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Glacier Nat. Park by Tour Bus or on Our Own?

Bluffton, South...
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Glacier Nat. Park by Tour Bus or on Our Own?

We're seniors, like to hike (easy level 3- 5 mile round trip with some elevation change) and generally enjoy the national parks at our own pace. We're contemplating either doing Glacier, Banff, Lake Louise, Columbia Icefield, Jasper, and Calgary Stampede loop on a bus tour (it would be our first bus tour) or scheduling the trip on our own (which we've done in the past at other national parks). We can't decide if we want to give up our freedom and enjoy somebody else doing the driving/planning or do it ourselves. There would be no time for hiking on the bus tour. What amount of time should we allow for hiking in Glacier if we plan it ourselves? What amount of time at any of the other places on the itinerary, to explore on our own? Best time of year to go, if we drop the Stampede from the itinerary? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Mahtomedi, Minnesota
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1. Re: Glacier Nat. Park by Tour Bus or on Our Own?

I have never been on a bus tour. I am saving that for when I am old and do not want to do any of the planning or driving myself and am not ambulatory enough to hike. I think, if you do your homework, you can tour all the places you listed on your own. I would plan 5-6 nights Glacier and plan on hiking Hidden Lake Overlook at Logan Pass, St Mary/Virginia Falls off GTTSR on east side, Grinnell Lake and Red Rock Falls at Many Glacier. This would give you a variety of trails in that 3 to 5 mile range. You need to give the Canadian Rockies 10-12 days to do it justice. The Stampede would really be fun if you like crowds and a carnival atmosphere.

the past two summers, I have spent 34 days between the two parks and have worked two summers in GNP along with countless camping and back packing. I would be glad to offer any advice you might seek in planning your trip, with an emphasis on off the beaten path.

cincinnati
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2. Re: Glacier Nat. Park by Tour Bus or on Our Own?

i've only been to glacier . it is so easy to get around on your own with some planning. a bus tour probably wouldn't allow you time to hike and enjoy some incredible sights with time to rest. I agree bus tours are for later when you need them

Spokane, Washington
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for Glacier National Park, Spokane
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3. Re: Glacier Nat. Park by Tour Bus or on Our Own?

I don't like someone else in charge of my time, so I go the drive route for the flexibility. The parks are not that far apart and there are some great sights between them. Mid-July through mid-sept are the best times, but accomodations become the challenge. While many of the glacier hikes are in the 10-mile range, there are some nice 3-4 mi. options.

Whitefish, Montana
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4. Re: Glacier Nat. Park by Tour Bus or on Our Own?

Only you can decide if you feel comfortable driving the GTSR. You could take the parks free shuttle first before committing to the Jammer. The shuttle stops at all but one of the trails that intersect the GTSR, and that one doesn't meet your criteria.

www.glacierhikers.com/avalanche-lake.html

www.glacierhikers.com/hidden-lake.html

www.glacierhikers.com/st-mary.html

The hikes above are all short easy hikes to give you a start at making hiking plans.

montana slow hiker

Bluffton, South...
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5. Re: Glacier Nat. Park by Tour Bus or on Our Own?

Thanks for all the information. We've decided to do it on our own; probably mid-August. Preliminarily thinking 4/5 nights at Glacier, 2 at Banff, 2 at Lake Louise, and 2 at Jasper. One day set aside for travel on the Icefields Hwy., riding the Ice Explorer, walking on Athbasca Glacier. At Glacier, should we stay at different places: west side, east side, etc.? to avoid backtracking (looks like trailheads for us are from Two Medicine, St. Mary, and Many Glacier), or same place? How much time to allot to the Jammer? Riding the shuttle? a god way to get around? How challenging is driving the GTTSR? We like to stay in the national parks, any suggestions? Any other suggestions on length of time at each place? Will probably not do the Stampede.

Whitefish, Montana
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6. Re: Glacier Nat. Park by Tour Bus or on Our Own?

I love driving the GTSR as I've mentioned before the earlier the better. Much more dramatic light early in the day, much greater chance of seeing wildlife from bears, to Big Horn Rams plus Mountain Goats on the side of the road.

Compared to Mount Washington this is a super highway. At this point can't truthfully tell you that it is all paved as the east isd eis under construction for the next three years. Many Glacier is on the far side of everything it is a great place to stay for hiking in the area but would involve a lot of extra driving to get to the west side. Village Inn in Apgar gets lots of raves, I only camp so can't speak from experience. The shuttle on the west side works pretty good, can't say the same for the east side shuttle which has a much longer interval between shuttles.

Still not clear from your questions WHEN this trip is planned for next year. It is currently snowing in Whitefish for about the fifth time this fall.

Beware the GTSR WILL NOT OPEN before June 20, 2014 to through traffic not matter what the snow conditions.

During a heavy snow year it might not open before July 4 with July 13th being the latest opening lately in 2011. That was supposed to be a one hundred year event, July 4th is pretty standard. The road being open does not mean the upper trails will be open with the exception of the Hidden Lake Trail which always opens the day that Logan Pass opens. Mid July is a pretty good guess for the Highline Trail and other higher elevation trails.

montana slow hiker

Bluffton, South...
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7. Re: Glacier Nat. Park by Tour Bus or on Our Own?

Thanks again for all the help. We've planned out our itinerary for the Canada sites, but are having trouble figuring out the logistics of our visit to Glacier/Waterton Park. We're in our early 70s, love to hike (easy trails, usually take two-three hour, round trips) love to view wildlife, love to take pictures, and generally "experience" our beautiful national parks. We're having trouble figuring out how to visit Glacier/Waterton without too much double-backing. As it stands now: day 1, we're driving down from Banff and staying in Waterton and explore Waterton Park; day 2, travel to Apgar via Rt. 2 in the AM, PM open to explore the area, stay in Apgar; day 3 open to explore, stay in Apgar; day 4 travel to St. Mary via Rt. 2, stopping to hike and see Two Medicine area, stay in St. Mary; day 5, open to explore St. Mary and Many Glacier areas. Have avoided driving GTTSR because we've read conflicting opinions as to how difficult a drive it is. We would like to take one of the Jammer tours. Any suggestions about our itinerary? Stay in Many Glacier instead of St. Mary? Any suggestions for lodging; we like to stay in the parks, whenever possible. Would like to avoid the backtracking on R 2. Should we add another day? Would also like to take one of the boat tours in the park.

Mahtomedi, Minnesota
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8. Re: Glacier Nat. Park by Tour Bus or on Our Own?

If you are coming from Waterton, why are you going all the way to Apgar? Seems like it would be better to go to Many Glacier first which is only an hour from Waterton, then make your way to St Mary, East Glacier and then Apgar. Personally, I'd skip Apgar as it will be underwlming after all the scenery you will have scene if you are coming from the Canadian Rockies and then following the route I suggested.

9. Re: Glacier Nat. Park by Tour Bus or on Our Own?

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