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Eastbound from Washington/Oregon

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so we are still  deciding which route from the west coast to Missoula. Lewis and Clarke is clearly less challenging physically; but is it a compromise in scenic beauty?  Wouldn't want to discover after the fact that Northern Tier orTrans Am are much better for the scenery. Opinions?

Do you have to stay on ACA marked routes?

I have done all three plus a number of other routes.
1. NT is pretty brutal early on, 5 passes, remote, plus can be cold/snowy in early June.
2. L&C has least climbing, warmer, but with Portland metro to navigate, also remote east of The Dalles.
3. TA is generally most cyclist friendly, McKenzie Pass likely to be closed still.  Pretty far south of your plans.

Where would you like to start?  How to you plan on getting out to the coast?
Do you plan on riding Going to the Sun in Glacier NP - - you should.
Check out the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes - paved, services - combined with Thompson Pass.
There are some nice possibilities in southern Washington that have the combinations you are seeking.
Moderate climbs, nice scenery, towns along the way, reasonable weather.

PS - Personally, I think you should head from Glacier to Yellowstone on US 89 - 
Then head east to the Black Hills and continue roughly along SD/Neb border.

I did the NT to Glacier starting June 1, 2012. We had rain and 40's for much of the first two weeks and snow on Washington Pass. That kind of weather is not unusual that time of year. Road to the Sun opened the day after we left Glacier, but the weather was terrible. I did the same route in Aug is 2008 and the scenery was incredible. Early June puts you at risk for lousy weather.

 Non-camping services can be quite limited but with a little research and spacing the daily mileage you can locate accommodations for most days.

Enjoy the planning phase of your trip.

’99: Seattle up to the NT for the entire route.
’00: Seattle to the NT to Glacier N.P., backtracked to Columbia Falls, Great Parks to Missoula, TransAm to Fairplay, CO.
’02: Cycle Oregon, which included much of the OR portion of the TA.
’06: CANDISC, which included some of what is now the new NT routing into Bismarck.
’09: NT between Whitefish and Eureka, MT and the west side of Going to the Sun.
’11: 2 ½ days on the TransAm between Missoula and the east side of Big Hole Pass.

Some opinions/observations:
1. The OR potion of the TA was far less interesting than the NT with the notable exception of McKenzie Pass. And, IIRC, the distances between services were usually greater on this stretch of the TA.

2. The scenery between Anacortes and Glacier, N.P. is fabulous. Once you cross the Cascades via Rainy/Washington Passes, indoor sleeping options on the NT were relatively easy to find. Places like Winthrop, Tonasket, Omak, Republic, Colville, Sandpoint, ID. You don’t have to cross two passes to find places to camp, eat or sleep inside. As noted, you might get wet and/or chilly weather. Both times I left Seattle the third week in May and took three days to get up to the NT. First time there was rain and snow on Washington Pass and then again on Sherman Pass. Generally, we had numerous chilly and/or damp days through Whitefish, MT. But you can get that on the TA. In Missoula near the end of June ’11 it was chilly and drizzly that evening and the next morning, and the next two nights on the road it was 40 or below.

3. The ride up Going to the Sun in Glacier National Park is hard to beat. Waterton Village in Canada is in a dramatic setting. However, east of Cut Bank, MT, the scenery is nothing to write home about. Lots of open farm and ranch land, but there are plenty of towns usually spaced nicely apart.

4. I would trust the re-route though ND. During CANDISC we rode a couple of days in that area. Very little traffic except for in Bismarck, and even that wasn’t really bad. Two friends just did the NT last summer. They didn’t have any problems in that area. Haven’t seen the new map for that section, but in general I like riding in ND. The general lack of traffic in most places and open skies gives a sense of freedom. The winds, on the other hand, can be brutal. With very few trees there is little shade and nothing to block the wind. You will see trees again once you get into MN.

5. Columbia Falls/Whitefish to Missoula is nice overall. Missoula south/east through Montana is really nice, especially Darby through Big Hole Pass to Dillon and then on to Ennis. Services are adequately spaced for the most part. (Don’t expect high quality tea and coffee in most small towns.) Wasn’t a huge fan of riding in Yellowstone/Teetons due to the traffic. South of there it was fine most places except for a couple of noted areas in CO. The stretch between Lander and Rawlins, WY has very few services.

Send me a PM if you have any questions.

Thanks all for the advice. We have decided to go the more challenging route. Northern Tier from the coast to Glacier and then down to visit  Missoula. Looking forward to it! Eric


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