Calgary to Glacier National Park

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Mar 27th, 2003, 03:49 PM
  #1
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Calgary to Glacier National Park

We're planning to fly into Calgary and then drive to Glacier National Park. After that we intend to visit Banff and Jasper National Parks. My question is, how long will it take to drive (in mid-July, so assuming nice weather) from Calgary to the west entrance of GNP? Is this a long drive for one day? Do you suggest we take the Going to the Sun Road to get there? Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
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Mar 27th, 2003, 07:27 PM
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I am assuming you mean the US Glacier National Park. (There is one in Canada; on the Trans Canada Highway between Golden and Revelstoke.)
I am not sure I understand your question about the Sun Road? Where do you intend to go when you take the Sun Road, other than to the other side of the Park??
The distance from the Calgary airport to Waterton National Park is about 175=180 miles. From Waterton to St. Marys is about another 50. If you go through Cardston and bypass Waterton, which is the Canadian side of the same geologic marvel, you trim off about 12 to 15 miles.

The road as far as Ft. McLeod is very good. After that is slows a little, but not much.

I really think you are in need of a good road map. It would answer all of your questions and then some.

To be honest with you, I was in Glacier last year and drove to Calgary. But I did not time it. We started from the west side of the park, went over Logan Pass, and drove through Cardston to Calgary.

How do you plan on going to Banff from Glacier??

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Mar 27th, 2003, 07:51 PM
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Hi,

I suspect that you mean Glacier National Park in British Columbia which should take about 4 hours (343 km) if you don't stop on the way.
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Mar 27th, 2003, 07:55 PM
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Thanks so much for your reply. Yes - I meant the US Glacier National Park - I should have made myself clear. We're thinking about spending a couple of days on the west side of Glacier and then two to three days on the east side so we could also have an opportunity to visit Waterton NP. My map says that from St. Mary to West Glacier is 52 miles, but I didn't know time-wise how long this trip was. As to how we plan to go to Banff from Glacier, I have seen a posting (perhaps yours) that suggested the Rt6/Pincher Creek/Rt 22/ Rt 541/ Rt40 route. Again, any suggestions are appreciated.
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Mar 28th, 2003, 07:33 AM
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Hello there Jane Sch. I don't have much encouragement for you about motels on the west side of Glacier. The motel/lodge situation is somewhat grim. Last summer I stated at the Mini Golden Inn in Hungry Horse. It was barely acceptable, and expensive for what we got.

My first choice was the Timbers Motel in Big Fork, but it was sold out for one of the nights I wanted. So I took a chance on the Hungry Horse place.

I think if I had to do it again I would do one of three things:
stay at Lake McDonald Lodge in the park if it still had a vacancy, stay at the Essex Inn on the south side of the park, or go to Big Fork.

It is not a short drive to Glacier from Big Fork, but it is interesting.
The old town part has a theater and a few good restaurants.

One year I tried Whitefish, but it is a long drive from Glacier. The town itself is nice, upscale in fact, and motel prices reflect the status.

The east side of Glacier is not much better. All of the accomodations in the park are marginal. The cabins and the hotel around Many Glacier are old and the last time I was there, marginal. The Rising Sun motel like place on the east side was OK--. (OK with minus signs after it.)

My son and his wife decided on one of the cabins at Many Glacier. Their attitude was this: What the heck. We are here to see Glacier. There are quite a few attractions at Many Glacier
that we want to see. A cabin beats a tent, so here we are.

The one wild card is the lodge/inn at St. Marys outside of the park. At one time it was lousy, but it has been redone. I did not investigate it last summer, but now I wish I had.

Last summer I stayed at the Shintangle Bed and Breakfast north of Waterton.
It is an ok place, but it is isolated somewhat. You can watch deer wander through the fields. As B and B's go, this one is pretty darned good. The owner is a lawyer who designed the building to be a bed and breakfast. The guests stay in a separate wing of the house and the rooms are spacious.

The drive from Shintangle to the Waterton townsite is not very long in time because there is nothing much to slow you up except the park gate.

Motels in Waterton itself are ok, but a little pricey. You get a decent place to stay, but you pay for it. The Kilmorey is good as is the Aspen-Windflower. There are some other places there I have not seen on the inside, but I have heard that they are good.

There are some accommodations in the town of East Glacier, which is located on the southeast corner of the park. I have never stayed there.

If you are there to see the park, I think you have to take what you can find and put up with it. That is one park where it is hard to have your cake and eat it too.

You asked about the road from Waterton to the entrance to Glacier that leads to the Sun Road. You can cover the 50 miles fairly fast because there are no little towns to go through. The biggest delay is at the border crossing station. The US officials ask so many questions that a backlog of 4 or 5 cars is not uncommon. At about 4 minutes per vehicle, it can take you 20 minutes to get through.

The situation is such that experienced border crossers drive like maniacs to pass every car they before they reach the border crossing. They know every car they beat saves them about 5 minutes. Silly business, but that is the reality of it all.

I forgot to say earlier: Take your PASSPORT. I know, the passport is not reqired, but even with a passport I got quizzed by the guy at the gate.

The Canadians, on the other hand, asked the routine questions about firearms, liquor, and tobacco and why you were entering Canada.

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Mar 28th, 2003, 07:36 AM
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I am so verbose I had to divide this.
The route I described earlier from Waterton/Pincher Creek to Banff is the one I suggest as first choice.

Take route 22 from its junction with route 3 west of Pincher Creek. At Longview turn west on route 541. It turns into route 40 north and leads to the Trans Canada east of Banff and Canmore. 40 itself is a pretty drive.
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Mar 28th, 2003, 08:13 AM
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Bob: Thanks so much for your advice. I shall look into your suggestions for lodging. Also, thanks for the reminder about bringing our passports. Last year we travelled to Vancouver and Vancouver Island and our passports really helped expedite our border crossing.
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Mar 28th, 2003, 09:09 AM
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Bob Brown said <There are some accommodations in the town of East Glacier, which is located on the southeast corner of the park. I have never stayed there.> Just for completeness, we have stayed there. East Glacier is a stop for Amtrak’s Empire Builder train. There is one up scale lodging choice, the Glacier Park Lodge, built by the Great Northern Railroad. For the rest, there are a bunch of 1960s style mom & pop motels. Good Mexican restaurant on the main street directly across from the train station!
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Mar 28th, 2003, 12:11 PM
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I grew up in Bigfork, the Timbers there is your basic hotel/motel and for what you get, a room with two beds, it is pricey but not nearly as pricey as most of the accomodation around the Flathead Lake.

You must book in advance to have a room. Never in this area rely on drop in. It is a busy tourist area and as such, most motels etc. are booked up months in advance.

Waterton, the Kilmorey is my favorite there for $ for value and location. Waterton Glacier Suites are very very nice but expensive. I have stayed there while working for the owners, they have jacuzzis, but don't expect 100 channel tv. It is the mountains after all. Nice balconies etc. - when I was there, the mosquitos were quite bad so bring some repellant.

The Bayshore is right on the lake, reasonable but pretty basic however, they do have a pub and restaurant that is ok. The Kilmorey has better food, but again not cheap. If you don't care about your room being luxurious, this would be your best bet.

You can easily walk in Waterton to the Kilmorey for dinner, to the old theatre for a movie, Waterton is very small. The beds and rooms at the Bayshore are clean and comfortable.

East or West Glacier, not very good restaurants, not great places to stay and big bucks, these have been tourist towns for so long that they know they have you.

The lodges in either of these two places are interesting to visit but don't expect a great deal for your dollar. Just my humble opinion.

If you want to visit the Flathead Valley, probably your best $ for value would be Columbia Falls or Kalispell, neither are great places but from there you can easily travel to Bigfork, Whitefish, etc.

If it were me doing this trip, I would stay in Waterton and travel the Going to the Sun Highway and then back to Waterton. I wouldn't stay in either East or West Glacier. That would be an easy day trip and a very scenic one.

We frequently travel from Lethbridge to the US border crossing at St. Mary, travel over the Going to the Sun Highway and back in a day, it is a nice drive.
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Mar 30th, 2003, 09:06 AM
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Thank you everyone for taking the time to respond to my inquiry. We shall discuss all the suggestions/recommendations in a family meeting (we have two children, ages 16 and 20) and hopefully will come to some consensus. We look forward to our visit.
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Apr 11th, 2003, 10:43 AM
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We are in the early stages of planning the identical trip and wonder what route you decided take and how long you expect each leg of the trip to be. It would be terrific if you would share your itinerary with us. Thanks.
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