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Two days in GNP

Sydney, Australia
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Two days in GNP

We'll be visiting Glacier & Waterton in July, driving from Banff on Hwy #40, probably to St Mary. We will go to Glacier first, even though it's a longer trip from Banff, as on our last day we have to drive to Calgary airport and I'd rather not have to worry about possible border crossing delays if we were heading back to Calgary from GNP. We will arrive at GNP late on Thursday July 30 and then drive up to Waterton late on Saturday August 1.

I had originally allowed one full day each for GNP & Waterton but have now rearranged our itinerary so we can fit in an extra day at GNP. I've visited Waterton once before so know what I'll do there again, but I'd appreciate suggestions for what to do with two days in GNP. GTTS Road is definitely planned.

I was originally planning to drive the GTTS Road but after reading a post about driving vs shuttle vs Red Bus tour I've decided it's better not to drive. I love photography so like to stop wherever possible.

In that thread RM-MN said "If you have nice weather, the Red Jammers have tops that can be removed so you really can see the scenery. For the shuttles, you have nice windows, but you can only see out the side you are seated on."

The Red Jammers sound ideal as I wouldn't be trying to take photos through glass. Do the windows of the shuttle open? Which is likely to offer more stops along the way - the shuttle or the Red Bus tour?

I've just had a knee replacement operation a couple of weeks ago so probably won't be able to do any long hikes but will hopefully be able to do some short hikes. I gather that the GTTS Road trip will use up most of one day. I'd appreciate suggestions on highlights to see with the rest of our time there, mainly places we can drive to with possible short hikes. Is St Mary the best area to consider for our GNP stay?

Thanks for any advice you can offer.

Ken

indiana
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1. Re: Two days in GNP

I think the Jammer tour would be best, as they make stops. I believe the shuttle is more of a transportation system to get from one point to another. ( correct me if I'm wrong). I've seen the Jammers stopped for wildlife and viewpoints. I would also make sure I take the tour that not only includes the GTTSR but also the Many Glacier area. If you are into photography, this area is beautiful. Trail of Cedars near Lake McDonald is a short hike and in Many Glacier you can hike toward Bullhead Lake, stopping at Fishercap, about 1/4 of a mile into the trail, for wildlife. The trail to Bullhead is fairly level and should be easy for you. At Logan Pass there is Hidden Lake Overlook but it involves a boardwalk with many steps. You will love this park for photo opportunities. Have a great trip.

Sydney, Australia
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2. Re: Two days in GNP

Thanks for your reply hikes. I will go for the Jammer tour. I'm now trying to work out where to stay. The information about the tours shows that the longest tour starts from Glacier Park Lodge and I gather that this tour is the one you talked about. It mentions going down down the St. Mary Valley which I see is close to the Many Glacier area but I'm not sure if it actually goes there. I had planned to stay in the St Mary area since that would be the first major area we would come to after crossing the border but it seems as though the tour that departs from the Glacier Park Lodge is the better tour so it would probably be better if we stayed in that area instead. How long would it take to drive from St Mary to there? We'll be driving from Banff that day. Are there other places to stay near Glacier Park Lodge as well?

If that tour is the best and it doesn't take too long to drive to Glacier Park Lodge maybe we could still stay in the St Mary area but drive down to Glacier Park Lodge and join the tour there. We would do the tour on our first day in GNP and can then drive to any places of interest on the second day. If we stay around St Mary we would then be close to Many Glacier for the second day.

I have pasted descriptions about the two tours here. The second tour starts at Many Glacier Hotel and is shorter than the other one. I'm not sure from the description what you don't see on this tour compared with the longer one. It says you have an optional lunch at historic Lake McDonald Lodge, before heading back but don't know if you finish driving the rest of the GTTS road and then head back via West Glacier and Glacier Park Lodge, or whether you turn back at Lake McDonald Lodge and travel back to Many Glacier Hotel the way you came. I've been doing web searches but haven't been able to come across better descriptions than these.

If anyone has done either tour I'd appreciate some feedback about them.

Ken

Red Jammer Tour Descriptions:

Tours Leaving From the East Side of the Park

Big Sky Circle Tour

The most inclusive tour of Glacier National Park starts with a morning drive over Marias Pass, with wildlife viewing at Goat Lick and a stop at the historic Izaak Walton Inn. Tour the grand cedar & hemlock forests on your way to an optional lunch at Lake McDonald Lodge. After lunch, ascend to the high alpine of Going-to-the-Sun Road at Logan Pass and down the St. Mary Valley.

Stop at the Wild Goose Island overlook for another photo opportunity. The tour finishes with grand vistas of grassland, prairie and mountains as you arrive back to the hotel.

This tour starts at Glacier Park Lodge at 9:00am, Glacier Meadows RV at 9:30am and Izaak Walton Inn at 10:00am and is 8.5 hours.

Tours Leaving From the North East Side of the Park

Crown of the Continent Tour

Your journey starts on the rugged eastern slopes and follows the glacially carved valleys in the St. Mary region. Proceed into the heart of Glacier National Park on the Going-to-the-Sun Road and to the top of the Continental Divide at Logan Pass. Continue down the west side of the park for an optional lunch at historic Lake McDonald Lodge, before heading back.

This tour starts at Many Glacier Hotel/Swiftcurrent at 9:00am (7.5 hours), St. Mary KOA at 9:40am, Johnson RV Park at 9:45am, St. Mary Lodge at 9:50am (all 6.5 hours)& Rising Sun Motor Inn at 10:10am (6 hours).

indiana
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3. Re: Two days in GNP

There are small motels in the east Glacier area. I am not personally familiar with any of them. It would take 45-60 minutes to drive from St. Mary area to east Glacier. The second tour you listed will hit all the high spots of the park (or so it seems). The first one sounds like it goes south of the park on highway 2 and then enters the park on the west side and travels across the GTTSR. The second sounds as if it goes across the road and then backtracks. The vistas on the road are totally different (at least for me) depending on the direction you travel. I think I might pick the second tour. For scenery I would stay in the Many Glacier area. The vistas are so grand. You could stay at Many Glacier or Swiftcurrent, though I think the views are better from Many Glacier. You could always just visit that hotel if you don't stay there. The St. Mary area is a nice location for the GTTSR but I don't think the scenery is as nice. Some people don't care about the room but we do like to be able to have coffee in the morning or watch sunset from the room or lobby. Hope this helps and please ask any additional questions. You need to be trying for lodging now as July is one of the busiest months.

Sydney, Australia
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4. Re: Two days in GNP

Thanks again hikes for your assistance.

If the second tour goes as far as Lake McDonald Lodge before heading back will we be missing much by not traveling on the portion of GTTSR from there down to West Glacier? I don't mind backtracking on GTTSR though since as you said the vistas are different in each direction. I've traveled the Icefields Parkway between Jasper and Lake Louise in both directions and enjoyed both.

I've just tried to check availability of rooms at Many Glacier Hotel and nothing is showing up so it appears I've missed out there. The Rising Sun Motor Inn does have rooms available and I've just looked at TA reviews and it should be ok for us. At least it is in the same area. I'll check what else is available over the next couple of days and then book. I'll also phone Many Glacier Hotel to be sure nothing is available before I book anything else.

Ken

indiana
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5. Re: Two days in GNP

Yes, call for reservations as the website isn't always accurate. I don't think you will miss much by not going all the way to West Glacier. The road travels along Lake McDonald for a ways and then west Glacier has shops and restaurants. If you have lunch at Lake McDonald Lodge, you will have nice views of the lake. The park is beautiful and I don't think you will be disappointed by missing such a small part of the GTTSR. I'm sure the Jammer tour stops at Logan Pass and if you have time hike a short ways on Highline Trail (across the road from the visitor center). Just a few minutes out the trail will give you a chance for spectacular views. Also Hidden Lake overlook is there. I'm not sure how long the tour stays at each stop, but I have seen them on many occasions and they never seem to be rushing people. Have a great trip and I hope I've been helpful. Any more questions, feel free to ask and I'll try to help.

Sydney, Australia
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6. Re: Two days in GNP

I called and the Many Glacier Hotel does not have any rooms available on those dates. The only places available are the Rising Sun Motor Inn and Glacier Park Lodge. We'll probably book the Rising Sun and do the Red Jammer tour from there. Also they told me that the second tour does go to Lake McDonald Lodge and then heads back as we discussed.

That tour starts at Many Glacier Hotel/Swiftcurrent at 9:00am (7.5 hours), St. Mary KOA at 9:40am, Johnson RV Park at 9:45am, St. Mary Lodge at 9:50am (all 6.5 hours)& Rising Sun Motor Inn at 10:10am (6 hours). If I start the tour at the Rising Sun it will be the last pickup. I'd hope we'd get two seats together and get one window seat. Do you think it would be best to book the tour from the Many Glacier Hotel and drive there that morning to join the tour so we have a better chance of good seats? Hopefully the weather will be nice and the top will be off but I'd still like a window seat. I have seen tours where couples traveling together each take a window seat and that can be unfair for others later if the bus is full.

Is it worth driving around the edge of the park to the west side to see the Glacier Park Lodge and West Glacier areas on our second day or should we stay and explore the Many Glacier area? My impression is that there may be more to see around the Many Glacier area.

Thanks again for all your advice.

Ken

indiana
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7. Re: Two days in GNP

I would spend most of my day in the Many Glacier area on the second day. You may want to drive as far as the Two Medicine area, which is toward East Glacier. It is worth a couple of hours, Running Eagle Falls is a very short hike. The only reason I would go to east Glacier is if you want to see Glacier Park Lodge. I wondered about the seating on the Jammer tour also. If you are concerned, I would consider going to Many Glacier to get on. Also if you get there early, you can see the hotel and maybe get some pictures of wildlife. Then after the tour you could have dinner if you want.

indiana
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8. Re: Two days in GNP

As for dining, Many Glacier offer views but the food is only so-so (at least for us). Swiftcurrent has a good dining room, mostly Italian and pizza, Rising Sun has what I think is the best in park food and between St. Mary and Many Glacier there is the Park Cafe and Two Sisters Cafe. Both are good and have great pies!!

Sydney, Australia
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9. Re: Two days in GNP

When I checked previously there were no rooms available at Many Glacier Hotel for our dates. When I looked online yesterday ready to book at the Rising Sun Motor Inn a lakeside room at the Many Glacier Hotel was available, probably because someone had cancelled, so I booked it straight away. I'll now be able to join the Red Jammer tour at the starting point.

I've been looking at lake cruises available and there are cruises on Swiftcurrent Lake from Many Glacier Hotel and on St Mary Lake from Rising Sun Motor Inn as well as a shorter cruise on Two Medicine Lake.

I'll do the Red Jammer tour on the first day that we're there and may possibly fit in a cruise later that day. The Jammer tour should arrive back at MGH at 4.30pm and the last cruise from MGH leaves at 4.30pm so it would probably not be possible to make that cruise. The last St Mary Lake cruise of the day leaves at 6pm so we could probably do that after the Red Jammer tour and then do the Swiftcurrent Lake tour the next day. As part of the Swiftcurrent cruise there is a 9 a.m. & 2 p.m. guided hike to Grinnell Lake. Would that be a strenuous walk for someone who has had a knee operation?

If we had to choose only one cruise which would be the better one?

I really wish we could fit in more than two days but will try to see as much as possible with the time that we have. We arrive at GNP late on Thursday and have all day Friday and Saturday. We'll drive up to Waterton late on Saturday and then have all day Sunday there. How long should it take to drive from the Many Glacier area to Waterton? I'm thinking we'd probably leave GNP around 6pm which gives us most of that day in the park and still arrive in daylight since sunset then should be around 9.15pm.

Thanks for your advice. I've included details of the available cruises here.

Ken

Many Glacier Hotel (Swiftcurrent Lake) (1.25-1.5 hours)

See and feel the grandeur that makes Glacier National Park "The Crown of the Continent." Board "Chief Two Guns" for a cruise on Swiftcurrent Lake, then take a short 300 yard walk over the hill to Lake Josephine. Here the "Morning Eagle" awaits your arrival for a cruise on this pristine lake. There is a 9 a.m. & 2 p.m. guided hike to Grinnell Lake.

Rising Sun Motor Inn (St. Mary Lake) (1.5 Hour)

Visitors will enjoy the beauty of St. Mary Lake while onboard the modern "Joy II" or the recently refitted, historic "Little Chief". Visitors will see spectacular mountain peaks, cascading waterfalls, rugged cliffs, ancient forests, and an alpine glacier. All tours include a highly recommended, but optional, 15 minute stroll to Baring Falls.

Two Medicine (Two Medicine Lake) (45 Minutes)

Boat tours at Two Medicine offer back country experiences without back country effort. Visitors on boat tours at this secluded location agree with the old Blackfeet saying "Two Medicine is good medicine." Frequent animal sightings are an added bonus!

indiana
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10. Re: Two days in GNP

The hike to Grinnell Lake after the cruise is fairly short (one mile?) and mostly level. It is a nice lake. If you are just taking the cruise for scenery, I would take the one on St. Mary Lake. I don't know why, it just seems St. Mary Lake is larger and I think it would be a nice cruise. Two Medicine is a lake I have only been to twice. I have never cruised there but it is a scenic area. Maybe someone that has actually taken one of these cruises can offer more help. We did take the Swiftcurrent, Josephine Lake cruise to go to Grinnell Lake and while scenic, you mostly see the same scenery you can see from Many Glacier hotel. There are trailheads that start at the hotel and follow the lakeshore. You could easily do part of one of these for scenery and turn back when you feel like. Also Fishercap Lake from the Swiftcurrent area only has a short downhill at the lake and is less than one mile RT. It is a chance to usually see moose in the afternoon and bears and sheep on the surrounding mountains. The drive to Waterton from Many Glacier will be about one hour. Have a great trip and be sure to post after your return. Hope I've been helpful and ask any further questions you think of.