Calgary to Glacier, help with itinerary

Old Jan 20th, 2005, 07:21 PM
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Calgary to Glacier, help with itinerary

Just starting to plan a trip to Glacier either, pre or post summer break, want to avoid the crowds as much as possible.

We're planning on tent camping and possibly backcountry camping in Glacier, however we're looking for something on the front end and back end of the trip that gives us a little town life.

Flying into Calgary, out of Kalispell.

1) How many days would you spend in the park? does 5 sound like enough to see a lot?
2) Is Kalispell similar to Jackson, WY? Looking for something kind of similar for the back end of our trip.
3) Calgary to Glacier - what are the must see areas?
4) Besides hiking in Glacier, which we plan to do primarily, any other activity rec's (rafting, kayaking, horseback riding) that you found particularly fun.

Thanks for your help!!!
get_outside is offline  
Old Jan 20th, 2005, 09:09 PM
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How are you traveling from Calgary to Kalispell?

If by rental car, have you priced the cost of dropping the car in a different country?

International dropping will more than double your rental fee.

Hertz, for example, increases the charge from $500 a week to $1210 - Canadian dollars.

I presume you mean Glacier National Park US. In between Calgary and Glacier is Waterton NP in Canada and the famous Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump which has been well described on the Canadian side.

Do you need 5 days in Glacier? Well, yes. I suggest you hike over Gunsight Pass to Lincoln Lake and then up and over the pass to the Sperry Glacier remains. It is spectacular. You can continue downhill from there all the way to Lake McDonald Lodge, or retrace your steps to get back to your car.

Or hike as far north along the Highline trail as you can. There is a hiker facility at Granite Park. You will need reservations there and at other campgrounds as well.

Kalispell is nothing like Jackson. Why would you think it would be? It is not a mountain town. Whitefish is a little more touristy than Kalispell; so is Big Fork.
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Old Jan 24th, 2005, 04:01 PM
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If you're flying into Calgary, does that mean that you'll be spending some time in Banff/Jasper? If not, then you are really missing something. In that case, don't bother with Glacier, stay in Canada. Otherwise, you might go down to Waterton Park, spend a night there, then go on down to Glacier (you can stay inside the park, the 2 are connected). Unless you're a hiker, 5 days IMO is too long for Glacier. brookwood's question about the rental car is very important. We planned a trip there in 2003; in the beginning, we were thinking much the same. In the end, we used Calgary for beginning and ending. This fall, same thing, only we'll go in/out of Seattle and do a cross country Vancouver/Victoria - Banff/Jasper and back (2 weeks).
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Old Jan 25th, 2005, 04:17 AM
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Being a native of Kalispell, I can only speak from that perspective. It's true regarding the rental car. What you should do is fly into Kalispell and drive it round trip. There is so much to do in GNP/Banff area -- take your time and enjoy the sights.

I think five days is sufficient -- if you can book a room at either the Lake McDonald Lodge, or the Inn at St. Mary's both are beautiful. As far as camping goes, you will want to check with the Park Rangers - tourists love bears, but the two don't mix - especially when they are in your camp. For activities, I highly recommend white water rafting - Glacier Raft Co. is on the right, just as you enter the park. My husband and I got married two years ago and we had a bunch of people in town from Italy and the East Coast - rafting was definately a highlight! You should also venture down to Bigfork - it's a little village on Flathead Lake (largest fresh water lake west of the Mississippi)but don't plan on swimming, it's freezing 360 days of the year!

What time of year, are you planning on going - it's crazy in June, July and August -- I would recommend going late August/early September.

Have a great trip!
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Old Jan 25th, 2005, 04:34 AM
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How many days do you have? Unless you're totally into hiking exclusively, i would spend three days in Glacier and one in Waterton. (We saw the most wildlife in Waterton where the bears were everywhere). That will allow time to explore Banff and Jasper, both are spectacular! Be sure to make time for the Columbia Icefields Parkway, truly one of the most stunning drives in north america.

Kalispell is a delightful little town but not as big or upscale as Jackson.

On a side note, we found Canada's Glacier NP underwhelming after spending time in Banff and Jasper.
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Old Jan 25th, 2005, 05:50 AM
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Our favorite hike in Glacier (we didn't do any really long ones) was to Avalanche Lake - a beautiful colored lake surrounded by mountains with waterfalls cascading down.

We are planning a trip back to Glacier this Aug. to fill in some holes we left last time we went. We want to go to Many Glacier to see Grinnell Lake. We're also planning on white water rafting in West Glacier and mountain biking in Big Sky.

Brookwood - I've never been to Kalispell, but that is where we'll be flying in and out of this Aug. Can you not see the mountains from here? I assumed it's a "mountain town" b/c it's so close to Glacier and not far from Whitefish, where there's downhill skiing.
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Old Jan 25th, 2005, 05:54 AM
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I agree, Banff and Jasper are not something to miss. In addition to Lake Louise. I especially loved Jasper Park Lodge. It was wonderful, and beautiful.

In addition, I think that Calgary is a great city and should allow days there too. However, I am not sure when you are going, but flying into Calgary could be a problem because the calgary Stampede is in the summer. I have been there for the stampede, but cannot remember when it is.
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Old Jan 30th, 2005, 02:51 PM
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Stampede is July 8-17, 2005.
Their website is

There are other threads on Fodors so you might want to do a search.

Banff and Jasper should not be missed.
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Old Jan 30th, 2005, 03:39 PM
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I would not call Kalispell a mountain town. It is quite a few miles from Glacier NP, something like 32 miles by road to the park entrance.

There are some canyons and whatnot, but in terms of the main uplift of the Rockies themselves, you get that only in the park.

I think you should price your rental care carefully before signing on the dotted line. The last time I was in Kalispell, I found rental car prices high, or the car had a daily milage cap on it. Beyond the cap, I was charged by the mile.

Delta does fly into Kalispell from Salt Lake City and from Seattle. I think Alaska might have a flight or two in there from Seattle during the summer high.

Coming from the east, I fly to Calgary because it is a better setup. Besides, the Canadian Rockies are a first choice destination for me! Glacier is second.
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Old Feb 1st, 2005, 08:19 AM
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Thanks to all for your feedback. I think we're going to need to re-think the roundtrip vs multiple stops air travel due to the rental car situation.

We're thinking of targetting late May early June, in hopes of beating the summer vacationers. We'll see.

Thanks again, we're going to start our planning more seriously now, and all this info will be very helpful.
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