Author Topic: Northern Tier through Montana  (Read 5639 times)

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Offline DonKahn1

Northern Tier through Montana
« on: March 22, 2021, 03:51:29 pm »
I am planning on riding the northern Tier to the west coast from east to west this summer.  I am wondering about the route through Montana.  It appears from most blogs that cyclists use the US2 route from eastern Montana to Glacier.  I am planning on going on the Montana route #200 through Jordan, Lewistown, Great Falls, etc.  Any information on this route out there?
Thanks

Offline jamawani

Re: Northern Tier through Montana
« Reply #1 on: March 22, 2021, 06:35:59 pm »
Hey Don -

I used to teach at a small college in eastern Montana.
Been living in Wyoming or Montana since 1990.

You don't say much about your experience or where you're from.
It matters - - because the distances in eastern Montana are immense.
Especially on a bicycle, especially if you are from Boston or Atlanta.

Hwy 200 is much more scenic than US 2 with much less traffic.
Really, it will feel practically empty at times.
Which means there are far fewer services.
Carry lots of water - ride early to avoid the heat of the day.
Also, prevailing winds tend to be westerly - be forewarned.
An early start also helps you get done before strong afternoon winds.

Fort Benton is lovely, historic, with a great riverfront.
Some goodly hills on Hwys 81 & 82.
Then you have to head north to Chester on US 2 to do all pavement.

Unless you really want to go thru Great Falls, I suggest Fort Benton.
Great Falls has nice bike trails along the river, but is pretty busy.
And the highways leading into town are quite busy.
(There are a couple of good bike shops, though.)

However, US 89 via Choteau has amazing Front Range views.
Plus, Choteau has great camping in town at their park.

Warning!
I am talking with the Glacier N.P admin about eastside camping for cyclists.
The park has closed the eastside campgrounds on Gin to the Sun Road.
Nearby private campgrounds ($50+) are booked all summer.
So, it is practically impossible to do Going to the Sun by bicycle.
But you have to do it - - regardless.

I think I may be able to persuade them to make some cyclist accomodations.

<<<>>>

PS - Now that the Bakken play in North Dakota has peteredout,
I would suggest Hwy 200 in western North Dakota.
Fort Mandan is nice, but the Knife River Villages are truly amazing.
Then you can hit Teddy Roosevelt N.P. (North Unit)
And exit by the back gate via Hwy 68 to Sidney, Montana.



Offline DonKahn1

Re: Northern Tier through Montana
« Reply #2 on: March 23, 2021, 11:10:06 am »
Thanks for your response Jamawani.  Great information on that route through Montana.  I am meeting up with another cyclist in Great Falls, so I will probably take the Hwy 200 route to there.  I had heard the news about the campgrounds being closed on the east side of Glacier, and that does put a crimp on things!  Hopefully there will be more news on the Going to the Sun Hwy by the time I get out there in late June.  Thanks again for all the information

Offline jamawani

Re: Northern Tier through Montana
« Reply #3 on: March 23, 2021, 01:18:27 pm »
How late is "late June"?

https://www.nps.gov/glac/learn/news/upload/Logan-Pass-Open-Close-Dates_Press-Kit_10-21-20-2.pdf

East of G.F. I strongly suggest riding via Belt and Hwys 331 & 228.
Very scenic and you miss a good deal of traffic until just before the air force base.

There is a service road running along the west side of I-15 from G.F. to Vaughn.
Nothing to write home to Mom about, but beats riding on the interstate.

Just as you head north from Fairfield on US 89 you have the first kick-ass views of the Rockies.
You are on a bluff overlooking the Freezeout Lakes - give yourself time to enjoy.
Then you have great mountain views all the way to Glacier on US 89.

One option for Glacier to to ride north from Browning to Babb and then into Many Glacier.
Many Glacier has the ginest hiking the in the park, hiker/biker camping, campstore, showers, cafe.
It's 14 miles mostly downhill miles from Many Glacier to Babb, then 9 miles on US 89 to St Mary.

Plus, there is major construction on the Many Glacier Road with significant delays and gravel.
Could they make it any harder on cyclists??

I don't know what the night construction schedule will be - it's not posted.
However, if you leave at 4:00a - bare twilight  - with flashers you should get to Babb by dawn.
Still riding with flashers on US 89, you would get to St. Mary by 6:00a.
That would allow you to ride Going to the Sun up to Logan Pass before it gets too busy.
Then spend the day hiking on Highline Traill. (Unless you have acrophobia)

Pic - Lake Josephine at Many Glacier






Offline driftlessregion

Re: Northern Tier through Montana
« Reply #4 on: April 02, 2021, 01:09:25 pm »
It is not true that all campgrounds east of GTSR are full. Use the telephone! I just made reservations in St Mary at two campgrounds.

Offline DonKahn1

Re: Northern Tier through Montana
« Reply #5 on: April 02, 2021, 01:29:14 pm »
Thanks for the reply about availability of campgrounds in St. Mary.  Of course being on bicycle, and it not being practical to make reservations so far in advance, I will have to play it by ear as I get closer to Glacier.  Thanks again.

Offline jamawani

Re: Northern Tier through Montana
« Reply #6 on: April 02, 2021, 02:50:23 pm »
It is not true that all campgrounds east of GTSR are full. Use the telephone! I just made reservations in St Mary at two campgrounds.

When I went online a week ago, the main campgrounds indicated they were booked solid.
I rarely use the phone for anything other than last-minute reservations, but it appears to be an option.
Then again, you could also get a reply like, "We only go thru our website."

Offline Iowagriz

Re: Northern Tier through Montana
« Reply #7 on: April 02, 2021, 03:05:49 pm »
Lots of changing dynamics for Glacier this summer. East side (Blackfoot reservation) recently announced they will open for the summer. They closed access via their land last summer. This could easily change again.

Also, Glacier just announced an entrance reservation system. Not sure if this impacts bicycles, but I'd think so.

Recent article can be found on Flatheadbeacon.com

Sent from my SM-N975U using Tapatalk


Offline jamawani

Re: Northern Tier through Montana
« Reply #8 on: April 02, 2021, 04:40:53 pm »
Glacier's reservation system doesn't apply to cyclists and pedestrians entering the park.

Offline DonKahn1

Re: Northern Tier through Montana
« Reply #9 on: April 02, 2021, 06:02:59 pm »
Good to know about the reservation system not applying to bicyclists.  Who knows, maybe that will make for less vehicle traffic on the Going to the Sun Road

Offline jamawani

Re: Northern Tier through Montana
« Reply #10 on: April 02, 2021, 08:18:04 pm »
I was at the Zoom meeting when they were discussing the reservation system.
The number of reservations are such that it will only take the extreme peaks off.
Park officials state that traffic will still be heavy - especially  in the middle of the day.

Unfortunately, it will push some traffic before 6:00a and after 5:00p.
These are, traditionally, the best cycling times because most cars are off the road.
I've biked at dawn from Rising Sun to Logan Pass with only a few cars.
5:30 June; 5:45 early July is the best time to start.
Hopefully the additional traffic will be minimal.

PS - I will contact them again about hiker/biker camping on the east side.
You know, I am a stinker when it comes to bike access.  I say something like,
"You complain about all the cars and then you don't do anything for cyclists."
I won't win the Miss Congeniality award.
« Last Edit: April 02, 2021, 09:00:10 pm by jamawani »

Offline driftlessregion

Re: Northern Tier through Montana
« Reply #11 on: April 03, 2021, 08:15:52 pm »
It is going to be tough this year for sure, especially for the campgrounds that don't have reservable sites such as the USFS sites. No private campground has ever said to use only the website and have been very cordial over the phone. A couple of campgrounds aren't answering the phone yet. I'm on a 12 day tour and dates are not flexible.  Montana state parks do not turn away cyclists even if campground is full. Wisconsin and Michigan are the same and we've had to remind the staff of this fact more than once.

Offline jamawani

Re: Northern Tier through Montana
« Reply #12 on: April 04, 2021, 12:55:32 am »
Montana state parks do not turn away cyclists even if campground is full.

It depends.
It depends on whether or not the campground hosts are informed of the policy.
Hopefully, our experience in 2019 and my letter to Montana State Parks will help in this area.

My companion and I got in fairly late on a very hot day - we didn't cycle in the middle of the day.
The campground host was from Texas with an oversized Texas ego to boot.
He said that the campground was full and we needed to leave the park immediately.
When I mentioned MSP policy he became irate and threatened to call the county sheriff.
His wife was standing 3 feet behind him and was totally mortified.
A nearby family came over and said they would be glad to share their site.
The Texas guy said that was against the rules, at first. His wife talked him down.

Unfortunately, this is what sometimes happens - I've toured for 30 years.
There have been hiker/biker sites given to car campers.
The loop with hiker/biker sites closed, etc., etc.
It doesn't happen often - but it can, because hosts often do not know.

I got an apology from Montana State Parks -
But it was a degrading and humiliating experience.

Offline driftlessregion

Re: Northern Tier through Montana
« Reply #13 on: April 07, 2021, 11:33:11 am »
I guess I'll carry a copy of an email I got from the supervising ranger that confirms the policy. In most state parks, it is a staff person in a gate house that we deal with not a host so that is different.

Offline HikeBikeCook

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Re: Northern Tier through Montana
« Reply #14 on: April 07, 2021, 11:37:36 am »
On the ACA Website, I think where the routes are listed, is a place to print the No-Turn Away Policies for the states that have them.
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