Glacier National Park in November ?
April 4, 2012 7:07 PM   Subscribe

Glacier National Park in November as a stop over on an Amtrak ride. Any thoughts or experiences at the park and surrounding areas during this time of year?

The girl and I are going on a cross-country train trip this coming November (we've done long-distance Amtrak a number of times before and love it -so the question isn't about that!).

We'll be taking the Empire Builder (my second time) cross country. We'd like to stop along the way in Montana for a while and were thinking that Glacier National Park might be a good place. However, this time of year of course is pretty snowy. Glacier (and all the travel books I have read) don't talk tons about Glacier during the winter, although i it is clear some major roads are complteely closed and a lot of the park is pretty inaccessible.

But for two days in November what would you do? We were thinking of using Whitefish as a base and exploring from there. Would comein on a Sunday night and leave on a Tuesday night. Any neat ideas or recommendations on affordable and cute places to stay that time of year? (We both like winter sports too, so....)
posted by waylaid to Travel & Transportation around West Glacier, Mt (11 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Have you considered the Izaak Walton Inn? Very rustic, but extremely tranquil.
posted by Ostara at 7:55 PM on April 4, 2012

Ostara - I have heard of it! I was worried about the time of year though. Any thoughts?
posted by waylaid at 9:12 PM on April 4, 2012

It has been several years since I have stayed there. I believe that they are open year-round and they do have a restaurant and bar within the inn. The staff does seem to be from far-flung corners of the globe, so there is a bit of a language barrier. On the other hand, if you're patient, you can get to know some interesting people and hear some great stories. It is out in the middle of nowhere so it's not particularly convenient for exploring Glacier if the roads are bad.The train tracks literally run right next to the inn -- you may be able to get off there. They have special engines idling all of the time to push the trains over the mountain. It's very quiet except for these trains.

Whitefish is a lovely town, too. It's on my short list of small towns that I would love to move to.
posted by Ostara at 10:00 PM on April 4, 2012

We spent our honeymoon at the Garden Wall Inn in Whitefish, and I can't recommend it enough. From there you can enjoy a walkable small downtown with restaurants, shopping, coffee, books and community theater, or drive a short distance to ski.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 12:00 AM on April 5, 2012

I live in Whitefish. Family that has come into town has stayed at the Garden Wall Inn and liked it. I've heard great things about the Izaak Walton Inn - especially if you like to cross country ski.

This winter was pretty mild but around early November, I hiked to the Apgar Lookout in Glacier. It started off pretty easy and then there was lots more snow the higher I got (and my buddy and I saw griz tracks.. a bit late for them to be up and about). It was a nice day hike, pretty view at the end but the snow at the start was nearly nonexistant and easily knee high at the end. My body was not happy. At the end of December, I probably wouldn't have been able to get to that hike but Rt 2, the road one would turn off of to get from Whitefish to West Glacier, is generally kept clear and has lots of hikes along it (in Great Bear Wilderness area.. south of Great Bear is the Bob Marshall) that are easy to access and aren't hard to follow even with snow on the ground (just rent snow shoes - finding yourself knee deep and exhausted after a mile sucks). It's a bummer that you can't get to some of the prettiest parts of glacier at that time of year but other areas will be accessible - you're just going to have to do a bit of work to get any elevation/views.

If I had two days, I'd probably get off the train (assuming you'd be getting in around 9 pm and not 7 am), go to 2nd Street Pizza for a slice, then drop my stuff at Garden Wall and get a shower and some sleep. On Monday, I might rent a car and go to W. Glacier with my rented gear and do a hike in or near Glacier. Monday night, I'd probably hit some of the downtown bars - like the brewery (the closest drinking establishment to the train station), and chat up the locals. I'd get some comfort food for dinner - Ciao Mambo or Craggy Range - or a nicer meal at Coopers or Tupelo. Maybe after I'd head to Great Northern to play pool or ping pong and drink their $1 can special. On Tuesday, I'd take the snow bus and go to Big Mountain to ski (a lesson, with gear, is affordable) or if x-country is my thing, I'd go to the golf course and enjoy myself there. If neither of those appeal to me, I might just take that rental car and find another hike or a way more leisurely walk to the movie theater and through down town to find silly gifts to send to loved ones at home. Tuesday night, I'd get a nice meal in town, near the train station, and then chill at the brewery where I could keep an eye on the train station. (BTW, I really enjoy the brewery.. my time there this evening may be why this answer is so rambling... sorry.)
posted by adorap0621 at 12:16 AM on April 5, 2012

November is a bit early for the Whitefish Ski least for downhill skiing. I bet however you could easily find a place to rent snowshoes for a hike.
posted by mmascolino at 6:08 AM on April 5, 2012

Ooooh... mmascolino is right - the resort opened late (a week into Dec) this year.. the folks I know that went skiing in Nov were skinning up places. There would be places to hike, though, and snow shoes would be rentable. An other place to look at staying is The Lodge. Not as conveniently located as Garden Wall but you may be able to get some deals there in November.
posted by adorap0621 at 7:16 AM on April 5, 2012

Sounds great everyone! These are all fantastic. Are a lot of the roads through the park closed because of snow, though? That's what it seems like. What areas ARE accessible by car that are further in that time of year? (Going ot the Sun Road seems to be closed pretty early)
posted by waylaid at 8:02 AM on April 5, 2012

From the west, I think you can get up to Lake McDonald Lodge all winter by car. The Apgar Look out trail is indicated by the red 1 in the map. With snow shoes or x-country skis, you can get to more places - there are lots of snowshoeing books for out here (this Nordic Dreams one is very popular) that will give you some trails in the park and out of the park. And, as I mentioned before, you should be able to drive along Rt 2 just fine to find nice hikes in Great Bear. Here is a map you can zoom in on to find some of those trails (tiny little dashed lines). I hiked with the husband to Staton Lake in Dec and ended with a great view of Great Northern Mountain. It wasn't a long hike at all. On New Year's Day I did a different hike along 2 (no idea where.. we just found an easy place to park and went) and it started with very little snow on the ground and then after barely gaining any elevation, I was wishing I had snow shoes. And it was mentioned before but the Izaac Walton Inn is nice and they have guides and groomed trails. You don't have to stay there to make use of them.
posted by adorap0621 at 9:19 AM on April 5, 2012

Don't miss a chance, weather permitting, to hit Going-To-The-Sun Road.
posted by Lynsey at 9:30 AM on April 5, 2012

It will be far too late in the year to take the Going-To-Sun Road into the higher elevations. As of yesterday, the plowing crews were encountering 20 foot deep snow drifts. It snows early and often. The road at lower elevations will be open to places where you can snowshoe. The snow capped mountains will be gorgeous to behold.
posted by mmascolino at 5:50 PM on April 6, 2012

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