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More advice re Yellowstone NP & Glacier NP Itinerary

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Oct 23rd, 2013, 08:13 PM
  #1
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More advice re Yellowstone NP & Glacier NP Itinerary

Hi all

I am stopping by the forum again after getting great advice here last time. I have been doing heaps of research and I am thinking that maybe we will try to do Yellowstone NP and Glacier National Park. We are looking at flying into Bozeman on Saturday 21st of June 2014. I managed to get accommodation booked in Yellowstone (after taking all your advice about booking ASAP) at the Lake Cabins on Sunday night the 22nd of June.

So far all I can work out is that we will pick up a hire car from Bozeman airport Saturday afternoon and drive to 320 Ranch in Big Sky for the afternoon and evening. I think we will have a 1 hour fly fishing casting lesson that afternoon when we arrive at the cabins (my 7 year old will love it).

Sunday morning after breakfast we will depart and go to West Yellowstone and visit the Wolf & Grizzly discovery centre. Have lunch in West Yellowstone and then drive out to see the Old Faithful geyser and Old Faithful Inn before moving onto our accommodation. Is this too rushed? I have looked for accommodation in the park for Monday night but everything was booked out!

Please let me know if you think I could start our trip in the other direction, through a different entrance to Yellowstone. I looked into some lodges and cabins between Livingstone and the entrance that looked like fun with nightly cook outs and campfires etc. We are certainly open to a bit of family entertainment wherever we stay.

We will have another 5 or 6 nights after this to spend between this area and Glacier National Park. All our time doesn't have to be spent in the parks as we aren't able to hike (my youngest will only be 3 and a half). Basically I would love to take pics and hopefully see some wildlife. I would also love to do a bit of shopping in Missoula or somewhere like that (definitely going to buy myself some cowgirl boots while in Montana) and eat in small town cafe's etc. I also want to do a half day rafting trip (on my own, will leave kids with husband to do this).

We will probably fly back to LA the following Sunday 29th of June and after looking for direct flights (hate changing planes!) and prices, I think the best option would be to fly out of Spokane.

Is it too early in the summer season to drive to 'going to the sun' road in Glacier NP? From what I have read it'd be only just opened if it is.

Any advice would be appreciated so I can continue doing my research and planning an itinerary! Thanks..
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Oct 23rd, 2013, 08:39 PM
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A couple of suggestions:

1. Your route from YNP to GNP may take you close to the National Bison which is well worth a stop. The visitor's center has some excellent info on bison and there's a couple of good wildlife drives you can do where you should see lots of bison up close. (We REALLY saw the bison up close because they walked around our car!) There are also other kinds of wildlife there (e.g. antelope), but we had a hard time seeing them.

2. You might want to consider renting a vacation home as opposed to staying in park lodging. We rented two different vacation homes through VRBO when we went to GNP a number of years ago--one in East Glacier and one in West Glacier. We really appreciated having the extra space and the kitchen.

And, yes, it's entirely possible that the GTTS road will not be open when you are there. We visited in late June and the road did not open until halfway through our visit and they said that was a very early opening.
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Oct 23rd, 2013, 08:51 PM
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Thanks, I was actually just looking randomly at rentals in Whitefish on Home Away site. Whitefish looks like a fun place and plenty of activities and a rafting trip from. Very handy to have a kitchen and washing facilities!

If that road wasn't open, where would be the best place to be based for a few days to see what we could?
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Oct 25th, 2013, 04:35 PM
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As stated above, the Going to the Sun Road may or may not be open. It can open as early as the third week in June, but in 2011 it didn't open until July 13th because of their record snowfall that winter. IF the GTTS road is open, stop at Logan Pass Visitor's Center where you'll have great opportunities to see mountain goats. Make sure you drive all the way to Many Glacier, the most scenic part of the park. If you're looking for a great cafe, stop at the Park Cafe in St. Mary where they have wonderful homemade pies.

The Trail of the Cedars which is about five miles past Lake McDonald Lodge offers a paved/boardwalk one mile loop to see lovely old hemlocks and red cedars. This is a very popular trail and the parking lot can become full as the day progresses, but that early in the season you may not have any problems.

http://www.hikinginglacier.com/trail-of-the-cedars.htm

We've stayed in Whitefish twice. It's a lovely town that has great restaurants and shopping, but not sure if you'll find those cowboys boots there!
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Oct 25th, 2013, 06:02 PM
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I think your probably about 50/50 chance of the GTSR being open in Glacier, maybe less. I hate to say not to go if it isn't open, but I sure wouldn't for a first time visit. I'm sure others might disagree.

You might want to consider doing the Hidden Lake Trail near Logan Pass. It is short, not very difficult, tons of people. It is very nice to be so short. It is very popular, so you will be hiking with a lot of people. Your almost guaranteed to run into Mountain Goats and with a little luck maybe Bighorn Sheep. I would suggest arriving at the parking area as early as possible. I don't normally enjoy boat rides that much, but they are short enough at Glacier to be just right. We went on 3 of them while we were there. A couple of them have very short hiking options too.

Yellowstone has several areas, each take a day to do.
First and most important is Old Faithful Geyser area. We saw OF go 3 or 4 times. I like it best early morning, when nobody is there. Had it with just myself and one other man at 6AM. Expect several hundred during most of it's eruptions. We also caught Castle Geyser, Riverside, and Daisy. Castle and Riverside are much better the OF, in my opinion. They do require more patient to catch, but they are predictable. The park is able to predict 6 or 7 of them. OF you only have to wait 5 minutes or so. The others maybe 1-4 hours. After that the rest of them are totally a crap shoot. You will also want to see Old Faithful Inn. You might possible have time to see Fountain Paint Pots/Mud Pots. I like breakfast at the Hamilton Store which is kinda in the parking lot of OF Inn.
Plus, you are likely to get into a couple of Bison Jams or Bear Jam along the way. Its a great time to stop and gawk for 30 minutes.

Then there is Canyon Area. Perhaps a picnic lunch might be a good idea here somewhere. There are various options of things to do here. Allow some time at Lamar Valley and Hayden Valley for wildllife.

Lake Hotel is another interesting area. Be sure and see Dragon's Mouth that is in this area. I'm sure your kids will love it. It makes a very moaning strange sound.

You might consider doing the Hay Ride or Horse Ride at Roosevelt area. It's generally a hit with kids.

You don't mention Grand Tetons. Surely, you plan on spending a day or so there?

You might consider flying into Billings instead of Bozeman and do the Beartooth HWY. It open earlier(generally)than GTSR, but it could certainly be closed too. Both of those HWYs are probably both in the Top 5 drives I've done(I've been nearly all of the National Parks in the West).

We were at Glacier the last week of July this year and we flew in/out of Calgary. Which isn't that far from Wateron Lakes(Canadian side of Glacier).

I think your timing for Yellowstone is pefect. I think Glacier is super iffy. It could work out, but risky.

So, what is the total amount of time your allowing for Yellowstone? and does that include any time for Tetons?

If your kids get tired of National Parks/Wilderness, you could take a break in Jackson and do the Alpine Slide.

Finally, to me The Black Hills/Custer State Park, Wind Cave, Jewel Cave, Badlands, Dinosaur Dig(I'm blank on the name), Crazy Horse would probably be a better option than Glacier. Not better, but just not risky in the sense that it wouldn't be still snow in.
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Oct 25th, 2013, 06:30 PM
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I would certainly still go to GNP even if the GTTS road isn't open all the way. As I mentioned, it was closed for the first half of our trip but we were still able to drive part of it from the west. We drove to point called "The Loop". You could park your car there and walk further up the GTTS road as it was cleared of snow, but not ready for cars yet. We thought that was really cool. The scenery was fabulous and families were having fun in the snow.

If you were based in Whitefish, you would be on the western side of the park and could drive the GTTS road as far as they would let you, which I imagine would be at least to "The Loop". The Avalanche Lake Trail is a very good one to hike on the western side of the park--easy and there's a very scenic lake at the turnaround point. There are some fun attractions in this area--we enjoyed the maze at the Amazing Fun Center between West Glacier and Whitefish.
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Oct 25th, 2013, 08:20 PM
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Thank you thank you thank you for the above suggestions! I will keep working it all out. I think we will include Grand Tetons as well. So i have 8 nights in total. The reason we are flying into Bozeman is because it was the cheapest flights by far (coming from Kansas City). We could possibly also fly out of Missoula but if we fly out of Spokane the flight would be direct which is much less stressful with young kids. So suggestions on where to spend each night? I am thinking first night near Livingston (as we only get into Bozeman about 1pm). 2nd night cabin at Lake Hotel (this is booked in). 3rd night Jackson. 4th night Big Sky, 5th,6th &7 in a rental at Whitefish (i think we will be wanting to cook own meals by then and relax a little. I could also do my half day raft trip from here). 8th night in Missoula or near Spokane for flight the next day. I am on my phone at the moment so haven't had a chance to check driving distances etc.

Please let me know what you think of this plan?
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Oct 26th, 2013, 12:24 PM
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My Montana pictures might give you some idea of what to see between the two NPs: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mksfca/...7623117942088/

Most of the pictures are geo-tagged so that they can be related to a potential itinerary.
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Oct 26th, 2013, 01:00 PM
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A couple of thoughts...you might want to fly in or out of Jackson, Wyoming, instead of Spokane. That seems like going far out of your way considering where you are spending most of your time. You talked about having one night booked at the Lake Cabins in Yellowstone. An itinerary could go something like:

Jackson and Grand Teton National Park, 2 nights
Yellowstone Lake Cabins, 1 night
Murray Hotel, Livingston, MT, 1 night (charming with good restaurant)
Glacier National Park, 2 nights
Big Sky/Bozeman area, 2 nights

You could do the trip the opposite way too, but then you should do Glacier after arriving in Bozeman and then head down to Yellowstone and end up at Jackson and Grand Teton, before flying out of Jackson.

This is a better use of your time in this area, IMO.

It will be a fun trip.
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Oct 26th, 2013, 05:35 PM
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Save Glacier for last, since the GTSR opening date is more likely the longer you can wait.

Personally, with that short time, I think you would be far better off to do just one area. 2 nights in Glacier and 1 or 2 in Yellowstone in my opinion.
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Oct 27th, 2013, 01:02 AM
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I did look at flights into and out of Jackson but it seems to be double the price, do you think it's worth waiting awhile longer before booking flights? Do the prices ever change?
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Oct 27th, 2013, 01:02 AM
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I did look at flights into and out of Jackson but it seems to be double the price, do you think it's worth waiting awhile longer before booking flights? Do the prices ever change?
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Oct 27th, 2013, 05:57 AM
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There is no magic date on "when to book" airlines. It's a crapshoot
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Oct 27th, 2013, 09:02 AM
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I totally agree with Spirobulldog about there not being any "magic date" or even a "magic day of the week" or a "magic time of the day" to book flights. After having done this for a LONG time, I have come to the conclusion that the best time to book is when a flight comes available in your prices range and then NEVER LOOK BACK. You'll only make yourself unhappy if you find the flight dropped $100--enough money to be significant, but not enough money to make the exorbitant change fees that the airlines charge worthwhile.
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Oct 27th, 2013, 01:15 PM
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Ok thanks!
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Oct 27th, 2013, 04:47 PM
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If you want to avoid the cost of tickets in or out of Jackson, just fly in and out of Bozeman and do only Yellowstone area and Glacier. Eight nights isn't that much time for what you are trying to do. Two national parks, plus Bozeman/Big Sky coming/going could easily take up those nights. It sounds like you have only booked 1 night at the Yellowstone Lake Cabins. Try to keep calling back for Yellowstone cancellations at other places to increase your nights in the park. Good general rule: if you can't get in the national parks, you need to find the best accommodations that are close to an entrance, and close means within 5 miles, but not more than 10. It is slow driving in the parks and you don't want to add extra time getting to the entrance; your park entrance is good for several days (I think a week) so you can go in and out in the same car as much as you want to during that time. The places you mentioned between Livingston and Yellowstone might be a good option for you, given that you only have 1 night booked in Yellowstone anyway.
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Oct 27th, 2013, 10:26 PM
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If you want to see both Glacier and Yellowstone, you could fly to Kalispell and rent your car there. Drive to Yellowstone. See Yellowstone then drive back through Kalispell to Whitefish.
You will at least be able to drive up as far as McDonald Lake. You can only hope that the GTTS road will be open over Logan Pass and all the way to St. Mary.
The Amtrak Empire Builder leaves Whitefish at 9:16PM when it is on time (sometimes). It gets into Spokane usually before 2AM.
You can leave a car rented at the Kalispell airport at the Whitefish Amtrak station (I did).
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Oct 27th, 2013, 11:01 PM
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you could fly to Kalispell and rent your car there. Drive to Yellowstone

That's a 370 mi. drive one way. I wouldn't do it.
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Oct 28th, 2013, 06:29 AM
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True, but it beats flying to Jackson and then not getting to see Glacier at all. I would not have mentioned it but the OP mentioned flying out of Spokane after seeing Glacier.
My favorite arrival to Whitefish is on the Empire Builder.
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Oct 28th, 2013, 08:31 AM
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Look for cowboy boots at Murdoch's in Bozeman or Schnee's in Bozeman.

Your 7 year old will enjoy the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman. Also, take a look at Lewis and Clark Caverns.

Restaurant recs for Bozeman: Nova Cafe, Over the Tapas, Blackbird Kitchen.

Restaurant recs for Missoula: Biga Pizza, Scotty's Table, The Shack (for breakfast), Bridge Pizza.
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