Help me plan a trip to Glacier NP

Old Dec 6th, 2004, 06:16 PM
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Help me plan a trip to Glacier NP

We will be visiting our son in Portland Oregon this Aug and thought about flying on to Kalispell to see Glacier NP. We will have 3-4 weeks. I am totally overwhelmed by the size of the park and the choices. Could someone recommend a specific itinerary for us. We like hikes (easy to moderate), bird/animal viewing, beautiful scenery, water sports and do not wish to spend a fortune for lodging. Although we do not need luxury we do find our aging bodies need comfortable beds and decent food. Please help ! SHould we think about going through the park to the Canadian Waterton? We have spent time in the Canadian Rockies-- in Lake Louise, Banfff, Icefields Pky, etc. Is Waterton Park similar?
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Old Dec 6th, 2004, 06:53 PM
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If you have 3-4 weeks, you definitely have to include Waterton NP in the itinerary. You won't need long there, we spent two nights and that worked out great for us. Waterton townsite is fairly concentrated in a small, walkable area. You will see tame deer roaming naturally throughout the town. Take the boat ride to Goat Haunt, take drives to Cameron Lake and Red Rock (or Red Canyon?), stroll through town on the path provided which goes around the lake and near a picturesque waterfall. Also many other available hiking options. I recommend dinner at the Lamp Post

We stayed in a suite at Glacier Suites and found them very accomodating with great rooms.
You can take a hike up to the Prince of Wales, but from our day visit, I wouldn't have been happy staying there, rooms looked old, small and not worth the price. Walk up for the views and snap a few photos instead.

As for needing comfortable beds, you probably won't find those in any of the park lodges of GNP. We stayed at the Glacier Park Lodge--rooms are very, very small, no a/c, no TV, you "might" get a fan if you request one, older furnishings, outdated plumbing not to mention a very small "double" bed--this is for about $160/night. If you stay here, you have a choice of the back side of the hotel, which is the afternoon sun side, and am sure the rooms will be quite steamy even in the evening, or the front side, which is across the street from the train station. We did get a fan for our window to block out the noise of the train station. This was definitely the worst night sleep on our whole trip. On the plus side, the lodge furnished some entertainment in the great lobby with a slide show of park scenes featuring a pianist and singing trio--the Nolans, they were incredible--this made the stay worth it!

We visited several other of the "park" lodges and most aren't any better than GP Lodge except for the lodge at St. Mary's, which is more updated, newer--but I can't vouch for the rooms. I've read both good and bad. If you want to stay here, or at any of the lodges, you should be booking soon.

We flew into Missoula, spent a night, then traveled to Great Falls for a night--great trail system that follows the Missouri River--great for biking, running, hiking and scenic. The falls were not operating last year due to the drought.

From there drove to Waterton for two days, back down, visited St. Mary's, Many Glacier and stayed over at GP Lodge. Drove the Going to the Sun Road--one of the most spectacular drives you will ever take. If you like to hike, there are many many options for hiking in the park, and many places to stop and maybe others here can give recommendations.

We also spent time in Whitefish, the trip up Big Mt. is worth it. At the very top, we got to sit out on the sun deck of the bar at the top and listen to a local musician play some tunes from Jimmy Buffet, Eagles, et. al. and with the breathtaking view, this was about as good as it gets!
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Old Dec 6th, 2004, 07:46 PM
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Basically, Glacier is a hiker's park. If you are not into that, then your choices are a little more limited -- one cross park road, the Sun Road, and a few boat rides.

My favorite hikes in the park are these:
Grinnell Glacier, Iceberg Lake, and the Highline Trail from Logan Pass.
Hidden Lake at Logan is also a nice short one.

In Waterton, the Crypt Lake hike is a blockbuster, but not for the out of shape.

The boat ride on the lake from Waterton is very nice. . It goes to the other end of Waterton lake and returns. I think it is very scenic.

The other advice on Waterton posted above by others is the same thing I would say, too. I think you are getting very good data there.

As for lodging, that is a problem.
Most of the lodging within Glacier is substandard. The Many Glacier Hotel is a dump, in my opinion. Read some of the other postings about it. I heard one person say that if it burned in the winter, thousands of lives would still be lost. All of them with 6 to 8 legs.

There is a new lodge just outside the entrance in st. Mary's that looks nice in pictures. I have not actually stayed there.

In Waterton, the Kilmorey is a good place; so is the Aspen. I have not stayed at the others so I cannot say.

I did stay at the Shintangle B and B north of the entrance toward Pincher Creek. It has 4 big rooms in a separate wing of the house. It is one place that was designed as a b and b.
It works out very well.

If you are not into hiking much, then your choices are more limited. There is the Sun Highway, or the Sun Road. It is spectacular to say the least.

There are also some boat rides on Lake McDonald and some of the others that are scenic. But the best one for my tastes is the one on Waterton Lake.
The late cruise is often the best one because of the better chances of seeing animals along the lake shore.

If you don't mind dirt roads, drive up to Kintla and Bowman Lakes. They are on the west side and quite a ways up the road. I drove up there several years ago and enjoyed it very much.

If you are wanting something out of the ordinary, and the price does not offend your budget, a walk up to Sperry Chalet and on up to the site of the Sperry Glacier, or over the pass to Lincoln Lake, is something of an adventure.
It is 6 plus miles up to the Chalet where you sleep in an old fashioned bunk and eat in the dining room.

I have been there 4 times, and that is enough. Some people like it; others hate it. They want no part of flashlights and no running hot water, and a fancy backwoods potty house that cost about $1 million.

I felt that for me it was a place to sleep and eat that enabled me to make to the top of the pass leading to the Sperry Glacier, or now a days, its remains. Or, alternatively, walk over over Lincoln pass to Lincoln Lake which is really one of the hidden gems of the park that few visitors see because it is so hard to reach. Takes some effort to get there.

I stayed once at Rising Sun. It is something of a motel type of place. Not real bad and not real good. It is on the Sun Road on the east side.

Some of the motels around Hungry Horse (town) are not much in my opinion. I stayed in one once and wished I hadn't.
Paid a lot; got a little.

At any rate, try looking up the lodge at St. Mary. It is new and I have heard it was decent enough.
Try here:
But it is NOT cheap!!
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Old Dec 7th, 2004, 07:49 AM
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is St. Mary's inside the park? If not, how far is it? Are there trails nearby or is everything inside the park proper?
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Old Dec 7th, 2004, 07:40 PM
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This lodge is barely outside the park. The visitor center on the east side of the park and St. Mary Lake are near there.

I have taken a boat ride on the lake. It is a long one, but I think Waterton Lake is more scenic, but that is an opinion of course.

You are about 30 miles from Two Medicine Lake, which also has a boat ride in season.

Many Glacier is about 25 miles north of there. There are boat rides on two of the two lakes near there as well. (Actually 3 lakes, but two of them have boats.) If you possibly are able, ride the boat across the lake from the hotel, walk across the portage, and take the second boat to the Grinell Glacier trail. Walk up it far enough to see Grinnell Lake for its incredible emerald green color.

I hope to see it again some day. But the hike all the way to the ice, or what is left of it, is arduous. (I am not so young any more.)

The walk along the lake shore from the camping area is relatively flat for a lake in the mountains.

You can do a lot of short walking.
My one big caution is the Highline Trail.

I love the hike, and you can cut it at any point and still feel rewarded for your effort. The caution is its height over the road. If you fear heights, don't go.

The last time I did it, we saw mountain sheep. And marmots chasing each other.
They ran right between a hiker's legs.
We were all laughing at the sight of those fat bodies waddling along at a rapid rate. (They are plump in late August because they are storing up fat for the winter.)

I did not answer one of your questions.
Waterton is carved from the same Rodinian rocks that were thrust up when the Canadian Rockies were formed a few million years ago. The majority of these rocks are so ancient that they lack fossils with bony skeletons. They are noteworthy because they are resting on rocks of much, much younger geologic age.

Technically, these rocks are part of the Canadian Rockies, but they are geologically different because of their age. They are some of the oldest sedimentary rocks known. As a result, they are visually different as well.

One thing you see in Waterton is a huge exposure of red argillite. It is more of a maroon red to me but very interesting to view.

Red Rock Canyon and Cameron Lake are two nice sidelights in Waterton. They are well worth the effort, and they can be reached by paved roads!!

One other piece of bad news is this:
The season is very short in Glacier. It is also remote. Therefore lodging is not cheap anywhere in the area because its popularity is short term, but very intense.

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Old Dec 8th, 2004, 11:29 AM
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So, if I understand all this correctly, it sounds like we can stay at St. Mary's and spend lots of time hiking, etc in the park. As much as I would like to stay in the park I have heard too much about the disappointing NP accomodations. St. Mary's does sound decent and not outrageously expensive. Then, we can travel on to Waterton. Are there accomodations in the Canadian park? If not, which town is recommended?
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Old Dec 11th, 2004, 10:23 AM
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We stayed at the Kilmorey Lodge in Waterton and thoroughly enjoyed it. Very comfortable beds with comforters and great food (this is where the Lamp Post Dining Room is). Here is a link to take a look at it:
We strolled around the town of Waterton and saw so many "tame" deer that I think they outnumbered the people. One in particular was in the lawn outside the post office, standing on hind legs and eating the leaves of the tree. We felt it was well worth what we paid, which will vary by season, but I think our rate was around $115-125 US.
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Old Dec 11th, 2004, 12:43 PM
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There are several good motels in Waterton. I don't think any of them are bad.]
The Prince of Wales Hotel has a great view, but to some it is outdated. I guess it depends on what you want. The rooms are small, but the food is tremendous.
It is also a little pricey.

The Shintangle as I said earlier is a good B and B. Spacious rooms with air conditioning units in each room.

Other than that the town of Cardston a few miles away has a few conventional motels as does Pincher Creek.

There are plenty of deer in the town. In fact they are a nuisance.
People just about build cages around their flowers, if they want any.
The deer have found that they have no natural enemies in the townsite.

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Old Dec 11th, 2004, 02:05 PM
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You can plan your hikes one way for the most part of you like. There is a shuttle service which runs through out Glacier and into Waterton Lakes. If you cross the border this way you will need to have proof of citizenship with you.
Rangers have spotting scopes set up nightly behind the motor lodge at the end of the road into Many Glacier. They offer many hikes in this area: to Iceberg Lake, Red Rock Falls, Grinnell Glacier to mention a few. You can also do on your own. If you don't mind camping out an excellent two day one night is to park at Logan Pass. Overnight either at the backcountry site or Granite Park Chalet (still need a sleeping bag and food) and come down into Many Glacier. From here take the shuttle back to your car.
They are planning on working on the Going to Sun Highway starting in 2005. So may have some lengthy delays due to construction.
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