Glacier National Park/Waterton Lakes Adventure Cycling Tour
What’s the best way to experience Glacier—on a bike riding the roads of the frontcountry, or on foot, hiking the trails of the vast backcountry? But why choose? Each offers an insight unlike that of the other and the two are incredibly compatible and complementary.
In the context of our reconstructed Glacier Park/Waterton Lakes Adventure Cycling Tour, we’ll experience the magnificence of Glacier/Waterton in the best possible manner. We’ll bike the grand loop of both parks and devote two separate days to hiking in Many Glacier and Waterton, where we believe the best of the region’s day hiking can be found.
An integral part of Glacier’s landscape is water—countless waterfalls, glacial lakes, raging whitewater rivers and the deep gorges they have carved, and we’ll see it all—on bike, on foot, and in the context of a rafting segment on the Middle Fork of the Flathead River.
The Glacier Park/Waterton Lakes Adventure Cycling Tour assembles in Whitefish and we’ll head to Glacier early-morning of Day 1. Before long, Glacier’s snowclad peaks are visible as we enter the park at West Glacier and ultimately ride along the shores of Lake McDonald to our overnight at the Lake McDonald Lodge.
The logistics of this first day present some intriguing mid-day options while we await the 4 p.m. opening of the road to Lake McDonald for cyclists. Among those choices are a half-day of whitewater rafting on the Flathead River and a great cycling option along the beautiful quiet road toward the Polebridge region of Glacier.
With that relatively gentle first day behind us, it’s on to one of the most exciting cyclotouring experiences to be found in North America—the challenge of spectacular Going-to-the-Sun Highway and its summit at Logan Pass (6,640'). How can we describe the experience of Going-to-the-Sun? The awesome glacial snowfields, tumbling waterfalls, the Hanging Gardens, the spectacular vistas that unfold at every switchback as we climb higher and higher. We promise some sweat, but the incredible scenic setting is well worth it. As a reward for that effort, we can look forward to a long downhill to St. Mary and then on to Many Glacier on the Park’s wild eastern slope. We’ll spend the next two evenings in the historic Many Glacier Hotel, set magnificently on the shores of Swiftcurrent Lake in the shadow of Grinnell Glacier. Day 3 is dedicated to hiking in the Many Glacier area (9 miles).
On Day 4, we’ll cross the border into Canada for a visit to Waterton Park. We’ll spend two nights at the Waterton Lakes Resort adjacent to the lake in the townsite. Two of the absolute best day hikes in all of Canada—Crypt Lake and Carthew-Alderson—are located in Waterton and we’ll choose between them for our second hiking day (11 miles).
We’ll return to Montana on Day 5—one of the most intriguing days that we offer on any cycling tour. We’ll climb from the Waterton Valley, trace the course of the Belly River and ride in the shadow of mystical Chief Mountain. We’ll continue along the sparsely travelled eastern perimeter of Glacier beyond St. Mary Lake to the Triple Divide, separating waters that flow to the Atlantic, Pacific and Hudson Bay. Our last climb on this very special day crests Looking Glass Hill with its breathtaking vista of Two Medicine Lakes. And what a way to end this day—an exhilarating 8-mile descent into East Glacier where we’ll spend our final night at the grand Glacier Park Lodge.
It’s back on the road early-morning of Day 7 for a relatively gentle return to the Continental Divide atop Marias Pass. From Marias, we’ll descend along the Middle Fork of the Flathead through the southern tip of Glacier and the gorge through which we rafted on Day 1. We’ll ride to West Glacier and van shuttle back to Whitefish, where our biking trip concludes.
Whitefish – Columbia Falls – 1/2-Day Whitewater Rafting on Middle fork of Flathead River – Glacier Park – Lake McDonald; overnight at Lake McDonald Lodge
|Day 2||Lake McDonald – Going-to-the-Sun – Logan Pass – St. Mary – Many Glacier; overnight at Many Glacier Hotel||58 miles|
|Day 3||Many Glacier –layover day dedicated to hiking (Iceberg Lake or Grinnell Glacier 9 miles); overnight at Many Glacier Hotel|
|Day 4||Many Glacier – Enter Canada – Waterton National Park; overnight at Waterton Lakes Lodge||50 miles|
|Day 5||Waterton Townsite –layover day dedicated to hiking (Crypt Lake or Carthew Alderson – 11 miles); overnight Waterton Lakes Lodge|
|Day 6||Waterton – Return to U.S. – St. Mary – Triple Divide – Looking Glass Hill – East Glacier; overnight at Glacier Park Lodge||80 miles|
East Glacier – Marias Pass – Essex – West Glacier; van shuttle return late-afternoon to Whitefish or Kalispell Airport
Total Cycling Mileage
Total Hiking Mileage 20