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September 2009 Montana Road Trip, Input Needed

Eldon, Missouri
Level Contributor
25 posts
September 2009 Montana Road Trip, Input Needed

Hi all,

I`m in the planning stages for a Sept 2009 road

trip to Montana, with the main destination being

Glacier. We`ll (my wife and I) be coming from Eldon, Mo which is just north of Lake of the Ozarks. We have 17 days and will be leaving Sept 13. I know it`s probably better to do this earlier, but this is the best we can do. I`m a piano bar entertainer and summer is lucrative at the lake.

A little bit about us. We`re 53, in OK shape

(we`re not athletes though). Our interests are (not

necessarily in this order) scenery and scenic

driving, hikes under 5 miles, fishing (from shore,

we don`t have flyrods or waders), history and

culture, interesting towns, nature and wildlife,

Lewis and Clark and pretty much anything western.

We`d also like to keep the cost of accommodations

down to under $100 per night (under $80 would be

even better). We went to Yellowstone in 2007 so we

just have a quick run through there scheduled as we

plan on going back in a few years. Also, we`re going

to do South Dakota on another trip, so we`re pretty much just going through it.

Anyway, I`ll just throw out my initial itinerary

(actually it`s about my 15th already lol), and leave

it up to you guys to tell me where to go, what to

see and do, where to stay, where to eat, cool routes

to take etc.... It`s cold here with snow on the

ground, so it`s a good time of year to pipe dream

about a vacation. Already can`t wait to go!


Day 1: Eldon, Mo-Sioux Falls, SD

Day 2: Sioux Falls-Miles City, MT

Day 3: Miles City-Helena

Day 4: Helena-Polson

Day 5: Polson

Day 6: Polson-East Glacier

Day 7: E Glacier

Day 8: E Glacier

Day 9: West Glacier (not sure where)

Day 10: West Glacier

Day 11: W Glacier-Great Falls

Day 12: Great Falls-Ennis

Day 13: Ennis

Day 14: Ennis-Dubois, WY thru Yellowstone and GT

Day 15: Dubois-Cheyenne

Day 16: Cheyenne-Broken Bow NE or Grand Island

Day 17: Home

There it is. Let me know what you`d do or have

done or would change. I look forward to hearing from

you. And I`ll post a trip report when I get back

next year. Thanks in advance.......Tony

New York City
Level Contributor
4,232 posts
71 reviews
1. Re: September 2009 Montana Road Trip, Input Needed

Hi Tony !!! Great plans and a great trip ahead of you. Hope your Summer pans out. Here's a link to the Lewis and Clark NPS Trail.Remember your National Park pass. There is a wonderful map of scenic roads in the USA, with travel info. You can request it free.



Miles City is one of my favorite western towns, big sky, some old original saloons and a museum.


Helena has the Montana Historical Society and a Capitol building with a large Russell painting, well worthwhile.


Near Polson is the National Bison range at Moiese.

Great Falls is the home and CM russell, cowboy artist, and museum.


There is also the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center. About one hour from Great falls is Fort Benton, a very historic town on the Missouri, a protected river there, with some wonderful museums, Lewis and Clark sculptures and a nice river walk.


Not far from Ennis are two significant Lewis and Clark sites, Camp Fortunate and Lemhi Pass.

The Ennis-Dubois drive should be spectacular, with the wildlife and scenery.

Unless you have any specific preferences, I think you may be able to save some time and driving if you visited all the places east of Glacier first and then headed south after Glacier to Polson and Ennis.

Or maybe, like most of us, the more time spent out west the better.

Have a great time. I have enjoyed replying !!!!!

Uden, The...
Destination Expert
for Road Trips
Level Contributor
60,942 posts
42 reviews
2. Re: September 2009 Montana Road Trip, Input Needed

Great trip, love it. Will you be driving us12 through eastern Montana (recommended) or the interstate to Helena? Also definitely visit East Glacier first. Many road constructions on GTTS road through Glacier. You could encounter snow all year there. We had snow end of August/begin of september some years ago on Logan Pass. www.nps.gov/glac.Also see Miracle of America Museum in Polson. The local Best Western makes a nice stay in Polson. Right by the lake! The stretch from Moran to Dubois is very scenic. Remember, its DUH-boys, not Dubois the French pronounce it!


Destination Expert
for Glacier National Park
Level Contributor
3,375 posts
106 reviews
3. Re: September 2009 Montana Road Trip, Input Needed

I would stay in Many Glacier instead of East Glacier. Much closer access to hiking and the scenery is great. If I looked at your trip correctly you should be able to stay at Many Glacier right before it closes for the season (Sept 21) I don't think the boat tours will be open at that time of year. In the Many Glacier/Swiftcurrent area you can hike to Grinnell Lake, 7 miles RT or 2 if the boat is operating. There will be minimal elevation change if you have to hike the entire length. I would recommend going to the glacier but this involves elevation gain and is about 11 miles, which is farther than you wanted. Also Fishercap Lake and Redrock Falls. The trip to the falls would be about 4 miles RT and Fishercap is off the same trail about a half mile into the hike. It is a great spot to see wildlife. Apikuni Falls is on the road going into Many Glacier and is 2 miles RT but has an elevation change of 800 or so feet. Also stop at the Two Medicine area and see Running Eagle Falls.

The last couple of years the GTTSR has closed Sept.15 for work. I think that is also the plan for '09. You should still be able to access Logan Pass from one side or the other. On the Sun Rd. hike to St. Mary and Virginia Falls, about 3-4 miles RT. Also at least go to Hidden Lake Overlook, 3 miles RT at Logan pass. Part of this hike is on a boardwalk and has a lot of steps. If you can't cross the park on GTTSR you will have to use Highway 2 to the south of the park.

I think all lodging on the West side will be closed except for Apgar Village Lodge (not the Village Inn which is run by a park concessionaire). On this side of the park hike the Trail of Cedars and Avalanche Lake, 4 miles RT. Also Apgar Lookout is 6 miles RT. It offers a great view of the Lake McDonald area. The hike itself goes thru a burn area and isn't too scenic.

Those are just my thoughts and I'm sure you will get other suggestions to mull over. Make your lodging reservations soon. Call instead of using the web. Sometimes rooms are available that aren't listed on the web. Many Glacier will exceed your $100 limit but I think it's worth it, or you could try Johnson's Motel or Thronson's to be closer to the Many Glacier area than East Glacier but not in park. We love to go in Sept. Less crowded. Two Sisters on the road to Many Glacier is a good place to eat as is Two Dog Flats at Rising Sun, but that one may be closed. Johnson's also has a pretty good restaurant. Please post any additional questions. Have a great trip.

Eldon, Missouri
Level Contributor
25 posts
4. Re: September 2009 Montana Road Trip, Input Needed

Thanks for the quick responses! I`ll reply in detail when I have more time. Keep those cards and letters comin`!.............Tony

Dallas, Texas
Level Contributor
2,459 posts
55 reviews
5. Re: September 2009 Montana Road Trip, Input Needed

Depending on what your interest is in Ennis another option might be 12 from Hellena to the freeway and from there to Livingston and 89 down to Chico Hot Springs and spending a day there. Good hiking and river fishing in the Yellowstone R. Great odor free hot mineral pools and an amazing restaurant. Rooms in the old lodge start at $49 for shared bath ($89 private) but they book up far in advance. An early start on Day 14 with breakfast in Gardiner and then a straight shot down through YNP and GTNP to Moran Jct.

Some input for the Wyoming portions...

Day 14...why Dubois? As best as I can recall there is not much there and probably limited accomodations unless there is a B&B or Ranch or something not obvious from the road. There would probably be more choice down towards Riverton or Lander. About 66 miles farther to either.

Day 15...from Lander take 287 towards Muddy Gap or from Riverton take 135 to 287 (Sandy Draw cutoff...decent road and saves many miles). At Muddy Gap junction with 220 do be sure to take the short side trip on 220 to Independence Rock and climb/walk to the top to view the best of the pioneer carvings. I'm 53 too and it's not hard at all to go up there. Very historic. Great view too. Not much else there....more of a roadside rest area.

Back to 287 and across the Great Divide Basin (drains to no ocean) and I-80. If at all possible and time and weather permit try to go to Laramie via 130 through Saratoga and over the Snowy Range Scenic Byway. Really spectacular mountains. Here's a link to pic I took a few years ago: tripadvisor.com/…16989608

The restaurants at the Saratoga Inn or the Wolf Hotel would both be good lunch stops. For that matter Cheyenne to Grand Is. NE is not that far so spending at night at the Saratoga Inn and using the hot spring pools might be well worth it although the rates are closer to $100/nt. The very historic Wolf Hotel is around $60/nt but not as fancy and no hot spring pools...although the town has a free hot pool. Then find a midway point between there and home for Day 16.

Calgary, Canada
Destination Expert
for Waterton Lakes National Park, Nelson
Level Contributor
2,705 posts
103 reviews
6. Re: September 2009 Montana Road Trip, Input Needed

You have already received some great advice from previous posters, and I have little to add other than to suggest, since you mention enjoying history and interesting towns, that you might want to visit Virginia City, a short drive west of Ennis, while you are in that area.

The town of Bigfork, along Flathead Lake between Polson and Glacier is an interesting town. It is on the east side of Flathead Lake.

I would also try to visit the Lewis and Clark Caverns, east of Butte and north of Ennis.

Eldon, Missouri
Level Contributor
25 posts
7. Re: September 2009 Montana Road Trip, Input Needed

OK gang, here`s the first round of comments and questions.

NYC, thanks for all the links. Especially Miles City. I just picked it as an over nighter on the way out. Now it looks like we`ll have to check it out a bit before we leave. Any advice on a place to stay where we could walk to one of the saloons?

Tet, yes I plan on taking US 12. Once I get out there, I`m gonna try to stay off the interstates as much as possible.

Hikes, thanks for all the Glacier info. Especially the hikes and staying info. Sounds like we should suck it up and hike to the glacier one of the days we`re there lol!

Sequim, great info on the Wyoming portion. I`ll definitely take your advice. As far as Ennis over Chico Hot Springs, I just picked it because we`d like to see Virginia and Nevada Cities. And we`re not big on the hot springs thing. I can still be convinced though.

Camping Girl, yea I`ve though about Big Fork.

OK now the questions. First let me preface this by saying that I`ve never been to any of these places except for a 10 day trip in June 2007 to Yellowstone and GTNP.

Should I stay on the east side of Glacier all five days? I`ll probably push Polson back to after Glacier. Should I go through Great Falls and or Fort Benton on my way to Glacier from Helena. Would Great Falls/Fort Benton be a better over nighter on the way to Glacier than Helena? If so, Great Falls or Fort Benton?

Polson or Big Fork? How about Libby or Troy? I might steal one of my big city overnighters and one of my lake nights to hit this area if ya`ll thought it was worth it.

That`s it for now. I`m sure I`ll have more questions and decisions to make between now and then. Thanks a bunch and keep the input coming!!.......Tony

Destination Expert
for Glacier National Park
Level Contributor
3,375 posts
106 reviews
8. Re: September 2009 Montana Road Trip, Input Needed

I like the east side of Glacier because I love the Many Glacier area for hiking. If you are there though, I wouldn't miss the west side. I think Avalanche Lake is well worth it. If you want to stay on the east side you can easily travel to the west side and see Lake McDonald and hike Avalanche as a day trip, be it on the GTTSR or highway 2. It sounds like a great trip with way too many things to see and do!! You may have to plan on a return trip!!

New York City
Level Contributor
4,232 posts
71 reviews
9. Re: September 2009 Montana Road Trip, Input Needed

Hi Tony !!! Regarding the Helena, Great Falls, Fort Benton choices. Coming from NYC, I like experiencing the small town feel when I travel, especially out west. Helena and Great Falls are larger type cities or towns, Fort Benton is a river town, really nice. I put in a link to the Hornaday Smithsonian Buffalo collection in Fort Benton. NYC and the Bronx Zoo were very instrumental in helping preserve the buffalo, a great symbol of America. Each of the three are fine to stay at, it's just your preferences.


Near Helena going north to Great Falls is the Gates of the Mountains, and in September they have occasional boat trips. real fun.


Getting back to Miles City, while there check on the Huffman photo's. You get to see the old west in black and white, real fabulous.

Well, I sent you out on the Lewis and Clark trail, and I like going back on the Oregon trail, so here's a link


You're going to be near Cheyenne, so a little bit further will take you to the Guernsey Oregon Trail Ruts and state park, and neaby Chimney Rock and Scots Bluff. Cheyenne has a very historic rail depot and capital building.

Have a great time & Happy Trails !!

Eldon, Missouri
Level Contributor
25 posts
10. Re: September 2009 Montana Road Trip, Input Needed

Hikes, thanks. I`m thinking about staying on the east side and making a day trip to the west side.

NYC, thanks again for all the info. I`m leaning towards Fort Benton instead of Helena for my third day. I planned on hitting some Oregon trail sites on my way home. Thanks for the links.

I`d like to hear about extreme NW Montana if anyone has any info. The little I`ve scoured on this site about it has me intrigued. Also, anybody that has fishing info.

Keep it comin`. I`m like a kid waitin` on Christmas! Thanks again..........Tony