Home to some of the country’s most scenic landscapes, Montana and Wyoming have so much to offer. The Montana and Wyoming Road Trip lets you explore three of America’s most beloved national parks and several other prominent sites in these sparsely populated states.
Where to Go
Start your road trip in Jackson, which serves as a gateway to Grand Teton, Yellowstone, and three ski resorts. Located in the Jackson Hole Valley, snow-capped peaks line this resort town to give visitors spectacular views of the Teton mountain range. The Snake River cuts through the valley and draws rafters, paddlers, kayakers, and anglers. These pristine waters are home to lots of native species, and you’ll often find elk, bison, bald eagles, and other creatures beside the river. Snowy winters host skiers and snowboarders on the slopes of the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Snow King Mountain, and Grand Targhee.
Grand Teton National Park
The next stop on your road trip will be Grand Teton National Park. The craggy peaks of the Teton Range take the spotlight inside this nature lover’s paradise. Below the snow-capped mountains lie more than 300,000 acres of glacial lakes, peaceful rivers, alpine meadows, and diverse wildlife. Driving around Grand Teton is a photographer’s dream with picturesque sights like the Moulton Barn and Oxbow Bend. When you’re not clutching your camera, more than 200 miles of hiking trails lead you into the rugged wilderness. The wild waters of the Snake River have some of the country’s best rafting and fly fishing. Those wishing to relax can lounge beneath the mountains and dip their feet in the many crystal-clear lakes dotting the park. Jackson Lake and Jenny Lake garner much of the fame but don’t count out others such as String Lake and Leigh Lake.
Yellowstone National Park
Continue on to Yellowstone National Park. As America’s first national park, Yellowstone remains a cherished piece of natural beauty that has inspired pioneers and artists for over 100 years. Although mostly in Wyoming, parts of the park stretch into Montana and Idaho. Yellowstone stands out for its geothermal wonders such as the colorful Grand Prismatic Spring and the iconic Old Faithful geyser. Upper Geyser Basin contains more geysers than anywhere on the planet and boardwalks meander around the steaming vents. The wildlife watching is incredible and sightings of bison, grizzly bears, elk, bighorn sheep, and moose are common. Lamar Valley, Hayden Valley, and Mammoth Hot Springs are among the most reliable spots to witness animal gatherings. The park’s 900+ miles of hiking trails lead trekkers to breathtaking sights such as Yellowstone Lake and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.
Flathead National Forest
The next stop on your road trip lies just south of Glacier National Park. Flathead National Forest offers more than 2.4 million acres of untamed wilderness. The crowds seem to fade along the 2,600 miles of hiking trails engulfed by snowy mountaintops and pristine forests. Scenic lakes and rivers boast some of Montana’s best fishing holes and floating adventures. The 3-Forks of the Flathead River host lots of recreational activities such as whitewater rafting, boating trips, and camping. Swimmers can take a refreshing dip in the nearby Flathead Lake, one of America’s largest freshwater lakes.
Glacier National Park
As you continue on, you’ll hit Glacier National Park, which earns the title “Crown of the Continent” for its dramatic mountain peaks and diverse ecosystem. More than 700 miles of hiking trails and 130 known lakes lead to untamed discoveries inside the Montana wilderness. The Going-to-the-Sun Road courses through the park and takes drivers to many scenic viewpoints. Have your camera ready for jaw-dropping images of Lake McDonald, Logan Pass, and Oberlin Bend. The vigorous Highline Trail and Hidden Lake Trail each start near the Logan Pass Visitor Center. Other popular trails include Grinnell Glacier, Iceberg Lake, Siyeh Pass, and Avalanche Lake. Unlace your hiking boots and enjoy a scenic boat ride along the pristine waters of St. Mary Lake or Two Medicine Lake. Glacier Country boasts one of America’s wildest ecosystems and visitors can expect to find bison, elk, grizzly bears, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, wolves, and hundreds of bird species.
Helena-Lewis & Clark National Forest
Next, you’ll come to Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest. Walk in the footsteps of Lewis & Clark and imagine discovering the raw beauty of Montana for the first time. Their famous expedition team traversed these dense coniferous forests, rugged mountains, and wild waterways when searching for a passage to the Pacific Ocean. The rolling prairies meet the Rocky Mountains, and a total of seven mountain ranges engulf the landscape. Its incredible diversity includes snow-lined peaks, arid plains, cascading waterfalls, and fertile valleys. Watching the flat plains give way to each group of isolated mountains is a dramatic sight.
Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument
Your road trip continues at the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument. The memorials across the sweeping prairies near the Little Bighorn River reflect on the battle between the US Army and Northern Plains Native American Tribes. In 1876, tensions ran high between encroaching American settlers and the aligned Lakota Sioux, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho tribes. The heated conflict resulted in more than 250 deaths from the US Army’s 7th Calvary that was led by Lt. Col. George A. Custer. Walking around the battlefield offers an opportunity for reflection on the fallen victims of both sides.
Shoshone National Forest
Finally, your road trip will conclude at Shoshone National Forest, which is renowned as America’s first national forest. Established in 1891, its 2.4 million acres continue to astonish visitors with its snow-lined peaks, verdant forests, and pristine meadows. The dense forest remains a goldmine for outdoor recreation at all times of the year. With over 32 campgrounds and four scenic byways coursing through the landscape, you could spend years discovering its splendor. Its untamed wilderness contains well over 1,000 miles of hiking trails and incredible wildlife sightings. From fishing and ATV riding to horseback riding, Shoshone resonates with all types of nature lovers.
When to Go
Due to seasonal road closures in many parts of Montana and Wyoming, the summer presents the ideal weather for your trip. The Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park is often open from June-September. Although conditions vary by year, it’s best to arrive in summer to drive the entire route. You’ll find more facilities and outdoor activities accessible in Yellowstone and Grand Teton as well. The crowds can be brutal during the summer, but the weather and driving conditions then give you the best opportunity to drive the entire itinerary.