Montana & Wyoming National Park Travel Guide

My 6-Day Road Trip Itinerary for Glacier, Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park

I recently joined a few other travel bloggers for a 6-day road trip between Montana and Wyoming. We visited some of America’s most incredible national parks and I’m sharing it all with you. This blog post is a complete travel guide to Glacier National Park, Yellowstone and Grand Teton. Read about everything from our logistics to hotels and all the photo spots in between.

Side note, the most hiking I’ve ever done is a few medium difficulty hikes in Colorado (you can read about those in my Colorado blog post here.) Although this trip was physically challenging at times, anyone from a beginner hiker to advance will find this national park travel guide useful.

OUR ITINERARY:

Day 1: Fly into Kalispell, Montana & explore Glacier National Park until sunset

Day 2: Drive to Yellowstone and explore until sunset

Day 3: Explore Yellowstone from sunrise to sunset & then drive to Grand Teton

Day 4: Grand Teton

Day 5: Grand Teton

Day 6: Explore Grand Teton at sunrise & fly out of Jackson, Wyoming

HOW TO GET AROUND:

You’ll want to rent a car for this trip. Not only will you need it to make the drive from Montana to Wyoming, but you’ll need it to get around the parks each day. Even if Uber’s are available in the local towns outside of the park, there is still a ton of driving to do once inside the different parks.

NATIONAL PARK ENTRANCE FEE:

These 3 parks are among the 115 national park’s that charge an entrance fee. You can buy a 7-day pass for $35 per vehicle. The same pass can be used for all 3 parks in this blog post since this guide is under 7 days long. If you plan on visiting at least 2 other parks outside of this trip, you will be better off buying the annual pass for $80.

NATIONAL PARK RULES AND SAFETY:

As with any place you visit, remember to respect the local rules. Especially since this is a national park and is out in nature. Leave no trace. Any garbage you bring into the parks, take out.

Remember to pack and dress appropriately. It is much colder at a higher elevation so it’s better to wear layers and strip down if you get warm. If you plan to do any long hikes, I recommend hiking boots with ankle support. This national park travel guide has a number of hikes included.

Lastly and most importantly, be bear aware. I saw this slogan posted on many signs throughout the parks but it’s important to be aware of other wildlife such as mountain lions and elk. Interfering with wildlife can result in serious injury or death.

Carry bear spray with you when you’re hiking. You can buy or rent it from most stores in town. You CANNOT fly with bear spray even in a checked luggage so pick it up when you arrive. Hike in groups when there is plenty of day light. Also, conversate loudly (some people even wear bells on their day packs) so that bears are aware of your presence.

DAY 1: Glacier National Park

I bought 2 one-way flights because our trip started in Montana and ended in Wyoming. My recommendation is to fly into Kalispell, Montana which is ~30 minutes from the entrance to the national park. I landed, collected my luggage, picked up our rental car and then dropped my luggage off at our hotel by noon. This left the rest of the day to explore the park.

The park is closed east of the continental divide because of the pandemic. Going-to-the-sun Road, the two-lane, 50-mile highway that leads you through Glacier National Park, is currently only open from the West Glacier entrance to the St. Mary pass.

We drove all the way to the St. Mary Pass and then worked our way back towards the park entrance. The only hike we wanted to do was towards the end of the road and it was better to hike with daylight. We also wanted to time our arrival at Lake McDonald (right by the entrance) for sunset.

St. Mary & Virginia Falls

There were a limited number of hikes we could do on our day in Glacier. Not only was half the park closed due to COVID, but some hikes that are still open this year had been closed due to bear activity in the week we were there.

St. Mary and Virginia Falls is a 3-mile RT hike that took us 3.5 hours including stopping to take photos. You’ll pass by St. Mary Falls first which is 0.8 miles from the trailhead. This gorgeous waterfall boasts beautiful blue colors. There’s also a cute bridge that goes over the flow of water which is great for taking photos on.

If you continue hiking another 0.7 miles, you’ll arrive at Virginia Falls. This waterfall also offers a beautiful pool of blue water at its base and more incredible mountain views.

Bonus waterfall: I’m not sure if this waterfall is part of Virginia Falls but you’ll find it halfway between St. Mary and Virginia Falls. It’s off to the left-hand side as you’re hiking towards Virginia Falls. You can’t miss it. 

Wild Goose Island Lookout

This is one of the more popular lookouts in the park overlooking St. Mary Lake. Although very windy, it was worth the quick stop. There was plenty of space to park on the side of the road. It took us less than 10 minutes to check it out and take a few photos.

Going-to-the-sun-Road

Don’t limit yourself to marked places on the map. If you see a scenic spot to pull off, safely do so! We spotted this gorgeous field filled with purple flowers and a scenic backdrop to stop and take photos.

It was clearly a popular spot because there were several other groups of people standing in the field. However, there are so many other lookouts along this highway to stop at.

Lake McDonald

We arrived at Lake McDonald by 8pm. Lake McDonald starts immediately past the West Glacier entrance and stretches for 10 miles long towards the park.

We pulled off to take photos near the Apgar Visitor Center which is on the southern end of the lake. This spot had breathtaking views as the sun began to set. The sky and clouds had a pink glow to them that I’ll never forget.

Night 1 Hotel:

We stayed at Duck Inn Lodge* in Whitefish, Montana for the night. Whitefish is a nice area that’s central from the airport and the national park. It was a quiet area but still had major grocery stores around. This was really convenient for picking up last-minute snacks.

Duck Inn Lodge is a cozy bed & breakfast whose owners were so kind. This B&B offers a free homemade breakfast and coffee bar which can be enjoyed in their dining area with scenic views of the pond out back.

This B&B has 15 rooms, so you don’t have to worry about a lot of noise from your neighbors or foot traffic in general. The room I stayed in had 1 King bed, a full bathroom, a dining table & chair and wardrobe armoire. My favorite part of the room, however, was the private walk-out balcony. I caught sunrise here the morning we left town. It was so peaceful.

DAY 2: Yellowstone National Park

We left our hotel at 8am and made the 4-hour drive to Bozeman, Montana to pick up another blogger. Although we didn’t plan on exploring Bozeman, we swung through downtown to pick up lunch while we waited for her flight to arrive. We grabbed sandwiches at Fink’s Delicatessen which were so good.

Mammoth Hot Springs

After picking up our friend, we drove 1.5 hours to our first stop in Yellowstone – Mammoth Hot Springs. Our original plan was to visit the Boiling River Hot Springs, but these were also closed due to COVID. Mammoth Hot Springs are in the same area and were completely open.

These travertine pools looked like we were on another planet. You can follow the boardwalk around and stop at several different springs. We spent about 2 hours here, but you can cover off in 1 hour if you’re not stopping for a lot of photos.

Night 2 Hotel:

It was just after 6pm when we finished at Mammoth Hot Springs. We opted to spend the evening casually driving around scoping out non-touristy photo locations to save for the next morning. When it started to get dark, we checked into our hotel at Lake View Suites in West Yellowstone.

Full disclosure, we did not partner with this hotel in way, but it was my least favorite hotel from the weekend. I truly hate to complain about accommodations, but I think it’s important to be transparent with my audience. Although the price tag didn’t lead me to believe this, I would rate this hotel as “budget” when it comes to quality. The travel life isn’t always glamorous!

DAY 3: Yellowstone National Park

Cliff and Wade Lake

Day 3 was our only full day in Yellowstone, and we had a lot on the agenda. We set our alarms for 5am and started with Cliff and Wade Lake. These lakes are on the west side of Yellowstone and were not far from our hotel.

We came here for sunrise, but I think you’re better off visiting when the sun is at its peak. These lakes are famous for their teal colors which show up best when the sun is high.

These lakes are also tricky to find. Use your phones navigation to get to the dirt road entrance off Highway 287. Then you’ll follow the dirt road over a small bridge, through several rolling fields (watch out for the herd of cows, we saw them both days we came here), arrive at your first fork in the road and stay right. Then arrive at your second fork in the road, Wade lake will be to your right and Cliff Lake will be to your left.

We also spotted this small but picturesque barn as we drove through the rolling fields I mentioned above. We stopped for a photo on the drive out as the sun was peaking over the mountains. I loved how these photos turned out! Between both lakes and the spontaneous photo pit-stop, we spent 2 hours total.

Artist Point & Inspiration Point

You don’t want to miss Artist point. Also known as the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. It’s an overlook on the south rim of the canyon. There’s a spacious parking lot and the walk to the lookout takes less than 5 minutes. Yay for not having to hike a lot! We spent 30 minutes here.

We then drove around the canyon to Inspiration Point which was 10 minutes away. You’ll be viewing the same stream of water, just from the other side of the canyon. It’s worth the drive to take a few additional photos with another perspective.

Grand Prismatic & Excelsior Pool

We finally arrived at the much-anticipated geyser pools of Yellowstone. I know that Yellowstone is famous for Old Faithful geyser, but these 2 pools are way better in my opinion (and have prettier colors.) You can view both pools by following the boardwalk around which is under a mile long.

Grand Prismatic Spring is the largest hot spring in the US and is famous for its orange, yellow and blue color combination. Excelsior Geyser is just blue in color but it’s the prettiest shade of blue I’ve ever seen.

We spent 2 hours here, but you can walk the boardwalk in 20 minutes if you’re not stopping for photos. As a warning, the boardwalk was extremely crowded! It was almost impossible to take photos or socially distance from strangers. Please keep this mind if you are more conservative with distancing during the pandemic.

I was a little bummed because we left here at 4:30pm and when we drove by later in the evening around 6:30pm, I could see the boardwalk from the road, and it was completely empty. Visit later for a lesser crowd if you can!

Morning Glory Pool

This pool is off the beaten path but one you won’t want to skip out on this one. We drove over to the parking lot for Morning Glory, but you must cross the street from the lot and walk about 1 mile to get to the pool. I made the walk in a dress and sandals so don’t worry about wearing actual hiking shoes.

There was a much smaller crowd at this pool than at the prior two pools. Although Morning Glory is smaller in circumference compared to the other pools, the color blend was my favorite. We spent 30 minutes here.

Old Faithful

You can’t go to Yellowstone and not see Old Faithful. Although it’s not the most visually appealing geyser, it’s a staple of Yellowstone since it was the first to be named in the park. It erupts every 45 minutes to 2 hours. We stuck around for 30 minutes to take some photos but didn’t see it erupt.

Night 3-5 Hotel:

After a long day in Yellowstone we made the 3-hour drive to our hotel in Grand Teton called Grand Targhee Resort**. Even though you can drive from Yellowstone to Grand Teton in under an hour, Grand Targhee is in Alta, WY in the west Teton valley which lengthened our drive.

Although this hotel was located 1.5 hours away from Grand Teton National Park, we loved our time there. The property is beautiful and is situated on a ski slope which of course offers snow sports in the Winter. They also run the ski lift in the Summer which is supposed to give you the best view of the Tetons. Unfortunately, we never made it back in time each day to try it out ourselves, but I recommend doing it when you stay!

There are several buildings on the property, and we stayed in the Teewinot Lodge. Our rooms had 2 queen beds, a mini-fridge and the sink/vanity mirror was separate from the bathroom which allowed us more space for getting ready each day.

DAY 4: Grand Teton National Park

The great thing about GTNP is it has a 42-mile long loop which spans across the whole park. You can drive the loop in 1-2 hours depending on how many places you stop for photos. With 4 girls all here to create travel content, we spent between 20 minutes to 1 hour at each of our stops on this day. You could move through them quicker if you have a smaller crowd or less photos to take.

Oxbow Bend

Close your eyes and picture the iconic Tetons staring into their own reflection in the water. Oxbow Bend is as close to that image as you’ll get.

There’s a parking lot to pull into where you can take in the view, but for photos I suggest walking down the highway a little in the direction of the mountains. There’s more standing room and the ground is flatter.

Snake River Overlook

This spot is only a 10-minute drive from Oxbow Bend and is worth stopping for. There’s a large parking lot with plenty of spots which only steps away from the overlook. The overlook itself is bound by a brick wall and you can see Snake River peeking out between the trees in the distance.

Mormon Row – Moulton Barns

Mormon Row is off Highway 191 on Antelope Flats Road. Follow the road for 1.5-miles until you arrive at the barns. There is a pink stucco house on the property next to the Moulton Barns, both of which are postcard worthy with the mountains in the background. We stayed here for about an hour because the views with both the barn and the house were so incredible.

Photo-Worthy Pit Stops

There are so many other photo worthy places that we spotted along the side of the road while driving around. As always, if you see a place you want to stop for, make sure you pull off the road entirely and are aware of your surroundings. GTNP was not overly crowded with cars when we were there but it’s important to stay safe.

String Lake & Jenny Lake

There is a half mile creek that connects String Lake to Jenny Lake. Because of their proximity to each other I recommend checking out both. The parking lot for String Lake is much smaller and we had to make several laps until a spot finally opened. The lot at Jenny Lake is much larger and we had no issue finding a spot as we pulled in.

Jenny Lake offers boat tours and you can rent a canoe for $20 / hour. We originally had this on our itinerary, but we were so exhausted by the time we got here that we just relaxed along the side of the lake instead.

Glacier National Park

We spent about an hour at each lake but as always, you can visit these much faster if you’re not taking a ton of photos.

Glacier National Park

Togwotee Pass

Togwotee Pass is a mountain pass that provides direct access to GTNP if coming from the East. The spot along the pass that is shown in my photo here is famous for photographers to visit. You can see the mountains in the background which turn into a silhouette as the sun sets behind them.

Clearly these photos are taken from standing in the center of the road so please use caution when shooting here. Many cars drove through while we were here, but we always had someone watching out and we always moved to the side as they passed through.

Day 5: Grand Teton National Park

Glacier National Park

Delta Lake

We saved the famous Delta Lake hike for our last day. This was the only activity we did on this day since we knew how tired we would be afterwards. Delta Lake is a 9-mile, 2,300 ft. elevation hike in GTNP.

This hike is rated as difficult and I will warn you that the last 1/3 of the hike is an unmarked trail. It took us 3 hours to reach Delta Lake, but we stopped for breaks more than the average group. I would plan for this be a 7-hour day for you (2.5 up, 2 hours there & 2.5 down.)

Glacier National Park

I plan on writing a dedicated blog post for Delta Lake because it was truly incredible. If you’re on the fence about going, I recommend making the leap. I’ve never experienced a more rewarding feeling than I did taking that final step around the rocky corner and seeing the turquoise blue water.

There are plenty of rocks surrounding the water and groups of people were able to adequately distance themselves from each other. Heads up if you plan on jumping in, this is glacier water after all, and the temperature is very cold.

Day 6: Grand Teton National Park

This was our final morning in Grand Teton National Park. Our flight was at noon which allowed us enough time to explore a few other places that we missed earlier in the weekend.

Luckily the Jackson Airport is right in the heart of the GTNP loop. You can still explore many of the places I listed in this blog post while still getting to the airport in under 30 minutes.

Cunningham Cabin

On the day we flew home, we had a few hours to burn before our flight. We enjoyed sunrise at Cunningham Cabin. The cabin is located on the Bar Flying U Ranch and offers gorgeous views of the vast land and mountains in the background. You won’t need to spend more than 15 minutes here.

Schwabacher Landing

Schwabacher Landing

We saved the best for last. Schwabacher Landing is a boat landing located on Snake River. Like Oxbow Bend, Schwabacher Landing is famous for its reflection of the Teton’s in the still, flat water. The parking lot is very close to the water. You won’t need to spend more than 20 minutes here.

Yellowstone National Park

IMPORTANT LINKS

I hope you found this national park travel guide to be useful. Be sure to save a link to the website of each park. This will tell you more about real-time park conditions and closures.

Glacier National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Grand Teton National Park

*Duck Inn Lodge provided us with a press rate for 1-night in exchange for this blog post.

**Grand Targhee Resort provided us with a free 3-night stay in exchange for content on our Instagram and this blog post.

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2 Comments

    • ontheroadwithjen
      Author
      October 18, 2020 / 4:53 pm

      It was one of the best trips I’ve ever taken. Thank you so much for reading!

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