Exploring the Backyard: My Glacier-Waterton Parks tour on the Crown of the Continent!

April 3, 2018 - Adventure Cycling Tours Specialist Emma Wimmer shares her bike travel experience from the summer of 2017.

Fellow Adventure Cycling tour participant on the Glacier-Waterton self-contained, guided tour.
Fellow Adventure Cycling tour participant

Planning my bike tour, I knew I didn’t want to get too far from home. I also knew I hadn’t spent enough time in Glacier National Park, and I knew I had to see its Canadian partner, Waterton Lakes National Park. So my choice was obvious: Adventure Cycling’s self-contained Glacier-Waterton Parks tour.

First stop, Whitefish, Montana! My friend Lindsey and I met our group and ate a tasty meal. So far, so good! Our group of fellow bike travelers was small and full of nice people, including our tour leader who had taken the Northern Tier route from her home in Seattle to our starting point in Whitefish!

Day two: 60 miles. This won’t be too bad! We set off heading north toward Canada, often on quiet and beautiful country roads, and stopped at a lake for lunch. I dipped my toes in the cold, refreshing water and headed onward, stopping just south of the border for the night.

My friend Lindsey cycling outside of Whitefish, Montana.
My friend Lindsey cycling outside of Whitefish, Montana.

Day three: 50 miles. We woke up early and crossed the border. The border agent seemed amused by my fanny pack with bear spray labeled with “For Bears” and a pocket knife looped on. Along the way, we ate ice cream and upon arrival in Fernie, British Columbia, Lindsey and I hit up the Fernie Brewing Company before dinner.

Full flight of beer at the Fernie Brewing Company.
Full flight of beer at the Fernie Brewing Company

Day four: 40 miles. We made it up over Crowsnest Pass, which was not as bad as I thought it would be. After crossing the border into Alberta, we hit up Crowsnest Lake for snacks and a quick dip. This lake really made me shiver, despite the hot sun. Our overnight was in the small town of Blairmore. 

Crowsnest Pass
Crowsnest Pass

Day five: 30 WINDY miles. We stopped at the amazing Frank Slide Interpretive Center, to learn a bit about the tragedy and the history of mining in Alberta. The town of Frank was named for Henry Frank, one of the town’s founders and a businessman/politician based in Montana! We stopped for more ice cream — the Old Dairy Ice Cream Shoppe puts Baskin-Robbins to shame with nearly 100 flavors! That evening in a small ranching community, we celebrated our day of adoring Alberta’s beautiful countryside. 

rocks at Frank Slide
The Frank Slide — train rolling through for comparison of rock size

Day six: 30 miles. More beautiful farmland, a bit more wind, and look ... Waterton Lakes and Glacier Park in the distance!

Day seven: layover day in Waterton Lakes. This place is so amazing! Beautiful, beautiful. We took a boat ride to Goat Haunt, which was really cool and inspired some backpacking dreams! Lindsey and I hiked up Bear’s Hump with David, who had been hoping to hike the entire tour. Cross training is important! After a great view at the top, Lindsey and I wandered around Waterton a bit before heading back to our B&B for a snack — chips with salsa and guacamole!

Waterton Lakes National Park
Ooooh, ahhhh!

Day eight: 50 miles. I thought today would be easy and I thought wrong! I guess I didn’t rest enough on my layover day, and I earned my miles in the wind. The views were beautiful and the roads deserted — just a few cars and cattle, and we stopped at a cafe for a well-deserved milkshake.

An Adventure Cycling Glacier-Waterton Parks tour: a sign that made me laugh: stRANGE CATTLE.
Made me laugh! 

Day nine: 50 miles. What a day! Wow, the combination of physical exertion and breathtaking views blew me away. Going to the Sun Road was in full floral alpine summer glory! It was one of the most challenging and satisfying rides, if not the hardest, of my life, made worse by running out of water and finding my cheese sandwich utterly inedible. The swoop downhill wasn’t exactly easy, either — didn’t want my rim brakes to overheat!

Our tour leader had started a routing of describing our day in six words. Today was beautiful, but tough, and my six words: The dignity of my own suffering.

a glacier in Glacier National Park
One of the few glaciers you can see from the road!
bike travelers at the top of Logan Pass
Water bottles refilled! 
a scene from Logan Pass in Glacier National Park
So green!
a view of McDonald Creek in Glacier National Park
McDonald Creek, far below

Day ten: 30 miles. Time for a somewhat relaxed ride and the denouement of this tour. We stopped in a town for Gatorade and I was really tired this day!

David and I stopped for a little snack in the shade. While snacking and chatting we heard a crashing through the trees. We looked behind us and what did we see? Less than 15 feet away, a black bear ran across the road! He seemed more afraid of us than we were of him, but we packed up and headed out.

The rest of our ride was a chill cruise downhill into Whitefish where we finished with a tasty pizza lunch! The most defining moment of the day, of course, got the honor. Six words: “Saw a Black Bear Ramble Away.”

Interested in a ride like this one? Join us on Adventure Cycling’s self contained, Glacier-Waterton Parks tour or Advernture Cycling’s inn-to-in tour on the Crown of the Continent! 

Top photo Kathryn Skinner | All other photos Emma Wimmer

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ON THE ROAD is written by the tours team— Paul, Mandy, Emma, Mike, and Arlen — tours specialists and intrepid bicyclists, helping you bring your cycling dreams to fruition. Check out our 2018 Guided Tours today!

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