Bicycle Travel > Routes

St. Mary to Cut Bank Montana Options?

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I plan to ride the Northern Tier eastbound beginning in mid-August at 60-70 miles per day with a mix of camping and motels. In planning the route, I'm wondering about the reason for the loop up into Canada between St. Mary and Cut Bank Montana (NT Section 2, maps 25-29). I will likely make it there during the first week of September. Has anyone taken a more direct route, perhaps something like this: ? I'm not adverse to going into Canada or taking the longer route, but am wondering about the rationale for plotting it that way. I'm also interested in any feedback about the Marias alternate route, though I would like to do the Going the Sun Highway.

Thanks, Dave

John Nelson:
First things first. It would be insane to ride Marias Pass if Going to the Sun Road is open. GTTSR is the best cycling route in North America.

The main reason to ride into Canada is Waterton Lakes National Park. But even without that, it’s just cool. Still not convinced? How can you pass up a visit to Cardston, Alberta, the childhood home of Fay Wray, and the site of the Remington Carriage Museum, voted "the best indoor attraction in Canada," with the largest collection of horse drawn vehicles in North America, with over 250 carriages, buggies, wagons and sleighs.

Dave -

Don't know where you are from, but if you are riding the entire Northern Tier, you may run out of fiding weather further east.
As for St. Mary to Cut Bank - yes - riding up to Babb, then taking IR 464 to Browing is a good choice. US 89 straight to Browning has a killer climb, has very narrow sections, and high traffic. Do consider a night at Many Glacier, if possible. The most spectacular road-accessible area of the park. Once in Browning, stay on US 2 which has good shoulders all the way, now. (Not sure why the RWGPS has all the detours.)

As noted, you would be crazy to ride Marias if GTS is open.  I've done the former west to east when GTS was not open and the latter several times.  Steak-umm compared to a perfectly cooked boneless ribeye.

Re: Waterton Village is a nice place.  The Towne Campsite is in a dramatic setting along the lake.  Nice place for a rest day. BUUUUTTTTTT...The Chief Mountain border crossing has been closed for a while with no indication when it might reopen. So there's that.

Since you seem to be looking for more direct routes I won't suggest U.S. 89 to Kiowa then MT 49 (Looking Glass Hill, with terrific views of the Two Medicine lakes) to E. Glacier then U.S. 2 to Browning.

Finally, not only will you have shorter days and possibly less favorable weather conditions as you move east (It can snow in the Adirondacks starting in September.  We had a night in the 40s in mid-August.), some campgrounds (e.g., some state parks in New York and Vermont) start shutting down after Labor or Columbus Day. And competition for accommodations during "leaf peeper" season in NY and New England will be greater.

Thanks for the info. Very helpful. I definitely do want to do GTTSR; I've driven it several times and know how spectacular it can be. And Fay Wray!


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