Author Topic: How early can one start the NT going west to east  (Read 2222 times)

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Offline Herb

How early can one start the NT going west to east
« on: January 04, 2011, 03:59:48 pm »
I'm planning a self contained trip going west to east and want to start as early as possible this spring. How early can I start the NT? Can one start earlier on the lewis and Clark route and then join the NT route in Montana?
Thanks,
HS

Offline indyfabz

Re: How early can one start the NT going west to east
« Reply #1 on: January 06, 2011, 10:52:02 am »
I am pretty sure this has come up before, but I cannot find a thread on it.

One factor for the NT is the opening of Washington Pass.  This site will give you some idea of what to expect on that front:

http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/winter/passdates.htm

Note that they are having a very snowy with so far.  See this thread for an idea on possible conditions in the beginning of June:

http://www.adventurecycling.org/forums/index.php?topic=8208.0

If you are doing the NT, it would be a crime to miss Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park.  I have ridden the west side three time and have descended the east side once.  It's everything they say it is:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/davez2007/3676653152/in/set-72157620763740044/

The park has also experienced heavy snow so far this winter.  If that keeps up, I think the chances of you being able to get across before the second or third week in June will be slim.  In 2009 I tried to cross east to west on June 22nd.  The pass was not open.  It finally opened on June 24th.  I think it opened around the same time last year.  I believe the NPS site for the park has historical opening dates.

The alternative is to take U.S. 2 from West Glacier up to Marias Pass and then down to East Glacier.  It's a long slog up with not a great shoulder in places and very few services.  It's also not nearly as scenic as GTS.  From East Glacier you can continue on U.S. 2 to Cut Bank and pick up the NT there.  Alternatively, you can take MT 49 from East Glacier to U.S. 89 N to St. Mary and pick up the route there.  The latter option will allow you to ride Chief Mountain Highway and visit Waterton Village in Alberta.  Chief Mountain is a tough ride, but it’s pretty:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/davez2007/3676632284/in/set-72157620763740044/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/davez2007/3675817099/in/set-72157620763740044/

And the setting of the town campsite at Waterton Village is dramatic:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/davez2007/3675812975/in/set-72157620763740044/


Offline Herb

Re: How early can one start the NT going west to east
« Reply #2 on: January 07, 2011, 10:53:11 am »
Thanks for the info Dave and the photos are fantastic. Your comments are helpful. I guess the next question for me is if I need to leave early in the Spring from the west coast, would the Western Express route to the TransAm Trail be a better option? Thoughts anyone?

Offline John Nettles

Re: How early can one start the NT going west to east
« Reply #3 on: January 07, 2011, 11:12:20 am »
Thanks for the info Dave and the photos are fantastic. Your comments are helpful. I guess the next question for me is if I need to leave early in the Spring from the west coast, would the Western Express route to the TransAm Trail be a better option? Thoughts anyone?

It would definitely be a better option than the NT.   However, a lot of the same applies as parts of the Colorado Rockies will have snow thru May.  It won't necessarily be closed but not fun to ride.  I was in South Fork, CO (southern part of state) in late June and we got snow at 8,300' so I am sure the passes would have had it a lot more.

You don't say when "early in the Spring" is to you.  That could mean late February to mid-May depending on where you live and how you qualify Spring. If you could be more specific with your info such as time frames (depart on March 15th and have 45 days) , experience (none, extensive, loaded, unloaded, I typically ride X miles per day, etc.), trip "must see" (gotta visit Aunt Marge in Tribune, KS), etc. you could probably get some pretty good recommendations for the group.

Whatever you do, best wishes on an enjoyable trip.
Happy trails and may the wind be at your back!
John

Offline John Nelson

Re: How early can one start the NT going west to east
« Reply #4 on: January 07, 2011, 05:25:08 pm »
If you need to leave early, it would be helpful if you could be flexible about needing to leave from west coast.

Offline knolltop

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Re: How early can one start the NT going west to east
« Reply #5 on: January 07, 2011, 11:20:03 pm »
If ya can wait until 2nd half of May and can use TA, instead of NT, as far as Missoula then that MAY work.  Santiam Pass is usually open and Lolo should be ok by the time get there.
At Missoula can jump onto NT.
+-+ Michael +-+

Offline Herb

Re: How early can one start the NT going west to east
« Reply #6 on: January 08, 2011, 06:58:41 am »
Thanks everyone. Looking at the wa.gov.winter passdates, it looks historically that route 20 is open by early May. Is it possible to start the NT route the first or second week in May?

Offline CMajernik

Re: How early can one start the NT going west to east
« Reply #7 on: January 10, 2011, 10:22:56 am »
Call the North Cascades National Park at 360-856-5700. Since they are local they will have a much better idea of opening dates. Remember the northwest is having a snowier year than usual so it could be a bit later than normal.
Carla Majernik
Routes and Mapping Program Director

Adventure Cycling Association
Inspiring people of all ages to travel by bicycle.
800/755-2453, 406/721-1776 x218, 406/721-8754 fax
www.adventurecycling.org

Follow Routes & Mapping on Twitter: @acaroutes

Offline indyfabz

Re: How early can one start the NT going west to east
« Reply #8 on: January 10, 2011, 12:16:32 pm »
Thanks everyone. Looking at the wa.gov.winter passdates, it looks historically that route 20 is open by early May. Is it possible to start the NT route the first or second week in May?

If I had to start that early, I would choose the second week just to be safe.  As Carla notes, it's been a snowy winter so far.  And if you are starting in Anacortes, you will be crossing Rainy & Washington Passes on the third day of the trip assuming you spend the first night in Rockport and the second night in Newhalem or at Colonial Creek Campground.  Expect very cold temperatures at night in the Cascades (there is no firewood sold at Colonial Creek and gathering is not allowed) and again in Republic before Sherman Pass.

As noted previously, with such an early departure date, you will likely be shut out of Going to the Sun Road, but you never know.  It's worth checking with the park at the west entrance.  If the road is clear and safe enough, they may be letting hikers and bikers up and over on the weekends.

Offline jamawani

Re: How early can one start the NT going west to east
« Reply #9 on: January 10, 2011, 07:14:33 pm »
Herb -

There is a big difference between "can" and "should".
Technically, you might be able to get over Washington Pass in early May -
But the weather may also be brutal, most campgrounds will be closed,
and Going to the Sun Road in Glacier will still be closed, too.

You offer little info about your trip parameters and experience.
Nothing can ruin bike tour faster than a rigid itinerary.
Also, I doubt you are from the Mountain West -
Otherwise you would know that spring comes late to the high country -
And the snow melts even later.

I've toured almost 100,000 miles - including many ACA routes.
Generally, if you need to start early in the season, you go east to west.
Similarly, a late start favors a west to east direction.
Each of the ACA transcontinental routes presents weather issues in the West.

On the Western Express, you want to leave late enough to have reasonable conditions in the Sierra Nevadas.
but also early enough so that you do not roast in Nevada and Utah.  Early May can be risky, late May may already be too hot.

On the TransAm, you have the greatest flexibility since the elevations are moderate until you get to Yellowstone.  Still, Oregon stays pretty wet through May, McKenzie Pass is often closed until late May, and you don't want to be stuck in an early June snowstorm in Yellowstone.  Late May to mid-June is the ideal time to start out.

On the Northern Tier, you should use not only Washington Pass, but also Going to the Sun as guides.  Since Going to the Sun will not open until late June, you can backtrack three weeks to get an approximate earliest start date - June 1.  And even then services may be limited in the North Cascades and you might get a late storm system, too.

So, in short -
Early May - Western Express
Late May - TransAm
Early June - Northern Tier.

Remember - the idea is to have a good time.

Offline Herb

Re: How early can one start the NT going west to east
« Reply #10 on: January 12, 2011, 12:20:29 pm »
Again everyone, thanks for all your input. It sounds as if I need to start in mid-May, East to West may be the better choice.
Herb