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Road biking all around Glacier

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Road biking all around Glacier

Old 05-06-19, 11:31 AM
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Road biking all around Glacier

I posted back in October about visiting Glacier and cycling. My husband and I and another couple bit the bullet and have made reservations. We fly into Whitefish on July 31st and will rent bikes (looking for specialized hopefully). We will then drive to the Lake McDonald area and stay 2 nights at the Silverwolf chalet. I have two rides in mind while we are there. Polebridge out and back (50 miles) and the 3rd day Going to the sun road. I've read some details and realize we need to get up early to get there before closings and I also read we'd be able to ride all the way from West Glacier to East Glacier and ride the Amtrak Empire builder with our bikes back to our hotel in West Glacier. That will be a nonstop day because we'll then have to drive to the St. Mary's area to check in. While in St. Mary's we hope to ride from Many glaciers to Waterton. Our 4th and 5th nights are at the Prince of Wales and the last night is at Glacier park lodge an hour 1/2 from airport. I think the ladies feel as long as we get going to the sun road and one more ride in we'd be OK. The guys might want to ride more, which will help with transporting luggage, etc. Has anyone done any of these rides or have any advice on this trip? We are from NC and love to climb and ride our bikes and want to have a great experience but I'm worried a bit about navigation and such!
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Old 05-06-19, 12:09 PM
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I've ridden from basically Lake McDonald Lodge (Sprague Creek Campground) to St. Mary once. I have also ridden from Sprague Creek up to Logan Pass and back down to Sprague Creek three other times, including in 2017. Ridden from St. Mary to Waterton Village once and another times in the opposite direction. I have also ridden from St. Mary to East Glacier.

if you haven't made bike reservations I would do so now. Assuming you are using Glacier Cyclery in Whitefish. They get very busy during that time of year.

Start the climb to Logan Pass as early as possible, especially if you are starting from W. Glacier. That adds a lot of miles as opposed to starting somewhere like Lake McDonald Lodge. Heading east, you have to be at the summit by 11 a.m. or you risk a ticket. You can descend the east slope to St. Mary at any time. To give you an idea of the traffic you will face, the parking lot at the visitor center at Logan Pass often fills by 8:30 a.m. When I was there in 2017 I left the campground by about 5:30 a.m. That was either the 27th or 28th of June, so there was plenty of light to start that early.

W. Glacier to E. Glacier is not an easy task, especially after riding GTS. I have ridden from St. Mary to Sprague Creek via E. Glacier and W. Glacier. The climb out of St. Mary on U.S. 89 is some 6 or 7 miles long. Then you have a bunch of rolling terrain to the junction with MT 49 at Kiowa. MT 49 is a cool climb. Winding in places, but not overly difficult. Great view of Lower Two Medicine Lakes. Then you have a good descent into E. Glacier. You had better check about the need for bike reservations. Fortunately, you don't need to box the bike anymore. You are also taking a big gamble that the train won't be hours late.

St. Mary to Waterton Village is also not easy. In fact, the Adventure Cycling Association map of that section warns riders not to underestimate it, which I would be there is a tendency on the part of those who rode Logan Pass the day before to do. You'll likely have a tailwind heading north on U.S. 89. When you turn onto Chief Mountain Highway (MT 17, which turns to PR 6 when you cross into Canada.) the ups and downs will begin and they will keep coming until they culminate in a descent of some 6 miles down to PR 6. But wait! There's more! Prevailing wind patterns make it likely that you will have a headwind all the way along PR 5 into Waterton Village. But the scenery is worth it. Make sure you head into town and check out the towne campsite along the lake. Really cool view. When I was last there (June of 2009), it was so cold and windy that the GF and I, and the unofficial suggestion of a campsite employee, slept in one of the camp kitchen buildings. We went down the lake's edge that evening but could only tolerate it for a few minutes. You will also likely encounter deer and possibly mountain goats wandering through town.

Never done the ride up to Polebridge.

Made this for you:


St. Mary to E. Glacier is 31 miles with over 3,300' of climbing. (There are no service along that 30 miles.) That's after you have done Logan Pass. From the junction of U.S. and Going to the Sun Road, it's 50 miles to St. Mary with early 4,200' of climbing. Even longer if you are planning to ride to the park entrance from your lodging. If you are planning to drive, I recommend parking in Apgar Village and starting from there. It's s short ride (about 2 miles) from the W. Glacier train station.

Last edited by indyfabz; 05-06-19 at 12:26 PM.
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