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Comparing Glacier and Yellowstone

Arlington, Virginia
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Comparing Glacier and Yellowstone

Hi,

I'm looking for some advice from folks who've been both to Glacier and Yellowstone national parks who can compare and contrast them for me as my family and I try and decide which to visit this summer. Along with the variety of topography and range of wildlife there is to see, I'm most concerned about crowds -- particularly since we have to spend our week vacation there either during the last two weeks in June or during the first two weeks in August.

My wife and I drove out to Yellowstone and the Tetons about five years ago (we're going to fly from the east coast this time), and it was one of the greatest vacations of my life ... that said, we were out there during the first week in June, and the crowds were minimal ... can anyone speak as to the differences during peak season between Glacier and Yellowstone? And, given that there are seven of us, can anyone recommend a rental cabin in either place that takes weekly reservations? Any thoughts will be appreciated!

AKJ
Bruceton Mills...
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1. Re: Comparing Glacier and Yellowstone

We went to both last year in a 2 week period. We went to Yellowstone again this past June. There's a lot of information from our trips on our website. Many pictures and some planning information. It might help you decide.

www.AlandSueJohnson.com

Look for the links at the top

Some thoughts.

Early June is great for Yellowstone. Much wildlife. As our pictures show, we saw bears with cubs, bison with calves, etc. In August you'll see less wildlife. The bears will be at a higher elevation. We only saw one grizzly on our July trip. We saw a bunch in June.

In YNP, you can see a lot by driving. You can hike but don't have to.

June is kind of early in Glacier. August is better. Some of the trails to hike aren't even snow free until mid July. We hiked Grinnell Glacier in mid July and that was the first time the trail was open to the top. Of course, it depends on the winter snowfall.

Glacier is spectacular in my mind. Prettier that Yellowstone. You have to get out and hit the trails to really enjoy it in my opinion. You don't have to backpack or do any strenuous hiking but you have to get out.

Don't worry about the crowds. Yellowstone can get crowded but you don't notice it so much. Its only real bad if there's a bear or large elk near the road. Glacier wasn't that crowded in July. You have to remember that if the crowds are minimal, there's a reason. There's less to see.

I can't help you with a cabin other than in the park. www.travelyellowstone.com is for reservations in YNP. I don't recall the one for Glacier but the link is on our site.

To stay outside the park, check West Yellowstone, MT. It has good access to the park. For Glacier, you should stay on the east side of thepark for most of your trip. You might check St. Mary for a cabin.

With two weeks, you have time to do both. Next to last week in June in YNP and last week in Glacier. That would be more time than we had.

You'll be surprised at how quickly the cabins and lodges fill up.

Spokane, Washington
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for Glacier National Park, Spokane
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2. Re: Comparing Glacier and Yellowstone

I am a 25 year Glacier trekker, and only once to Yellowstone................so there might be a clue about my leanings. Glacier tends to be far less busy. Get on the road by 8 am and it is smooth sailing. Now there is a great, slightly slow, but free shuttle system so you don't even have to drive to many viewing and hiking spots.

yellowstone sits on a high plateau, where Glacier is deep cut valleys with ragged peaks that are so close you can reach out and touch them. Yellowstone has the thermal features and more wildlife.

Google St. Mary, Montana and you will find some cabins three miles out of St. Mary, as well as some in St. Mary, that you can rent. That puts you on the more scenci, and more wildlife, east side of the park.

Arlington, Virginia
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3. Re: Comparing Glacier and Yellowstone

Thanks guys -- I really appreciate the advice ... I think we're leaning toward Glacier. Question particularly for AKJ: since we're both apparently from northern Virginia, how do you normally travel out there (I drove last time but will likely fly this time around)? If by plane, do you have any advice for airports out there to fly into that might give us a chance for significantly better than $600 pp fare (at least, that's what I'm seeing right now, give or take, for many flights for late June and early August, our two possibilities). We're willing to rent a car and drive several hours (half day or so) to lodging on the east side of Glacier if we can make it worth it financially ... is the fare simply high now because we're so far out from the summer or is that likely to be the best we'll get? If anyone else out there has experience with this, I'd be grateful to hear about it!

AKJ
Bruceton Mills...
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4. Re: Comparing Glacier and Yellowstone

You might ask your questions here.

http://glacierparkchat.com/phpBB3/index.php

Very knowledgeable people about the park.

I can't really help you with your questions. We do live in the same area but my approach won't work for you. We flew to Jackson Hole, WY and drove to Yellowstone. From there we drove to Glacier.

Check flights to Spokane, WA. I think its a 5 hour drive but its pretty. Kalispell, MT is a close option but may not be cheap.

If you stay on the West side, you'll no doubt have a great time. The scenery and wildlife are much better on the East side in my humble opinion. We spent 5 nights at Swiftcurrent and then one night at Lake McDonald

We're going back to Yellowstone in 2008 but may try Glacier again in 2009.

Charlotte, North...
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5. Re: Comparing Glacier and Yellowstone

I might be able to help a little with a route because in 2006 I went to Glacier National Park and started in Virginia (Elkton, VA---near Harrisonburg to be exact) at my grandparents' house. By the way, my brother lives in Ashburn. Anyway, for our trip we didn't take quite the fastest route initially, but I thought it was probably the prettiest drive. We took I-81 South to I-64 West into West Virginia. Just after Huntington, WV we took Highway 52 paralleling the Ohio River which was a very pretty drive. This took us to Cincinnati where we took I-74 to Indianapolis. We spent the night there with my sister and her family. From Indy we headed west into Illinois to avoid Chicago, and in Bloomington we took I-39 North toward Rockford & Madison. Near Rockford we hooked up with I-90/94 through Wisconsin into Minnesota @ Minneapolis/St. Paul and to Fargo, ND for the night. We stayed on I-94 all the way to near Billings, MT where we hooked up with I-90 again. From Butte you can choose which specific route you want to get to Glacier.

A more logical route if you're looking for the fastest way to get there would probably include northern Ohio and Chicago, IL, but we just choose to go the road less traveled.

And btw, my personal preference is definitely Glacier. I've been to Yellowstone twice and Glacier once, and Glacier is definitely my favorite place in the U.S.

Sean

NJ
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6. Re: Comparing Glacier and Yellowstone

Glacier is a hikers paradise. the views are spectacular but i highly recommend getting out of your car and hike. even short ones. hidden lake trail, highline trail.

my favorite area of glacier is many glacier. (stay in many glacier or st. mary's ) great hikes. grinnell glacier, ice berg lake. hiking at two medicine is good too. (stay in east glacier for this.)

go to waterton for the day from many glacier. at glacier i have seen black bear, grizzley, mountain goats, big horn sheep, elk, deer

yellowstone is a park of great vistas views going on for ever. although there are many trails, it is less of a hikers park than glacier (IMO) many folks go to yellowstone to catch site of wildlife from roadside and some trails.

yellowstone is so unique with the thermal features too. you won't see anything like it anywhere else.

yellowstone can seem crowded but it is so big there is room for a lot of people

glacier is less crowded than yellowstone, but there are less roads and side trip areas to absorb everyone.

in yellowstone i saw grizzly, moose, elk, deer, buffalo, wolves, big horn sheep, antelope

i've been to both parks a couple of times. glacier gets my vote for dramatic scenary and hiking

yellowstone wins in the wildlife catagory and the uniqueness of the thermal features...

yellowstone has more facilities than glacier. both can have snow in june and sept..... hiking might not be available in some places in glacier until july.

\

Santa Fe, New Mexico
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for Santa Fe, Mesa Verde National Park, Boulder, New Mexico
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7. Re: Comparing Glacier and Yellowstone

That is a hard question, both places are awesome... but I would go to Glacier this trip, as you have been to YS recently and have never been to Glacier.

You can also visit Kalispell MT, Flathead Lake, and even drive up into Canada to see Banff and Jasper and the Columbia Ice Fields!

Arlington, Virginia
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8. Re: Comparing Glacier and Yellowstone

Additional question -- I'm definitely getting the feeling that I might want to see a lot of the eastern side of Glacier ... problem is (or rather, might be), I'm having problems finding suitable lodging on that side, since we need something that sleeps at least 9.

First off, does anyone have any recommendations or suggestions for that type of place (i.e., within a half hour or so of the park, rentable for a week for nine and with a lake/stream nearby)?

Beyond that, since there at first glance seems to be more rentable houses of this size on the western side (and because we're also more likely to drive from Spokane), would it still make sense to stay on the western side if we wanted to spend a lot of time on the eastern side (I guess I realize the obvious answer -- traveling takes time, etc. -- but I suppose I'm wondering if because of topography and the travel involved to get across the park, how difficult/inefficient is it to stay on the western side and then see the eastern side regularly)?

AKJ
Bruceton Mills...
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9. Re: Comparing Glacier and Yellowstone

It would probably take 2 hours going around Route 2 to get to the east side. Not sure about GTTSR but maybe an hour and a half. You'd spend a lot of time in the car. Pretty drive but still time in the car.

I took a very quick look to see if I saw anything that large on around St Mary or that area but I didn't. Here's a link to some smaller cabins.

www.glaciertrailheadcabins.com/index.htm

You might post a question in the Glacier forum I posted above. Maybe they know something.

If I were planning the trip, I'd stay on the east side for a few days even if I couldn't fit every one in the same building. Just my approach though.

Good luck.

Arlington, Virginia
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10. Re: Comparing Glacier and Yellowstone

Cool. Thanks -- I have taken your advice and posted a couple messages on that chat site, and so far it's definitely been interesting ... haven't gotten any detailed respones regarding lodging yet, but I was referred to one realtor, so we'll see ... thanks again!

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