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Driving from Calgary to Montana(US)

Wales, United...
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136 posts
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Driving from Calgary to Montana(US)

Hello,

I am looking for some advice regarding our proposed trip to Canada and the US. We'd like to fly to Calgary and drive down to Montana, do a loop and return to Canada, perhaps through Seattle and Vancouver. This would mean we could see parts of both countries. Could anyone advise me of the most suitable border crossings into the US(all UK citizens, no criminal convictions etc), and of the most scenic routes. We hate motorways and love the scenery, not phased by smaller roads either. We'll be coming in the summer so the weather is not an issue.

Diolch yn fawr/Thank you

West Grey, Ontario
Destination Expert
for Toronto
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1. Re: Driving from Calgary to Montana(US)

Hi;

As a citizen of the UK, upon entering the US you will be required to obtain an I-94W visa waiver as an addition to your passport. To obtain the waiver, you will be photographed, fingerprinted, and pay a fee of $6 US.

The I-94W visa waiver will be attached to your passport, and must be surrendered when you leave the United States.

The process of obtaining the I-94W waiver takes on average ½ an hour.

There are some car rental companies that will not permit their cars out of the province or out of the country, or charge a premium if they do. Most of the larger rental companies will allow cross border travel.

Ensure that the car rental company notes on the rental agreement that they authorize you to take the car into the US. You may be asked by Customs when entering the US, or when re-entering Canada, for this documentation.

How long do you have for this trip ? The route you have planned is a minimum of 1736 miles / 2795 km.

Best Regards

Wales, United...
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2. Re: Driving from Calgary to Montana(US)

Thank you for the information. We've got up to five weeks for the trip, but would like to spend a few days in each place. Haven't yet worked out complete details, just thought I'd look for suggestions of 'must visit' places!

Thanks

Calgary, Canada
Destination Expert
for Waterton Lakes National Park, Nelson
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3. Re: Driving from Calgary to Montana(US)

Five weeks would be a great amount of time for a trip like this! Here's a really rough outline of a possible route for your proposed trip. It will take you through plenty of nice scenery and "off the beaten path". For the most part I have travelled on all of the roads I am recommending. Print out these suggestions and follow along with a map, to get an idea of the suggested areas:

I would drive south from Calgary to Waterton Lakes NP, spend a couple of days exploring Waterton, and then cross the US border at the Chief Mountain crossing and enter Glacier NP at St Mary. Plan to spend 2 to 3 days in GNP. See the Going to the Sun Road and drive it from one end to the other to see the entire road. If you are not interested in hiking, you will probably be ready to leave GNP after a couple of days. Waterton and Glacier are both popular for their hiking trails but the scenery is breathtaking as well.

From GNP (West Glacier) I would follow highway 2 to Columbia Falls and then south to Evergreen. Take highway 35 to Bigfork and drive along the east shore of Flathead Lake to Polson. Come back north on the west side of Flathead Lake via highway 93 to Kalispell. This could be a leisurely 2 day trip. You could also cut this little detour and head directly to Kalispell from GNP.

At Kalispell, follow highway 2 west to Libby. You might be interested in detouring about 10 miles north of Libby on highway 37 to see the Libby Dam. From Libby continue west to Troy, Montana. This is a nice smaller highway that meanders through forested areas and generally follows one river or another for most of its length. At Troy, take highway 56 south, detouring to visit the Ross Creek Cedars area on the way. At the intersection of highway 200, head west to Sandpoint and Lake Pend Oreille.

It's an easy hour drive from Sandpoint to Coeur d'Alene on highway 95. The CDA area is situated on Coeur d'Alene Lake and there is plenty to do in the area. But if this doesn't interest you then I would recommend that you instead take the more scenic highway 2 from Sandpoint west in Washington. At the Washington border (Newport, WA) take highway 20 north along the river to Tiger and then south to Colville and Kettle Falls. Follow highway 25 south from Kettle Falls to Miles. This is a pretty winding highway that follows Lake Roosevelt for most of its length. At Miles take the cut off road to Creston, WA and make your way west again on the #2 highway. You might also want to detour north a short distance to visit the Grand Coulee Dam, the largest dam in North America. From Grand Coulee, follow highway 155 south along the lake to Coulee City and get back on the #2 highway there. Follow #2 to Wenatchee and then to Seattle. This will avoid the freeway route into Seattle and will be more relaxed.

After your time in Seattle make your way north to Vancouver BC and cross back into Canada either at the Blaine or Sumas border crossings.

This is getting to be a long post, so I will continue in a new one.

Calgary, Canada
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for Waterton Lakes National Park, Nelson
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4. Re: Driving from Calgary to Montana(US)

I'm assuming that you would be planning this trip outside of our winter months and am making driving recommendations based on that assumption. Some of these roads would not be driveable from roughly early October until mid-June, FYI.

After spending some time in the Vancouver area and Vancouver Island, I would work your way north to Whistler on highway 99 the Sea to Sky Highway. Drive this road all the way to Cache Creek. It is a really breathtaking drive as well. At Cache Creek, follow #1 highway to Kamloops and then #5 north to Clearwater, Wells Gray Prov Park, and then finally Jasper NP.

After a few days exploring Jasper NP, make your way south to Lake Louise and Banff, both in Banff NP, via the Icefields Parkway. From here, it is an easy 2 hour drive from Banff back to the Calgary International Airport for your flight home.

As far as timing for this route, you could see Waterton, GNP, Flathead Lake and Sandpoint in week 1, allow up to 5 days to get from Flathead Lake to Seattle, spend 3 days in the Seattle area, 2 days for Vancouver and 6 for the Island (including Tofino), 2 days to get to Clearwater, 1 day in Wells Gray PP, 3 days in Jasper, 1 day to drive to Banff, 4 days in Banff and day 35 in Calgary.

This is very rough. It depends on how much driving you want to do in a day. If you want to cut back on the driving then you would have to downsize the proposed area to see. You could cut out the loop around Flathead Lake, cut out the northern loop from Sandpoint to Kettle Falls and instead go straight west towards Seattle, cut Wells Gray back to only a couple of hours (enough to see Helmeken Falls) or cut out this stop altogether. But it's a good starting point to give you an idea of what's possible with the time you have. Above all, the roads I have suggested are very scenic and for the most part a little more relaxed.

If you'd like to see photos and information for many of the areas I have suggested, have a look at my travel web page:

http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/m/

Feel free to look at any pages there that interest you.

I hope this helps.

- CG

5. Re: Driving from Calgary to Montana(US)

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