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Old 07-15-2015, 08:38 AM   #1
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Route Advice in MT, WA, OR, WY?

Hi everyone -

First, let me say that I really appreciate this forum - so many great recommendations and ideas that been very helpful in planning our family trips!

We are excited to be heading out Northwest this summer, and have all of our reservations done. As I look at a few of our stops, though, I am wondering if anyone has some advice about routes to take between the following locations:

Butte, MT to St. Mary's, MT
St. Mary's, MT to Spokane, WA
Olympia, WA to Crescent, OR
Jackson Hole, WY to West Yellowstone, MT

We have a Toyota Tundra pulling a 22' hybrid. Just wondering if there are any roads to look out for or avoid due to switchbacks, congestion, constructionů or anything else?

Thanks very much!

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Old 07-15-2015, 10:20 AM   #2
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From Jackson to West Yellowstone, there are primarily two different routes. One is north up through 191 through Yellowstone NP. Best to check their website for road construction at the time you want to pass through.
Currently, they are doing a bridge on southern west bound park road so there could be some long waits. You can always go north up to the northern west bound road, but they are doing some road repairs; nothing major from what I have read. (Best info is on the Yellowstone NP website.)

The other way involves Teton Pass, Route 22, that goes over the mountains to Victor, and from Victor go north on Hwy 32 up to Ashton, where you can jump on Hwy 20 into West Yellowstone. However, Teton pass is a wide switchback that has some 10% grades.

Both routes are approximately the same travel time.

There are some other routes, but they add a lot of time to the trip. If the grades and the switchback are a bigger problem then construction, then the Yellowstone route is probably the best. If the bridge on the southern west route is still under construction, then it might be worth the extra time to go further north in Yellowstone park and use the northern west road.

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Old 07-15-2015, 08:22 PM   #3
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Olympia to crescent: so many ways, if you are looking for the fastest: I5 south to just south of Eugene OR then eastward on the 58 through Oakridge. You can take the 61 (Crescent cutoff road) safely. It's a well paved road.

Just out of curiosity, why Crescent? I was raised in Gilchrist.
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Old 07-17-2015, 12:14 AM   #4
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Butte to St. Mary. Today we went from Butte up I-15 to us287 thru Helena, Augusta to Chouteau. Went a little farther thru a couple miles of construction before we broke an axle, no fault of construction. Now at Mountain View Campground in Chouteau awaiting tomorrow for repair. Except for the one area of construction, roads were extremely good and the view was superb. Just remembered there were some other areas of construction but it just dropped your speed for a little. View was still worth it.
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Old 07-17-2015, 02:32 PM   #5
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Butte to St. Mary - there is really only one direct route:I-15, US-287, US-89

The last stretch from Browning up to St Mary is very Scenic and decently narrow and twisty (but there's no real alternative). You'll be Fine...

One assumes that you picked St Mary as a jumping-off spot for Glacier NP. Great!! The St Mary side (East Side) is imho more spectacular than the West Side. Drop your TT at the Campground, and explore Many Glacier and Two Medicine as well as the local St Mary Lake area. Seriously consider Booking Ahead on one of the Boat Tours for any of these Lakes (Many Glacier is best imho - did it just this June).

Also, take the Tundra up-and-over Going-to-the-Sun Road. It is SPECTACULAR (and my Grandpa worked on it as a teen in the CCC of the '30s). It is a MUST DO!! But taking your TT up there is a MUST DON'T - Vehicle Restrictions Prohibit it!! And wisely so, as I've seen a pair of Sprinter Van Conversions get "Stuck" between Cliff Wall and Oncoming Traffic. (More on this in "St Mary to Spokane"...)

In fact, the Morning Hours on the East Side are so spectacular that you will really want 2-days minimum based from St Mary - Many Glacier is SPECTACULAR in the first 2-3hrs after Dawn!! Then you top it off with the 9AM Boat Tour before leaving for other parts of the NP.
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Old 07-17-2015, 03:08 PM   #6
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St Mary MT to Spokane WA:

First Off, you'll NEED to Backtrack to Browning MT, and then run US-2 around the Bottom-End of Glacier. Going thru Glacier is NOT AN OPTION with a TT of any size greater than a Teardrop. US-2 is a relatively Scenic route over a very easy Pass with wide shoulders, smooth grades, and passing lanes - all the modern conveniences. And it meets up with Going-to-the-Sun Road at West Glacier...

My recommendation is that you drive the East Side of Going-to-the-Sun Road from St Mary to the Summit, preferrably in the morning of your stay in Glacier. And then once you've driven the TT all the way around to West Glacier, do the West Side of Going-to-the-Sun Road in the mid-late afternoon. Both sides are So Much Better when the Sun is at your back!!

Once done with Glacier NP, you have 3x routes to Spokane, all of them starting from Kalispell MT (a short easy hour drive on US-2).
1) Stay on US-2 all the way. You'll get a few minor Passes on mostly good wide 2-lane Highway. You'll have good Scenery including drives along a couple of broad Rivers and at least the Sandpoint ID portion of Lake Pend Oreille - copious places to pull out for Leg-stretches or Picnics.
2) Take US-93 down to Lake Flathead and MT-28 across the Res to pickup MT-200 at Plains MT. MT-200/ID-200 is somewhat narrower than US-2, but still quite good. You follow the Clark Fork River all the way to Sandpoint ID. From Sandpoint, you can either take the US-95 down to Couer d'Alene and then the I-90 into Spokane; Or you take the US-2 into Spokane through the Northtown route.
3) Take US-93 all the way down to I-90 near Missoula (or jog along the MT-28/MT-200/MT-135 to catch I-90 further West at St Regis - narrower but not too bad), then its a day's worth of Mountain Valleys and one substantial Mountain Pass before winding down the South Fork Couer d'Alene River into its namesake town at the lake of yet the same name.

All three of these routes are Full Days, although the I-90 will be a bit less stressful (unless you find being overtaken by 80mph Semis on the flatter parts only to dodge around them at 30mph nearer the Pass to be "stressful"). Just think of it as a Game of "Where have We Seen this Rig Before??"...

I hope the News about needing to Go Around rather than Through Glacier NP doesn't spoil any of your Travel Schedule...
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Old 07-17-2015, 07:43 PM   #7
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Both the last two posts were full of great info. Having spent 65 years near the west entrance to Glacier I would say making the trip over the Going to the Sun Highway through the park is well worth the extra day. Another great side trip is the Many Glacier area north of St Mary's. On the west side of the park Lake McDonald Lodge is very memorable and pretty good food. On the East side the sunrises from Johnsons RV Park in St Mary are incredible and their family style dinners at their restaurant are pretty fine also. Either side of the Park is wonderful though.
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Old 07-19-2015, 12:22 PM   #8
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Regarding the Olympia, WA to Crescent, OR section. You might want to avoid the worst of Portland traffic by taking 205 (north of Vancouver) to 84. Go east on 84 then south at Hood River. More scenic, less stressful, but longer.

Are you looking for any suggestions for things to see/do along the way?
How long are you spending in Washington? Is it specifically Olympia that will be your departure point? Or is that just the nearest large city from wherever you will be staying? (There could be other scenic route suggestions depending.)
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Old 07-21-2015, 08:51 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by bboorman View Post
Olympia to crescent: so many ways, if you are looking for the fastest: I5 south to just south of Eugene OR then eastward on the 58 through Oakridge. You can take the 61 (Crescent cutoff road) safely. It's a well paved road.

Just out of curiosity, why Crescent? I was raised in Gilchrist.

Hi @bboorman - we are visiting Crater Lake on our way between Eugene and Yellowstone. Good Sam did have a warning about low clearance for OR58, but we should be OK with the size of our TT. We were planning on going I5 to 58, but it was the 61 that I was mostly wondering about. Thanks so much for your help!

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Old 07-21-2015, 08:57 PM   #10
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No problem ON 61....There is a tunnel on 58 east of Oakridge, but semi's use that route a lot going to Klamath Falls, Ore........been stuck behind 'em before

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