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  1. Default Yellowstone to Glacier NP (West Glacier) - best route?

    Hi, I'm planning a long-loop roadtrip from Chicago, taking in Badlands, Yellowstone, Grand Teton and Glacier National Parks in the middle of May.

    I've got a pretty clear idea of most of the route but would welcome advice on the best route from Yellowstone north to Glacier (to the West entrance). I'm not worried about speed, much more interested in good roads through beautiful scenery. I'm tempted by doing US191 to Bozeman, I90 west to Missoula and then north on the 83 past Flathead, but would welcome any advice.

    Also, for the return to Chicago, what route is recommended for the best experience of Montana?

    Many thanks!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2011
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    Southern California
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    Default

    Welcome to RTA!

    Mid-May, eh? Bear in mind, certain Yellowstone services don't open until May 16, and some open as late as the end of May. Same with Glacier National Park roads and services -- some will be open, some will not. Badlands will have most stuff open (except the White River Visitor Center). Grand Teton will have much open, but a few things will be on shorter hours. You'll have far less crowds in all of those places, but be prepared for the lack of certain amenities.

    How long is your trip?


    Donna

  3. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by London_Hobbes View Post
    I'm tempted by doing US191 to Bozeman, I90 west to Missoula and then north on the 83 past Flathead
    That's what I'd do (FWIW). It gives you the lake, and also the option of the National Bison Range if you haven't seen enough in Yellowstone :) It's about 500 miles, so I guess you'll overnight in Dillon, Butte or Missoula?

    Montana 83 is mainly just a corridor between the trees. Not unpleasant but rather monotonous IMHO.

    Sorry, I can't help with the route back to Chicago.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2003
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    Green County, Wisconsin
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    13,063

    Default

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    As Donna mentioned, in mid-May you will have more limited access to these parks. Glacier is the one that stands out as most problematic, because Going to the Sun Road will still be closed. That road is really the high point of the park, where you'll find most of the attractions.

    As far as getting home, You could use US-2 or MT-200 to get across Montana, and then pick up I-94. That would take you right past Teddy Roosevelt NP, which would be a nice addition to your trip. Just keep in mind that the North Dakota oil boom has motels in short supply in the western/central part of the state, so you may want to time your trip so you spend the night in Eastern Montana (think Glendive), and again in Fargo or Minnesota.

  5. Default

    Thank you all for your responses, really appreciated. What an awesome resource this site is!

    I'm traveling from 10th-22nd May (fly into Chicago on the 8th but wanted to spend at least a day in the city before heading out).

    I know I need to be careful about closed roads - I've been checking the various park websites for updates. For someone from the UK it's pretty remarkable to realise winter holds on for so long in the mountain regions, but I've experienced that before in the Canadian Rockies and in Yosemite (I think it's worth it to catch the beauty of spring and avoid the biggest crowds).

    I know that the Going to the Sun Road will not be open and also the Beartooth Highway at Yellowstone (good excuses to come back!).

    Also, thank you for the tip about the Teddy Roosevelt NP, which I'll definitely check out, and the motels issue in central/western Montana.

    As someone from a pretty small island who loves driving, photography and hiking, I cannot tell you how excited I am about this trip!!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
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    Default A wonderful time to visit, despite its limitations.

    Quote Originally Posted by London_Hobbes View Post
    As someone from a pretty small island who loves driving, photography and hiking, I cannot tell you how excited I am about this trip!!
    So you should be.

    My last visit to Yellowstone was in May (a few years ago). It is an amazing time. If you are lucky you will get the opportunity to see baby wildlife of all species. A wonderful sight, albeit very time consuming. Don't worry about the crowds. When I was there it was very crowded. Took me some four hours to drive from the North East entry to West Yellowstone.

    The Bison Range is another amazing place for Bison and Proghorn Deer. But be aware, this is also likely not to be fully open. If it is not, it is still worth going. Even the 5 mile winter lower road had lots of wildlife roaming nearby. Again, time consuming. (I'd check with the car rental agency as the road in the range can be a bit rough.)

    The route you mention is the route I took to Glacier in 2007, and enjoyed it lots. The ranger at the ranger station at Hungry Horse was a great help to me, directing me to some out-of-the-way sights and attractions.

    Scenic route 2 through northern MT would give you a great feeling for the wide open plains, for the Big Sky Country. At Wolf Point I cut down to Glendive, as recommended above. I'd certainly second Teddy Roosevelt NP. It is a lovely stretch of I-94.

    BTW, I think you mean 93 north to West Glacier, not 83.

    Lifey

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
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    Default East Glacier.

    If you have the time available and the conditions are ok I would recommend visiting the Many Glacier area of Glacier NP on the east side before leaving the area, even though you will have to go the long way around due to the GTTSR being closed, the scenery makes it worthwhile !

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2003
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    Quote Originally Posted by London_Hobbes View Post

    Also, thank you for the tip about the Teddy Roosevelt NP, which I'll definitely check out, and the motels issue in central/western Montana.
    Just to be clear, the motel shortage is an issue in North Dakota, not Montana. Even with the shortage, you should still be able to find rooms, they just will be more expensive than normal.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
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    Melbourne, Australia
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    Default Don't give up.

    Quote Originally Posted by London_Hobbes View Post
    I know that the Going to the Sun Road will not be open and also the Beartooth Highway at Yellowstone (good excuses to come back!).
    No need to give up on the Beartooth Highway just yet, even though on the website the official opening date may not coincide with your trip. It was in May (2009) when I drove into Yellowstone through the north east entrance, over this fantastic route. I was not aware of opening dates, I just went there, and later found out that it had just been opened. A couple of days later it was closed again. I must have been extremely lucky and certainly don't suggest that you do so. But I would check when you get close to the turn off.

    Lifey

  10. Default

    Many thanks for the clarifications folks. And good call on the Beartooth Highway - I'll continue to check it out as I get closer to Yellowstone. I lucked out in Yosemite when I went a few years ago - Glacier Point had opened only the day before, so I was able to do the Panorama Trail (downhill version..!). Beautiful hike. Maybe I'll get similar luck...

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