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Most scenic route from Whitefish MT into Idaho and on to BC

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posts: 3
Most scenic route from Whitefish MT into Idaho and on to BC

My husband and I are going to be visiting Waterton/Glacier the last week of September. We are flying into Calgary and driving down to Waterton, then heading south and west. We'd like to know the best route back to Calgary from the west side of Glacier that would take us into idaho.

Also, we are wondering about the weather, fall colors, best places to eat etc. Appreciate any advice.

Calgary, Canada
Destination Expert
for Calgary, TripAdvisor Support
posts: 24,081
reviews: 67
1. Re: Most scenic route from Whitefish MT into Idaho and on to BC

You have two main options: they are going up the west or the eastern side of the Great Divide (Alberta-BC border). The east side is both the shortest and the one I'm most familiar with. If you go that route, head east onto the Crowsnest Hwy (Hwy 3) at Fernie; continue east until you're a little east of Bellevue, Alberta, then turn north onto the Cowboy Trail (Hwy 22). This is a very scenic route to the north that parallels the foothills just about all the way to Calgary. Depending on the time available, you can either:

-> swing west at Longview onto the Hwy 40 north through the mountains of Kananaskis Country, and over the Highwood Pass (North America's highest driveable mountain pass); then at the Trans-Canada Highway (Hwy 1) turn east to drive into Calgary

-> swing east at Turner Valley (a little N of Longview) to Hwy 7 to Okotoks; have a look at the Okotoks Rock (the world's largest glacial erratic) before heading north into Calgary via Hwy 2.

-> jog west and then north at Turner Valley to stay on Hwy 22 all the way to Priddis. At Priddis, either turn west to go into picturesque (but small) Bragg Creek, before returning east on Hwy 8 into Calgary; or head east directly into Calgary on the Hwy 22X (Marquis of Lorne Trail).

As for fall colour, I'm afraid you may find it a disappointment, as it's mostly limited to the yellows and golds of the poplars and aspens. The few hints of red you may see are the leaves of wild rose bushes. Red maples and other hardwoods just can't stand up to the rigours of winter warming and then freezing caused by our chinook winds.

Weather-wise, it's likely to be pretty cool, with overnight lows consistently plunging below freezing. There is a chance of snow, especially at higher elevations, but it's not likely to remain on the ground for long (24 hours) before melting. There's also a decent chance of fairly warm daytime temperatures, in the high teens or low 20s (70s Fahrenheit), with an outside chance of temperatures nudging the 30 mark (mid-80s). But I would make sure to pack so as to be comfortable with daytime highs around 10 degrees (50 F).

Calgary, Canada
Destination Expert
for Waterton Lakes National Park, Nelson
posts: 2,635
reviews: 66
2. Re: Most scenic route from Whitefish MT into Idaho and on to BC

From Whitefish, you can take #2 hwy west to Bonners Ferry, then go north to the Kingsgate border crossing. Continue north to Cranbrook, BC, then take hwy #3 east to Fernie & continue with the route that Country Wife has given you. If you happen to be making this trip on a weekend, you may be able to see Moyie Falls, near Bonners Ferry. The river is now dammed, and the falls don't actually "fall" anymore, except when water is released from the dam. The agreement with the authorities is that they have to release water every weekend in the summer, at a minimum. Some other weekends into the fall they do as well, but they don't have to.

Another option (a little less out of the way but also a little less scenery, IMO) would be to head north when you get to Libby, Montana. Of course, this option does not take you into Idaho but it would take you along most of the length of Lake Koocanusa, which is a lovely drive in itself. However, the road does eventually head east to Eureka, MT and then you cross the border at Roosville. At Elko, BC you would head east on #3 hwy and continue to Fernie, etc as instructed by CW.

If it were my vacation and I had the time, I would take the first route rather than the latter one.

Waterton Lakes...
posts: 19
3. Re: Most scenic route from Whitefish MT into Idaho and on to BC

and one more option - you can go campinggirls route to cranbrook then swing north on 95/93 through Fort Steel and Invermire to Banff and back into Calgary from the west. probably take you longer but I would consider it especially if you came from calgary to waterton via highway 22 and Pincher creek rather than down highway 2 which is less scenic.

4. Re: Most scenic route from Whitefish MT into Idaho and on to BC

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