Trip guidance from Jackson, MI to Glacier National Park; Empire Builder questions

Discussion in 'Amtrak Rail Discussion' started by Judy Tee, Oct 13, 2019.

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  1. Oct 13, 2019 #1

    Judy Tee

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    Judy Tee

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    I'd appreciate any insights and guidance on booking a trip on the Empire Builder from Jackson, MI to GNP. Plan to stop in East Glacier for about 5-7 days and then get back on westbound train to SEA and continue trip to AK. Thinking a roomette since this is just one person. How small is the room? Cozy? Noisy? How close are the bathrooms and showers? Do rooms lock when you leave them? Is there a table in the room during the day when the beds are folded up? Any other things I might want to know? TYIA
     
  2. Oct 13, 2019 #2

    Gemuser

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    For actual size see the Amtrak web site. In 2012 I did Coast Starlight[SFO-SEA]-Empire Builder-Lake Shore Limited, NEC NYP-WUS, Cresent Limited WAS-NO, Silver Metor Orlando-WUS, Capital Limited WUS-CUS, Califorina Zepher CUS-Emmeryville.All travel was in upper level Superliner roomettes [except for the 3 Eastern Trains, of course, they were in a VL roomette].

    I was travelling with a friend, neither of us are small and we had plenty of room, you did have to be orginised but it was no problem.

    We had no noise problems, certainly less than on most aircraft.

    There is one toilet on the upper level and 3 or 4 on the lower, the showers are all on the lower level.

    The doors of the roomettes do not have locks that I noticed, but in all those thousands of kilometers we had no problems.

    The lower bunk splits into two seats, one facing forward, one aft, once they are split a table can be folded out from the wall between them.

    Please feel free to ask if you want more details.
     
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  3. Oct 13, 2019 #3

    Gemuser

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    Gemuser

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    One further point I forgot!
    You should hire a car at East Glacier if you can. We did not as you people drive on the wrong side of the road and the last time I did it I nearly killed my family, never again!! If you are "in season" there are a series of shuttles covering most of the points of intrest [at least on the east side of the park]. Of course there are also the famous red busses which make a big loop from East Glacier, along US 2, to West Glacier returning via "The Going To The Sun" road to East Glacier. Book the seats you require on any of these as soon as you can as they can book out.
     
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  4. Oct 13, 2019 #4

    Rasputin

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    I assume you are planning a trip next summer as the seasonal Amtrak station at East Glacier is now closed and the stop has been moved a few miles east to Browning. I assume that most facilities in East Glacier, except for the Circle R Motel, Two Medicine Grill and the Bear Tracks convenience store have also closed for the season.

    You may want to check out this thread as well as the Whitefish and Belton chalet threads in the Where to Go and what to see section of this site:

    https://discuss.amtraktrains.com/th...rby-towns-whitefish-essex-east-glacier.70685/
     
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  5. Oct 13, 2019 #5

    Judy Tee

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    I won’t be renting a car as I’ll be meeting up with daughter’s family in East Glacier. We do plan to take a red bus tour. My dad drove #99 in the late 1930s. He actually met my mom there (she worked at the lodge) so we’ve had a few family reunions in the area over the year. This year in Waterton, but daughter’s family and I will also be staying a couple nights in one of the East Glacier hotels/motels. Not sure which one yet. Open to suggestions!
     
  6. Oct 13, 2019 #6

    Judy Tee

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    Yes, I’m planning for our family reunion in Waterton next summer. Thanks very much for the thread you shared. Will check it out!
     
  7. Oct 13, 2019 #7

    tricia

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    Many Glacier Lodge is a fine old historic hotel inside the park but in a relatively quiet area. It makes a good base for anyone in your party who likes to hike--the Grinnell Glacier trail (trailhead very near the lodge) is a hike-of-a-lifetime up through several different ecological zones to a small lake at the base of the glacier (or below what's left of the glacier at this point). A long day hike up and back, strenuous but doable for folks in good physical condition, and one of the best and most memorable hiking experiences I've ever had.
     
  8. Oct 13, 2019 #8

    Rasputin

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    In East Glacier, the obvious choice would be the historic Glacier Park Lodge. a short walk from the train station (and the hotel will transfer your luggage from the station to the hotel if I understand correctly). We have stayed at the Mountain Pine Lodge and the Circle R motel, which are both fine and less expensive than Glacier Park Lodge.
     
  9. Oct 13, 2019 #9

    Maglev

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    I wanted to comment on the choice of a Roomette versus a Bedroom. If you can afford it, I would suggest the upgrade. A Bedroom gives you a six-foot long sofa to use in the daytime that converts to a bed at night which, at 3' 4", (slightly wider than a twin bed) is a full foot wider than the lower bed in a Roomette. There is also a sink, and an enclosed toilet / shower combination. You can actually stand up and take a few steps in a Bedroom, but in a Roomette you can basically just stand up in one spot.

    I opted for Bedrooms on a recent six-night circle trip. I appreciated having a wider bed and private toilet (I prefer to use the shower downstairs for more space and to keep my toilet dry). There's also more room for luggage--storage space is very limited in a Roomette, so if you choose that option bring along a small essentials bag and leave your luggage on the rack downstairs.
     
  10. Oct 13, 2019 #10

    Skyline

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    May I suggest you consider the Issac Walton Inn at Essex, just outside the GNP boundary.

    https://izaakwaltoninn.com/

    You can rent a car there, but availability is limited so reserve it when you reserve a room to be sure to get one.

    This is an actual EB stop, with a dedicated platform. The shuttle van from the hotel is there to meet you and take you back (not very far anyway, but if you have luggage it beats walking).

    Decent restaurant and bar, and the entire venue is train-oriented, including the decor which includes a lot of historical photos. Lots of train watching from a porch or from a bridge over the tracks. This inn has a history which goes back to the days of rail and ROW construction; workers stayed here then. It has since been greatly upgraded for the general public. Clean, functional, a little bit upscale but not overly so. I spent almost a week here in 2017, using it as a base for train watching and also hiking GNP trails. I plan to return in the next few years.

    You can easily drive from Essex to West or East Glacier GNP entrances. Marias Pass -- where the EB can be seen in a postcard-worthy setting -- isn't that far away. In season, you can get to the Going To The Sun Road via West Glacier rather easily, and take in all GNP has to offer.
     
  11. Oct 14, 2019 #11

    Judy Tee

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    I will definitely check into that and agree but it may come down to cost/availability. Do you recall the difference be roomette and bedroom?
     
  12. Oct 14, 2019 #12

    Judy Tee

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    Thanks for the tip. Leaning toward the motel right now.
     
  13. Oct 14, 2019 #13

    Rasputin

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    The Circle R Motel is right on U.S. 2 across from the Amtrak station. It has both an older section and a newer section. We have stayed in the older section which I think is a little less expensive than rooms in the newer section but it was fine. I believe the Circle R is the only lodging place in East Glacier which is open year round but I think they may close down one section (either the new or the old) for the winter. Be aware that some people have indicated that they are bothered by the train noise from the busy BNSF mainline and by the highway noise but we had no problem with this.

    The Mountain Pine Lodge is a motel type facility which is around the corner from the Glacier Park Lodge and does not have the train noise/highway noise problem. When we stayed there we found the rooms were a bit small for the four of us and we felt somewhat crowded but they should be fine for one or two people. I believe they may be able to pick you up at the station if you call ahead.

    There are other lodging facilities at East Glacier but I am not personally familiar with them. Our stays at East Glacier were about five years ago so things may have changed. I think that both the Circle R and the Mountain Pine may have websites with further information. I would advise you to check out the cancellation policies carefully as there are some places around Glacier which do no have friendly cancellation policies. As I recall the cancellation policies at the Circle R, the Mountain Pine and the large hotels in and around Glacier are reasonable.
     
  14. Oct 14, 2019 #14

    Maglev

    Maglev

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    The price difference varies depending on demand and availability, but summer is a time of high demand. Bedrooms can be more than twice as much as Roomettes, or sometimes can be just a little more. If you have flexibility, the website "AmSnag" finds the lowest fares over a range of dates.

    https://biketrain.net/amsnag2.0/amSnag.php
     
  15. Oct 14, 2019 #15

    Palmland

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    I think if you’re in a National Park, it’s well worth the money(and convenience) of staying at a grand historic old NP lodge. You can stay at a generic motel anywhere. The lodges are all great with Many Glacier perhaps the nicest. We also much prefer the Belton Chalet in west Glacier to Izaak Walton: excellent restaurant and outside deck for drinks with good access to the west side of the park and almost trackside with just a short walk to the station.
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2019
  16. Oct 15, 2019 #16

    pennyk

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    In 2010, I stayed at the Lake McDonald Lodge in West Glacier and loved it.
     
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  17. Oct 15, 2019 #17

    Judy Tee

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    Thanks very much for this great website. Very helpful. Got the trip booked in spite of an Amtrak rep who doesn't know her stuff and was contradicting what the website said. But the deed is done! :)
     
  18. Oct 15, 2019 #18

    Judy Tee

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    I'm sure that's true, but since it's over 2x the price of a nearby motel (which we're only sleeping in) we'll stay elsewhere and visit the lodge during the day.
     
  19. Oct 16, 2019 #19

    Metra Electric Rider

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    You couldn't guilt the lodge into a better rate because your parents met there could you? Seems like it'd be good PR for them.
     
  20. Oct 16, 2019 #20

    Judy Tee

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    LOL I totally agree with that, but you have to remember who is working there nowadays. Not the same generation or hold same values. It's actually a very cool story and maybe someday I'll share more details! Feel free to call the lodge and beg on my behalf for me!
     
  21. Oct 17, 2019 #21

    Metra Electric Rider

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    Sorry, I didn't get the haggling gene from my father otherwise I would...
     
  22. Oct 19, 2019 #22

    greatcats

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    Having stayed 2 nights at Belton Chalet at West Glacier in 2018 and 1 night at Izaak Walton in 2019 ( when I was not camping in remote campgrounds ) I can personally attest to the enjoyment of my stays at both places. Atmosphere from another era, and good food.
     
  23. Nov 8, 2019 at 6:45 AM #23

    dogbert617

    dogbert617

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    I will give a heads up for everyone talking about rental car availability, that there aren't as many rental cars available at any of the 3 stops that serve Glacier National Park east of Whitefish, MT(West Glacier/Belton, Essex/Issac Walton Inn, and East Glacier Park). If any of you guys ever have issues properly getting a rental car at those 3 stops, consider riding the Empire Builder to Whitefish, MT for more car rental options, including rental cars you can immediately pick up across the street from the Whitefish station in this parking lot(Budget, Dollar, and Hertz are all available here): https://goo.gl/maps/tZQZ8BNnQ3CG6GXv9

    Hopefully for all I know, maybe one of those rental car companies could volunteer to drop a car off right outside of one of those 3 stations east of Whitefish? I haven't tried renting a car in this area yet, but I'm sure others who have done so before can better inform how often rental car companies are willing to do that. One of the motels just outside Glacier Park Lodge(maybe Mountain Pine Inn? it's on Montana Hwy 49, just north of Glacier Park Lodge) in East Glacier, does operate a Dollar Rent A Car office there. I will warn that rental cars at the Dollar Rent A Car office in East Glacier do OFTEN sell out well in advance(as I checked on rental car availability there myself, till I decided against renting a car last summer myself when going out to Glacier NP), so keep that in mind if you're trying to plan a trip via the Empire Builder to Glacier NP.
     

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