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Thoughts on fall 2019 road trip to Glacier, Yellowstone and Grand Teton

Thoughts on fall 2019 road trip to Glacier, Yellowstone and Grand Teton

Jun 12th, 2018, 10:54 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Nov 2017
Posts: 20
Thoughts on fall 2019 road trip to Glacier, Yellowstone and Grand Teton

Hello, Fodorites, and thanks in advance for sharing your expertise.

I'm planning a two-week trip for early September 2019 and would like a reality check on what I've planned based on initial research. My husband and I are in our 60s and, while we enjoy the outdoors, are not avid hikers. (More like avid strollers.) Our interests will be in scenery, history, animals and experiencing a new-to-us part of our nation. I thought we'd start at the northernmost point and head south. Your feedback and suggestions, especially regarding lodging and sequencing, are appreciated. I want to book the park lodging very soon, before it becomes unavailable. Apologies for the random use of bold face type, a result of cutting and pasting.

Day 1: Fly RDU to Kalispell, drive to Glacier, stay at XXX, 5 nights.
Is it important to stay within the park itself here? I'm guessing not, but ...

Days 2-5: Explore Glacier, specifics TBD

Day 6: Drive to Helena, MT, spend night to break up five-hour trip (my husband doesn't want any long days at the wheel)
Where else might we break up the trip?

Day 7: Drive from Helena to Yellowstone, stay 3 nights at XXX in northern half of the park
Considering Mammoth Hot Springs or Roosevelt Lodge

Days 8-9: Explore Yellowstone, specifics TBD

Day 10: Move to Old Faithful Inn, spend 2 nights
Doing this for the experience

Day 11: Yellowstone

Day 12: Drive to Jackson Hole, WY, for 3 nights, use as base for Grand Teton National Park
Choosing this for a change from park lodging and dining

Day 13: Jackson Hole / Grand Teton

Day 14: Jackson Hole / Grand Teton
Day trip to Little Big Horn?

Day 15: Fly Jackson Hole, WY, to RDU

Thanks for your advice and suggestions.
RaleighTraveler is offline  
Jun 12th, 2018, 11:39 AM
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Originally Posted by RaleighTraveler View Post

Day 14: Jackson Hole / Grand Teton
Day trip to Little Big Horn?
Are you referring to the Little Bighorn National Monument in MT? That's a 6-7 hour drive one way. Or is there another Little Big Horn?
WhereAreWe is offline  
Jun 12th, 2018, 12:56 PM
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Yah, I get anywhere between 7 hr 3 min and 7 hr 36 min depending on route. However, I'd say longer than that is very likely. Anyhoo, I do understand you are looking for activities to fill a day there. We've usually gone in September-October and sometimes get great color, but also have run into cloudy/drizzly conditions down in Tetons. It's a great place to look for moose, I think especially for that reason. There's a bridge - Snake River Bridge, maybe? - where they are often observed. Much of the lake/river activities will have ended, though I think it's a great time to visit. Kudos on planning this far ahead; book as early as possible.
sludick is offline  
Jun 12th, 2018, 01:02 PM
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Yikes, yes. I saw it on the map and didn't take scale into account. Thanks for the gentle correction.
RaleighTraveler is offline  
Jun 13th, 2018, 01:17 AM
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I would split your stay at Glacier between the east and west sides. On the east side, I'd look at Many Glacier or something the towns of St Mary or Babb. For the west side, Lake McDonald or Apgar or in the town of West Glacier. It takes some time to drive from one side to the other.

Roosevelt Lodge closes in early September. Otherwise your Yellowstone split is fine.
Patty is offline  
Jun 14th, 2018, 07:02 AM
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Reversing course and timing

We couldn't get lodging at Glacier for next fall (and I thought I was planning ahead) so have flipped the trip to late May / early June, starting at Grand Teton / Yellowstone and driving north to Glacier. We are booked at hotels in Jackson and Whitefish at the beginning and end of the trip, for some creature comfort and a different experience of the West (as it's our first time in either state), and I have reserved cabins or rooms at Old Faithful Inn (2 nights) and Mammoth Hot Springs (3 nights) at Yellowstone, and, eventually Lake McDonald Lodge (3 nights) at Glacier. We plan to break the trip to Glacier with an overnight in Helena. Based on my research so far and admittedly limited knowledge, I'm pretty happy with the plan.

As the trip gets closer, I'll focus on specific scenic routes and whatnot in each of the parks. Your insights there are welcomed, and I thank you for your help thus far.
RaleighTraveler is offline  
Jun 14th, 2018, 06:02 PM
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Just be aware that in big snow years, the Going to the Sun Rd through Glacier has opened as late as July. In that case you'd need to take Hwy 2 to get to the east side of Glacier. The east side of Glacier is really spectacular and has better wildlife viewing (though you'll have already been to Yellowstone/GTNP which has even better wildlife viewing so perhaps this is not as important). You can still day trip but it will be a long day. From Lake McDonald Lodge to Many Glacier is about 2 hours each way via the GTTS Rd and 3 hours each way via Hwy 2. Scenically the two sides are very different, the east side is more alpine and the west side is more rainforest.

Late May/early June is a great time for baby animals in Yellowstone/GTNP.
Patty is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2018, 06:40 AM
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We've planned the same itinerary but shorter 10 day trip starting July 13th 2018. Land at Jackson Hole. 3 nights in Tetons(Colter Bay cabins). 3 nights at Yellowstone( 2 nights at Lake Lodge cabins + 1 night at Mammoth Hot Springs). 3 nights at Glacier national park(1 night at Glacier Park Lodge + 1night at Many Glacier Hotel + 1 night at Swiftcurrent Motor Inn) and then final night in Whitefish (Grouse Mountain Lodge) and fly out from Kalispell. That's the sequence of our driving route we will be following. We might squeeze in a day trip to Prince of Wales Hotel at Waterton Park Canada from Many Glaciers...is that doable ?

I'm tempted to leave the car once we reach GNP at East Glacier and use shuttles but not sure if they allow carry-on bags(airline allowance size). Plus, I'm a bit nervous of driving GTTS road and finding parkings. I saw some comments also that the internal park road from East glacier to Many Glacier is also quite treacherous. Can someone help clarify pls. Any suggestion / advise ?
joiedevivre67 is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2018, 09:04 AM
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We spent 3 nights in St Mary and also considered a day trip to Waterton but found the Many Glacier area so beautiful (and the east side in general including the GTTS portions and Two Medicine) that we never ventured into Canada.

From East Glacier to Many Glacier you can take the route through Browning if you're concerned about taking 49 (it's a beautiful drive though). Both routes take about the same amount of time.
Patty is offline  
Jul 3rd, 2018, 01:50 PM
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Thanks Patty. I did watch some videos of the road and it seems if one is going south to north, we will be on the inner side of mountain which should be fine. I guess we'll give it a try and take it slow because we don't want to miss the scenery. Hubby drove in Dolomites(Italy) and it was a bit scary as bikes, cars and dozens of bicyclists suddenly come zooming across narrow roads at high speed on steep curves.
joiedevivre67 is offline  
Jul 4th, 2018, 11:16 AM
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Wanted to go back through my notes for our trip September 2009 with another couple before I responded to RaleighTraveler and Joiedevivre, who goes very soon -- So first, GTTS Road is not all that treacherous. We drove it westbound and eastbound in good weather. Hwy 101 in CA and the hwy from SanFran to Yosemite ('49??) far worse.

I didnt keep a journal of this trip, but we did south - north: first in Jackson Hole where there is alot to do for more nights than we stayed (2-3); stayed at the Lake Yellowstone Hotel (also 3 nts) and explored most of the park from there; on departure day we saw the northern attractions, and made it to Helena without issue. Stayed in Helena 2 nts which was ok, did take a fun river/canyon ride there before we left for Great Falls, which we felt more interesting as to Lewis & Clark sites. We continued up along the eastside to Choteau where we stopped for lunch (also loads of dinosaur fossils here), then to Glacier, where we entered on east side and stayed at Many Glacier for 3-4 nts. We did GTTS road from here, then returned to our hotel via I believe Rt 2 route, on our day of departure, drove GTTS Road again and stopped at Lake MacDonald for lunch and continued out of park to Whitefish. Spent a night or two here, and then split from our friends: we took Amtrak to Portland, and they drove back through eastern MT and to SD.

Raleightraveller: Overall see that you're now going south-north from Jackson too. Consider fewer days in Yellowstone and perhaps make another stop in MT. We were very happy at Many Glacier and the driving was not a problem, our weather was picture-perfect throughout. GTTS Road is not treacherous and you'll want to drive yourselves so you can stop here, there & everywhere for pictures when you like. We saw wildlife at both parks (tons of buffalo in Yellowstone particularly; grizzly and moose in GNP). You will love it all!
aliced is offline  
Jul 5th, 2018, 08:02 PM
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You might want to check lodging in the fall again. I found it to be quite available.

i would not stay in Jackson and commute to GTNP each day. Jackson is very small and is only good for part of a day and an evening. You can find a variety of nice lodging and restaurants in Teton Village; this is not park type lodging or food. Another option is Jenny Lake Lodge at the north end of GTNP. Lodging at the main lodge is very nice and they have a very good restaurant overlooking the lake.

i agree with sludick that the moose viewing at the bridge in Moose WY is entertaining and is on the way between Jackson and Teton Village.

early September after the kids are back in school is a beautiful time to visit.
bailey123 is offline  
Jul 6th, 2018, 09:45 AM
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Did you mean Jackson Lake Lodge? There's no lake view from the Jenny Lake Lodge dining room (and the food wasn't very good when we ate there last October).

Just FYI for the OP, while Teton Village appears closer to the park than Jackson on a map, it's not actually any quicker as Moose-Wilson Road is slow going (and in May the unpaved portion can be wet/rutted) though it's a good road to try to spot wildlife. In addition to the bridge at Moose, the Gros Ventre area along the river is a good place to look for moose.
Patty is offline  
Jul 7th, 2018, 12:20 PM
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Good catch Patty. Yes, I meant Jackson Lake Lodge. You'd think I would know better having been there many times, have a friend that worked there and I've never stayed at Jenny Lake Lodge��.

i do stand by my recommendation on Teton Village rather than Jackson because OP wants scenery and wildlife which is better at TV than on the square at Jackson but do agree that moose/Wilson road maybe slower going
bailey123 is offline  
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