Author Topic: Missoula to Banff  (Read 5063 times)

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Offline zzzz

Missoula to Banff
« on: January 13, 2013, 10:09:13 pm »
Hello and Happy new year to All;

I'm looking for a route from Missoula to Banff that does not require a mountain bike or camping so the "Great Divide" route is out.  Suggestions?




  • Guest
Re: Missoula to Banff
« Reply #1 on: January 13, 2013, 10:25:41 pm »
Keep looking, Pete, and you should soon come across


Offline zzzz

Re: Missoula to Banff
« Reply #2 on: January 14, 2013, 06:49:49 pm »
Ooops! Should have looked more thoroughly.


Offline zzzz

Re: Missoula to Banff
« Reply #3 on: January 28, 2013, 08:58:29 pm »
Okay, I've got my maps and done some homework.

The plan as of now is to leave Jasper 9/1, follow the Great Parks North Section 1 & 2, pick up Trans America in Missoula and follow that to Rand, Colorado and then make my way from there over to Denver and fly home.

I've reviewed the maps, I've checked the average temps, I've looked up the sunrise/sunset times, all seems to be good (or good enough).

But I'm making a assumption here I would like some comment on:

I'm thinking that after Labor Day the overwhelming majority of tourists (and their RV's) in Banff & Glacier & Yellowstone will be gone. Is that correct?


Offline indyfabz

Re: Missoula to Banff
« Reply #4 on: January 30, 2013, 10:21:26 am »
Yes. There should be less recreational traffic, at least in the states.

Are you planning to: (1) cross the border at Roosville, MT and head straight to Whitefish or (2) ride through Fernie, Sparwood, Pincher Creek, etc., cross over at Chief Mountain and then ride to St. Mary? If the latter, and you plan to ride GTS after mid-September, I would check Glacier's web site for road work scheduling. For several yearsa now, the NPS had been doing extensive work on Going to the Sun. This has resulted in periodic, total road closures once peak season has ended to allow for accelerated construction work:

When do you plan to hit Yellowstone?

Offline indyfabz

Re: Missoula to Banff
« Reply #5 on: January 30, 2013, 10:45:56 am »
Here is the tentative schedule:

Looks like 9/22 will be the last day you can ride the entire length.

BTW...As noted, RVs are not much of an issue on GTS as much of it is off limits to anything over 8' wide (including mirrors) and 21' long.

Try to schedule your trip so you can make it across. I have ridden the entire thing (west to east) once and up and back down the west side two other times. It's spectacular.

In '09 we did a clockwise loop from/to Whitefish using the Great Parks North route, closing the gap to Elko. Logan Pass was still closed when we got to St. Mary so we went around to the west side of the park via East Glacier and then rode up and back down the west side of GTS. Here are some photos:

If you have the time, I recommend going the long way through Sparwood and Waterton Village. The only stretch we didn't like was the one on PR 3 between about Coleman and where you turn off around Burmis. Make sure to cross the road and see the Burmis Tree before you turn off PR 3.

In '11, we camped in Darby heading south from Missoula. The relatively new owner of the campground there has cabins. You can bargain price, or so I have read. The Nez Perce Motel in Wisdom was clean and decently priced. It's small, so you might want to make a reservation if you plan to stay there.

Offline zzzz

Re: Missoula to Banff
« Reply #6 on: January 30, 2013, 07:03:10 pm »
Hi Dave:

Thanks for the info and your photo's are great. Just what I needed, to get even more primed for the trip while it's still  8 months out.

I'll be at GTS on 9/6 and Yellowstone on 9/12.

And I'm going the way you recommend (2- Fernie, Sparwood..) following the route as it's shown on the Great Parks map. Last year I did Western Express and the East half of the TransAm and the ACA maps did me right so I'm using them on this trip as well.

It's a happy coincidence that you mentioned Wisdom. I have a dot on my map already for spending night nine there. It's only 75± miles from Hamilton (night 8) but after climbing over Lost Trail Pass I think I'll be ready to call it a day when I get there. I'll give the folks at Nez Perce a call.


Offline indyfabz

Re: Missoula to Banff
« Reply #7 on: January 31, 2013, 10:52:51 am »
If you have tires that can take dirt/gravel, take the Old Darby Alternative between Hamilton and Darby. It's really nice back there.

It's a long 75 miles. From Darby on you climb gently to Sula. A few miles after Sula (good sandwiches at the store there), things get steeper. But what really makes it a long 75 miles is the stretch after Lost Trail Pass. There is only a few miles of steep descending before the grade eases and you have to do a lot pedaling to get to town. But it sounds slike you will be travelling on the light side.

The people at the Nez Perce were really nice. When we arrived early eveing, they were away at a family function. They left envelopes with keys to each room taped to the office door. There was also a note explaining that we should simply pick a room and that they would be back later that night to collect payment.

This is pretty much the only place to eat in town, and it's pretty good:

They have a neat bar decorated with cattle brands.  Note that the grocery store in town closes pretty early. 6 p.m. IIRC.

Don't miss the truck in Sparwood. There is a cool cafe/ cofe shop in an old church on your right in Coleman. Pincher Creek is a sad little town. IIRC, other than the Prince of Wales Hotel, the number of rooms in Waterton Village are limited so you might want to make a reservation. Same thing if you want a room in Glacier, N.P.

The Park Cafe in St. Mary is the place to eat, especially if you like pie. Before you get to St. Mary you will pass a small eatery on the left side of U.S. 89 called the Fire Horse Cafe. It's on the Blackfoot reservation. Had an excellent, hand-pressed burger there.

Offline zzzz

Re: Missoula to Banff
« Reply #8 on: January 31, 2013, 08:55:00 pm »
Good guess. I travel on the very light side (15± lbs) and I'll be on a road bike w/ tires ill suited for gravel.

I know from my first time touring last year that you miss a lot by riding like I do, pushing the pace and miles and not camping. When I rode passed Zion & Bryce without taking a couple days off to hike and explore I could feel it was a mistake. But 40 years as a "roadie" has left it's mark and when I get on a bike I want to go.

Thanks for the additional info. It will all be carefully notated on my maps. Obviously, the big draw on these trips is the scenery but it's pretty surprising how memories of cool little restaurants and inns stick with you.