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  1. Default road trip to Montana

    hello, new user here.
    Im 21 about to graduate from a college in NH
    When I was in 6th grade I did a report on glacier national park in montanna. Ive wanted to go ever since.
    So this summer after i graduate I want to load up my car and head out there from CT.

    I would like advice on what to bring. Where to stop in between. I'm a photographer so also the most scenic routes and ways to save money.

    Thank you!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default As good a reason as there is....

    Quote Originally Posted by dancingeyes87 View Post
    Im 21 about to graduate from a college in NH
    Congratulations on the pending graduation and welcome to the Great American RoadTrip Forum!
    When I was in 6th grade I did a report on glacier national park in montanna. Ive wanted to go ever since.
    How long will you have for the trip? Here are some ideas, tips and suggestions for planning such a trip. Here is a field report I did about Glacier to whet your appetite. Here are some tips about saving money on road trips.


  3. #3

    Default Spring comes late at Glacier

    Hello dancingeyes,

    Congrats on your impending graduation. What a great reason for a road trip!

    Around here (North Carolina) college graduations are in the first week or two of May. If that's your timeframe in 09, a trip to MT soon afterward could find the pinnacle vistas of Glacier NP, those being the multitude of views along Going-To-The -Sun Road, (GTTSR) still closed due to incomplete removal and melting of the winter's snow. Montana has had a couple of good of good snow years and I imagine the GTTSR has been well into June opening.

    Other Montana locales on my favorites list include all of Southwest Montana, generally included within the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. Here you'll find the Pioneer Range, the Pioneer Mountains Scenic Parkway, the Big Hole, Jackson Hot Springs, the ghost town of Bannack (wonderfully preserved as Bannack State Park), and Lemhi Pass (where Lewis and Clark first crossed the Continental Divide). US 93 southward from Missoula takes you up the Bitterroot River valley and the Bitterroot Range to the west is spectacular. Rock Creek Road off of I-90 just east of Missoula takes you up a long (40 mile) gravel road through the Lolo and the Beaverhead-Deerlodge NF along the blue ribbon trout stream Rock Creek. Near the top, to the east, is Philipsburg, MT, a terrific little old mining town with many old banks, miners union halls, and other historic buildings.

    Congrats again on the coming events.


  4. Default re:roadtrip

    so just to make sure I understand what you're saying. Montanna is great to go to in late may? or is it not because of the melting from the winter?
    I would be graduating around 15-19th of may. I would probably leave at the end of may. Probably do a two week roadtrip.

    How long do you think by car would it take. (making stops) to get there? 4 days?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default too soon

    If Glacier National Park is your main priority, then you're going too early in the year. As Foy mentioned, the Going to the Sun Road, which is home to some of the park's biggest highlights doesn't usually open until June. Occationally, they will even get a late may or june Snowstorm that can push the opening day until nearly July.

    There are still things to see and do in the area, and there are parts of the Park that you can still enjoy in May/June, but the entire place won't be accessable for your trip.

    4 Days would be about the fastest we'd recommend making this trip, as you'd be looking at roughly 12 hours per day on the road at that pace. If you were interested in doing really any stopping at sites along the way, I'd suggest taking 5 days.

  6. #6

    Default Spring snowmelt

    Quote Originally Posted by dancingeyes87 View Post
    so just to make sure I understand what you're saying. Montanna is great to go to in late may? or is it not because of the melting from the winter?
    I would be graduating around 15-19th of may. I would probably leave at the end of may. Probably do a two week roadtrip.

    How long do you think by car would it take. (making stops) to get there? 4 days?

    If your plans include trout fishing, high elevation backcountry hiking or driving, or high elevation roads in general (and include the Beartooth Highway in the "other Montana sights" to see and under high elevation roads), then yes, mid-May would find the streams swollen from runoff and the fishing poor, snow still on high elevation trails, and snow still on high elevation roads.

    What's high elevation? I'd consider anything over 6,000-7,000' to be high elevation in MT. Timberline is generally 9,000' at that latitude. The routine Federal and MT highways rarely get over 5,000-5,500' even in the passes, and when they do, it's for short distances and they get plowed regularly. National Forest roads, backpacking trails, and National Park roads (like GTTS in Glacier) can routinely be over 10,000' in elevation (Logan Pass at the apex of GTTS is right at 10,000', I think) and at that height, the snowpack is much deeper and the removal a much longer task. Some NF roads probably are allowed to melt before opening in the Spring. I think the Beartooth Highway (US 212 from Red Lodge, MT to the NE entrance to Yellowstone NP) reaches +11,000' in MT and WY, but probably opens sooner than GTTS on average inasmuch as it's a principal entrance to Yellowstone NP.

    Lower elevation activities, excepting trout fishing, can be quite enjoyable in May in MT. You just need to be prepared for some chilly nights, and yes, you can even get snowed on a bit, especially above, say, 4,000-5,000'.


  7. Default veggetarian

    Thank you for the feedback so far. I would not be doing any fishing. Im a pretty strict veggetarian lol but thank you for the advice anyways.

    So what I'm hearing though is that to really enjoy montana at least the glacier park aspect of it, it is better to wait to maybe end of june. Like I could leave CT in late june try and get to montana for early july?

    5 days seems great to me as well. I went on a two week road trip this summer from Ct to texas and we got to texas in three days. So we really had no time to stop and enjoy the states we were passing through.

    So the more time I have to stop and enjoy whats around me the better. Again this trip is for adventure and for photography. So again if anyone knows great scenic routes along the way, please do share.

  8. Default Possible pass through states

    so I just looked at a mapquest map just searching CT to MT. It appears I'll be going through. NY, Pennsylvania, cleveland, chicago, wisconsin, minnesota, north dakota, and then on to montana.

    Looking at these states. I hope to find the most scenic drives in each. and from the map it appears at some points ill be very close to a few of the great lakes. I would love to know about kayaking them or canoing. thank you again.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula

    Default Make it a loop trip, if you can

    Without adding too many miles, you can make this a loop drive so you're seeing different things each way. I would recommend swinging down to the Rapid City, SD, area so you can see Mt. Rushmore, Wall Drug, Crazy Horse Memorial, Deadwood, and all the other things near there. It's rich with options.

    You might also want to swing down into Wyoming and at least do a drive through Yellowstone, too.

    The National Scenic Byways is really helpful to help with routing but, really, even the interstates have a lot of neat things to see. Within each state, there are state scenic byways, too, to add to the choices.

  10. #10

    Default Calendar Sweet Spot; northern route

    In my opinion, the sweet spot for MT would be the second half of June perhaps up until the end of the first week of July. During these 3 weeks, you bracket the longest days of the year, the weather should be warm and comfortable without being too hot, most, if not all, high elevation activities will be available, and the worst of the annual forest fire season should not have kicked in. This year and last were welcome exceptions, particularly this year, when virtually all NF campgrounds and off-the-beaten path roads were open all summer due to extensive and regular rains following snows having fallen regularly, in the mountains, through May. In many years, the Forest Service must bar entry to hundreds of thousands to millions of acres of NF territory by late July-early August to reduce the risk of fire.

    As long as you're contemplating some Great Lakes exploration, why not leave NH for Ontario and cross onto the UP of Michigan at the Sault St Marie? That gives you a shot at traversing much of the Lake Superior shoreline vicinity, including Pictured Rocks Nat Lakeshore. Excepting an urbanized area between Munising and Marquette and another around Houghton, the UP is as wild and remote a place as you'll find in the Midwest and Eastern sections of the US. You can visit the Superior shore then drop down to US 2 across WI and into MN, then head over to Fargo, ND to pick up I-94. I-94 takes you across ND and directly through Medora, ND, the headquarters of the Theodore Roosevelt National Grassland, a remote and serene terrain of buttes and badlands. I-94 then joins I-90 at Billings, where 90 then takes you the rest of the way across MT.


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