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Montana and Wyoming Road Trip

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

Jackson

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.

Points of Interest at Glacier National Park

One of the country’s most breathtaking national parks, Glacier National Park is located in northern Montana along the Canadian border. Characterized by dramatic landscapes, glaciers, lakes, and magnificent rock formations, you’re sure to be impressed by Glacier National Park. If it’s your first visit to the park, you won’t want to miss exploring the following points of interest!

Going-to-the-Sun Road

The most iconic of Glacier National Park’s destinations is Going-to-the-sun-Road. Drive along this scenic road which divides the park into east and west and take in spectacular views throughout the entire national park. This is a great way to get a feel for the park’s top sights and versatile terrains.

Lake McDonald

The largest lake in Glacier National Park, Lake McDonald will take your breath away. Originally carved out by a massive glacier, this valley hosts the Lake McDonald Lodge, which is an incredibly popular spot for overnight accommodation in the park. This peaceful lake is defined by crystal clear water and provides an atmosphere of serenity. 

Logan Pass

Logan Pass marks the Continental Divide and provides spectacular panoramic views you won’t want to miss. Head to the Logan Pass Visitor Center for maps of the area, to speak with the park rangers and guides, and to learn a bit of Glacier National Park’s unique history. 

Grinnell Glacier

Grinnell Glacier is one of the most popular sites in the entire park. Spend the day on this challenging 10-mile round trip hike for rewarding landscape vistas and prime wildlife viewing. This gorgeous glacier is definitely something to see. 

St. Mary Lake 

This spectacular lake is home to an abundance of wildlife and is the second largest lake in Glacier National Park. Swim, boat, fish, and enjoy awe-inspiring sunsets and sunrises at the park’s iconic St. Mary Lake.

Two Medicine Lake

A picturesque lake perfect for boating, spend the morning paddling around Two Medicine Lake. Enjoy beautiful views of the mountains reflected in the calm and secluded waters. This is one of Glacier National Park’s most peaceful destinations.

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Staying Safe at Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park lies in northern Montana, along the Canadian border. With phenomenal landscapes consisting of glacial lakes and rock formations and rife with a wide variety of wildlife, it’s no question why Glacier National Park attracts many visitors each year. Before you head out on your trip, it’s important to note some of the following safety precautions to ensure a successful visit to the park. 

Weather 

Weather in Glacier National Park can be unpredictable and you may encounter rain and snow, even in summer. Make sure to bring plenty of layers and waterproof clothing, as well as sturdy hiking boots. Always keep yourself warm and dry to avoid hypothermia and infection.

Wildlife

Bears, particularly grizzly bears and black bears, pose the highest safety threat to park visitors. The best way to deter bears while you’re in the park is to make noise while you’re hiking to alert the animals to your presence and avoid scaring them. You can also opt to purchase bear spray, which has proven to be a useful bear detterent. Improper food storage is very likely to attract bears, so be sure to keep your food and all scented belongings securely stowed and out of reach for animals. Hanging bear bags and storing your food in your car are both good options. 

You may also encounter mountain lions in the park. Do not approach a mountain lion, but speak to it in a loud, confident voice and try to make yourself appear as large as possible.

Other Concerns

Controlled wildfires are common in the park, so make sure to check with a park ranger where and when these fires will take place and heed any closed or off-limits trails.

Bring plenty of water with you to Glacier National Park to avoid dehydration. Do NOT drink any water from lakes, waterfalls, or streams without purifying it first to avoid potentially serious illness.

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Safety- Glacier National Park

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Places to Visit After Glacier National Park

Bordering Montana to the north, stunning Glacier National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After your visit to this breathtaking national park, you’ll want to check out the following destinations to continue your trip. 

  • Waterton Lakes National Park – Waterton Lakes National Park lies just across the border from Glacier National Park on the Canadian side. These two national parks actually combine to form the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. Explore the magnificent scenery in Canada after your visit to Glacier National Park. Don’t forget your passport!
  • Kootenai National Forest – This national forest isn’t far from Glacier National Park and makes for a lovely next stop along your journey. Another Montana park that borders Canada and dips into Idaho, you’ll be floored by the beauty of Kootenai National Forest.
  • Blackfeet Nation Indian Reservation – Add a bit of history and culture to your trip by stopping at the Blackfeet Nation Indian Reservation. This reservation borders Glacier National Park to the west. The current home of the Blackfeet Nation, this is a unique and interesting next stop. 
  • Calgary, Canada – Just over a three-hour drive from Glacier National Park, head to Calgary, Canada to continue your trip. The largest city in Alberta, there is plenty to see and explore in this exciting Canadian metropolis.
  • Bozeman, Montana – Five hours from Glacier National Park lies charming Bozeman, Montana. This quaint town is situated in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, promising spectacular views. Stop here for a bite to eat and learn about the area’s fascinating history. 
  • Flathead National Forest – Named for the Flathead Indians who once inhabited the land, the Flathead National Forest is brimming with gorgeous landscape and native wildlife. Be sure to head here before or after your visit to Glacier National Park.

Hidden Gems in Glacier National Park

In northern Montana bordering Canada’s Waterton Lakes National Park, Glacier National Park and Waterton Lakes combined to become the world’s first International Peace Park in 1932. Both designated as World Heritage Sites, the spectacular landscape in this region is truly a geological marvel. From ancient glaciers to crystal clear lakes, Glacier National Park is brimming with hidden gems to explore.

Rising Sun

Located in the eastern part of the park on St. Mary’s Lake, Rising Sun is an amazing destination for a boat tour that won’t be crowded with masses of tourists. This area offers history unique to this part of the park, making it a true hidden gem.

Kintla Lake

A breathtaking body of water positioned in a remote part of Glacier National Park, Kintla Lake is one of the park’s most beautiful off the beaten path destinations. Due to the rugged and weathered path leading to the lake, Kintla Lake remains one of the park’s least visited sites, despite its incredible beauty.

Wild Horse Island

Wild Horse Island is located on Flathead Lake, the largest freshwater lake in Montana. This fascinating destination was once inhabited by the Salish and Kootenai tribes who used the vast lands to cultivate their horses and prevent them from being stolen by other tribes. Prime for wildlife viewing and only accessible by boat, this is a great hidden gem to explore during your trip!

National Bison Range

One of the country’s oldest National Wildlife Refuges, National Bison Range is home to one of the last bison herds on the continent. Just a few hours outside of Glacier National Park, it’s worth visiting this remarkable area to view bison and other native wildlife in their natural environment. You may also encounter elk, deer, sheep, and bears during your visit!

Bowman Lake

Located in the northwestern part of the park, Bowman Lake is a bit of a local secret. Due to its remote position in Glacier National Park, it’s not often visited by tourists as it’s difficult to get to. However, if you decide to make the journey, you won’t be disappointed by this magnificent lake!