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.

Watching Wildlife in Grand Teton National Park

Named for the Grand Teton Mountain Range, this park is home to 61 uncommon bird species living beneath the peaks of the Teton Range. Here you’ll also find grizzly and black bears, bison, moose, elk, pronghorn, squirrels, fox, fish, and other northern creatures native to North America.

The Grand Teton National Park’s Top Animals

  • Elk
  • Bison
  • Moose
  • Squirrels
  • Beavers
  • American White Pelicans
  • Ospreys
  • Bald Eagles
  • Otters
  • Pronghorn
    • Also known as the North American antelope, the pronghorn is the fastest land animal on the continent.

Viewing Locations

Oxbow Bend: Fish, otters, ospreys, bald eagles, pelicans, beavers
Timbered Island: Antelope, elk
Mormon Row: Bison, pronghorn, mice, squirrels
Snake River: Moose, elk, bison, bald eagles, osprey, blue herons
Cascade Canyon: Squirrels, pikas, marmots, moose, white-tailed deer
Blacktail Pond: Elk

When Should You Go?

Like most northern National Parks, Grand Teton National Park is best to visit from mid-May to mid-September when all trails, visitor centers, and campgrounds are open. During this time, fishing is abundant, warm summer breezes make it pleasant to be outside, and many of the birds and smaller mammals can be seen running about. However, in the colder winter months when many of these facilities close, the bigger game, like elk and moose, can be seen grazing in the valley to find warmth.

Published
Categorized as Wildlife Tagged

What to Pack for a Summer Day Hike

If you’re heading on a day hike this summer in any of the US national parks, you won’t want to forget any of the essentials. Check out this list of what to pack for a day on the trails!


Bug Spray: It’s absolutely essential to protect yourself from mosquitoes and bugs while on the trail! Bring plenty of bug spray with you.

Sunscreen: Sun protection is key on a day hike. Don’t forget to reapply periodically!

Sun Hat: A wide brim sun hat or even a baseball cap will protect your eyes and face from the sun, and it’ll help to keep you cool, too. 

Sweat-Wicking Clothing: Opt for sweat-wicking fabrics for your day hike that will keep you cool and will dry quickly while you’re on the trail. 

Quick Dry Towel: A microfiber travel towel is perfect for a day hike because it’s lightweight and won’t take up too much space in your daypack. Use it to dry off after an impromptu swim or wet it and use it to cool down on a hot day.

Sunglasses: Keep your eyes protected from the sun. Polarized sunglasses are preferred.

Raincoat and Umbrella: It’s smart to bring rain gear, regardless of the weather forecast. Especially if you’re hiking in mountainous terrain, weather conditions can change unexpectedly so it’s best to be prepared.

Layers: Toss a light jacket in your day pack, and even consider throwing in a hat and gloves if you’re headed to a high altitude destination where you may experience snow or cold temperatures even in summer. Easily adapt to changing weather. 

Swimsuit: Great if you plan to take a dip during your hike. 

Daypack: This one’s a no-brainer for a day hike. Make sure it’s lightweight, comfortable, and large enough to carry everything you’ll need.

Water Bottle: Bring two! It’s so important to remain hydrated during your day hike, especially under the hot summer sun. 

Snacks: Keep your energy up during your hike with some filling snacks. Trail mix and protein bars are always great options.

Packed Lunch: There’s nothing better than stopping for lunch at a scenic overlook. 

Camera or Smartphone: No matter which US national park you choose, you’ll be glad you brought a camera with you to capture the breathtaking landscapes and unique wildlife. A camera is great if you’re trying to really unplug, but bringing along your smartphone isn’t a bad idea either.

Map: It’s smart to bring both a physical map and an electronic map or GPS with you on your day hike. Be conscious of your surroundings and plan out your route ahead of time to avoid any mishaps.

Hiking Boots: Make sure your boots are well broken-in before you head out to avoid blisters and an unpleasant day on the trail!

First Aid Kit: It’s always good to be prepared in case of emergency. Bring a first aid kit with you to tend to minor scrapes and bruises or more serious injuries. 

Flashlight: Bring a flashlight or headlamp with you just in case. If the hike ends up taking longer than expected or you face unforeseen difficulties along your way, you may find yourself in need of a flashlight to make your way back in the dark.

Hand Sanitizer: An easy thing to toss in your pack, hand sanitizer will come in handy to keep your hands clean and hygienic, especially before touching your face or putting anything in your mouth.

Toilet Paper: Bring toilet paper and a garbage bag with you for proper waste disposal. It’s important to “pack it in, pack it out” and take everything you brought into the park with you when you leave.

Hiking Poles: If you’re planning to hike over rough terrain, you might consider bringing hiking poles with you to make your journey a bit more manageable. 

External Battery Charger: Especially important if you’re using your smartphone for directions, photos, music, or emergency communication, you won’t want to get stuck with a dead phone battery! Bring a small external charger you can toss in your daypack, just in case.

Staying Safe at Grand Teton National Park

Be prepared to address safety concerns before your trip to Grand Teton National Park to ensure that your visit runs as smoothly and safely as possible! There are several potential dangers to watch out for in this park, ranging from wildlife concerns to severe weather, including intense bouts of lightning. 

Wildlife

You’re likely to encounter your fair share of wildlife at Grand Teton, from bears and wolves to bison and elk. The best ways to stay safe when you come across wildlife are as follows:

  • Keep your distance. It’s important to keep a safe distance from wild animals you encounter in the park. Be especially wary of animals with offspring as they’re likely to be more protective and aggressive.
  • Don’t feed the animals. It’s also important to adhere to Leave No Trace principles when visiting the park to avoid negative environmental impact.
  • Store food safely. Keep food and all scented items (deodorant, lotions, perfumes, toothpaste, empty food wrappers, etc.) stored safely in your car or tied up in a bear bag out of reach for bears and wild animals. This will prevent animals from being attracted to your campsite. 
  • Make noise while hiking. The last thing you want to do is sneak up on a bear or wild animal on the trails. Clap your hands, sing, and make plenty of noise to alert bears to your presence as you hike.

Weather

Be prepared for rapidly changing weather in Grand Teton National Park, and take special note of lightning precautions. The mountainous terrain makes for unpredictable weather, so wear plenty of layers to be ready for anything. 

In the summer storms are common in this area, so it’s essential to take shelter before a storm hits. Avoid lightning by keeping away from mountain tops, lone trees, and staying off the water.

Other Concerns

There are several other safety concerns to make note of before heading out on your trip to Grand Teton: 

  • Altitude: Be wary of the altitude as you hike, as this mountainous region has peaks reaching up to more than 13,000 feet. Prepare for altitude sickness; make sure to bring the necessary medications with you and remain hydrated during your trip.
  • Water: Do NOT drink water from lakes or streams unless you’ve purified it first, even if it looks clean! Waterborne diseases like Giardia are common when drinking untreated water.
  • Driving: Practice safe driving while in the area. Grand Teton can get quite crowded, especially during peak season, so it’s important to drive safely to avoid accidents. Keep an eye out for animals crossing the road, be wary of road conditions, and mind the local speed limits.
  • Stay on the trails. Stay on marked trails to avoid getting lost and damaging the environment. 

Read More

Grand Teton Safety

Published
Categorized as Safety Tagged

Hidden Gems in Grand Teton National Park

You may think you know Grand Teton National Park, but for the savvy traveler, there’s always more to explore! During peak season when the park gets especially crowded, it pays to know about the hidden gems and off the beaten path locations within the park. The following will help you to avoid the crowds and enjoy a peaceful experience at Grand Teton. 

Schwabacher Landing

One of the most underrated locations in Grand Teton National Park is Schwabacher Landing. Located at the base of the Tetons alongside Snake River, this peaceful area offers prime wildlife viewing, and is the perfect place to take a moment for yourself and enjoy the serenity of nature.

Leigh Lake

One of the most beautiful untouched lakes in Grand Teton National Park is Leigh Lake. With mountainous landscapes reflected in the crystal clear waters, relax at the beach here and go for a swim.

String Lake

Created from the outflow of Leigh Lake, String Lake is one of Grand Teton National Park’s most gorgeous, less-trafficked lakes. The String Lake Trail is about 4 miles long and provides an easy and scenic hike with panoramic views throughout. 

Oxbow Bend

An off-the-beaten-path island within the park, Oxbow Bend is a wonderful place to watch the sunset or sunrise. Enjoy striking views of Mount Moran reflected in the lake below and enjoy an undisturbed moment on the road less traveled.

Hidden Falls

A hidden gem just a short hike or boat ride from Jenny Lake, Hidden Falls are strikingly beautiful and well worth a visit, especially during the fall when there are overall less visitors to the park. Enjoy lunch at nearby Jenny Lake Lodge before or after your hike to make the most of your Hidden Falls experience.

Willow Flats

Not far from Colter Bay in Grand Teton National Park, you’ll find this undisturbed area perfect for wildlife viewing. Head here to see grizzly bears, elk, and an abundance of wildlife as they roam through untouched plains in the shadow of towering mountains.