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Trying to plan an "out west" vacation

Turner, Maine
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Trying to plan an "out west" vacation

We would like to take a trip that encompasses the Badlands, Mt Rushmore and Devils Tower. Then on to Glacier NP and Banff NP Alberta. We have 12 days to get this in driving from place to place. Is it doable first of all, and what do you consider "must sees" at any of these places or along the way. Also any recommendations on places to stay. We like B&Bs but are open to anything, even camping for a couple of nights. Looking at going late June early July.

Edited: 18 November 2012, 14:06
Atlanta, Georgia
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1. Re: Trying to plan an "out west" vacation

Early July would be a good time to come because want to be sure Going to the Sun Road thru the park is fully open.

Are you driving or flying into the area?

Are you including the other big national park in Montana and Wyoming- Yellowstone? Yellowstone is known for the diversity of scenery and wildlife- bison, wolves, bears, elk, pronghorn, etc.

Glacier is known as a hikers paradise. If you want to hike and see wildlife then stay in Many Glacier area. We've only stayed outside the park because late in making reservations so others will post with their suggestions.

The Whitefish Lodge and Isaak Walton Inn are both nice and unique.

You will need at least 2-3 days or more to see the park.

Good luck with your trip planning.

Turner, Maine
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2. Re: Trying to plan an "out west" vacation

We are driving out from Maine. We have factored in 2 days each way leaving us 12 days to explore. We do enjoy hiking, just nothing extreme. Maybe Yellowstone would be a better choice, but since Glacier seems to be right on the way to Banff, we are kind of leaning that way. But we are open to anything.

Louisville, Kentucky
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3. Re: Trying to plan an "out west" vacation

I would spend a day exploring the Going to the Sun Road. The drive itself is slow (especially since there will still be road construction next year), but incredibly scenic - so you won't mind the delays! There are several must-do hikes off the GTTS road, including Hidden Lake Overlook - which will probably still have snow that time of year. Virginia Falls and St. Mary Falls and if you drive over to the east side of the park near Lake McDonald Lodge, be sure to hike the Trail of the Cedars and Avalanche Lake.

In Many Glacier, a very easy but scenic hike is around Swiftcurrent Lake:

hikinginglacier.com/swiftcurrent-lake-nature…

The one thing to remember in Glacier is always check with the ranger station to make sure the trail has not been closed due to bear activity. If you have any concerns about hiking in bear country, Glacier offers lots of ranger led hikes.

…nps.gov/applications/…inforequest3.cfm

Atlanta, Georgia
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4. Re: Trying to plan an "out west" vacation

For some great help with your road trip you might want to post this on the road trip forum- link here-

tripadvisor.com/ShowForum-g1-i12567-Road_Tri…

We usually just fly into Denver or SLC or one of the airports near Yellowstone and Glacier and then rent a car and drive. Many on the road trip forum actually have experience driving from the east coast or west coast.

Do you realize that it is about 34 hours of driving just to the Badlands? To me that would be about 4 days of driving one way when you include stops for gas, restroom and lunch.

You will need several days in the Black Hills then it is a 2 day drive to Glacier, you will need a couple of days in Glacier, then it is a 5 hour drive to Banff and you will need time there. It is then about a 50 hour drive back to Maine.

If I calculate this correctly your time is-

4 days driving to Black Hills

2 days Black Hills

2 days driving to Glacier

2 day in Glacier

1 day to drive to Banff

2 days in Banff

5-6 days driving back to Maine

I calculate 18-19 days of time and that is with about 12-13 days of just driving. Seems to leave little time to actually see this area. IMO you will need to greatly expand your time or either limit what you want to see, or consider flying in and renting a car. Only problem with flying and renting a car might be taking a rental car over into Canada.

You can easily do the Black Hills, Cody, Yellowstone and Glacier in about 14-15 days.

Here is a suggestion-

Black Hills- Badlands, Mt. Rushmore, Devils Tower- 2 days

Drive to Cody- 1 day

Cody- 1 day

Yellowstone- 3 days

Grand Tetons- 1-2 days

Drive to Glacier- 1 day

Glacier- 3 days

You might be able to fly into Rapid City and out of Kalispell or Spokane.

We've done this trip by flying into Spokane and out of Billings and were able to find affordable one way car rental.

Just some other ideas and good luck with your trip planning.

Mahtomedi, Minnesota
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5. Re: Trying to plan an "out west" vacation

I would consider not leaving until early July. That will give more probability of GTSR being completely open. An Ideal itinerary would look something like this:

(after your two looooong days of driving from Maine)

days 1 and 2-explore South Dakota Rapid City area then on to Devils Tower WY which can be done the afternoon of the second day. Spend the night in Sheriden or Buffalo.

Day 3 Do not miss Little Big Horn Battlefield. Right on the way back to 90

Spend night in Billings or Bozeman.

day 4 It will take you all day to get to East Side of GNP. Make reservations at Many Glacier or Swift Current

Spend days 5 and 6 exploring Many Glacier. take a drive on GTSR to Logan Pass

Day 7 Take the day to drive to Canmore AB. Via Cowboy Hwy(22) or Crowsnest Pass (3 or 93)

Days 8 thru 12 you will find are not near enough time to see the Canadian Rockies but you will get a flavor of it.

If it were me, I would either skip Canada and head for Yellowstone instead OR skip South Dakota and drive straight to GNP. I would add one more day here and one more day to Canada.

Last summer, we drove from Minnesota to the Canadian Rockies and it is one he'll of a long way. Can't imagine driving from Maine.

If you need more ideas for either GNP or Canadian Rockies, I can offer more.

ie we hiked to Skoki Lodge for two nights and camped and hiked at Lake O'Hara for three nights. Both AMAZING.

day 7 Leaving Many, take the full day to drive to

Mahtomedi, Minnesota
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for Glacier National Park
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6. Re: Trying to plan an "out west" vacation

Peach and I were typing basically the same thing at the same time. Totally agree, Peach. they need to skip something. Also I have an oops. Disregard last line.

Chicago, Illinois
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7. Re: Trying to plan an "out west" vacation

tnt... Rand Mcnally has the trip from Portland Maine to East Glacier as 2600 miles one way... Sounds like a lot of miles in two days..... just saying.........

If you can do it and have a good time .... well that's the Maine thing I guess!! :^)

Turner, Maine
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8. Re: Trying to plan an "out west" vacation

@ tripr005,

we were going to stop in the Black Hills Mt Rushmore area first. But after finding some reasonable airfare out of Boston, looks like directly to Denver, then onto Chico Hot Springs resort for a few days and explore YNP.

@ gnp4me

Thanks for all the pointers. We have decided to forgo the Black Hills/Devils Tower portion of the trip and focus on YNP and GNP and maybe (hopefully) Banff NP

@ everyone else, thanks so much for the tips. Tripadvisor is the best.

Atlanta, Georgia
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9. Re: Trying to plan an "out west" vacation

If you get good airfare are you flying in and out of Denver?

You might also check Salt Lake City. SLC is closer to YNP and Glacier.

A better place to fly in and out of and avoid expensive one way car rental is Bozeman, MT. It is very easy to access both YNP and GNP.

It is a 10 hour drive from Denver to Chico Hot Springs and it is a 16 hour drive from Glacier back to Denver.

Having done multiple trips to the west since we retired in 2007 I can tell you that you do not realize how large the area is until you are here. YNP is the size of the state of Rhode Island.

If you are a bargain hunter like I am then compare airfare here on the TA site for all airlines except for Southwest and you will have to go directly to their website for fares.

Good luck and please let us know if you have more questions.

10. Re: Trying to plan an "out west" vacation

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