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Glacier Park Itinerary For GTTSR

J D
New Orleans...
Level Contributor
37 posts
1 review
Glacier Park Itinerary For GTTSR

My husband and I are planning a trip next August to the park. It looks like the top attractions are mostly found along the sun road. My question is, should I split the trip into two days in order to see it all. We would like to do two or three hikes but shorter trails so we have more time to see other sights. Does anyone have suggestions on the time I should spend, just worried one day isn't enough. And if split into two days, east and west side, what do we need to be sure and not miss? Hidden Lake Trail and Grinnell Glacier were two hikes we had in mind but just overwhelmed with the possibilities.

7 replies to this topic
USA
Level Contributor
3,495 posts
3 reviews
1. Re: Glacier Park Itinerary For GTTSR

You don't mean one day for all of GNP (because that is definitely not enough)? Can you clarify your full itinerary, and if you have lodging picked out yet.

To me, it makes sense to have a "Going-to-the-Sun Rd day" when you are transferring from lodging on the west side to the east side (or vice-versa). But you can still return to the road during your trip to do more hiking, or see the road going the opposite direction. Usually, if you plan on hiking at Logan Pass, I recommend going straight there in the morning to make parking easier. Then sightsee after your hike, or on a different day.

If you are just driving the GTTSR, one day is definitely enough to see it all.

Hidden Lake Overlook (2.8 mi RT) is a must-see for me. Grinnell Glacier trail (8-11 mi RT) is as well, but it is in Many Glacier, not along the GTTSR. Other trails I recommend along the GTTSR are Trail of the Cedars/Avalanche Lake (5 mi RT), Highline (up to 11 mi), Piegan Pass (~9 mi RT), Siyeh Loop (~10 mi), St. Mary/Virginia Falls (up to ~6 mi). Research, and pick based on your interests. There are also other great hikes in Many Glacier and Two Medicine.

Here are the websites I use to research hiking in GNP (some have top 10 lists or rankings that might help you pick):

https:/…hikingthetrails.htm

enjoyyourparks.com/GlacierNationalPark.html

http://www.hikinginglacier.com/

https://www.hike734.com/hiking/

J D
New Orleans...
Level Contributor
37 posts
1 review
2. Re: Glacier Park Itinerary For GTTSR

I'm sorry, let me clarify. We will have five-7 days in Glacier Park. I was trying to figure out if I needed to allocate two of those days just for Going To The Sun Road. We would like to do a couple of hikes and I just didn't know if that would still allow plenty of time for other sites along the way? As for lodging, I haven't got that fat yet, I am a bit overwhelmed on the itinerary since there is so much to do. We would like to do a kayak or boat rental on Lake McDonald, a couple of hike on the sun Road and maybe in two medicine as well. Possibly a horseback trail ride and a rafting trip. These I know for sure we want to do, just trying to figure out how to back into the itinerary. I am just starting to research so still up in the air about a lot of it?

USA
Level Contributor
3,495 posts
3 reviews
3. Re: Glacier Park Itinerary For GTTSR

If you can spend 7 days in GNP, I'd go with that. I like to recommend 2 days lodging on the west side and the rest on the east, unless there are a lot of activities you want to do on the west side. Here's an itinerary idea for 6 full days in the park (7 nights).

Day 1 - travel day - night on west side

Day 2 - Avalanche Lake hike (or even Hidden Lake if you don't want to do Avalanche), boat rental on Lake McDonald - night on west side

Day 3 - morning rafting trip, afternoon drive across GTTSR (maybe Hidden Lake hike in the afternoon) - night on east side (Rising Sun/St Mary)

Day 4 - additional hike/exploring on GTTSR - night on east side (Rising Sun/St Mary)

Day 5 - hike in Two Medicine - night on east side (Rising Sun/St Mary)

Day 6 - Grinnell Glacier hike in Many Glacier - night on east side (Many Glacier)

Day 7 - horseback ride in Many Glacier, shorter hike in MG - night on east side (Many Glacier)

Day 8 - travel day

In general, I like to pick the hikes/activities I want to do, then pick lodging that minimizes the amount of driving I have to do. Definitely check driving distances to trailheads and such before you book lodging, and make sure you are okay with the drive times.

For lodging, the St. Mary area is central to the east side, and you could choose to spend all of your east-side days there. However, I really enjoy staying in the Many Glacier valley, and recommend a night or two there, if you can get lodging. I like to do Two Medicine as a day trip from my east-side base - unless you want to do a long hike or multiple hikes, then it might make sense to stay in East Glacier Park. If so, you could stay there your last night to make "loop" around the park.

indiana
Destination Expert
for Glacier National Park
Level Contributor
3,369 posts
106 reviews
4. Re: Glacier Park Itinerary For GTTSR

You really need to go ahead and book lodging. That can be a problem as booking for next August started this past August 1. Al has given a good plan above though I prefer staying in Many for the east side instead of St. Mary. It adds about forty minutes of drive time to GTTSR but I like the surroundings much better. At this time you may have to take the lodging that is available. Book now as the cancellation policy is lenient if your plans change.

Kalispell, Montana
Destination Expert
for Glacier National Park, Santa Fe, Sedona
Level Contributor
11,085 posts
773 reviews
5. Re: Glacier Park Itinerary For GTTSR

Below is a basic plan for you to work with, its something basic you can use and plan according to your own tastes.

First off, its best to begin your trip on the West side of Glacier and move to the East side. That way the scenery and hiking just keep getting better and better.

A...We recommend 2 nights on the west side, staying either inside the park or in one of the nearby bedroom communities. Basic attractions on the west are:

1... A short drive up to Polebridge on the OUTER Northfork road to visit the Famous Mercantile Bakery...think huckleberry bear claws and other goodies. Later, if you are not using a rental car and have a high clearance car of your own... perhaps a drive up to Bowman Lake for hiking. Google "A Short Movie About a Montana Bakery".

2...River Rafting and float trips on the river are ONLY available from West Glacier. Rent Kayaks and Canoes on Lake McDonald

3...Touring the Lake McDonald valley's turnouts, the Lodge area and finally at Avalanche, taking the Trail of the Cedars/Avalanche Lake trail.

4...*If you want an orientation tour or don't want to drive the Going to the Sun Road, you can book a Red Bus Crown of the Continent Tour which will take you over Logan Summit and down to Many Glacier and back. If that is of interest, try to do that on your first full day.

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B...Allot 3 - 5 nights on the East Side Core, 3 if you are auto-tourists, 5 if you are avid hikers.

1...After staying on the West Side, traverse the Going to the Sun Road to the Core of the East side, staying in *either St. Mary/Rising Sun or in Many Glacier/Swiftcurrent. SM is most central, MG has more hiking trailheads. You can also split days on the east if you don't mind moving hotels.

The day you traverse the GTTSR can be totally used up by the overlooks and famous hikes along that route. For example, at Logan Summit the Hidden Lake Overlook and the top part of the famous Highline Trail to Haystack or Grinnell Glacier overlook and back. The in-and-out is a prettier hike than the entire Highline loop because the bottom 4 miles are tedious and steep.

On the east side descent, you can take a walk up the creek at Siyeh Bend, a short walk up Sunrift Gorge or a hike to St Mary and Virginia Falls. Stop at the Wild Goose Island overlook as you near the far end of St Mary Lake.

2...In Many Glacier Valley, the highlight can be the two-lake boat tour/ranger led hike to Grinnell Glacier..or independent hiking according to your ability. That one is steep and requires some fitness or some stops to catch your breath...it climbs 1,700' from the end of the last boat dock. An easier alternative could be Grinnell Lake. Then there is also Iceberg Lake and the horse back tour to Cracker Lake from the MG Stables. There are several ways to enjoy backcountry hikes from there. An evening must-do walk is to Fishercap Lake to see the resident Moose...plural.

You can also rent kayaks and canoes there.

3...You can take a day trip or overnight up to Waterton Lakes, Glacier's sister park. It is very different from Glacier and not very far. You will need passports. *Wait to see about that until later, there has been a huge fire there at the moment with a lot of damage including their visitor's center which burned to the ground...how much we still don't know for sure.

4...You can make a day trip via the 89/49 down to Two Medicine Lake for hiking/boat tours and fabulous scenery if you are staying in St Mary. See note just below.

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C....Or, Allow a night in East Glacier Park village. Its a small independent village outside the park but very near Two Medicine Valley which is the second gem of the east side. If you are making a scenic round trip tour back to the Kalispell Airport, it makes sense to stay there on your last night. Hikers may want 2 nights in that area for the Pitamakan/Dawson Loop. Upper Two Medicine Lake is a nice hike. There is another boat tour with ranger led hike. Kayaks too. And the easy walk to Trick Falls. In August there is a chance the falls will not be running full enough to make them two level or "trick".

After East Glacier Park you head back to the airport or continue your drive down toward the Yellowstone/Tetons area.

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A great website to explore is the following:

Your Guide to Glacier National Park

https://www.hike734.com

Welcome to Hike 734 where you'll find trail and trip info for every mile of trail in Glacier National Park in description and beautiful video form!

Kalispell, Montana
Destination Expert
for Glacier National Park, Santa Fe, Sedona
Level Contributor
11,085 posts
773 reviews
6. Re: Glacier Park Itinerary For GTTSR

I realize too that you are in early stages of planning. But with the limited hotel space its never too soon to settle on dates and begin nailing down reservations. You may even find that they will come up booked already...don't panic! People double and triple book all the time.

Cancellations come up all the time if you are diligent on the re-dial. If something opens up, grab it or someone else will very soon. Sometimes if you are looking for multiple days in a single place, its easier to book one day at a time as they come up instead of waiting for, say a block of 3. Cancellation policies are pretty lenient inside the park but independent places have stricter cancellation policies. So be sure to read those and make a note of deadline times for cancellations. Below is a list that may help simplify your lodging dilemma.

Before and after flights, Whitefish is a neat little resort town to stay in and only 20 minutes from the airport. Lots to see and do, nice hotels, very unique shopping, great restaurants, a local brewery and also activities up on Big Mountain Behind town. For example zip lining, gondola rides, the summer Alpine Slide and the Danny On trails. Whitefish Lake and its marina behind the Lodge on Whitefish Lake...no need to be guests.

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WEST SIDE :Here is a list which includes some places that are not always on the 3rd party booking sites:

INSIDE the park: In Apgar =* Village Inn in Apgar has the best view on the west side, all rooms are right on the beach of Lake McDonald. Also the Motel Lake McDonald, or the Apgar Village Lodge and cabins.

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In and near WEST GLACIER village JUST OUTSIDE the park: West Glacier Motel, Vista Motel, Glacier Guides Lodge, Glacier Highlands and the Belton Chalet. The Great Northern Resort Cabins and rafting, SilverWolf deluxe log chalets, Great Bear Inn. Mountain Cleft Wilderness Retreat, a VRBO home. Glacier Outdoor Center cabins and rafting. Cabins at the KOA campground. San-Suz-Ed campground and 8 B&B rooms. *Also check airbnb and VRBO for home/cabin rentals but know exactly where they are located and especially what the cancellation policies are! Some will say "near" Glacier and could be 80 miles away.

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In and around CORUM and HUNGRY HORSE, 9 MILES AWAY from the west gate: Mini Golden Motel, the historic Tamarack Lodge, Lake Five Resort, Evergreen Motel, Crooked Tree, Glacier B&B and Log Cabins. Hungry Horse Motel. Glacier Park Inn B&B. Glacier's Mountain Resort cabins. Abbott Valley Homestead Cabins.

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Near COLUMBIA FALLS, about 20 minutes or so from the west gate: Brand new Cedar Creek Lodge. Reclusive Moose Cabins, North Fork Resort Cabins (between CF and Whitefish add 10 minutes), Meadow Lake Resort and golf club, Meadow Lake View B&B, Glacier Travel Inn, Trap Line Cabins. Western Inn, its motel, cabins and tepees. Along the Northfork road...the Moss Mountain Inn B&B. Smoky Bear Lodge. Bad Rock B&B. Duck Lake House....make sure you click on the one near Columbia Falls because there is also a Duck Lake way over on the east side of the park. Another VRBO area to check is Spoon Lake.

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CORE OF THE EAST SIDE of GNP where most of the hiking is located.

At RISING SUN, an IN-PARK motorlodge and cabins just inside the East Gate.

In ST.MARY just BARELY OUTSIDE the East Gate: St. Mary Lodge Resort Complex which has, its Great Bear annex, the only place with AC and TV and fairly good WiFi. It also has some new cabins, a couple of historic cabins, several new "tiny houses" and I do mean teeny tiny...bathrooms outside, & 2 basic basic but renovated 50's style motels. Glacier Trailhead Cabins, The Cottages at Glacier (was called Pinnacle). Johnson’s Cabins and the new cabins at the KOA Campground. It may not be MG but it is still beautiful around there. It is also the most centrally located for all east side excursions.

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In MANY GLACIER VALLEY inside the park: Many Glacier Lodge, lakeside balcony rooms primo and $$. But parkside is fine once you realize that you will mostly be sleeping there and can enjoy the views from the public areas there as well. The Swiftcurrent motel and its rustic cabins.

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In BABB, 15 miles from Many Glacier Valley: Thronson's, a basic but clean older, and recently renovated motel. 4 miles north of Babb Is Paul Ranch Montana with its alpacas. East of Babb at Duck Lake...Duck Lake Lodge, recently renovated. The new Duck Lake Loft, a cabin on the lake. The Stone House VRBO. The main drawback to this area is the 15 mile drive into MG which is terribly rutty and rough. Maybe they will fix it one day?

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Lodging in EAST GLACIER PARK VILLAGE. Its OUTSIDE the park on the south end of the east side...5 miles from Two Medicine Valley, 40 miles from St Mary and 65 miles from Many Glacier. Ideal for visiting Two Medicine Valley for a one night stay before or after the East Side Core or in a pinch if nothing else is available on the east side:

Glacier Park Lodge with its famous tree lined atrium lobby. Mountain Pine Motel, Sears Motel, Whistling Swan, Dancing Bears, Travelers Rest Lodge and cabins, Jacobson's cabins, The Brown House and Lone Elk Lodge and condo. Glacier Park Circle R cabins and new motel addition. Also a unique hikers cabin/hostel facility, the Backpacker's Inn, behind Serrano's Restaurant and run by the same. *Be sure to read recent reviews of places there, some are small and some pretty rustic.

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Lodging in and near WHITEFISH, a unique and fun resort town...30 miles away from western gate of Glacier NP and 20 minutes from the airport...more unique and fun than Kalispell which is more of a service town but with a new section of Big Box Stores where you can shop tax-free:

The Lodge on Whitefish Lake, Grouse Mountain Lodge, New Hampton Inn & Suites, Best Western Rocky Mountain Lodge, Chalet Motel, Big Mountain Lodge in town, Cheap Sleep Motel, Pine Lodge, The new Firebrand Hotel, 3 blocks from the train station, The Garden Wall Inn B&B, Bailey's Bed and Bale, Duck Inn B&B, The Hidden Moose Lodge, Whitefish Downtown Suites, and the Haymoon Ranch for seclusion and larger groups. Good Medicine Lodge B&B. Also the great Whitefish Bike retreat. Whitefish TLC B&B for adults.

J D
New Orleans...
Level Contributor
37 posts
1 review
7. Re: Glacier Park Itinerary For GTTSR

Oh my, thank you all for the great advice. After speaking to my husband, we have to back into a 5 day glacier itinerary so now I will have to decide on all of you information and figure out what I must do and could leave out. But....I suppose the biggest challenge is determining where to stay and getting it booked

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