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Trip to Glacier & Waterton, starting in Spokane

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Jul 12th, 2014, 04:59 PM
  #1
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Trip to Glacier & Waterton, starting in Spokane

We will have 8 days for a trip to Glacier & Waterton. We are flying into Spokane because of free tickets on Southwest. We will arrive in Spokane late in the afternoon of Saturday, Sept 6. Flying home on Sunday, Sept 14. Planning to leave Sunday morning and drive to Waterton. Google Maps says it is about 7 hours without stopping, which of course we will have to do. I plan to take I-95 to the border and then Crowsnest Highway. Google maps says there are tolls. Do toll booths in Canada take American money? Is this the best option to reach Waterton? The other option is to go through Glacier National Park and head north on 89.

We are staying in Waterton on Sunday and Monday night. Planning to take the boat cruise on Monday, visit the hotel, and do some limited hiking. I'm not up to long hikes. Are there any other must sees while we are in this area? We thought about the Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump site, but not sure there will be time since it closes at 5:00. Will the businesses in Waterton accept US money?

On Tuesday morning we are headed south for Glacier. Currently booked for 1 night in East Glacier & 1 night in Kalispell. Can't find lodging in the park since we were only able to plan this trip for certain a couple of weeks ago. We can add a night if that would be a good idea. Again, no major hiking, but short hikes would be okay. We would also enjoy a scenic boat cruise or two.

Once we leave Kalispell we will head to Missoula. I have a childhood friend that lives there and we plan to get together at least for lunch. Haven't finished other plans yet. Thinking about going south and picking up 12 through Lolo pass. We've visited many of the Lewis and Clark sites from the midwest to the west coast. We could also spend time around Couer d' Alene or Spokane. Maybe a side trip to Grand Coulee Dam? Not sure how to use our remaining days.

Any suggestions are greatly appreciated.
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Jul 12th, 2014, 07:47 PM
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Most places of business will accept US money(especially near the border). I don't know, but I doubt that toll roads in Canada would accept US currency. I wouldn't count on every place accepting your money. Why don't you exchange a little money and use your credit card the rest of the time. That's whay 99.9% of people do when traveling to a different country. You can't just expect them to accept your currency just because. If they do, they are likely to get a larger exchange rate than if you just did it right to start with.

I might do Hidden Lake hike at Logan Pass. It's fairly easy. You can always turn around if it's more than what you want to do. Different people call difficult hiking different. Mileage and elevation gain/loss are the two major factors that determine how hard a hike is. Weather, terrain, shade, etc can certainly all factor in as well.

I think the prettiest spots are along GTSR and the Many Glacier area. If you do any hiking at all, I would FOR SURE HAVE BEAR SPRAY. We saw so many a year ago that we lost count. It's an amazing place!

I also think the best boat cruises are around the areas I mentioned. We did every boat cruise with the exception of Lake Mcdonald and the one at Waterton. We did enjoy Afternoon Tea at Prince of Wales.
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Jul 13th, 2014, 06:21 AM
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I was quite disappointed with GTTS Road. If that's all you see then you won't know any different. Most of the views are quite distant.

As spiro wrote, I would start the Hidden Lake Overlook hike and go as far as you want. The scenery starts right behind the visitors center and continues from there. I found the first part hard on the knees due to the boardwalk stairs.

You may also want to do the first part of the Highline Trail on the other side of the highway. It also starts at Logan Pass. I thought the part with the cable would freak me out but it's a lot tamer than I thought it would be. We went a little beyond the end of the cable, took in the scenery and turned around.

If you're interested in wildlife, the Many Glacier area if the place to visit. About 1-2 hours before sunset drive to the end of the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn parking lot. Start the Swiftcurrent Pass hike. After about 10-15 minutes of level walking on the trail you'll see a sign on the left side for Fishercap Lake. It's about 100 yards to the lake. Invariably we've seen either deer and/or moose at the lake.

I realize the Iceberg Lake hike may be more than you want. However, except for a bit of uphill at the very start, it's really only a rather long walk in the park. The scenery is spectacular all along the way and the lake surrounded by mountains at the end. I would really consider this. If it's too long you can always turn around and come back whenever you want.

About Canadian money. I've been to Waterton Lakes and Banff & Jasper in each of the past 2 years. I never took with Canadian money. I used credit cards. I must have used cash you some small things but I don't remember. They're very used to visitors so I'm sure in tourist areas US cash isn't a problem. They may take it at par though. I just don't remember what happened.
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Jul 13th, 2014, 07:46 AM
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Thank you both so much. I appreciate the information about the hikes. Myer, did you rent or buy bear spray for your hikes? I wasn't sure if we needed to do that if there are others on the trails. Should we expect the week of Sept 8-12 to still be busy with tourists?

I have an Am Ex credit card that does not charge foreign transactions fees. I plan to use that most of the time. My friends were in Canada a couple of years ago and said when they paid with American money there was no change even though the Canadian rate is lower. I am most worried about tolls. I certainly don't want to be stranded without the proper money to pay. I've tried figuring out where the tolls are on the Crowsnest Highway between the Idaho border and Watterton, but haven't been able to do so.

I had hoped not to have the need to exchange money before we go. We live in a small town and the banks here don't do it. I could go through AAA, but there is a minimum. I really don't plan to use Canadian money, unless it is required for tolls.

Thanks again for your recommendations.
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Jul 13th, 2014, 07:47 AM
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Head-smashed-in is Worth It. Interesting exhibits, history, ethnography and natural history as well.

Very Canadian Prairie little towns, a nice contrast to the mountains.

But you haven't got an endless amount of time so it would be a choice.
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Jul 13th, 2014, 07:55 AM
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Go to your local US bank and ask for Canadian money. For your $20 US you should get $21.40CAD (1.07 exchange rate)
Even if you bring home a couple of loonies or twonies, it's no big deal. Use the credit card anyplace that they take it for larger purchases.
Make sure your rental car company is good with taking the car into Canada including your insurance. Your own auto insurance is always cheaper than what you get at the rental counter.
Another way to consider would be to take the Amtak Empire Builder from Spokane at 10:30PM (recent change) to East Glacier MT arriving about 7AM the next morning. Even if it is late, you still get breakfast before renting the car.
I have heard that it is illegal to take bear spray into Canada so know the rules before you cross the border.
On June 1 2012 we encountered a herd of horses licking salt on US 89 south of St. Mary. On that trip we rented the car in Cut Bank because we were coming westbound on the Empire Builder.
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Jul 13th, 2014, 08:21 AM
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I live in a much bigger town and bank don't exchange. In fact, they don't even know where Canada is located.

There are usually FX booths in malls. Also, you should be able to get some in airports on either side. Yes, they'll rip you off. But if all you want is to have some for tolls, etc then you're not looking at much.

Yes, when I was in Glacier I bought bear spray. I bought it in Babb just outside the eastern entrance to Many Glacier.

I was very close to a few grizzlies. Early one evening I was returning from a hike past Fishercap Lake (Redrock Falls). It was about 7PM and getting dull in the woods. I was alone with my daughter. Then she said "dad, over there". Thru the trees there was a grizzly standing there looking at us. He was at a 90 degree angle from the trail so not in front of us.

She immediately lifter her camera and got a shot (too dark but...). I started to pull out the bear spray. Then we slowly started to slither down the trail looking at the bear for the first 30-40 yards.

Although I've been closer to bears that was the time I was concerned as it was dim and we were alone in the woods.

I'm going to Yellowstone with my daughter and granddaughter at the end of the week. I'll buy bear spray in Jackson and plan on packing it this time.

I'm schedule to go to Banff & Jasper in early August with my daughter. I'll pack that same spray in my suitcase.

The problem is that I was looking on the internet last night and it appears there's a forest fire in Banff and one of the main roads was closed part of yesterday. For lodging I have to decide by the end of this month. Of course, I'll take a shave on the air tickets. Hopefully, they'll have a rain storm and put it out.

Two years ago I spent 4 1/2 days in Glacier with my daughter. We flew in/out of Calgary to spent a half day in Waterton Lakes. We did the short and steep Bear's Hump hike. That was very tough on aging knees.

I have mixed feelings about how the Canadian national parks are put together out.

The Canadian parks in general have a tourist town in the middle of the parks. I don't really like having a town with a tourist main street and all the shopping in the middle of a park. On the other hand, that gives you a lot of lodging and dining choices. So good and bad.

About crossing the border with bear spray. I don't remember if we said anything but we had no trouble. I've read somewhere it depends on what's written on the spray can.

You can see photos of my trips to Glacier, Banff & Jasper at:
www.travelwalks.com
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Jul 13th, 2014, 08:33 AM
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Thanks Tom,

I will try another bank in our town. My bank said they don't keep Canadian money.

I am renting a car from Dollar. Their website says I must pay $12.95 per day for supplemental liability insurance if I am taking the car into Canada for the entire rental period, no matter how many days it will be in Canada. It also says to be sure I have a copy of my car insurance coverage with me. I haven't had time to check into this further. My credit card says not to purchase any car insurance from the rental company. I will talk to them next week and see what they say and also check with other car rental companies.

I would love to take the Empire Builder, but it won't work into our schedule on this trip. Taking it from Chicago to the west coast is one of my bucket list items.

I also read something about bear spray restrictions. I don't think we will take any hikes at Waterton if we need to have bear spray. We plan to take the boat cruise, hopefully at 10:00 AM. Perhaps we will then have time to drive to Head Smashed in buffalo jump. I've read that tea at the Prince of Wales is quite an experience, but can't fit everything in.

Once we get in the US, where should we buy bear spray? Since we are going from east to west, I presume renting it isn't a good option.

Thanks again for your assistance.
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Jul 13th, 2014, 08:39 AM
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If you're going from Waterton Lakes down to Glacier, you'll go right thru the town of Babb (one street being the main road). It's just before the turnoff into Many Glacier and on the way to GTTS Road.

The name of the place is Thronson's General Store. I think it's on the west side of the road. Don't blink, you'll miss it
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Jul 13th, 2014, 08:46 AM
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Yes, it's on the west side and a gas station across the street.
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Jul 14th, 2014, 06:45 AM
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Bear spray may be brought INTO Canada if it has a picture of a bear on the can AND says it's purpose is to use on bears.
Guess they don't want pepper sray entering the country to be used on people.
Strange, but that's the law.
Bear spray may NOT be taken on board an aircraft either in carry on OR packed in checked baggage.
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Jul 14th, 2014, 01:17 PM
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Curious about plans to drive Hwy 12. Are you thinking about driving it back to Spokane (through Grangeville/Cottonwood and then through the Palouse)? It's a long trip from Missoula back to Spokane compared to jumping on I-90.

Hwy 12 is beautiful, but it's a very windy road once you hit the top of Lolo Pass (77 miles at 50 mph). I make the trip down Hwy 12 a few times a year to visit family, and I dread it, especially in the summer when it's full of campers and truckers.
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Jul 14th, 2014, 03:05 PM
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I'm not sure we will do any hiking at Waterton. Think we will take Myer's advice and purchase bear spray once we get to Babb. We'll stop at Thronson's to buy sandwiches before going on to Glacier and get our bear spray also.

We are planning to take Hwy 12 to Lolo Pass and back to Missoula. Then taking I-90 to Spokane, perhaps stopping in Coeur d' Alene. Another visit to a Lewis and Clark site. I thought about taking Hwy 12 and then picking up the highway that goes to Lewiston and then taking 195 to Spokane. I'm sure it would be a long drive and wouldn't allow us time to enjoy the area.

Thanks again for everyone's help.
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Jul 14th, 2014, 03:57 PM
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<< I thought about taking Hwy 12 and then picking up the highway that goes to Lewiston and then taking 195 to Spokane. I'm sure it would be a long drive and wouldn't allow us time to enjoy the area. >>

It really is pretty. The road follows the river (Lochsa and then Clearwater) all the way to Lewiston. There are places to stop and pick blackberries along the way. It is a slow road, though! As my daughter says when we go to visit my grandparents in the Grangeville area or my sister in Lewiston, "How many more corners until we're there?"
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Jul 15th, 2014, 05:17 PM
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kureiff - Your description is making me rethink my plans. Perhaps if it is a nice day, we will continue from Lolo Pass to Lewiston and on to Spokane. I'm sure it wouldn't be a fun drive on a rainy day. We have no definite time to arrive in Spokane, so if the drive takes all day, it would be okay.

If we take I-90, is there any place anybody would recommend visiting in Coeur d'Alene?
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