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Amount of time in different areas

NIxa, MO
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Amount of time in different areas

I will be spending 8-9 days in Glacier hiking and camping in July. Our family has not been to Glacier before, and I am trying to decide how much time to spend in each area so that I know where to make camping reservations. We plan to do around 10-15 miles of hiking each day. I was thinking 1 day of hiking near Lake McDonald with 2 nights of camping in Fish Creek or Apgar?), 1 day for traveling across GTTSR with hikes along the way, 2 days/nights hiking and camping in the Two Medicine area and 3 days/nights hiking and camping in the Many Glacier area. Does this seem like the best way to divide up our time in the different areas? Also, I do have a fairly significant fear of traveling the GTTSR due to the drop offs. We had planned to go from the West to the East, but I am reading that this may not be my best choice. Does it really make a huge difference driving East to West instead in terms of the fear factor?

19 replies to this topic
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1. Re: Amount of time in different areas

Do you know which hikes you want to do already? Having an idea of which hikes you want to do will help you determine how long to stay in each area (of course, always have backup plans in case a trail you want to hike is closed due to bears).

Otherwise, your basic layout of days sounds pretty good. My one concern would be getting a first-come-first-served campsite at Two Medicine after a day of hiking along the GTTSR, if that is your plan. Instead, you might want to reserve a hotel room in East Glacier Park, or campsite/hotel room in St. Mary so you can get to Two Medicine earlier in the day. Or spend an extra night on the west side and take Hwy 2 directly to Two Medicine the next morning (you can hike at Logan Pass from Fish Creek or Apgar, and see the east side of the road after that hike, or on one of your east-side days).

If you are up for a 15-18 mile day, you might consider the Dawson-Pitamakan Loop in Two Medicine if you do stay there two nights. I'm not sure how used to long hiking days you are, but I'd also consider throwing in a rest day/easy day.

I assume you'll be trying to get an advance reservation for the Many Glacier campground - if not, you'll have to get in line *extremely* early to get one of the first-come-first-served sites there, which could be difficult to do from Two Medicine (it will be at least a 1.5hr drive up to Many Glacier).

I can't really help with the GTTSR question - I've never found the drop-offs to be too troubling (there is always some form of barrier between the road and the drop, either guard rails, rocks, or logs). Also, the speed limit is pretty slow - usually 35 or 25 in the alpine area. I find driving East-to-West more nerve-wracking, because many people going the opposite direction fail to stay in their lane, so I find myself slowing at every turn to avoid a collision. If you find it too difficult to drive, you can use the GTTSR shuttle system to access hikes along the road. It is more convenient to use a car, but the shuttle is there if you need it.

NIxa, MO
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2. Re: Amount of time in different areas

Thanks al_in_al for the information! I do plan to make advance reservations for camping, but didn´t remember that Two Medicine doesn´t accept reservations. I will need to give that some thought. We do plan to take one day in the middle to rest at a hotel and grocery shop. Our tentative plan includes the following hikes:

Two Medicine area: taking the boat across the lake and hiking to Twin Falls/Upper Two Medicine and then to No Name Lake/Upper Dawson Pass on one day and then Cobalt Lake or Scenic Point on our second day in that area. For our time in Many Glacier we plan to hike to Ptarmigan Tunnel and Iceberg Lake one day, Grinnell Lake/Glacier one day and Swiftcurrent Pass or Cracker Lake on the third day. We also plan to do the Highline Trail the day we travel the GTTSR. Do you have any suggestions for how to spend a day around Lake McDonald? Any suggestions about spectacular hikes that I have left out of our itinerary or choosing between Swiftcurrent and Cracker Lake and between Cobalt Lake and Scenic Point would be appreciated. We could also consider doing the Dawson-Pitamakan Loop instead of just going to Dawson Pass, but would probably have to leave off Cobalt Lake/Scenic Point as we would probably do Upper Two Medicine Lake the other day, Thanks in advance for any advice you can throw my way!

Edited: 28 November 2017, 02:33
USA
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3. Re: Amount of time in different areas

If you don't mind using the shuttle system (paid hiker shuttle and free GTTSR shuttle), you can combine the Highline and Swiftcurrent Pass hikes (hike from Logan Pass down to Many Glacier). But you might want to add a day in MG for that. I would probably pick Cracker over Swiftcurrent Pass, but they are both very worthy and different hikes. Cracker is my favorite destination in the park, but Swiftcurrent Pass has lots of stops and viewpoints along the way.

For your day on the west side, Avalanche Lake makes a nice warm up/first hike. You could also head up to Logan Pass for the Hidden Lake Overlook hike.

I haven't hiked to Cobalt Lake, but Scenic Point is a nice half-day hike, if that fits into your schedule better. I'd hike Scenic Point over Upper Two Medicine Lake, unless you really want the boat tour and easier day.

And you probably realize that you're leaving out the east side GTTSR hikes for consideration - Siyeh Pass Loop, Piegan Pass, and St. Mary/Virginia Falls.

indiana
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4. Re: Amount of time in different areas

While the trails suggested above are great, I am concerned that you will not enjoy some of them. If you are concerned about driving the Sun Rd due to drop offs, I would not think you would enjoy the exposure on either Dawson,Pitamakin Pass (maybe an up and back from one side would be better) or Swiftcurrent Pass which is narrow and exposed on the way down toward Many Glacier.

Louisville
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5. Re: Amount of time in different areas

Overall I think your division of time is pretty good. I would definitely opt for Avalanche Lake for your hike on the west side. The Highline is the best choice for your travel day across the GTTS Rd. I would highly recommend going all the way to Grinnell Glacier Overlook (hikinginglacier.com/grinnell-glacier-overloo…) if you have the time and energy. Either way, start your hike as early in the morning as possible.

I would definitely go with Scenic Point over Cobalt Lake, and I would opt for Scenic Point over Upper Two Med Lake as well. Dawson Pass is a great hike, but IMHO, I think Pitamakan Pass (www.hikinginglacier.com/pitamakan-pass.htm) is a little more scenic. As Al mentioned, you could combine the two hikes into one loop, but the backside between the two passes traverses over some very steep terrain, as hikes mentioned above. Ditto on Swiftcurrent Pass, though I don't think that is quite as bad.

As far as which to choose between Swiftcurrent Pass and Cracker Lake, that is a toss-up. IMHO, they are among the two best hikes in Many Glacier. If you go all the way to Grinnell Glacier Overlook on your Highline day, perhaps you could skip the hike to Grinnell Glacier and do both the Swiftcurrent Pass and Cracker Lake hikes. Just a thought.

USA
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6. Re: Amount of time in different areas

As long as we're talking about exposure, the Highline has the Rimrock section at the very beginning of the hike, with a steep drop to the road below - this section discourages some people with a fear of heights. There is a handline that you can use to help you get through that section.

NIxa, MO
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7. Re: Amount of time in different areas

Thank you everyone for the wealth of information!! I did somehow overlook Siyeh Pass and Piegan Pass. Would you add one or both of these trails in at the expense of taking out a trail that was already on our itinerary? I really appreciate the insight on drop-offs on the trails themselves. For some reason, I do a bit better on trails than in cars. With that being said, which of the following trails has the most narrow/steep drop offs and which has the lengthiest amount of the steep portion- Dawson/Pitamakin, Swiftcurrent, or Highline? The drop offs will not likely keep me from hiking them, but I would prefer not to spend a great amount of my hiking time being anxious.

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8. Re: Amount of time in different areas

The Dawson-Pitamakan Loop has a 3 mile ridge walk between the passes. Here are some links to Google Street View panos of the trail, which might help you decide if you'll be comfortable or not.

https://www.google.com/maps/@48.5032583,-113.4734389,3a,90y,207.17h,68.42t/data=!3m8!1e1!3m6!1sAF1QipP0X0a8RyHqxntKjB6etHFbKbI4OEEeLHP0DrS-!2e10!3e11!6shttps:%2F%2Flh5.googleusercontent.com%2Fp%2FAF1QipP0X0a8RyHqxntKjB6etHFbKbI4OEEeLHP0DrS-%3Dw203-h100-k-no-pi-0-ya124.49999-ro-0-fo100!7i8704!8i4352?hl=en&authuser=0

https://www.google.com/maps/@48.5136686,-113.4799598,3a,75y,123.06h,81.11t/data=!3m8!1e1!3m6!1sAF1QipMkJIjuiUaVlDIiVcwgS_H9BgoEZOxa2S-_J9GY!2e10!3e11!6shttps:%2F%2Flh5.googleusercontent.com%2Fp%2FAF1QipMkJIjuiUaVlDIiVcwgS_H9BgoEZOxa2S-_J9GY%3Dw203-h100-k-no-pi-0-ya76.49999-ro-0-fo100!7i8704!8i4352?hl=en&authuser=0

The Rimrock section of the Highline is about a quarter of a mile. The exposed part of the Swiftcurrent Pass trail is probably between 0.5-1 miles long (though you would have to hike it twice if you do it as an out-and-back).

You have a good set of hikes picked out. I wouldn't necessarily drop anything to add Siyeh or Piegan, but definitely keep them as options in case you want/need to change plans while in the park.

Also, depending on when you go in July, there is the potential for snow to still be on the trails. Hopefully you're planning on later in the month so more will be accessible.

(ETA: Sorry the links didn't come out as links, but you should be able to copy and paste them.)

Edited: 28 November 2017, 15:40
Spokane, Washington
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9. Re: Amount of time in different areas

As for hiking drop-offs, highline has the big one, but also has a cable you can hang on to for the 50 yards of exposure. Dawson-Pit loop is in your hiking range and does have some exposure but lots of room tom lean to the side. I am a piegan fan, but that leaves shuttle issues and siyeh is much easier with access to shuttles on GTTS. I do like cobalt lake hike, going up to the pass over upper two med lake. Iceberg/ptarmigan is a great double, might be a touch early for the lake to be well broken up depending on when in July you are going but wildflowers are another nice benefit of that hike.

Spokane, Washington
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10. Re: Amount of time in different areas

Check out www.hike734.com for great hiking info. Jake is a local and has hiked every trail in the park.

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