A Road Trip Worth Taking: Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks

Planning the ultimate U.S. road trip in northwest Wyoming and Montana’s Big Sky Country? Check out our guide to discover all the hotspots on your journey.

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Looking for that ultimate national park deep dive? Well, come on! A Wyoming to Montana road trip is just what you need. Starting in northwest Wyoming on the border of Montana, Yellowstone National Park wows pretty much everyone with stunning natural scenery and unique geothermal wonders. About 400 miles to the north, near the U.S.-Canadian border, Glacier National Park is overflowing with eye-catching plant and animal life and stunning lake, mountain, and glacial views. With lots of awesome pit stops along the way, a journey that kicks off in Yellowstone and ends up in Glacier promises a one-of-a-kind road trip you won’t soon forget.

A view of the geyser Old Faithful shooting hot water into the air on a summer morning under a blue sky at Yellowstone National Park.

Start in Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park is loaded with rivers, lakes, forests, and canyons, but it’s the steamier features like hot springs, mud pots, and geysers that make the area unique. Just for the record, most of the park is located in Wyoming, but some parts overlap into Idaho and Montana. When you’re traveling through the Wyoming section of the park, check out the limestone terraces topped with steamy pools of water at Mammoth Hot Springs and the park’s most famous geyser, Old Faithful, which spews hot water high into the air about every 92 minutes on average.

Visitors in swimsuits walk along a path near the Boiling River with mountains in the background, north of Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park in Montana.

What to Do and Where to Stay in Yellowstone National Park

When it comes to outdoor action, Yellowstone delivers. Rafters, canoers, kayakers, and fans of fishing take on the Firehole, Gibbon, Lamar, and Snake Rivers every single day, and Yellowstone Lake is a go-to for swimming, boating, and other water fun. Because you can only get there by foot, kayak, or canoe, Shoshone Lake is a quiet place for paddling, picnicking, and camping. Twelve campgrounds with more than 2,000 campsites, plus another 300 designated backcountry campsites, means you have plenty of choices for a no-frills overnight stay. Nine comfy lodges and hotels include Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel & Cabins in the northern part of the park and Bear Lodge at Grant Village in the South.

Must-See Stops from Yellowstone to Glacier

As you head north from Yellowstone to Glacier National Park, the scenery changes from plains, bluffs, and cliffs to mountains and thick timber. Along the way, a few Montana towns and cities make for some cool pit stops.

The south side of East Main Street in Bozeman, Montana, showing brick storefronts and parked cars on a sunny spring day.

Bozeman

Just 90 minutes north of West Yellowstone, the city of Bozeman sits smack-dab in the middle of four mountain ranges and is home to Montana State University. The Bridger Range to the north and the Spanish Peaks to the south provide tons of spots for biking and hiking in the summer and skiing in the winter. Tasty restaurants in Bozeman include Plonk, right downtown, and South 9th Bistro, which sits in a gussied-up Victorian home-turned-restaurant near the university. Don’t miss the planetarium and one of the world’s largest collections of dinosaur fossils at the popular Museum of the Rockies. For top-notch fly fishing, fancy eats, and a luxury stay, the Gallatin River Lodge sits just west of town.

Angled view of the Capitol Building in Helena, Montana, a white stately building with a tall spire in the middle, drenched in the early evening sun surrounded by trees.

Helena

About halfway between Yellowstone and Glacier, Montana’s state capital is heaven for history buffs, and it’s not too shabby on shops and restaurants either. Popular stops in Helena include the pioneer cabin at Reeder’s Alley, the majestic Capitol Building, the Original Governor’s Mansion, the Montana Historical Society Museum, and the St. Helena Cathedral. A walk along historic Last Chance Gulch downtown takes you past all kinds of cool shops, eateries, and art galleries. Just to the north, the Great Northern Town Center offers a big city vibe with modern shops, restaurants, a carousel, and a movie theater.

Choteau

Due north of Helena, about 100 miles from the east side of Glacier, you find the small town of Choteau. Known as the Gateway to the Rocky Mountain Front, it’s a pretty little spot with a small-town vibe. Watch a flick at the Roxy Theater, or grab a donut or a sandwich at Bylers Bakery. Ready for some fishing? Plenty of nearby streams and rivers are loaded with fish, or you could watch the massive waterfowl migrations in the spring and fall at Freezeout Lake. Located at the north end of town, the Old Trail Museum is stocked with dinosaur fossils, Native American artifacts, a historic cabin and schoolhouse, western art, and some of the best homemade ice cream around.

Picturesque view of St. Mary Lake at Glacier National Park from Wild Goose Island at sunrise in Montana showing the sun shining on the mountains and the light blue water lined with green pine trees.

End in Glacier National Park

The late comedian and actor Robin Williams once called Glacier National Park, “God’s Back Yard.” Zigging and zagging from the east end of the park to the west, Glacier’s Going to the Sun Road is chock-full of thick forests, lush meadows, glacial lakes, and snow-capped peaks. Although it’s downright glorious in the summer, the park practically explodes with color in autumn. (Pack your sunglasses!) It’s completely awesome, but the scenery isn’t the only reason to make tracks to this northwestern getaway. In Glacier, you also get the chance to spy beavers, foxes, deer, elk, moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, and grizzly bears.

Hiker wearing a hat and large blue backpack uses a walking stick while following a hiking trail toward mountains dusted in snow and pine trees along the shore of a lake in Glacier National Park on a sunny day.

What to Do and Where to Stay in Glacier National Park

From short walks to day-long treks, Glacier serves up well-kept trails for hours of hiking and some jaw-dropping mountain views. Popular stops include selfie-worthy waterfalls like St. Mary Falls, Virginia Falls, and Baring Falls.

Pitch your tent at one of 13 campgrounds with more than 1,000 campsites on the east and west sides of the park — camping is only allowed in these areas. If you prefer to sleep in the great indoors, check out hotels like Apgar Village Lodge, Lake McDonald Lodge, Many Glacier Hotel, Rising Sun Motor Inn, and the Granite Park Chalet in Glacier’s back country.

With stunning natural beauty, loads of outdoor recreation choices, and chances to explore gorgeous towns from Wyoming to Montana, you’re sure to find your groove on a road trip from Yellowstone to Glacier National Park. Have you snapped some awe-worthy photos from your own national park journey? Tag us in your photos on Instagram.

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