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Glacier Park: Going-to-the Sun Road closed to cars for another week?

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Glacier Park: Going-to-the Sun Road closed to cars for another week?

Old 06-08-21, 08:47 AM
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Glacier Park: Going-to-the Sun Road closed to cars for another week?

Hello all,

I am going to make a spontaneous Amtrak trip to West Glacier with hopes of riding the Going-to-the-Sun road before it opens for cars for the season. I expect to arrive either Saturday or Sunday morning on the Empire Builder. Any locals have any information on whether the road will still be closed to cars at that time?

I'm not sure on my path back to Portland from there. Originally I thought I would ride to Sandpoint, ID from Glacier and then Amtrak back to Portland but I am not in the mood for that many nights of camping. Now I am thinking hanging out in Whitefish and Kalispell for a couple of day and then Amtrak to Libby and bicycle from Libby to Sandpoint or Spokane and then Amtrak back to Portland.

Going to the Sun closed to cars for another week?
What is the best part of the ride between Whitefish and Sandpoint? Is Amtrak from Whitefish to Libby a good plan?
Is the ride between Sandpoint and Spokane worth doing?

Thanks
What is the best part of the ride from
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Old 06-08-21, 09:18 AM
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Originally Posted by kevmcd View Post
Hello all,

I am going to make a spontaneous Amtrak trip to West Glacier with hopes of riding the Going-to-the-Sun road before it opens for cars for the season....
Going to the Sun closed to cars for another week?...
Quick search found this:
https://www.nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/conditions.htm
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Old 06-08-21, 09:41 AM
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Thanks. I have been watching the road status website which has daily updates but they don't give information on when it will finally open to cars for the season.
https://www.nps.gov/applications/gla...roadstatus.cfm

The link you provided is interesting with regards to reservations. Worst case it looks like I will need to camp at Fish Creek instead of Apgar to get road access without a reservation. Maybe that is not a bad thing but I like being close to a store and cafe so Apgar is probably my first choice.
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Old 06-08-21, 10:58 AM
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Originally Posted by kevmcd View Post
Thanks. I have been watching the road status website which has daily updates but they don't give information on when it will finally open to cars for the season.
https://www.nps.gov/applications/gla...roadstatus.cfm

The link you provided is interesting with regards to reservations. Worst case it looks like I will need to camp at Fish Creek instead of Apgar to get road access without a reservation. Maybe that is not a bad thing but I like being close to a store and cafe so Apgar is probably my first choice.
They never give a firm opening date. Iíve ridden GTS 4 times.

You donít need an entry reservation if you enter on a bike.

Shop in W. Glacier if you will be cooking and camp at Sprague Creek. They let hikers/bikers camp in the infield of the loop. There are some tent pads and bear lockers. Itís an easy ride or walk to Lake McDonald Lodge, which is a must-see. The food in the dining room was quite good when I was last there in 2017. There is also a store there, but it mostly sell junk/snack food. Donít know if the same campground host will be back again this year. If he is, heís really nice. Last time his wife gave me cookies fresh out of their RV oven, and he offered me free firewood from his personal stash.

Start riding up very early. I usually left Sprague Creek around 5:30 am. Plenty of light. If the road is open to cars you have to summit by 11 am.

Definitely take the ACA route if you ride from W. Glacier to Whitefish. US 2 is very busy, and there is a stretch without a shoulder west of Hungry Horse. There is some gravel/dirt, but not much, and itís easy.

Whitefish to Eureka via US 93 can be hairy but might not be that bad going north. Make sure you stop at Kootenai Falls west of Libby. The walk to the falls is worth it. Itís where Leo floated in the film ďThe Revenant.Ē You can get as close as you want. There is also a path to a rope bridge over the gorge. MT 56 from US 2 to MT 200 is nice.

Let me know if youíd like some other camping options.

Kootenai Falls:




Bridge:




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Old 06-08-21, 12:33 PM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
They never give a firm opening date. Iíve ridden GTS 4 times.



Whitefish to Eureka via US 93 can be hairy but might not be that bad going north. Make sure you stop at Kootenai Falls west of Libby. The walk to the falls is worth it. Itís where Leo floated in the film ďThe Revenant.Ē You can get as close as you want. There is also a path to a rope bridge over the gorge. MT 56 from US 2 to MT 200 is nice.

Let me know if youíd like some other camping options.

Kootenai Falls:
I went to the Amtrak station this morning to figure out some details. From Seattle they have bike hooks but from Portland I will need to box my bike and de-train in Whitehorse so I will need to bicycle from Whitehorse to W. Glacier. Thanks for the route tip.

Earlier this morning I was thinking about skipping Sandpoint and doing an out and back to Eureka from Whitehorse and then return home. After your notes I am leaning towards Amtrak Whitehorse to Libby then bicycle to Sandpoint. Do you remember any camping spots between Libby and Sandpoint? Any opinions on the ride from Sandpoint to Spokane or should I just Amtrak home from Sandpoint?
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Old 06-08-21, 12:59 PM
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I camped in Apgar and in Sprague hiker biker sites, no reservation needed if you come in on muscle power to camp at a hiker biker site. But that was in 2012, so I do not know if they still have hiker biker campsites, you would have to check that yourself.
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Old 06-08-21, 01:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
I camped in Apgar and in Sprague hiker biker sites, no reservation needed if you come in on muscle power to camp at a hiker biker site. But that was in 2012, so I do not know if they still have hiker biker campsites, you would have to check that yourself.
The National Park website still shows bicycle camping at Apgar, Sprague, Fish Creek and others. $5 per night except Fish Creek which is $8.
https://www.nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/camping.htm
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Old 06-08-21, 03:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
I camped in Apgar and in Sprague hiker biker sites, no reservation needed if you come in on muscle power to camp at a hiker biker site. But that was in 2012, so I do not know if they still have hiker biker campsites, you would have to check that yourself.
Heís talking about reservations to get into the park itself. Itís a new thing this year because of the expected crowds. Itís the rule at several popular parks and very controversial, but it does not apply to people entering via their own power.
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Old 06-08-21, 03:45 PM
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Originally Posted by kevmcd View Post
I went to the Amtrak station this morning to figure out some details. From Seattle they have bike hooks but from Portland I will need to box my bike and de-train in Whitehorse so I will need to bicycle from Whitehorse to W. Glacier. Thanks for the route tip.

Earlier this morning I was thinking about skipping Sandpoint and doing an out and back to Eureka from Whitehorse and then return home. After your notes I am leaning towards Amtrak Whitehorse to Libby then bicycle to Sandpoint. Do you remember any camping spots between Libby and Sandpoint? Any opinions on the ride from Sandpoint to Spokane or should I just Amtrak home from Sandpoint?
USFS Dorr Skeels Campground in on MT 56, maybe 12 miles from the junction of US 2. Small, but right on the lake. The site closest to the day use picnic area is great. A couple of miles along is USFS Bad Medicine, about 2 miles off MT 56. In the trees close to the lake, and you can set up camp and ride up to the Ross Creek Cedars area. Very nice nature walk through a growth of trees, some of which are hundreds of years old. There is also a private campground at the junction of MT 56 and MT 200.

Bring supplies from Libby. There is a store/bakery near the private campground that makes sandwiches, but I donít think itís open late.

If you want to meander, head east on MT 200 for about 8 miles and cross the river to the small town of Noxon. Camping in the city park with water and a vault toilet. $10. Check in at the small but adequate grocery store open until 5 pm. The bar stays open later. Great little town, and the park is right by the river and has covered picnic shelters.

Dorr Skeels:




Ross Creek Cedars:






Noxon:



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Old 06-08-21, 04:47 PM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
Heís talking about reservations to get into the park itself. Itís a new thing this year because of the expected crowds. Itís the rule at several popular parks and very controversial, but it does not apply to people entering via their own power.
Thanks, I was unaware.
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Old 06-08-21, 05:38 PM
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Thanks Indyfabz for the campsite info out of Libby. I'm going be "flying by the seat of my pants" and maybe I will ride the whole 250+ miles from W. Glacier to Sandpoint. The train from Whitefish to Libby arrives after 11pm and I would have to box my bike. I'll figure it out once I get to Whitefish.
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Old 06-08-21, 06:10 PM
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Originally Posted by kevmcd View Post
Thanks Indyfabz for the campsite info out of Libby. I'm going be "flying by the seat of my pants" and maybe I will ride the whole 250+ miles from W. Glacier to Sandpoint. The train from Whitefish to Libby arrives after 11pm and I would have to box my bike. I'll figure it out once I get to Whitefish.
Whitefish Lake State Park has the cool hiker/biker area found at 5 state parks in MT. Tent pads, water tap, shade, electricity, bear lockers, covered picnic table, repair stand and bike rack. $15 for non-residents including shower token. And there is a no turn away policy. Bathroom/shower is close and the lake is a 30 second walk.

Are you planning to ride the ACA route from Whitefish? There is nice camping in Rexford, about 9 miles south of Eureka on MT 47. Plumbed bathrooms but no showers. However, you can buy a shower at the restaurant in town. The place has awesome fried chicken and jo jos and a full bar. Big grocery store in Eureka to stock up as there is almost nothing from Rexford to Libby.

Lake Koocanusa at Rexford, another filming location for The Revenant. Saw countless ospreys overhead, and deer wander around.



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Old 06-08-21, 07:10 PM
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Yes, I will follow the ACA route if I ride it. I saw that ACA sells the Sandpoint to Cut Bank section for ~$15. I wasn't sure if it was worth buying because it just said it was a map.
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Old 06-08-21, 07:38 PM
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Originally Posted by kevmcd View Post
Yes, I will follow the ACA route if I ride it. I saw that ACA sells the Sandpoint to Cut Bank section for ~$15. I wasn't sure if it was worth buying because it just said it was a map.
Their maps have a lot of information about services along the route, but I can map Whitefish to the junction of MT 56 and 200 for you on RWGPS. There are not many turns. Havenít done from there to Sandpoint since 2000.
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Old 06-08-21, 08:42 PM
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I have a paper copy of a Montana state road map so it is easy to figure out where to make the turns.

The other value they could provide is recommended camping sites, grocery stores, water holes and warnings about long distances between services.

I like maps but for the items above I like to see them in text form and that is why I was hesitant to buy their map.
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Old 06-08-21, 10:47 PM
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Going to the Sun is one of my all time favourite rides, I've probably done it about half a dozen times, but not for at least 20 years.

Looks like the border might open to fully vaccinated travellers this summer, so it might be possible.

Starting to think about a 2-3 week circle tour AB-MT-ID-BC, starting from home. Thanks, guys.
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Old 06-09-21, 05:27 AM
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Originally Posted by kevmcd View Post
I have a paper copy of a Montana state road map so it is easy to figure out where to make the turns.

The other value they could provide is recommended camping sites, grocery stores, water holes and warnings about long distances between services.

I like maps but for the items above I like to see them in text form and that is why I was hesitant to buy their map.
The ACA maps list those services, including some off route, and often talk about any service gaps.

Also, if you are talking about the state bicycle map (I have one), it doesnít show the minor roads ACA uses that get you off the highway where possible. E.g., between Fortine and Eureka. Also just north of Whitefish the route uses some quiet roads for several miles instead of US 93.
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Old 06-09-21, 07:33 AM
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OK. I'll buy it.
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Old 06-09-21, 07:58 AM
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Originally Posted by kevmcd View Post
OK. I'll buy it.
Here is a GPS map this better shows profile. I started at the main intersection in Whitefish. I did not want to go beyond Clark Fork due to lack of memory. IIRC, the ACA route spends some time off of MT 200 between there and Sandpoint due to traffic and lack of shoulder for a certain distance. All I remember is that part being a bit hilly.

Routes ∑ Ride with GPS

Send me a PM is you want details about the camping options I mentioned. But if you zoom in enough you should be able to see places like Dorr Skeels and Bad Medicine.

Couple of amendments to what I wrote earlier: It's MT 37, not MT 47, that runs south along Lake Koocanusa. (FYI, the lake's name is a combination of Kootenai River, Canada and U.S.A. The Libby Dam created the lake and backs water up into Canada. However, as you can see from one of my photos above, water levels are not what they once were.) Also, there is a USFS campground just east of the MT 200-MT 56 junction called Bull River. Stayed there way back in 2000. Decent enough.
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