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Brainstorming and trip planning assistance for a trip to Glacier National Park
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Dave .
(Ramapo) - F
Brainstorming and trip planning assistance for a trip to Glacier National Park on 01/07/2008 09:46:36 MST Print View

Hello all,

My girlfriend and I are beginning to plan a summer(ish) trip to Glacier National Park, so I thought I'd put up a post to see if anyone had some past experience (or information they aquired otherwise) that they wouldn't mind sharing.

We live in New York and have done all of our hiking in our tri-state area, so this will be our first out-of-stater. I'm reading up on the park an possible routes, but I wondered if anyone could speak to:

1. Good routes for a trip that will last 7 to 10 days.
2. A good time to go. Would we be more likely to see exciting wild life at one time or another?
3. Suggestions for gear above an beyond the normal ultralight 3 season stuff.
4. Anything else that might be helpful or fun.


I hope this is the right place to post this.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Brainstorming and trip planning assistance for a trip to Glacier National Park on 01/07/2008 10:20:15 MST Print View

The hiker shuttle system rocks that they started this past year. It is free in the main part and a trivial cost to go from the East side to Many Glaciers. It will make your planning much easier if you want to do a one way.

If this is your first trip and you can afford a bit extra? Plan a night or two in the park as well, in a hotel :-)

Dave .
(Ramapo) - F
Shuttle system on 01/07/2008 10:43:00 MST Print View

Hi Sarah, thanks for the heads up on the shuttle system. I was unaware of it, and, as a result, thought that doing a long one-way hike was out of the question. Very cool.

With respect to staying in a hotel somewhere, do you have any suggestions? We're thinking to make this a two week trip with the first week to 10 days spent hiking and the remainder spent in a hotel. My girlfriend's parents are interested in meeting up with us and seeing the park, but not in 10 days of hiking, so... We'll find somewhere to stay I think.

Thanks again.

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Brainstorming Glacier National Park: lodging on 01/07/2008 11:51:37 MST Print View

With respect to staying in a hotel somewhere, do you have any suggestions?

Three words ..... Lake McDonald Lodge

Michael DeHart
hotel on 01/07/2008 15:31:54 MST Print View

try jacobson's in east glacier ...unique rooms clean and about $50 a night verses $100 plus in the park...we stayed there last summer

Kevin Clayton
(kclayton) - F

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Re: Brainstorming and trip planning assistance for a trip to Glacier National Park on 01/07/2008 15:36:02 MST Print View

You really cant go wrong in finding a beautiful place in Glacier. I worked on the CDT for 2 weeks on a trail crew in the park. If your looking to get away from the crowd the southern portion of the park, south of the going to the sun road, is much less visited but many would argue that it is less majestic. also the north west portion does not get as much traffic. I have to suggest going the the lookout tower on swiftcurrent mountain in the center of the park-excellent 360 views. also the loneman lookout tower which is a bit out of the way but I can tell you that as of the summer of 2007 there are no downed trees left on the trail. If you want to stay on more populated trails like the highline or the gunsight pass trail, be sure to reserve campsites quickly because they fill up quick.
How many miles per day are you looking to cover?

Depending on the number of fires any time can be great. I was there in august and about 1/2 of the time we could not see the nearest mountain.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Brainstorming and trip planning assistance for a trip to Glacier National Park on 01/07/2008 16:17:10 MST Print View

I have to say we, er, um lived it up in Kalispell :-D We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn for a lot less than the park and got a suite along with a massive breakfast every morning (oink oink). The hotel is new as well. Nice pool too. Ok, I'll hand in my hiking cred ;-) But I would suspect the parental unit might like the town. The places to eat in the park were all NASTY-unless it was in the hotels. When we drove we had our cooler and a lap tray for me to cook on/make food.

Having said that we drove the park the first day. After that we used the shuttle - we didn't know about it either till we got there. It was GREAT!! It made it so easy to park at Agar in the massive park and ride and hop on. It also allowed my husband to actually look while going to Logan Pass. It was nice to hop off at a TH and get back on later.

If I was staying in the park, I'd spend a night at the hotel at Many Glacier. Who cares what the hotel is like - the view is amazing...and the CDT is less than a mile away :-D

One thing though is how windy it was there. So be prepared for that.

Mark Mendell
(mmendell) - M

Locale: Midwest
Glacier on 01/07/2008 16:30:30 MST Print View

Sounds like a blast!!

I toyed with the same idea last summer. I really want to plan a Glacier trip with my girls via Amtrak. I have a friend who is a devoted "train person" and loves that route up through there.

I haven't spent any time working out the logistics, but with the new shuttles, you ought to be able to get off the train, spend your week in the woods, and hop the train home. I think you have to get your reservations early, as that NW route is a popular one.

Expensive, maybe, but what a great adventure!

Dave .
(Ramapo) - F
Great info on 01/08/2008 09:04:56 MST Print View

Thanks to all of you. And keep it coming!

It looks like finding a place to stay won't be too tough. It'll probably depend a lot on what hiking route we decide on...or on where we can get a shuttle to.

With respect to some of your questions: We've not decided on daily mileage, but I'd imagine we'll keep a pretty good pace as we're both pretty fit and intend on shaping up a bit before the trip. One thing we have discussed is the option of taking a zero day or two in the back country to just really soak it in. Not sure if that'll pan out to be a good idea though.

I'm going to have to get on the ball with reservations though. And look into travel options. I imagine we'll be flying.

By the way, do any of you know of any good books (I have a few, but none strike me as being particularly great) or websites that offer good detail on hiking and trails in the park?

Kevin Clayton
(kclayton) - F

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Re: Great info on 01/08/2008 15:05:15 MST Print View

On google earth you can select a setting in the layers menu that highlights all of the trails for National parks and shows you the milage between trail junctions and were all of the back-country campsites are.

Dave .
(Ramapo) - F
Google Maps on 01/09/2008 08:58:26 MST Print View

Hey Kevin,

I was just having a look at overlay options on Google Maps. Couldn't find anything that was terribly useful though. Definitely nothing that was as good as my National Geopgraphic topo. Maybe I'm just not familiar enough with the program though?

Kirk Olson
(kirkols) - F

Locale: Florida and Seattle
Google Maps (not Google Earth) on 01/09/2008 09:16:39 MST Print View

Google Earth has all sorts of cool overlays and is a very sophisticated program. Google Maps is browser based and has more basic functionality. I found this link to a nice example of how to use Google Maps:

Edited by kirkols on 01/09/2008 09:17:09 MST.

John Kays
(johnk) - M

Locale: SoCal
Google Options on 01/09/2008 11:14:03 MST Print View

Thanks all for this tip re: google….but how do you get “view in google earth” to show up? When I view an area, e.g. Sequoia Kings Canyon, the “view in google earth” is not an option nor is there a menu to allow for “layers” that Kevin mentioned. My options are streets, map, terrain and hybrid. When I go to terrain none of the above options are available.

Kirk Olson
(kirkols) - F

Locale: Florida and Seattle
Google Maps link to Google Earth on 01/09/2008 12:27:55 MST Print View

Do you get this on the Google Map?

Google Earth Link

Edited by kirkols on 01/09/2008 12:29:14 MST.

John Kays
(johnk) - M

Locale: SoCal
Google Earth on 01/09/2008 13:18:58 MST Print View


Everything appears but the, “View in Google Earth.” However, when I use an address such as you posted above,, the “View in Google Earth” does show up.

Kevin Clayton
(kclayton) - F

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Re: Google Earth on 01/09/2008 15:17:33 MST Print View

To use google earth and find trails you need to download it from google here its free:
Then once you get it up and running on the left hand side of the screen there should be a menu called layers.
Find Places of interest and click on the arrow next to it.
Then make sure that Geographic features and Parks and recreation are checked.
Then you should be able to view trails in national parks in the U.S.

You might be able to do all this with google maps but I am not sure.
google maps and earth are 2 different things

Edited by kclayton on 01/09/2008 15:22:54 MST.

Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
Brainstorming and trip planning assistance for a trip to Glacier National Park on 01/09/2008 16:56:55 MST Print View

I lived in Glacier for two seasons working on a backcountry trail crew. I've hiked 75+% of the trails in the park and have favorite hikes. I've been asked to give suggestions on good hikes before, so rather than type up a whole new suggestion list I'm going to paste some e-mail correspondence below.

--- --- --
Trip One - "The Northern Traverse" - 7 days, 6 nights This trip consists of 7 - 10 +/- mile days and will allow participants to experience the entire Northern span of the park. It brings you up and over both the grueling Stoney Indian Pass as well as the mellower Brown Pass (the continental divide). As a means of reference as to the difficulty of this route, I did this route in three days and two nights last summer, averaging 20+ miles per day. It recommended as a 5+ day hike, so to do it in 7 would allow time to appreciate the scenery and relax in camp.

Day 1. Hike from Chief Mtn. Ranger Station (Northeastern corner of the park) to either Cosley or Glenn's Lake campsite

Day 2. Hike to the gorgeous Stoney Indian Pass campsite

Day 3. Hike to the Goat Haunt area (can't remember the names of camps here).

Day 4. Hike to the Lake Francis campground which is in my opinion the first or second best campsite in the park.

Day 5. From Lake Francis, climb the mellow Brown's Pass switchbacks, and head to either Hole-in-the-Wall or Boulder Pass campsites. Boulder Pass is the other "best" campsite in Glacier. Even the toilet (an open air "low-rider") provides a spectacular view of the Whitefish Mtn. Range.

Day 6. Drop down the pounding switchbacks to either the camps at Upper or Lower Kintla Lake.

Day 7. Finish the trip by hiking out to the Kintla Car camping area.

--- --- ---
Trip Two - "Coal/Nyack Loop" - 6 days, 5 nights

This is considered the ruggedest route in Glacier in that it encompasses many (low water depth) stream-crossings and is in the remotest section and least visited part of the park. The trip begins and ends with a ford of the Middle Fork of the Flathead River and begins and ends with forested walking. The middle days of the trip are filled with expansive views of high peaks and passes as seen through the remains of the all-encompassing fires of 2003. The trip stays to the valley floor except for one almost imperceptible crossing of Suprise Pass.

Day 1 - Begin at the Coal Creek Trailhead (get precise directions from a ranger or use the Shuttle Service), ford the Middle Fork and hike approx. 6 miles the Lower Coal campsite.

Day 2 - Hike another 7 to 10 miles through trees and one or two fords to Upper Coal creek campsite.

Day 3 - From Upper Coal you'll head into the burn of 2003 which allows amazing views of the surrounding peaks and in particular, Mt. St. Nick (a Matterhorn-ish looking peak) until you come to the Martha's Basin area. The campground is at Beaver Woman Lake and this hike is approx. 10 miles.

Day 4 - Cross the easy Suprise Pass and continue hiking through the burn until you arrive at the Upper Nyack campsite.

Day 5 - Hike to the Lower Nyack campsite.

Day 6 - Return to the trees and hike out, fording the Middle Fork again and once again entering civilization.

--- --- ---
Trip Three - "Dawson/Pitamakin Pass Loop" -
This is a very short trip that many people do as a long day-hike. It starts and ends from the Two Medicine area of the park and one can actually catch a scenic boat ride rather than hike the first half of the first day.

Day 1 - Hike/ride the boat along Two Medicine lake and then ascend to the No Name Lake camsite.

Day 2 - Climb Dawson pass and proceed along a ridge and sidehill to Pitamakin Pass and then descend to the Old Man Lake campsite.

Day 3 - Hike back out to the Two Medicine Area

--- --- ---

These are rough descriptions of three routes. I highly suggest cross-referencing the routes I described with both a park map as well as a guidebook (if you have one). I only had my memory and atopo map to create those scenarios so I don't remember that many mileage figures. I haven't hiked the Dawson/Pitamakin Loop in its entirety but I've done the other two routes (the Coal/Nyack loop I've done three times). Like I mentioned before, feel free to nit pick with questions, as you may be able to tell from the lenght of this message, that I don't mind helping out.

Joe Westing
(pedro87) - F
Glacier accomodations on 01/09/2008 19:13:30 MST Print View

I would also have to recommend the Many Glacier lodge. Its spectacular location and proximity to great hiking makes up for its slightly outdated interior (when I went in 2003). I think they were planning on updating the hotel soon after I left.

George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
Re: Brainstorming and trip planning assistance for a trip to Glacier National Park on 01/10/2008 17:31:12 MST Print View

How is the weather during the summer months? Rainfall. Temperature.

Dave .
(Ramapo) - F
Awesome on 01/11/2008 08:59:30 MST Print View

Sam: thanks so much. Your post is just the sort of info I was hoping for. Very, very helpful.

George: I've been researching weather. I'm looking to go in August. Info I've found indicates that the temp ranges from the upper 70s to the mid 40s and that it rains about 9 days a month in August. I forget where I found this now or I'd post the link for you...oops.

Here's a logisitical question: If I opted for for Sam's first suggestion and planned to start in the northeast corner of the park, how much of a pain is it to get there from the airport on the southwest side of the park? More to the point, how much of a pain is it to get there without renting a car? Anyone know?