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4 Best Road Trips

Yellowstone to Glacier National Park Road Trip

Soak up the outdoors as you travel through the best of Montana.

Between Yellowstone and Glacier National Park lie some of the most wondrous parts of the West. Take this epic road trip through the west side of Montana, under its big blue skies, up mountain peaks and skirting sparkling Flathead Lake.

In Yellowstone, unhurried bison roam past shooting geysers. Wolves hunt in the dawn light and a massive lake stretches to the horizon. Five hundred miles north, on the Canadian border, lush forests give way to alpine lakes with colorful rocks making up their shores in Glacier National Park. Grizzly bears roam underneath ancient glaciers while towering peaks guard stunning valleys.

Bison grazing in Yellowstone's Upper Geyser Basin
Bison grazing in Yellowstone’s Upper Geyser Basin (Photo: Getty Images)

These two incredible parks might be what draw you to Montana, but the real magic lies in the small towns, fascinating history, amazing trails and famous big skies in between.

Start in Bozeman, a vibrant, outdoorsy town with a great local food and beverage scene. As you drive south to Yellowstone, you’ll get the chance to experience some of the West’s most incredible rivers whether you choose to float them, tackle their rapids or soak in hot springs on their banks. Enter the park through Gardiner and the North Entrance, before continuing your journey in West Yellowstone. Lone Peak stands watch over the town of Big Sky, which you might know as a ski destination. The secret is that it’s equally worth visiting in the summer.

Rafting near Big Sky, Montana
Rafting near Big Sky, Montana (Photo: Visit Big Sky)

You’ll discover a deep rooted history that laid the foundations for the thriving communities you see today in southwestern Montana towns like Virginia City, Butte and Philipsburg where you can watch vaudeville plays and unearth sapphires.

See herds of magnificent creatures roaming at the Bison Range, which saw management restored to the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes in 2022. Farther north lies Missoula, a fun university town with its own flavor. As you drive over Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier, mist hugs waterfalls cascading down mountain faces.

Make your way south through central Montana where cities like Havre hold secrets under their streets. Walk in Lewis and Clark’s footprints in Great Falls before hitting the trails in the state’s capital.

Along the way you’ll discover jaw-dropping views, friendly and inspiring locals and a landscape that seems brushed with magic at every seam. This is Montana.

Road Trip Map

Start: Bozeman

Bozeman Spirits, Award-Winning Montana Distillery
Located in historic downtown Bozeman, the distillery produces whiskey, vodka, gin, and rum, distilled and bottled on site. Proud to support Montana farms.

A Serene Soak at Yellowstone Hot Springs
Just eight miles from Yellowstone’s North Entrance, these naturally hot pools feel surprisingly remote and far from the park’s crowds.

Gardiner, Montana is Where the Wild Things Are
Stay at the park’s North Entrance, Gardiner, Montana, for incredible outdoor recreation and a great local scene.

Montana’s Rafting Rivers
The waters of the Yellowstone, Gallatin and Madison rivers provide for some of the best Montana whitewater rafting and floats. Rafting companies out of Gardiner, Big Sky and Bozeman include Flying Pig Adventures, Wild West Rafting and Montana Whitewater Rafting. Want more adventure? Check with these outfitters about ziplining, river tubing, horseback riding and fly fishing.

Bison cross the road near Roosevelt Arch at the North Entrance to Yellowstone
Bison cross the road near Roosevelt Arch at the North Entrance to Yellowstone (Photo: NPS/Jacob W. Frank)

Yellowstone National Park

Enter the North Entrance

48 Hours in Yellowstone
Only have 48 hours? Make the most of your time by visiting some of our favorite spots in the park. Read more.

GyPSy Guide’s Yellowstone Audio Tour App
Download the Yellowstone audio tour app that’s like having a tour guide in your car. GyPSy Guide automatically plays interesting and entertaining commentary as you go.

Watch Wildlife in Yellowstone’s Lamar and Hayden Valleys
Yellowstone’s huge, wide valleys make excellent habitat for wildlife. For your best chance of spotting them, point your compass toward the Lamar and Hayden.

Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone
Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone (Photo: Unsplash/Todd Cravens)

Mammoth Hot Springs Looks Like an Inside-Out Cave
These springs are a must-see feature of Yellowstone National Park in part because they’re so different from other thermal areas in the area. This is largely because limestone is a relatively soft type of rock, allowing the travertine formations to grow much faster than other sinter formations.

4 Active Yellowstone Adventures to Test Your Stamina
Push yourself with these heart-pounding activities in Yellowstone National Park from backpacking to canoeing to cross-country skiing.

Exit the West Entrance

West Yellowstone

7 Sights at West Yellowstone
The town of West Yellowstone sits right at the West Gate to Yellowstone National Park. Here are the top seven ways to avoid the park’s crowds and see the best of the area.

True Yellowstone Vacations
Stay a couple blocks from the park in West Yellowstone and leave the park driving to a guide. Make yourself at home within walking distance to attractions and downtown at the Yellowstone Park Hotel and the pet-friendly Gray Wolf Inn & Suites and Explorer Cabins.

Big Sky

Best Basecamp
Born next to a ski area, the town of Big Sky offers music, food and tons of trails under its piece of the enormous Montana sky.

Southwest Montana’s True Gems

Virginia City Barber Shop northwest of Yellowstone
Virginia City Barber Shop northwest of Yellowstone (Photo: by Andy Austin courtesy of Southwest Montana)

Relax at El Western Cabins & Lodges in Ennis, Montana
A five minute walk from Ennis, Montana, this beautiful property is made up of log-hewn cabins and lodges set amongst a gorgeous meadow, a pasture with horses grazing in it and expansive mountain views.

10 True Gems in Southwest Montana
You’ll find everything from spirits and sapphires to ghost towns and river canyons. Here are our top picks for places to stop in southwest Montana.

Anaconda’s Unexpected History on the Continental Divide
This unique town has access to the outdoor recreation you’d expect from southwestern Montana with a surprising and delicious culinary history that lives on today.

Boom Town Butte
See dramatic mining history come to life at a pit mine, a giant statue, and a distillery, then dance at a signature event. It’s a melting pot of friendly people between Yellowstone and Glacier national parks.

9 Reasons to Visit Dillon
Dig for crystals, catch a glimpse of stunning trumpeter swans, eat amazing sourdough pancakes and more in smalltown Dillon, Mont.

Soak it In at Fairmont Hot Springs Resort
On your road trip between the two national parks, stop midway to stay in a luxury spa resort, golf, and swim in hot springs pools – one with a water slide.

Magical Philipsburg
You’ll find sapphires and a palace of sorts tucked into the gentle folding hillsides and valleys of this swath of southwestern Montana. With flowers and gorgeously restored historic buildings lining its main street, Philipsburg is one of Montana’s most charming towns.

Missoula & Glacier Country

Paddling on Flathead Lake with rental kayaks.
Paddling on Flathead Lake with rental kayaks. (Photo: by Noah Couser courtesy Glacier Country Tourism)

Magnificent Missoula
Kayak, raft or tube through town or take a hike in 60,000 acres of wilderness minutes from your hotel. Missoula is known for its blue-ribbon trout fishing and spectacular natural beauty. Here are our seven favorite things to do in Missoula.

13 Stops on the Road to Glacier National Park
Pull over at these great sights lining the road on the 140-mile trip from Missoula to Glacier National Park including the best food, where to jump in the water and places to watch wildlife.

Uncrowded State Park Gems
In between Yellowstone and Glacier national parks, you’ll find gorgeous trails and scenic views without any of the crowds of the national parks. Here are our 4 favorite Montana State Parks.

Stay Close to Glacier National Park at The Pine Lodge on Whitefish River
Located in downtown Whitefish just over 30 minutes from the park’s West Entrance and 15 minutes from the slopes of Whitefish Mountain Resort, you’ll find family-friendly lodging and have access to some of the best shopping and dining near the park.

The Quest for a More Adventurous Life
The journey that forever changed this author started with paprika and stalled in an obscure Montana Town.

Glacier National Park

Do I Need a Reservation?
If you’re visiting Glacier during peak season in 2023, you’ll need a $2 vehicle reservation in addition to your park pass.

2 Days in Glacier National Park
Favorite things to do in Glacier from a peaceful boat ride and breathtaking hike to eating one of the best huckleberry pastries ever.

Glacier National Park's Going to the Sun Road at Logan Pass
Glacier National Park’s Going to the Sun Road at Logan Pass (Photo: Getty Images)

Tour Glacier’s Going to the Sun Road with the GyPSy Guide App
Download the tour app that’s like having a tour guide in your car. GyPSy Guide automatically plays interesting and entertaining commentary as you go.

Where to See Wildlife in Glacier National Park
You’ll see more than incredible views when you visit Glacier. Keep an eye out for these six fascinating animals.

A Grizzly Encounter
When a bear charged a family on a trail, bear spray likely saved their lives. Take the advice of a former national park ranger and Counter Assault, the company that makes the longest range bear spray.

The Four-Legged Ranger at Glacier National Park
Gracie the dog ranger works hard to keep Glacier National Park visitors and wildlife safe.

Standout Stops in Central Montana

Great Falls, a Town to Fall For
Located along the Missouri River in central Montana, on the route Lewis and Clark took to explore the West, Great Falls, Mont., is bursting with places to explore. Discover urban trails, waterfalls, craft beer and more.

Canoes and kayaks adorn the shores of the White Cliffs, part of the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument.
Canoes and kayaks adorn the shores of the White Cliffs, part of the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument. (Photo: by Roland Taylor courtesy of Great Falls Montana Tourism)

Explore the Heart of Montana
Explore small towns in central Montana like Fort Benton, Havre and White Sulphur Springs on your way to Glacier National Park.

Welcome to Helena
Explore Montana history, hit the trails or enjoy a beer in the state’s capital on your way from Yellowstone to Glacier National Park.

End: Bozeman

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