Creative Ideas? CLE->Glacier NP and perhaps Calgary/Other

Discussion in 'Other U.S. Destinations' started by knick1959, Aug 23, 2014.  |  Print Topic

  1. knick1959

    knick1959 Silver Member

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    Looking to plan a trip from CLE to Glacier National Park next late August, early Sept. I can't schedule these flights yet, but will be able to in the next 2-4 weeks. Oh. I may be in Chicago late August that could jump-start the trip. If it was just getting us from CLE/ORD->MSO (or other small airports), I wouldn't need to ask. However, looking for some creativity. If we "just" go to Glacier, we will cross over to Canada and visit Waterton NP for a day, too. But there's more on the Canadian side. And there is also Amtrak.
    Has anyone taken Amtrak from Chicago to the far west, or the other way? We might do it one way. Pros? Cons?
    Has anyone explored the Canadian parks up a little bit more North in combination with Glacier? Banff NP in particular looks neat. Calgary is close to this. Drive? Is there a train? If so, is it a plus or a minus? Other ideas? I'll stop there, in case nobody can help me with ideas. But I wanted to ask!
    Ah, one more. Does anyone have experience with renting a car in Canada and dropping it in the US?
    Thanks in advance.
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  2. Mapsmith
    Original Member

    Mapsmith Gold Member

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    It is a great trip. We have either flown into YVR and rented a car there and driven to Banff/Jasper/Calgary or flown into YYC and driven from there. The easiest and cheapest for us, however, was to fly into GEG and rent from there. Glacier was really good. Waterton would probably be better just staying there, but there is a really nice hotel. Banff, Lake Louise, and Jasper are all worth a trip. Our trips were usually 8-14 days. Also in Canada, the Remington Carriage Museum in Cardston is probably a better use of a day than Waterton (in my opinion) Sounds tacky but is fantastic.

    And if you want to take a train, take the Canadian Version rather than Amtrak. But it is more expensive and will add a few more days on to your trip.

    Those are my 'suggestions' But you will find that the Canadian Rockies will steal your soul like a redheaded Irish Girl.
    MX likes this.
  3. mikeschu
    Original Member

    mikeschu Gold Member

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    I did PDX-ORD on the Empire Builder this April as part of a SFO-(PDX)-(ORD)-NYC trip. I would rate the Empire Builder pretty well out of the Amtrak runs I've done so far. I had a good crew and a good group of people who were in my sleeper car, which definitely helps. The food is generally good if overly Americana; you won't go hungry. Also, you can drink on the train and bring a little alcohol on-board if that's your pleasure.

    CLE/ORD to Glacier westbound is two long days and one overnight; going eastbound it is two days and two nights - leaving Glacier at 7am(ish) and arriving at CLE right at 5am IIRC two days later (see note below). If you board at CLE going west, you're looking at a 3-5am boarding time but a relatively sane arrival time into Glacier. You will definitely get more time out of viewing the Great Plains of Montana than anyone will probably care to see, and you'll meet people who will tell you why Amtrak is so necessary in those parts of the USA.

    The problem is that CP Rail and BNSF (and by extension, Amtrak) have been comprehensively hosed by a) track work and b) the oil boom in ND. Empire Builder delays of four hours end-to-end are common. Expect to leave ORD or Glacier on time, but plan for a 3-6 hour delay either going into Glacier or into Chicago as a destination. I can't tell you which direction to do it if you choose Amtrak, but I have more faith in the Lake Shore Limited connecting you to the Empire Builder on time than I do the EB connecting to the Lake Shore. In fact, you may not be able to book a Glacier to ORD/CLE eastbound trek; last I heard they were seriously recommending that people book a forced overnight at ORD going eastbound to other connections. If you leave on the train from Glacier going eastbound, you may just want to book a hotel in ORD and fly to CLE the next day.

    Having said that, if you've never done any overnight trip before on a train -- do it. And it is essential that you get at least a roomette. I don't know that I'd ever go overnight in coach; too many horror stories and not enough privacy and relaxation for me to make it worthwhile at my age and disposable income. And feel free to PM me if you have more questions as I may not be looking at this thread. :)
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2014
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