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JimKied
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Need Glacier National Park Help/Suggestions


A bucket list item of mine is to go to Glacier National Park. I recently had an opportunity to go to GNP. It was relatively short notice and when I searched for lodging in the area, there was nothing available. So I did not go. With that lesson learned, I want to plan a trip there. And since I am Florida based, this will likely be my only trip to the area.

As background, I'm primarily interested in taking landscape images, with wildlife being secondary. I will be traveling with family, so some of the trip will need to include the normal tourist type stuff. I can probably figure out that stuff myself.

But what I need to know is information about the ideal times of the year to go. Obviously I will want to travel the Going to the Sun Road, so that may limit the time to the July/August/September timeframe, but if there is a better time to go to catch wildflowers, dramatic weather, or even fall colors, or anything else, I'd like to hear what you have to say about them.

Also, given my recent experience with trying to find lodging, I'd appreciate suggestions about where to stay and how far in advance I would need to start booking reservations to lodging in the area.

Given the that there is a west and east side, is one side better? Or should I try to spend some time on each side (split lodging between both sides).

I am also entertaining some thought about making this a mondo trip and also traveling to the Banff area in Canada. My maximum trip length would be around 3 weeks, but probably 2 weeks is a better option (less if I go only to Glacier). If I were to do that, would it be better to fly into Calgary, do Banff first and then drive down to Glacier and then back up to leave ( I hear that you can't rent a vehicle in one country and drop it off in another country. Or possibly fly into Montana somewhere, do Glacier first, and then drive up to Banff.

These are more basic trip planning questions and I'd like the wisdom of prior experience to get started. I'm sure as I get into it, I'll have many more. Appreciate any suggestions y'all may have!



Jul 30, 2017 at 11:42 AM
Ed McGuirk
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Need Glacier National Park Help/Suggestions


I just got back from 8 days in Glacier National Park, after not having visited there in almost 20 years. It was an extremely productive trip photographically, despite the park being very crowded.

IMO the east side has much more to offer photographically than the West side, but with that said I would recommend for a one week trip to spend 2 days on the west side near Lake McDonald, and 5 days on the east side (also using the east side as a base to visit Logan Pass in the center of the park).

Lodging books up early, I booked a July trip in December and found my lodging options to be slightly limited, I'd suggest booking 10 to 12 months in advance. This involved staying in lodges inside the park accessed thru the Glacier lodging website. Most campgrounds were full every day.

On the west side I recommend staying at Apgar Village or Lake McDonald Lodge/Motel. From there you can easily do sunrise/sunset at Lake McDonald, the Trail of the Cedars and Avalanche Lake hike. Two days should be enough to get all that in.

On the East side the primary options would be Rising Sun, St. Marys Lodge and Many Glacier Hotel. These places are not cheap, and book up early but are in great locations for photography. St Marys also had some cheaper, local lodging places (but limited in number). From St. Marys its 15 minutes to Wild Goose Island, 30 minutes to Logan Pass on GTTS road, and 35 minutes to Many Glacier area. IMO it's easier driving to Logan pass from the east instead of from the west. We stayed 5 nights at St Marys Lodge (which was fine), but I could also see splitting 3 days at St. Marys and 2 days at Many Glacier if you don't like driving. I'd recommend staying at Many Glacier hotel for a couple nights, it's a really neat place, and it's near great hiking and wildlife viewing.

Going to the Sun Road opens in mid to late June and remains open through mid to late September. In the last week of July we hit the peak of the beargrass flower bloom, but the other wildflowers at Logan Pass were just starting to come in. Lots of snow still on the Hidden Lake Trail. The first week of August might be better for general alpine flowers.

The parking lot at Logan pass filled up between 8:30am and about 5:00pm. You need to be there before or after those times to avoid extensive trolling for parking. But I got there at sunrise (6:00am) and the parking lot was mostly empty. The Park Service also closed road access to Many Glacier between 10:00am and 3:00pm due to lack of parking on a few days. This might alos argue for splitting time between St. Marys and Many Glacier.








Jul 30, 2017 at 02:10 PM
JimKied
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Need Glacier National Park Help/Suggestions


Thanks Ed. That information is helpful. Especially about the parking situation and areas to base our excursions. Thanks for he help!


Jul 30, 2017 at 07:51 PM
jdc562
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Need Glacier National Park Help/Suggestions


In early June of 2011 I had no problem getting lodging there. Maybe the trick is going there before (or after) the kids are on summer vacation.


Jul 30, 2017 at 08:21 PM
JimKied
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Need Glacier National Park Help/Suggestions


jdc562 wrote:
In early June of 2011 I had no problem getting lodging there. Maybe the trick is going there before (or after) the kids are on summer vacation.


I guess Going to the sun was open then in that year? Were there a lot of wildflowers?




Jul 30, 2017 at 09:41 PM
bflood
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Need Glacier National Park Help/Suggestions


Got back from Glacier 10 days ago, and it's as sensational as it always has been.

However, like other national parks, it suffers from too much popularity. Finding a place to park at Logan Pass will require arriving there before 9 AM or after 3 PM in summer. Our July experience was that parking at all of the turnouts was rather competitive - too many cars. But the crowds there were just like I've encountered in other parks - they don't like to get up early. If you start early, you'll have much easier access.

Because of the crowds, I suggest you consider going right after Labor Day weekend. Hopefully the crowds will be significantly smaller as schools will be in session everywhere, but there's little risk that the Going to the Sun Road will be closed for the season. If going that late in the year isn't possible, I suggest you avoid June - there's a significant risk the road won't be opened yet. I was at Glacier at the end of September a few years ago and the road was already closed by snow, and that diminishes the experience to a huge degree.

The advice about the in-park hotels is good. There's precious little lodging outside the park on the east side. On the west side, there's lodging in Hungry Horse and Kalispell. Kalispell is about a 40 minute drive to the West Glacier entrance, has a sizable assortment of nationally known motels, and a more-or-less standard assortment of Generica retail and restaurants.

Wildflowers were abundant in mid-July.



Jul 31, 2017 at 03:44 AM
JimKied
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Need Glacier National Park Help/Suggestions


bflood wrote:
Got back from Glacier 10 days ago, and it's as sensational as it always has been.

However, like other national parks, it suffers from too much popularity. Finding a place to park at Logan Pass will require arriving there before 9 AM or after 3 PM in summer. Our July experience was that parking at all of the turnouts was rather competitive - too many cars. But the crowds there were just like I've encountered in other parks - they don't like to get up early. If you start early, you'll have much easier access.

Because of the crowds, I suggest you
...Show more

The after Labor Day suggestion is kind of interesting. I'm 64 years old and I have never seen Aspen trees in their fall colors. Needless to say, but I'd love to have that opportunity......

Are there a lot of aspens in GNP? As a general rule does the "first" fall occur earlier or later in September? I know that prediction of the actual occurrence is not possible, but what I'm trying to figure out is if there is a reasonably safe period where I could be there and the Going to the Sun road will be open AND also be able to see fall colors. Thanks!



Jul 31, 2017 at 09:40 AM
JimFox
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Need Glacier National Park Help/Suggestions


jdc562 wrote:
In early June of 2011 I had no problem getting lodging there. Maybe the trick is going there before (or after) the kids are on summer vacation.


The problem with early June is there is still too much snow and the majority of the trails will be closed. This year the Going to the Sun Road didn't even open up until June 28th. And many of the trails were still closed into Mid July.

As a photographer I would think you would want to get there for the wildflowers, and there will be none in June or very few to say the least. The best blooms are the end of July into the beginning of August.

Book ahead or camp, but I would plan on the end of July personally.

Jim




Jul 31, 2017 at 08:00 PM
 

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JimFox
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Need Glacier National Park Help/Suggestions


JimKied wrote:
The after Labor Day suggestion is kind of interesting. I'm 64 years old and I have never seen Aspen trees in their fall colors. Needless to say, but I'd love to have that opportunity......

Are there a lot of aspens in GNP? As a general rule does the "first" fall occur earlier or later in September? I know that prediction of the actual occurrence is not possible, but what I'm trying to figure out is if there is a reasonably safe period where I could be there and the Going to the Sun road will be open AND also
...Show more

There is some fall color in Glacier, but if it's fall color you want then you really should just go to Colorado. Starting at Maroon Bells and working your way south in Colorado, there are Aspens galore.

You could easily go to the Banff area and shoot the Larches and work your way down to Glacier for fall colors. I personally have seen better fall color displays in Banff then in Glacier.

As mentioned Mid July is a good time, I prefer the end of July, but that time span will get you some beautiful wildflowers along with some snow still gracing the sides of the mountains to provide some nice contrast. Just plan ahead and enjoy it. Don't base your timing on avoiding crowds as that's almost impossible to do anymore.

Jim



Jul 31, 2017 at 08:09 PM
JimKied
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Need Glacier National Park Help/Suggestions


JimFox wrote:
The problem with early June is there is still too much snow and the majority of the trails will be closed. This year the Going to the Sun Road didn't even open up until June 28th. And many of the trails were still closed into Mid July.

As a photographer I would think you would want to get there for the wildflowers, and there will be none in June or very few to say the least. The best blooms are the end of July into the beginning of August.

Book ahead or camp, but I would plan on the end of July
...Show more




Jul 31, 2017 at 08:10 PM
JimFox
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · Need Glacier National Park Help/Suggestions


JimKied wrote:


I would say the 1st week of August would be the latest I would go for wildflowers.

Wildflowers will vary, and they will bloom and fade over a timer period. Area's that were covered later with snow will bloom and last later, and it will vary based on altitude. The best show typically is the mid to the end of July, but that's not to say you won't still find wildflowers into August, you will, you just won't find as many. And each year is different, but the mid to end of July will give you the best opportunity in general.

Jim



Jul 31, 2017 at 08:15 PM
bflood
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · Need Glacier National Park Help/Suggestions


I have to agree with JimFox - you'll be much happier with the aspens you'll find in Colorado. The southwestern third of Colorado is amazing around October 1, +/- a week.

Glacier is covered mainly with evergreens. The color in the area also peaks around October 1, or later in my experience. Most of the fall color happens outside the park. Going to Glacier that late in the year makes it more than just possible the GTTS Road will be closed by snow - it's likely. Colorado, OTOH, will be open for business and truly beautiful.

If you're willing to forego the foliage and wildflowers, early September should be a good time to go. But if you want the wildflowers, you need to get there in mid-late July, and endure the crowds. That can be done - we just did it and had a great time.



Aug 01, 2017 at 03:57 AM
Ed McGuirk
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · Need Glacier National Park Help/Suggestions


I agree late July would be a good safe bet for wildflowers, with some snow left on the mountains, and plenty of water in the streams. I went from 7/20/17 to 7/28/17 and hit it just right this year. The beargrass at Logan pass was hitting peak, and the local paper indicated that this was one of the best blooms in many years due to how much snow/moisture they got this year. The general alpine wildflowers around Logan Pass were starting to hit stride near the end of my trip. There was plenty of melt water in Avalanche Creek and Lunch Creek Falls. I think if you went any later than the first week of August the flowers would be mostly passed and the streams would have much less water. At the hairpin turn before Logan Pass there was a wonderful roadside ice cave that you could safely shoot from outside, with beautiful abstract patterns in the ice.

The crowds are unavoidable in late July/early August. But if you went to popular spots early in the morning, such as Logan Pass or Avalanche Creek, you almost had the place to yourself for an hour or two. I shot Avalanche Gorge from the boardwalk on the Trail of the Cedars at 7:30am while the gorge was still in shade, and had it to myself. By about 8:30 hikers were heading up to the lake and there were so many people on the boardwalk that you couldn't get a sharp image from the boardwalk bouncing. At 6:00am the Logan Pass parking lot was almost empty, but by 8:30 it was full. The early bird gets the worm.



Aug 01, 2017 at 01:49 PM
JimKied
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · Need Glacier National Park Help/Suggestions


Thanks everyone for the input. I just booked hotels for the week of 7/19-26/2018. For that week, I could not get lodging at a single hotel for the whole week. So I wound up getting 3 separate hotels. At this point, it wasn't a matter of preference, it was solely getting what was available. I am staying inside the park and I did not look at anything outside the park, so I'm sure there are other options out there. At least I have places to stay. I'll probably keep looking a little bit and if I find something better, I can always cancel some of the hotel nights I already have. For now it is Many Glacier, Rising Sun, and Village Inn. Thanks again!! I'm excited.


Aug 03, 2017 at 11:34 AM
Ed McGuirk
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p.1 #15 · p.1 #15 · Need Glacier National Park Help/Suggestions


Jim, those three lodging choices are a perfect balance. At both Village Inn and Many Glacier you can literally roll out of bed and be at dramatic sunrise photo spots. Good luck and enjoy Glacier next year.






Aug 03, 2017 at 12:22 PM







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