16 mile Pitamakan/Dawson Loop trail. If you are making a scenic round trip tour back to the Kalispell Airport, it makes sense to stay there on your last night. Avid and fit hikers may want 2 nights in that area.

After East Glacier Park you head back to the airport via either a drive back over the Going to the Sun Road or the quicker #2 southern State Route which skirts the southern border of the park.

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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 statistics for every mile of trail in Glacier National Park in description and beautiful ad-free, narrated video form! They also sell the wonderful rip and waterproof trail maps, where all trails have color-coded steepness guides. Also a complete guide/map to the Going to the Run Road and all of its stops along the way.

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Looking at the dates you mention, this may work for you:

7 & 8...fly to Kalispell as early in the day as possible and stay in or near West Glacier/Apgar.

9, 10, 11...Follow the advice in the itinerary above, visiting GTTSR, Many Glacier and Two Medicine, Stay in St Mary if at all possible.

12...fly home from Kalispell as late as possible.

Kalispell, Montana
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5. Re: Eastern Glacier vs Western Glacier NP

You do need to book rooms as soon as you settle on dates because rooms book up a year in advance. Don't panic though if they show booked already...you have quite a lot of time to wait for cancellations where you want them on the dates you need them. Its easier to book a night at a time rather than trying to find a block of 3 nights or more....you'll eventually fill them in but you do need to keep at it for a while. Take note of cancellation policies especially at independent places because some of them are less lenient than park-run hotels. It is easier to find rooms one day at a time, gradually filling your stay...rather than waiting for a block of days to open up.

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The following is a fairly long list of accommodations which may help you obtain reservations in the various places in and near Glacier.

WEST SIDE :

INSIDE the park: In Apgar = *Village Inn in Apgar has the best views, all rooms face the lake right on the beach!, the Motel Lake McDonald, or the Apgar Village Lodge and cabins. Also Lake McDonald lodge, its cabins & motel located along the east side of the lake.

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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.

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

At RISING SUN, an IN-PARK motorlodge and rustic cabins just inside the East Gate.

In ST.MARY just BARELY OUTSIDE the East Gate: St. Mary Lodge complex, its Great Bear annex (the only one with TV, AC and fairly good WiFi), new cabins, two basic 50's style motels and now some very very small "tiny houses". Glacier Trailhead Cabins, The Cottages at Glacier (was called Pinnacle). Johnson’s and the new cabins at the KOA.

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In MANY GLACIER VALLEY inside the park: Many Glacier Lodge and the Swiftcurrent motel and cabins. If room views matter to you, at the lodge, choose a Lakeside Balcony room.

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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.

.…………

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.

Glacier Park Lodge with its famous tree lined atrium lobby. 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.

Good luck....don't panic.

Boston...
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6. Re: Eastern Glacier vs Western Glacier NP

Thank you for all of this information. And from reading other posts I have realized I just need to get lodging when it becomes available so currently have 2 nights at Rising Sun and 1 night at Swiftcurrent while we try and figure out exactly what our itinerary is.

MaryEllenM27 - I would say we are definitely interested in hiking but also enjoying some of the scenery/taking pictures. At this time we've hiked about 15 4,000 footers in the White Mountains including some of the Presidentials. So staying on the east side definitely seems worth more of our time.

Spokane, Washington
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7. Re: Eastern Glacier vs Western Glacier NP

A classic from rising sun is sun rise photography from wild goose overlook, 1/2 mi. Away. Same at many glacier next to the hotel, then moving to fishercap lake for moose with nice morning sun.

Boston...
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8. Re: Eastern Glacier vs Western Glacier NP

Thanks for the tips k2kelley! We will have to check them out one of the mornings we will be there.

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