Great Falls, Glacier NP & Montana next June

Old Jun 24th, 2012, 08:30 AM
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Great Falls, Glacier NP & Montana next June

We are in the planning stages of this trip. We will fly to Great Falls on Sunday. If Frontier's schedule is the same next year, we will arrive around 10:30 AM.

I am thinking of driving to Lake McDonald (31/2 hours) as a base for exploring Glacier. We will stay there Sunday, Monday, & Tuesday nights.

On Wednesday we will leave Glacier on the west side and drive to Missoula and spend the night. On Thursday we will make our way to Great Falls, driving through Helena.

As long as we get to Great Falls by dark, we will be pleased. We will then spend Friday and Saturday in Great Falls, before flying home on Sunday. We intend to be in Great Falls for the Lewis & Clark festival, which is the last weekend in June this year.

Does this sound like a reasonable plan?
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Old Jun 25th, 2012, 06:02 AM
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Lake McDonald is certainly a beautiful spot in Glacier, but the east side of the park is much more scenic, especially the Many Glacier area. If you plan on doing any hiking at all, there's where you'll want to be based. The drive from the west side (Lake McDonald) to the east side can be 2+ hours because of the consruction on the Going to the Sun Road, so you will be spending a lot of time on the road if you stay at Lake McDonald.

I would drive from Great Falls to Many Glacier and base out of there. Your last day you could spend driving the GTTS Road to Lake McDonald with some short hikes along the way: Hidden Lake Overlook, Virginia Falls. If you don't want to stay in a park lodge, there are cabins in the St. Mary/Babb area.

Here's some great information on Glacier and some of the top trails you may want to explore:

http://www.hikinginglacier.com/about...ional-park.htm
http://www.hikinginglacier.com/glaci...-ten-hikes.htm
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Old Jun 25th, 2012, 06:34 AM
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Have you checked which airlines fly to Kalispell and their schedules? I have rented a car from Kalispell after arriving in Whitefish by train.
The GTTS road just opened last week. Last year it did not open until sometime in July.
If you go north on US 89 on the east side, beware of horses on the road near Mile Post 20. On June 1 we were allowed to drive 17 miles up GTTS road from St. Mary. I was hoping to reach Logan Pass
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Old Jun 25th, 2012, 06:50 AM
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I don't see GTF on Frontiers list of destinations.

I just booked a flight for an upcoming trip to GNP. We're staying in Many Glacier (Swiftcurrent) for two nights and saint Mary Lake (Rising Sun).

I decided to concentrate on the east side of the park.

I checked the driving distance from Kalispell (3 hours to Swiftcurrent), Great Falls (3 hours) and Calgary (4 hours).

Calgary has many more flights to choose from with only one plane change from FLL. I decided on that approach.
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Old Jun 25th, 2012, 07:56 AM
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OP: June is early. The later in June the better if you plsn to drive Going-to-the-Sun, although the southern route around the bottom of the park is pleasant enough, especially if you like trains!

Myer, are there any issues bringing the car across the border? I wouldn't think so if you are returning it in Calgary, but you will need to be careful on insurance coverages.
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Old Jun 25th, 2012, 08:20 AM
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I would be cautious about the Frontier flights. Frontier is brand new to GTF, and they are running limited flights for this summer, but with no guarantee that they will continue to service Great Falls after this summer. I hope they do, but they haven't confirmed that they will continue to stay in Great Falls.

I think I would try to base one day out of Many Glacier and one day out of St. Mary's. Then you'll get to see both sides of the park.

It takes about 2.5 hours to drive from Missoula to Great Falls if you go through Helena. It can be faster and more scenic to drive from Missoula to Great Falls on hwy 200 over Roger's Pass. It's also shorter, but you're likely to run into a lot of RV and boat traffic (people on their way to the Seeley-Swan area), so it can sometimes be faster to run through Helena as you'll drive more 4 lane roads than 2 lane highways.
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Old Jun 25th, 2012, 09:15 AM
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Meyer, was the route you checked from Kalispell via US 2 all the way into Browning and then north on US 89? If the GTTS road is open from Apgar to St. Mary it would be much quicker and shorter to get to Many Glacier.
I also enjoyed the road over the mountains from East Glacier past Two Medicine Lake to Kiowa.
I don't know which airlines fly to the various airports mentioned. Being tied to one particular airline (Frontier) and making that the only criteria for flying to a particular airport is not my style.
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Old Jun 25th, 2012, 10:09 AM
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Going to the Sun Road opened this year in June. But I think that ia more of a rarity than the norm. June is Big Gamble, IMOP. Even 1st of July is a gamble.
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Old Jun 26th, 2012, 04:04 AM
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Thanks for all of your suggestions. We have decided to change our plans a bit. We are flying Frontier because we will both soon have enough points for a reward ticket. If Great Falls doesn't work, we can fly to Bozeman, although it won't be as convenient.

We are both history buffs and have visited many of the L & C historic sites. Great Falls is a must. This year their festival is the last weekend in June. If we make GF the first stop on our trip, that will put us in Glacier around the 1st of July. If GTTS road isn't open, we will have to adjust our plans.

We are thinking of leaving GF on Sunday morning and driving up to Waterton (we have passports). Is it worth the drive to spend part of Sunday and Monday there? We would then drive down to East Glacier and spend Monday and Tuesday nights there. From there we will drive to the west side of Glacier. Any suggestions for where to stay?

We are not hikers. Short ranger-led hikes are okay, but no long hikes. We would like to do a couple of the boat tours. Which ones are the best? I know we will need to make reservations in advance.

On Thursday we are going to Missoula Mt. I have a childhood friend who lives there that I haven't seen in several years. We would like to drive south to the VC at Lolo Pass.

I'm not sure about the rest of your plans yet. We can fly home on Saturday or Sunday. It just depends on which airport we use and what we want to do in the Missoula and Helena areas. I have downloaded travel info from both cities and need to look through it.

Any thoughts or suggestions on this plan would be welcome.
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Old Jun 26th, 2012, 05:16 AM
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Sounds like a great trip to me. I have done Missoula-Waterton-Missoula and stayed in East Glacier. All were fantastic.
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Old Jun 26th, 2012, 07:02 AM
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My recent trip to the east side of Glacier was arriving in Cut Bank Montana about 6PM on the Empire Builder and spending the night at Glacier Inn. We started out the next morning in our rental car and drove through Browning to get to St. Mary. After the trip 17 miles up GTTS road, we drove back down via Two Medicine Lake to East Glacier. We went past Marias Pass and the Goat lick to the area of the Isaac Walton Lodge.
On the way back through,on US 2 we stopped in Browning to see the Museum of the Plains Indian. We returned our rental car to the Amtrak lot and boarded the Empire Builder at 6:15PM.
We arrived in Spokane before 2AM.
If you wanted to travel by train overnight you could fly to Spokane and take the train to either Whitefish or East Glacier.
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Old Jun 26th, 2012, 08:32 AM
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Ackislander,
There shouldn't be a problem since the car is starting and ending in Calgary. Geico sent me an international insurance card in case of a difference.


tomfuller,
I checked both ways from Kalispell. While it's shorter in distance taking GTTS road it's not faster.

Calgary to Swiftcurrent is slightly under 4 hours.
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