Road Trip 2017: Part 3 – Banff to Glacier

When we returned to Lake Louise Thursday night, we inquired about staying one more night. The ranger however informed us we would have to move camp. Not wanting to pack up camp and stay in the same location, we knew we’d be driving from Banff to Glacier the next morning. Time to mentally prepare for 10+ hours in the car.

We woke up early Friday morning and quickly broke camp. It was cold, wet, and snowing yet again.

On The Road Again

The plan for the day was to drive down to Canmore and turn off on the well graveled Smith Dorrien Trail through Kanaskis Country. This “trail” is more a dirt highway, one I highly recommend to anyone driving through. Wide open roads with amazing mountain vistas and hardly in traffic around. The Smith Dorrien Trail ended all to soon, putting us back on paved Highway 40, traveling over several high point passes and open range land, which meant cows on the highway! The weather continued to come and go as we made our way south, blue skie, clouds, rain, and threatening snow showers.

Heading down Highway 40, I wanted to turn off and head in to the hills again. Alberta has a long graveled highway system, called the Forestry Trunk Road, which runs 1,000KM north to south, with less than 200km of that being paved. Even under the wet skies and low cloud deck, Cassie was on board and turned off Highway 40 and pointed the car due south towards Crowsnest Pass, the next 150 miles would be well mannered gravel travel or “overlanding”. Our route wound through a variety of landscapes, mostly forest destine for clear cut, more free range cattle grazing, and wide open meadows reminding me of the eastern slopes of our own Cascade Mountains in Washington.

Our dirt travel could have lasted twice as long, hitting pavement wasn’t necessarily enjoyable, but it was necessary for us to make Glacier National Park. We debated staying in it’s connected Canadian park Waterton, but the thought of setting up a wet tent for one night and moving the next day sounded horrible. By pushing on to Glacier, it would ensure we had 3 nights in one place, giving us two days to get out and hike.

As we drove towards Waterton, a recent wildfire was being mopped up on both sides of the highway. The scared land was a scary and surreal sight to see, and Waterton Lakes just opened back up two days prior, proving just how real and recent the fire was. The Kenow Wildfire  went in to Waterton Lakes National Park, providing us with reassurance that we were making the right decision as we headed towards the Chief Mountain border crossing, easily the least busy crossing I’ve ever been through. There was 1 car ahead of us.

Welcome to Montana

Welcome to Montana, 100+ miles of dirt road as a “detour” from Banff to Glacier National Park

Back in the US, we raced towards the eastern entrance of Glacier National Park, hungry, tired, and ready to settle in to a camp spot. Glacier however had other plans, in order for us to be in a relatively easy position to explore after Glacier on our way back to Seattle, we wanted to camp on the west side of the park. Glacier was experiencing it’s own wildfire though, closing the Going to the Sun road, which meant we had to drive AROUND the park in order to reach camp…2….more….hours. In order to keep Fitz happy and in his happy traveling state, we let him roam the visitor center for 30 minutes before they shut down at 5pm.

On the road again, we raced to West Glacier, with one thing on our mind, food. We found AMAZING pizza at the Glacier Grill and Pizza in Coram, MT. (highly recommended), an empty campground at Lake McDonald, and home for the next 3 nights in the Apgar Campground. Life was great and our adventure was wonderful.

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