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First time to Glacier....HELP!

Pa
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First time to Glacier....HELP!

We're planning a trip to Glacier National Park for sometime in early fall. Ideally, we wanted to go from October 11th-20th, but apparently some roads are closed and not all of the park is accessible at this time. Can anyone confirm if this is true? We may end up moving it back a month to mid September, but we're overwhelmed with questions on where to stay and what to see.... We'll be flying into Kalispell, but beyond that we have no idea yet. We will be renting a self catering accommodation, so we are interested in hotels, lodges and condo resorts. Obviously, we want to be fairly close to the park and see and do as much as we possibly can in our time there. Since the park is so large and we are unfamiliar with the area, can you guys give me suggestions on where a good "hub" would be for us to stay? We have looked into the flathead lake region as we'd love to have a cabin on the water, but it seems as though this may be a bit far from the park. What do you guys think is the best section of the park to be near (East, West, South?) and what are some good choices for us to look into? As I mentioned, we want a private cabin or house in a beautiful setting, close to the park and with amenities near. Also, any advice/suggestions on what to see and do while we're there will be very much appreciated!

montana
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1. Re: First time to Glacier....HELP!

Beth/Matt,

Normally early Oct. would be a great time because of the fall colors. However, this year the Going To The Sun Rd. will close early for some much-needed repairs. For that reason, you'd be better off coming in early Sept.

Since you are new to this forum, you might try browsing through the previous posts and you will get plenty of good information to get you started on the planning process. Then ask some more specific questions.

Most people like to spend half their time on the west side of the park, half on the east side. You may also wish to include time for visiting the Flathead Lake region. It all depends on what your passions are: hiking? shopping? theatre? boating? etc.

If your flight arrives at night and departs early, for sure spend your first and last nights in either Kalispell or Whitefish, then head into the park.

Enjoy the planning!

Pa
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2. Re: First time to Glacier....HELP!

Thanks for the advice! Mid October was our first choice as it will be our first wedding anniversary, but from all that I've read Going to the Sun Road is definitely not to be missed, so we are going to do some research and move our trip to mid September. Splitting five nights each between East and West Glacier sounds like a great idea and may be our best option! Now I just have to narrow it down to where, specifically, we want to stay. How are the train systems in the area? Would it be possible to rent vehicles in each destination and travel between the two by train?

I mentioned the Flathead Lake area in my first post b/c while searching randomly for rental homes in the Glacier area, we found alot of gorgeous Log Cabins around Flathead. Reading around the forums, however, it seems as though the East and West entrances to the park are much more popular than the Southern region closer to Flathead. I think that we're gonna try to focus our search more on these areas. We aren't very picky and we're not looking to set a definite itinerary, but we just want some opinions on what the best areas to see are for first timers to the park. We'd like to do some hiking, BUT we're definitely looking for easy routes. I'm having problems finding rental homes that fit what we're looking for. We most definitely want something in a beautiful setting with a bit of privacy. All that I have been able to find outside of Flathead are lodges and "cabin resorts". If anyone has any recommendations for private cabin rentals that are a bit secluded yet near the park, please help us out.... Ideally, I'd just like to find what towns offer the best location and go from there. Keep the suggestions coming!

Bemidji, Minnesota
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3. Re: First time to Glacier....HELP!

You have chosen a beautiful area to celebrate your anniversary and you have come to a great site to ask questions about planning, but you do need to do a little research to know what questions to ask to help us to help you.

the National Park Service has a great website for Glacier National Park that can answer many of your questions and help guide the questions you ask to get the best advice.

http://www.nps.gov/glac/index.htm

Use the "Plan your visit" section to familiarize yourself with things about the park itself. Read the "operating hours and seasons" to learn what will be open and how you can get there.

There is a nice map of the park that you can zoom and pan to see better where everything is located.

nps.gov/PWR/customcf/apps/maps/showmap.cfm…

They even have a nice listing of the various locations for hiking including some great information about the trails.

nps.gov/glac/…hikingthetrails.htm

Click on an area you want to know about and view all the trails in that location. The map has hotspots on it (the circles with a number of the trail) that tell you the distance, elevation gain or loss, and shows a slideshow of some of the sights you can see on that trail.

Lodging: While the shoreline of Flathead Lake is beautiful and may have some wonderful cabins, save this for another trip and stay nearer or even in the park. While the distance from the town of Bigfork on the east shore of Flathead Lake to the park entrance at West Glacier is only about 40 miles, the roads are not freeways and it will take you over an hour to drive this distance. Another consideration is lodging on the east side. When people advise staying on the east side, they really mean Many Glacier or St. Mary, not East Glacier. East Glacier is a long drive from the east end of the Going to the Sun road (a little over 30 miles but close to an hour driving as the road is narrow and curvy) and wouldn't be advised to travel this each day to visit the park. Try to find somewhere near West Glacier for the west side or St. Mary for the east.

indiana
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4. Re: First time to Glacier....HELP!

Check the dates for closing of the different lodges. Most are Sept. 20 as is the road across the park. I would try to stay one or two nights at Village Inn or Lake McDonald Lodge on the west. Then head across the park. There is Rising Sun located near the east end of GTTSR. I would try for the Many Glacier area and Many Glacier Lodge or Swiftcurrent Motor Inn. This area is about 45 minutes or so north of the end of GTTSR. The hiking and scenery there are great. There is also the Two Medicine area but I haven't hiked there a lot. You may get lodging with more amenities outside the park, but for best location and to cut driving times, I would stay in park. Lodges are older, walls thin, some have phones but no TV. Just be prepared and you won't be disappointed.

Pa
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5. Re: First time to Glacier....HELP!

Thanks so much for more great advice! It's such a beautiful area that the possibilities for stay are amazing. We're going to focus our search for home rentals around the St. Mary or West Glacier areas, rather than Flathead lake. If anyone has any advice on private homes with no more than 2 bedrooms in these areas, please feel free to post! Thanks again and I'll be sure to be back with updates.

indiana
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6. Re: First time to Glacier....HELP!

Check www.vrbo.com. There are various cabins rented there. The only bad thing is a lot of them require three night stay. If you see one you like and they have an opening for a night or two, sometimes you can get the rental . The first time we used vrbo, the cabin stated three night minimum but due to other bookings there was a two night opening and the owners agreed to let us have it. Good luck and the area is beautiful and I'm sure you will love it.

Pa
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7. Re: First time to Glacier....HELP!

We already have a number of homes bookmarked on VRBO, now we just have to decide whether we want to stay the entire 9-10 nights in one place or if it would be better to split the trip between the East and West sides of the park.

buffalo
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8. Re: First time to Glacier....HELP!

If you do one or the other...it should be East side....you will save yourselves a lot of driving to the most beautiful areas of the Park...

Bemidji, Minnesota
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9. Re: First time to Glacier....HELP!

I'd say split, with the longer stay on the east side. Take one of your days on the west side to drive down and around Flathead Lake, just to see what you will be missing. :^) I think that the move will let you see much more of the park without stressing the drive each day. Enjoy!

Edited: 18 April 2010, 02:52
indiana
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10. Re: First time to Glacier....HELP!

I would also split my time with the majority of time on the east. On the west side there are trails to Avalanche Lake, Sperry Chalet, Mt. Brown or Apgar Lookouts. Also take a day and go to the North Fork area. It is often overlooked, but I think it is worth the hour drive to get there. Nice hiking there also. Hike around Bowman Lake or Numa Ridge. Stop in Polebridge for homebaked pastries at the Mercantile or dinner at Northern Lights.