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  1. #1

    Default Planning a trip from Denver to Glacier National Park

    Hello - we are new to your forum - from the UK. We have driven a lot in both the US and Canada over the years and have begun to plan another trip for next summer - for up to 4 weeks. After doing a bit of research we wondered if Denver to Glacier National Park would be good? Or some sort of round trip from one end or the other? We see there are some wonderful sights to see, hiking to do, places to visit, times to sit still and stare. Your advice would be welcomed.
    We are campers but would not have our trailer tent with us, have also traveled staying in a variety of cabins, motels etc. We have often thought about an RV or similar but one of our concerns is having to take it with us if we wanted to drive out for the day from a site.
    We definitely don't want to move off every day - we always want to saok up the atmosphere and beauty of where we are at, but we are not worried about doing a lot of miles in a day either - we have also driven our selves around a huge chunk of Namibia.
    Anyway I ramble on - therefore will stop. Thank you in anticipation.
    Barbara and Paul

  2. #2

    Default Overland travel, Southwest Montana

    Good Evening Barbara and Paul,

    What a wonderful trip you can make in 4 weeks! I'm envious!

    I favor overland travel, staying a couple or three nights at will, but having the ability to break camp quickly and simply. I also favor renting (hiring) a 4WD SUV, as much for the high-clearance and gear-hauling space as the 4WD.

    Coming all the way from the UK, I'd be tempted to fly to either Denver or Salt Lake City, visit an outdoor store there (I am fond of REI, with locations in large cities across the Western US), purchase a simple tent and cookset, a 50 quart cooler, and hit the highway. You can probably fit the tent and other gear inside the cooler and check it as baggage on the return flight.

    Anyway, starting from Denver, traversing the Front Range of the Rockies within Rocky Mountain National Park would be high on my list. Trail Ridge Road there reaches elevations of +11,000'. If you haven't seen them, you'll likely want to pass through the Tetons and Yellowstone Nat Parks, a day's drive northwest from the western side of Trail Ridge Road. If you'd prefer not to or have already been there, I'd pass west of there into Idaho and enter Southwest Montana.

    The Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest and the Lolo NF combine for +5,000,000 acres of mountains, flats, lakes, and streams in Southwest Montana, and it's all practically deserted, being well away from population centers and main routes between National Parks. I'm very high on the Pioneer Range within the Beaverhead. It features the Pioneer Range Scenic Parkway, glaciated snowcapped peaks, forested peaks, and a network of trails to drive or hike on. The very rustic Elkhorn Hot Springs is along the Parkway and features a small hotel, restaurant, cabins, and a rustic hot spring-fed pool. Comet Mountain is a favorite above-timberline drive near Elkhorn. From the end of the drill road on Comet, at 9,700', a 600' elevation boulder hop brings you to the summit, where the opposite side of the mountain has been shorn off by alpine glaciation, leaving a 1,400' vertical drop to two tarns below. Leaving the Elkhorn Hot Springs area, pass through Jackson in the spectacular Big Hole Valley. There the Valley floor lies between 6,000' and 6,500' and is covered by huge ranches where thousands of haystacks form the drying/storage method for their single annual cutting of hay. There's a nicer, less rustic hot spring lodge/restaurant/cabin complex in Jackson. In fact, that's about all there is to Jackson. The Big Hole is very remote. Leaving there, head west on MT 43 to Lost Trail Pass and US 93 north down the Bitterroot Valley to Missoula. Downtown Missoula features hotels, restaurants, bars, the University of Montana campus, and walking trails along the Clark Fork River. By all means have breakfast at The Oxford in downtown Missoula, where the restaurant never closes and due to that, they don't even have locks on the doors. Reaching Glacier from Missoula is a fairly short drive north along US 93.

    Throughout the West, and particularly in MT, ID, and WY, the National Forest Service offers small, rustic cabins for rent. These cabins were originally built to house Forest Service crews during their work weeks where riding back into town took too long. They're generally furnished with basic cooking gear and bunks and have a well and an outhouse. Nothing fancy, mind you, but it's a real treat to string a series of cabins together in the more remote sections of the National Forests. Certainly simpler than setting up tents, etc. Bring some folding camp chairs, a tarp and some line to set up more shaded areas right outside of the cabin, your food, drink, and cooking fuel, and stay a spell at one or two of them. See the various NF websites for details. The Beaverhead-Deerlodge NF has a good summary of their cabins, with pictures. Also be advised of the availability of dozens and dozens of very remote fire towers. They rent as overnight accomodations, as well, and given their original use, they're generally very remote. There are some in ID which are listed as being 40-50 miles from town! You'll find fire tower rental listings, pictures, etc on any of a number of websites, starting with the NF sites.

    On the return trip from Glacier, I'd head east from Missoula along I-90 for around 20 miles to Rock Creek. Head up-canyon (south) from I-90 and you enter a 50 mile long forested canyon with no other road access. Moose and bighorn sheep abound. Several NF campgrounds and two rental cabins are in the remote canyon (one of the two being a two-story homesteader's cabin called Hogback Homestead--so desirable it's rented by lottery drawing). The other is Stony Creek cabin. I've stayed at both and enjoyed the heck out of each. You'd get out of the canyon near Philipsburg, my favorite MT town, with the historic Hotel Broadway and a big candy store, ice cream shop, restaurants, and bars all within a block or two from the hotel. I can't wait to get back there myself--it's been 7 years!

    From there I might jog well south along the I-15 corridor, reach the ID-UT border area, and might venture into northeast NV, Great Basin for some real Old West town fun in Elko or Wells, pass through the Wasatch Range back in UT, and overnight there at Park City for some fine dining, a high luxe motel, and the bar scene. From there I'd either head over to Flaming Gorge for a flatwater raft trip through a beautiful canyon teeming with trout, or pass by or through either Arches NP, Canyonlands NP, or both. From the Moab area, you can head south to Monticello and turn east into CO to see Mesa Verde NP, Durango, drive the Million Dollar Highway, thence to Gunnison. There I'd turn north towards Crested Butte ski area, thence northeast over Cottonwood Pass (around 10,000'), where a gravel road takes you past the spectacular Taylor's Park Reservoir. Part-way down the east side lies Cottonwood Hot Springs, with cabins and a campground. From there, you might raft the upper Arkansas River or simply drive back towards Denver. Taking the highway from the Fairplay area brings you through yet another high pass to Breckinridge, a fun, fun ski town which rocks like mad during summer. From Breck it's but a couple or three hours back to the airport in Denver.

    So, sure, there are innumerable ways to put together a 4-week camping/cabin/motel trip between Denver and Glacier. You've got all the time in the world to plan one. Enjoy your planning and your RoadTrip!


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Better than good !

    Hello and welcome to the RTA forums !

    After doing a bit of research we wondered if Denver to Glacier National Park would be good?
    As you can see from Foy's reply, you would have many wonderful opportunity's to explore some of natures best offerings !

    We are campers but would not have our trailer tent with us
    Snap ! We have a trailer tent here in the UK and we go down the "RV route" when visiting the States, and if that's your thing I can recommend it. We were a party of 4 and had a 30 ft class 'C' RV and had no problems going anywhere but they are much larger in the US than our Euro campers and much better equipped. If you enjoy that lifestyle and are happy to drive a large vehicle than those nights under the stars in the National parks are amazing. Other than not being as nimble as car to get around in the only other possible downside will be the cost, especially if there is only two of you sharing it. In this case a car and Motels usually work out cheaper.

    Have a search of the forums and road trip planning pages and you will find many,many suggestions and then as you build your trip keep asking questions and we can help you "fine tune" your itinerary.

  4. #4

    Default Jacksonhole to Moab [The Arches NP]?

    How long would this drive take?

    We calculate about 500 miles but know it isn't all motorway.

    Last edited by Southwest Dave; 06-22-2009 at 01:23 AM. Reason: please keep all questions about this trip in one thread.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Car or RV ?

    It will depend on your chosen mode of transport but in a car I would estimate that you would be looking at 10-11 hours.
    You can either cut across to Idaho falls and hook up with I-15 and head South through Salt lake city and then US 6 to I-70, or take US 191/189/I-80/I-40/US189 and join I-15 briefly and then US 6 to I-70. From my mapping program there is only 33 miles and minutes separating the two routes.

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