Author Topic: Hwy. 49 from St. Mary, Mt.  (Read 3264 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline big blue cat

Hwy. 49 from St. Mary, Mt.
« on: March 02, 2015, 05:59:52 pm »
We are planning to do 2 loops throughout Montana. Loop 1 is from Whitefish to Going
to the Sun Rd. to St. Mary. From St. Mary to East Glacier. Is there anybody out there
that can give me some insight on Hwy 49 to East Glacier. It would be much appreciated.


  • Guest
Re: Hwy. 49 from St. Mary, Mt.
« Reply #1 on: March 03, 2015, 10:05:11 am »
The GF and I rode from St. Mary to East Glacier via U.S. 89 and MT 49 and then to W. Glacier via U.S. 2 back in 2009 because Logan Pass was still closed when we got to St. Mary.

Your day from St. Mary starts with a  good 5-6 mile climb. Then you basically roll up and down to the junction with MT 49. We took a road-side break at the junction. It's a bit of a ghost town, with some sort of old shop that is no longer in business. Mosquito repellant was necessary.

The climb up MT 49 (a/k/a Looking Glass Hill) is not that bad, although it is windy in spots, and the road had some lateral ruts in it when we rode it. The road passes through the Blackfoot reservation. No permit is need to ride it, but it's my understand that you need one if you want to stop and take a hike on reservation land. The scenery is wonderful. From the top of Looking Glass, it's mostly down hill (some of it decently steep) to E. Glacier, where there are several food options and a motel that also had camping.

We did this stretch in late June. Started out very early. U.S. 89 had little traffic at first and then light to moderate traffic at times as the morning progressed. I think we encountered maybe two or three vehicles on MT 49. Note that there are no services between St. Mary and E. Glacier unless you plan to take the detour to the Two Medicine area of the park.

These photos and the ones in between were taken between St. Mary and E. Glacier. You can see Lower Tow Medicine Lake in one of them:


  • Guest
Re: Hwy. 49 from St. Mary, Mt.
« Reply #2 on: March 03, 2015, 10:21:24 am »
BTW...I recommend sticking to the official ACA route between Whitefish/Columbia Falls to W. Glacier, especially if you go during peak tourist season. There is a section of U.S. 2 between Columbia Falls and Hungry Horse that has no shoulder. I have done both ways, but the year I took U.S. 2 it was before high season, so the traffic was lighter than normal. The official route (MT 486 to Blankenship Rd. to Belton Stage Rd.) has a unpaved section but it is manageable. It's definitely more pleasant riding than U.S. 2, which can get noisy. And you have a better chance of seeing a bear.

IIRC, the official ACA route turns off of Belton Stage Rd. at Lake 5 Rd. to get back to U.S. 2. When we rode this stretch in the opposite direction in 2009 we took the entirety of Belton Stage Rd. That eliminates additional U.S. 2 riding, although it does bypass a couple of campgrounds on the highway.

One more unsolicited piece of advice: If you are planning to camp in the west side of the park before crossing Logan Pass and cooking while you are there, I would shop at the store at the junction of U.S. 2 and Going to the Sun, before you enter the park. I found the selection there better than the selection available at Apgar and Lame McDonald.

Offline jamawani

Re: Hwy. 49 from St. Mary, Mt.
« Reply #3 on: March 03, 2015, 03:32:10 pm »
I agree with Indy about US 2 west of the park.
There is a short stretch with zero shoulders and heavy traffic.
It would be nice if Blankenship were paved all the way or shoulders were available on US 2 -
But such is not the real world in which we live.

About camping in Glacier - -
Apgar and St. Mary are like zoos with a zillion RVs.
I think one or both also tack on a "reservation" fee for hiker biker camping.
On the west side, either Sprague Creek - close to MacDonald Lodge or Avalanche - close to the Avalanche Lake rail are nice.
On the east side, Rising Sun is super - with showers available and trails and the lake just across the road.

You are not planning to go to Many Glacier - the finest road access in the park?
Lord have mercy, child! I do not know what's gotten into you.
Again, hiker/biker campsites - camp store and pizza café nearby - plus Many Glacier Lodge.

Highway 49 is steep and pretty narrow - plus US 89 has a big climb out of St. Mary but with two lanes uphill.
After that US 89 is also narrow with a good deal of summer traffic.
Still, Two Medicine is certainly worth visiting - great hikes, camp store.


  • Guest
Re: Hwy. 49 from St. Mary, Mt.
« Reply #4 on: March 03, 2015, 04:22:10 pm »
+1 on Sprague Creek or Avalanche over Apgar. Sprague Creek has tent pads in the hiker/biker area (Avalanche may, too. Never stayed there.) and is within walking distance of the lodge, where you can grab a beer and drink it by the lake while gazing at the mountains. There is also a shuttle service between Avalanche and the lodge. Not sure how late it runs. Check the official park site.

Start the climb very early to beat as much traffic as you can. I think we started from Sprague Creek at around 5:30 a.m. in 2009. Make sure you get enough food for breakfast and snacks the day before as nothing will be open so early.

The first photo I linked to was taken near the top of the climb out of St. Mary. It will get your juices flowing.