Author Topic: Pros and Cons of Northern Tier vs. Lewis and Clark in Pac NW  (Read 4703 times)

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Offline JRT

Pros and Cons of Northern Tier vs. Lewis and Clark in Pac NW
« on: January 29, 2017, 03:23:19 pm »
This summer I am planning a trip from Washington state to Minneapolis.  It appears that the two primary options in the Pacific NW are the Northern Tier or the Lewis and Clark Trail.  Anyone have any recommendations?

Offline John Nelson

Re: Pros and Cons of Northern Tier vs. Lewis and Clark in Pac NW
« Reply #1 on: January 29, 2017, 03:59:41 pm »
The L&C misses Glacier National Park, the jewel of the Northwest.

Offline adventurepdx

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Re: Pros and Cons of Northern Tier vs. Lewis and Clark in Pac NW
« Reply #2 on: January 29, 2017, 05:41:11 pm »
The L&C misses Glacier National Park, the jewel of the Northwest.

...though the OP could get off the Lewis and Clark in Missoula, MT and take Great Parks North to Glacier, where they would link up with the Northern Tier.

Offline adventurepdx

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Re: Pros and Cons of Northern Tier vs. Lewis and Clark in Pac NW
« Reply #3 on: January 29, 2017, 05:49:13 pm »
In Washington State, the big pro of taking the Lewis and Clark is it's a low elevation route until you get into Idaho and start climbing. If you are heading east, you'll have the added benefit of a strong tailwind in the summer. (Going west in the Columbia River Gorge in the summer can be a chore.) The Gorge is the scenic highlight here. Going east the landscape dries out and flattens a bit, but there are moments.




The big pro of taking the Northern Tier is the mountains and the associated scenery. But it is a lot more work, esp. coming from sea level to Rainy and Washington Pass in the Cascades.



You could take the L&C to Missoula MT, then use the Great Parks North route to get on the Northern Tier at Glacier National Park. As John Nelson mentioned previously, it's the scenic highlight of the area!

Offline JRT

Re: Pros and Cons of Northern Tier vs. Lewis and Clark in Pac NW
« Reply #4 on: January 29, 2017, 08:49:09 pm »
You folks are amazing, i really appreciate the quick reply and expert advice. This is the 1st time I have ever posted on a forum...I have been locked in a corp environment and retired last week and am really excited for this adventure!  Is it logical that I could / would mostly camp but stay in a hotel every 5 day'ish?  Also, what is the best way to power a cell phone e.g. solar, quick charger, power at campgrounds, etc?

Offline John Nelson

Re: Pros and Cons of Northern Tier vs. Lewis and Clark in Pac NW
« Reply #5 on: January 30, 2017, 12:21:26 am »
Most nights, you will find power, even if you camp. But I recommend taking along a portable power pack. It's not as risky to leave a power pack charging unattended than to leave your phone unattended. A lot depends on how you use your phone. If you are using it for navigation or Strava, it takes a lot more power than if you leave it in airplane mode most of the day (which I do). For a lot of the day, you will have no signal, and it runs the battery down quickly if you leave the cell on.

Offline jamawani

Re: Pros and Cons of Northern Tier vs. Lewis and Clark in Pac NW
« Reply #6 on: January 30, 2017, 12:21:56 am »
Where are you starting from and where do you plan to end?
The Northern Tier starts with a bang and lots of climbing by the second day.
The L&C takes you thru Columbia River Gorge. And the Idaho section along the Lochsa River is sweet.

I agree that Glacier N.P and Going to the Sun Road are not to be missed. But then the Northern Tier puts you on 1000 miles of prairie. Some of the journals over at CrazyGuyonaBike really show people coming close to losing it. (Although you are likely to get more tailwinds than headwinds eastbound.

You know you don't have to go with either Coke or Pepsi. You can mix & match as others have suggested or find your own way part of the way. Especially in the West, it's hard to go wrong on many back highways.
US 89 from Glacier all the way to Yellowstone is excellent riding.

The Yellowstone River route of the L&C in eastern Montana is much more scenic, historic, and inviting. But then the L&C puts you up on the North Dakota prairies, too. The oil and gas traffic in ND has declined, but it ain't the quiet ride it used to be - even with the ACA detour. Depending on where you are going int Minnesota, you might want to consider striking out across South Dakota.

Here are some good South Dakota DOT maps for traffic counts and shoulder widths:
http://sddot.com/transportation/highways/traffic/docs/TrafficFlowMap.pdf
http://sddot.com/travelers/docs/roadwaychar.pdf
Any road with less than 1000 AADT is pretty light - less than 500 AADT is amazing.

Many of us camp most of the time - until we really get stinky.
Then we come into town and chase everybody off Main Street.
They run for their lives.

Best - J

Pic - Going to the Sun Road

Offline John Nettles

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Re: Pros and Cons of Northern Tier vs. Lewis and Clark in Pac NW
« Reply #7 on: January 30, 2017, 07:54:50 am »
I agree with John Nelson.  I have used a power bank (rechargeable battery) over the past several years.  I use it to recharge my phone, GPS, AA & AAA batteries (if I am taking on that trip), etc.  Buy a 10k -15k mA power bank.  Much larger and you won't use the extra storage that much so you are carrying extra weight.  Less than that, and you have fewer charges.  A cell phone typically holds about 2-2.5k mA.  Be sure to get one that will match (or at least come close) your phone's charging input.  A lot of newer phones charge at 3a now instead of the older 1a,  While it will charge at 1a, it will just take significantly longer.

If you are only recharging the phone, a 10k mA is plenty as you will able to recharge as you go along in campgrounds (some), restaurants, some city parks, etc.  You to will become an expert at spotting electrical outlets  ;D !

Hope you have a great ride!  John

Offline ggwbikemt

Re: Pros and Cons of Northern Tier vs. Lewis and Clark in Pac NW
« Reply #8 on: January 30, 2017, 08:46:48 am »
Here are links to North Dakota traffic maps  For an overview of state highways http://www.dot.nd.gov/docs/maps/traffic/trafficstate_2015.pdf

The interactive map has 2016 data and county road AADT for some locations (pay careful attention to the year, some data dates back to 1990s).

https://gis.dot.nd.gov/external/ge_html/?viewer=ext_transinfo

If either link does not work http://www.dot.nd.gov/business/maps-portal.htm#trafficcountsstateandcity

Montana traffic maps http://www.mdt.mt.gov/publications/datastats/traffic_maps.shtml

indyfabz

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Re: Pros and Cons of Northern Tier vs. Lewis and Clark in Pac NW
« Reply #9 on: January 30, 2017, 01:59:44 pm »
Is it logical that I could / would mostly camp but stay in a hotel every 5 day'ish?

Doable on the Northern Tier, at least through Montana. Plenty of camping opportunities. Motels in and around Winthrop/Twisp, WA. (You may want one after crossing the Cascades.;)), Tonasket, Republic, Colville and Ione, WA,, Sandpoint, ID, Libby, Eureka and Whitefish/Columbia Falls, MT. From Cut Bank, MT east there are several towns with motels (e.g., Havre).

I highly recommend the Northern Tier section into Alberta, Canada. Waterton Village, about 5 miles off route, is a nice place for a day off. There is a great towne campsite along the lake with mountain views and a boat ride/hike combo you can take.

When are you planning on starting? Glacier has gotten a good amount of snow this year. If that keeps up, Logan Pass might open later than earlier. The Northern Tier was my first ever tour, so I have a soft spot for it. You don't want to miss Logan pass. Yes. Central and eastern Montana can get monotonous, but I still enjoyed the area and the towns we stayed in. Harlem allowed camping the city park and had a nice public pool. And if you get a killer tailwind you can knock off some serious miles with relative ease. One day, during a 20 mile stretch into Malta after breakfast, I sustained 32.5 mph for several miles. When I finally went into the red for too long I had to dial it back to 28.5 mph.

Offline ggwbikemt

Re: Pros and Cons of Northern Tier vs. Lewis and Clark in Pac NW
« Reply #10 on: January 31, 2017, 07:16:04 am »
I live on the Northern Tier route in Eastern Montana and frequently travel the highways both biking and driving. A few other people have already commented on the Northern Tier and I generally agree. I will focus this thread on the L&C routes in Eastern Montana.

There 2 different L&C routes in Central and parts of Eastern Montana and the Northern Tier route is co-located with the L&C route near the North Dakota border and in Western North Dakota.  The northern L&C route especially on MT 200 east of Lewistown, MT is the most remote of the routes and east of Grass Range traffic will be very light until you get near Glendive. The route has more rolling hills than the route profile will indicate.  The southern L&C route uses a mix of I-90, I-94, and nearby roads east of Whitehall, MT. It has the most services of the routes. The Yellowstone Valley east of Livingston, MT has some spectacular bad land topography but will also have the warmest summer time temperatures. I'm not thrilled with the route Adventure Cycling uses to navigate the Billings area.  It uses extremely busy roads in several spots where parallel bicycle friendly roads are available nearby. I-94 between Billings MT and US 85 in Western North Dakota is one of the most lightly traveled Interstate highways in the US. With exceptions of Billings to Worden stretch (poorly signed as MT 312) and the Miles City area, the frontage roads where they exist have little or no traffic.  I can tell you that the frontage road and a few other roads on the ACA route overall is actually flatter than the Interstate between Billings and Forsythe because it is closer to the Yellowstone River than the Interstate.

Offline JRT

Re: Pros and Cons of Northern Tier vs. Lewis and Clark in Pac NW
« Reply #11 on: February 01, 2017, 04:43:29 pm »
Thanks for all of the replies full of good insights.  I am planning on beginning this trip in early Aug and assume that I can do it in a little over one month.  I have a lot to learn between now and then and you may see other posts looking for expertise.

Offline John Nelson

Re: Pros and Cons of Northern Tier vs. Lewis and Clark in Pac NW
« Reply #12 on: February 01, 2017, 05:04:08 pm »
I am planning on beginning this trip in early Aug and assume that I can do it in a little over one month.
Sounds reasonable. I did about 70 miles a day and made it from Bellingham, WA to Dalbo, MN in 33 days along the Northern Tier.

indyfabz

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Re: Pros and Cons of Northern Tier vs. Lewis and Clark in Pac NW
« Reply #13 on: February 02, 2017, 02:49:59 pm »
Just did a rough calculation of my Northern Tier experience. Backing out the days from Seattle (where we started) to Bay View (just east of Anacortes) we reached Fargo in 34 days. That included rest days in Winthrop, WA, Sandpoint, ID, Glacier N.P. (waiting for Logan Pass to open) Glasgow, MT and Minot, ND. We did do the Alberta portion, which added some days because, including a short day because of the way the mileages worked out heading back into the states. It also included some needlessly short days on the Montana Highline. So I too think a little over 30 days is possible.