Yellowstone and Glacier National Park Road Trip: Best Stops, Easy Hikes, and Where to Stay

Let me be your personal guru guide through this process of planning a trip from Yellowstone to Glacier National Park! Okay, that’s a little dramatic, but I am happy to share my guide which is sure to help you through this process.

A Yellowstone and Glacier National Park road trip has got to be on everyone’s list. I’m confident this is one of the top three prettiest places in the United States (it’s up there with California and Arizona for me). I am absolutely in love with Montana and Wyoming after our visit this summer. I’m writing this post at the perfect time because making a trip like this takes a lot of planning.

Table of Contents

As a heads up, this is a pretty busy trip itinerary. I loooved seeing all these parks in our limited amount of time and would not change it at all. If you have more time, I’d absolutely recommend it.

These parks have so much to see and you could spend a week in each of them hiking and exploring, but my reality is that summer is my busy season at work. Taking a week off in summer was not easy because of how busy we were (even with my unlimited PTO) so we packed this all in to 8 days and you can too! This guide includes a lot of information on each park and ways to add time in each of them. So if you have more time, spend it!

Trip Overview

  • Day 1 – Arrive in Bozeman
  • Day 2 – Bozeman & Madison River
  • Day 3 – Yellowstone National Park
  • Day 4 – Yellowstone National Park
  • Day 5 – Grand Teton National Park
  • Day 6 – Glacier National Park
  • Day 7 – Glacier National Park
  • Day 8 – Head Home
  • Trip Costs

Bozeman, Montana Hotel – $120 a night

Jackson, Wyoming Hotel – $350 (used reward night)

Columbia Falls, Montana Hotel – $160 a night (used reward night)

Flight – $140 on Southwest

National Park Pass, Float Trip, food, extras – $250

Tips for Visiting Yellowstone and Glacier

General Tips

    1. Plan ahead – This is not the kind of trip to plan last minute if you can avoid it for a few reasons. First, there are passes needed to get into some parts of Glacier, but also, in general, this is a really crowded part of the US during the summer months. If you wait to book it, you can end up staying a lot further away from the parks than you’d want to or paying a lot more money to stay close.
    2. Invest in good gear, including bear spray – With a lot of time hiking and being spent in bear country on this trip, having bear spray should be a requirement to keep you safe just in case. You will want to think about what to wear hiking, comfortable shoes, and gear while spending all your time outside.
    3. Get an America the Beautiful Pass – This pass is just $80 and will get you into all National Parks in the USA for a year. It’s worth it considering that each park is $35 dollars a day for entry!
    4. Download AllTrails or a similar app before hiking – AllTrails is great for researching hikes, but the main reason it’s worth downloading and using is because they have the ability to track you and show where you are on a map with or without service. You can download the maps offline and stay on course so you’ll worry less about getting lost and more about having fun along the trail.
    5. Arrive early to the parks – These parks get really busy in the summer. It can be time consuming waiting in those lines. Try to arrive by 8:30 am no matter which day of the week to avoid the crowds.
    6. Use the national park’s Instagram accounts– Things in these parks are always changing. Sometimes roads are closed or entrances vary, following the parks on IG is the best way to get up to date information.
    7. Car rentals are readily available at airports, but since there’s little other public transit, they can get pricy if you book last minute and often sell out in the summer months. Book in advance!

Plan Ahead, but Stay Flexible

Research attractions, accommodations, and potential stops along the way while still allowing for spontaneity and detours to explore unexpected gems.

The way I recommend doing this is to choose anchor spots to stay and plan a few activities in each that you know you don’t want to miss. Have ideas of other things to do, but don’t over-pack your itinerary so you still have space to discover things!

Essentials to Pack

    • Foldable Backpack: Carry essentials like maps, snacks, water, and a first aid kit in a day pack you can easily grab in your car. You don’t want to have to unpack your whole bag looking for something.
    • Reusable Water Bottle : Good for the environment and means you stay hydrated at all times! Most places in the US will have an easy place to fill up your water bottle on a trip.
    • Portable Charger with Fast Charging Technology: Even if you think you don’t need it because your car has a plug, I still recommend bringing an additional charger. You want to make sure you have the ability to navigate and get help if needed.
    • Sunglasses: While you might think that drinking into the sunset sounds romantic, it’s not easy on your eyes. Get some good sunglasses!
    • Collapsible Cooler: Keep drink, snacks, and left overs cold with a collapsible cooler for easy storage and set up when needed. It fits easily in a suitcase!

Subscribe to access my editable road trip packing checklist!

Glacier National Park – Passes for Entry

Glacier National Park will implement a new vehicle reservation system in 2024, beginning May 24 for the west side of Going-to-the-Sun Road and North Fork and on July 1 for Many Glacier.

Going to Sun Road was built shortly after that, in 1923, so that people could drive from one side of the park to the other. It’s part of the National Registry of Historic Places and does take you from one side to the other. GTSR has the most stunning views in the whole park, and you’ll want to spend the entire day along the road. It’s absolutely worth the hype. n

Going to the Sun Road has to be plowed out every year due to heavy snow. The road’s opening depends on how much snow there is to clear and how long that takes. Usually, they are done by mid-late June. The best place to get updated information is on the Glacier National Park Instagram. I was stocking that page for the updates on how the road was coming along!

Here’s what you need to know to make it happenn

West Entrance

One reservation per vehicle will be required to travel Going-to-the-Sun Road beyond the Apgar Village area from May 24 through Sept. 8, 2024, from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Visitors can enter before 6 a.m. or after 3 p.m. without a vehicle reservation. New in 2024, vehicle reservations will be valid for one day only, down from three days in 2023. Data from 2023 indicates that only two percent of three-day reservations were used for all three days. By changing to a one-day reservation, consistent with other park areas, a greater number of reservations can be made available.

Also, new in 2024, visitors will be able to access Apgar Village amenities, including the Apgar Visitor Center, without a vehicle reservation. Lodging, camping (including front-country developed campgrounds and backcountry camping permits), transportation, or commercial activity reservations originating in Apgar will no longer provide access beyond the Apgar filter check point.

North Fork

One reservation per vehicle will be required at the entrance station from May 24 through Sept. 8, 2024, from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Reservations are good for one day. Visitors can enter before 6 a.m. or after 3 p.m. without a vehicle reservation. There are no changes in the North Fork from 2023.

Many Glacier Valley

One reservation per vehicle will be required at the entrance station from July 1 through Sept. 8, 2024, from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Reservations are good for one day. Visitors can enter the valley before 6 a.m. or after 3 p.m. without a vehicle reservation. There are no changes in Many Glacier from 2023.

1. You now need a pass to go through between May – September depending on your entry point. You can find them on Recreation.gov, and they become available three months before you go. Unfortunately for us, when we went to get our tickets for our dates, they were already gone! These tickets go fast, and I recommend looking right when they become available at 6 am to ensure you get them.

2. If you miss the official pass, there is a second option. You can make a boat tour reservation for Lake McDonald, Many Glacier, or St. Mary’s Lake. They will allow you to go on GTSR with that reservation since these lakes require driving on the road to get to. This is the option we ended up going with, and we were able to get passes for a boat tour for $22 the day we needed them the week after passes went on sale. More details on what the boat tour was like are below!

I swear I was so worried we wouldn’t get tickets that I searched FOREVER to find a loophole and found this one. I’m happy this was a second option because we were on a fairly tight timeline but were flexible on whether we visited Yellowstone or Glacier first. Luckily, we could spend a whole day on Going to the Sun Road because of this second option!

3. You still have to pay regular entry fees into Glacier National Park.

4. You can enter the park without a pass before or after 6 am.

Day 1 – Arrive in Bozeman, Montana

Bozeman is an enjoyable city and made for the best jumping off point for our Yellowstone and Glacier National Park road trip since it’s right between two parks. Southwest flies into Bozeman, which made it the perfect middle point with cheap flights available.

If you want to stay somewhere super cute and perfect for a girl’s trip, you should stay at RSVP Hotel. It is adorable, retro, and has an excellent location! 

On your first day, it’s time to relax and take in some of the city of Bozeman! Downtown Bozeman is adorable and fun to walk around. Do some shopping, maybe hit some bars, and start your trip in this fun town. I recommend some of the following spots below.

Food

  • Blackbird – excellent pizza and salads
  • The Farmer’s Daughter – great brunch spot
  • Revelry – great vibe and delicious variety of food
  • Ted’s Montana Grill – go to for burgers and steaks

Bars

  • The Crystal Bar – dive bar and juke box
  • Rockin R Bar – top 40, dj on weekends
  • Happy Box – Karaoke rooms
  • The Zebra – live local music with a cover

 

Day 2 – Museums and Float the Madison River

In the morning on day two, I recommend starting off with a trip to the Museum of the Rockies. The Museum of the Rockies is home to the most extensive collection of dinosaur remains in the United States. If you’re a dinosaur lover, you will want to check out this museum for the day.

 

Daily, 9 am – 5 pm through December 31, 2021 Daily, 9:30 am – 4:30 pm starting January 2, 2022

 

Adult tickets are $16.50, children $10.50

 

The museum is open year-round except for five days. It’s closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, New Years Day, and October 12 and 13, 2022. The museum closes early on Christmas Eve Day. Days that the museum is open and our hours of operation are subject to change throughout the year.

 

In the afternoon, it’s time to do one of the most chill and fun things in Bozeman – go on a float trip down the Madison River.

 

Madison River Tubing offers float trips, river rafting, and stand-up paddleboard rentals in Bozeman, Montana. One of their trips is a great way to take in some stunning views and enjoy an afternoon! I’d highly recommend doing this for a day while in Bozeman if the weather allows.

 

We were allowed to bring our own drinks and snacks. We rented a cooler along with a speaker from them for even more fun on our trip! The water is frigid even in summer, so definitely pick the right day to do this. Wear good shoes you can put in the water and plenty of sunscreens.

 

Each tube costs $30 on weekends, $25 on weekdays. If you want a ride or transfer from Bozeman, you’ll need to pay extra; we chose to drive ourselves and meet them at the drop-off point. Raft trips and SUP rentals vary depending on the trip length.

 

By now, you’ll be ready to head back into Bozeman, relax for the evening, and hit up another great restaurant before heading to bed because on day two, you’ll have an early start to the day!

 
 
 

Yellowstone is the first national park in the world. President Ulysses S. Grant signed the Yellowstone National Park Protection Act into law in March of 1872, marking the official beginning of Yellowstone National Park and the National Park System. Yellowstone is huge, and you can drive it all in one day, but I would not recommend trying.

 

Yellowstone’s main roads go in one giant loop (although parts of that loop are sometimes closed), with smaller loops in the center making it easier to visit the top attractions in the park. Before going, check Yellowstone National Park’s website to see what is open and closed.

 

Yellowstone National Park has half the world’s hydrothermal features; you’ll find hot springs, mud pots, fumaroles, travertine terraces, and — of course — geysers. Microorganisms called thermophiles — meaning “heat-loving” — live in these features and give the park brilliant colors. It’s a giant volcano which is why so many cool hydrothermal features are here. However, this isn’t all you should plan on seeing in the park!

 

Yellowstone is home to the largest concentration of mammals in the lower 48. This includes grizzly bears, wolves, lynx, fox, moose, and elk. You should never approach them. Park rules state that you must stay at least 100 yards from bears and wolves and at least 25 yards from other large animals.

 

Plan to leave Bozeman around 6 am. This will put you at the Yellowstone entrance around 8:30 am; we got in really quickly going in thanks to my National Park Pass. If you don’t have one – you need one! Only $80 and will get you into any national park in the US.

Lamar Valley

 

As mentioned, Yellowstone has the highest concentration of wildlife in the lower 48, making it an incredibly unique place to visit and the perfect spot to find nature. Lamar Valley is where you want to see the wildlife, and morning/evening are when the animals are most active, so it’s the perfect spot to start your day! PS bring binoculars for this if you can!

We arrived to Lamar Valley around 9:30 am and immediately began seeing animals! We spend about 2 1/2 hours driving, stopping, and enjoying seeing various animals in the park. Bison roam all over in large heard here. We also saw a brown bear and lots of pronghorn. It was beyond magical to see these animals in the wild!
If you see a ranger, you know that there is most likely a carnivorous animal like a bear or wolf nearby. These animals can be extremely dangerous, and rangers are constantly driving along the road looking for them. You’ll also notice a lot of people stopping when there’s an animal nearby.

Lunch and Mammoth Hot Springs

 

After a morning of wildlife watching, it’s time to head to the other side of the park. Albright Visitor Center has a lodge, restaurant, store, and more to see. The lines for food can be insane here! Bring your own food and save your time for exploring the park. There are picnic tables and plenty of space for parking here.

Right by Albright Visitor Center is Mammoth Hot Springs. Take a walk through these vast and smelly hot springs! There’s a lower and higher viewing point for these, with pathways all around these hot springs. Mammoth Hot Springs are unique for their white color and cascading falls look all over the mountains. The view from the top was stunning. 

Grand Loop Road from Mammoth to Grand Prismatic Spring 

Spend the rest of your day stopping at different geysers, waterfalls, and lakes. The stops we made on day 1 are below.

Nymph Lake, Norris Geyser Basin, Gibbon Falls, Fountain Paint Pots, Firehole Canyon Drive, Meyer Geyser Basin (and walkway for Grand Prismatic Spring).

These stops involved minimal walking and were right off Grand Loop Road except Meyer Geyser Basin and Grand Prismatic Spring. Grand Prismatic Spring is the most vibrant in color of all the thermal springs and a really popular stop. 

On this first day, we chose to walk close through the geyser on a platform. We wanted to see both views of Grand Prismatic Spring, but after seeing so many other things this day, it was easier to add the hike to the viewpoint on day two. It also broke up the views and gave us something to look forward to on day 2 in Yellowstone!

We had no issues parking anywhere else and could visit each spot we wanted to with minimal waits. Since everything we did on this day was a pretty quick stop, it meant people were constantly leaving and coming.

At this point, we were close to the West Entrance of the park where West Yellowstone is and definitely would have been a great spot to stay overnight if possible. But, unfortunately, West Yellowstone was almost sold out by the time we booked, and prices were extremely high. Recommend staying here if you can, though! Otherwise, head back up to Bozeman for the night.

Day 4 – Yellowstone National Park

Lamar Valley 

Depending on where you stay, you may enter Yellowstone from the North or the West entrance for your second day. Either way, I recommend starting your day in Lamar Valley if you want a chance to spot more wildlife. On our first day in the park, we only saw bison from a distance. On the second day, herds were close to the road, and actually on the road, that classic Yellowstone vibe! We also saw a large bear this day, wolves, and eagles. It was a tremendous second morning.

 

Either way, make sure you have an early start and get into the park before 9 am when tour buses and larger groups arrive.

 

If you are not that into wildlife or satisfied with what you saw the previous day, you could skip this part and head directly to Grand Canyon Village.

Lamar Valley to the Grand Canyon via Tower Village

 

We chose to drive from Lamar Valley to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. The road loops around nicely south from Lamar Valley to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone through Tower Village. Visiting the Grand Canyon was something I knew I wanted to fit into our visit because I once saw a famous painting in the Smithsonian National Gallery of Art here in DC and was just in awe of what it looked like. I needed to see it in person!

 

The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is roughly 20 miles long, measured from the Upper Falls to the Tower Fall area. The 109-foot Upper Falls is upstream of the Lower Falls and can be seen from the Brink of the Upper Falls Trail and Upper Falls Viewpoints. The 308-foot Lower Falls can be viewed from Lookout Point, Red Rock Point, Artist Point, Brink of the Lower Falls Trail, and various South Rim Trail points.

 

We did have to wait in line and traffic to stop here. We got there midday, and it was jam-packed but completely worth it.

 

The Brink of the Lower Falls Trail is incredible. It’s a steep trail. Going down is no problem, but you make the 300 feet of elevation in just .7 miles. It’s all uphill on the way back, so be prepared with some good shoes and water at the end!

 
 

Grand Canyon to Grand Prismatic Spring via Grand Loop

 

The other hike you want to do on day two is to the overlook of Grand Prismatic Spring. To fully appreciate the colors of this hot spring, you have to see it from above! Unlike yesterday when you parked at Meyer Geyser Basin, you’ll park at the Fairy Falls Trailhead.

 

The Fairy Falls Trailhead takes you to an excellent view of Grand Prismatic Spring as well as, you guessed it, Fairy Falls. It’s 1.2 miles round trip and is very well paved. We saw people in wheelchairs and with crutches doing this hike, although that’s not something I would recommend doing on your own. The other thing to consider here is minimal tree cover, and there’s boiling water coming out of springs plus a lot of time spent in the sun. It can get hot!

 
 

Old Faithful

 

Just 6.5 miles south of Grand Prismatic Spring is Old Faithful. It did feel like a trip to Yellowstone would be incomplete without this, so we had to do it! We got there about 20 minutes after it had last erupted. It’s the world’s most famous geyser and currently erupts around 20 times a day. The mathematical average between eruptions of Old Faithful is currently 74 minutes, but it doesn’t like to act average! Intervals can range from 60-110 minutes.

 

So, as you can imagine, we prepared for a long wait. There’s a lodge, cafe, store, and visitors center on-site. Since we came pretty soon after the last eruption, we had good luck parking quickly. We tried to pick a spot strategically to be able to leave swiftly as well. Highly recommend this so you can leave quickly after the eruption is over!

 

We got a seat on the benches, again in the sun, and sat down to wait. I went into the lodge and waited in line a good 25 minutes for the bathroom and then some ice cream for us to cool off while we waited. All in all, we ended up waiting over an hour before it finally erupted. Did we consider leaving or giving up? For sure! Could we give up on this lifelong dream when finally, for once in our lives, we were in Wyoming? No. We couldn’t!

 

Old Faithful felt more like a Disney attraction than seeing a natural wonder, but it was cool to see it erupt, and I’m glad we did it.

 

Old Faithful to Jackson

 

After Old Faithful, we continued south to the southernmost part of the park, the West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake. It was a quick stop for us to take in another great view of the park and a nice view on our way south to Jackson.

 

The drive from Yellowstone to Jackson is about an hour once you’ve left the park. It had some of my favorite views on the whole trip too! You’ll be driving right through Grand Teton National Park on the way there, so it’s worth getting there before sunset so you can enjoy the sunset from the famous Snake River in the park!

 

It’s located along the highway, and when sunset begins to approach, you’ll find cars filling up stopping points all along the river. The sunset is incredible from here and the perfect way to end your one day in Grand Teton National Park. It’s relatively easy to find a spot to park as they are all along the road.

Morning – Jenny Lake

We started the day with a stop for some coffee. There’s a charming coffee shop right in downtown Jackson called Cowboy Coffee. We grabbed a quick cup on the way out of town and headed out for our one day in Grand Teton National Park!

One of the significant allures of Grand Teton is the many different lakes found in the area. Some of the lakes you can see in the area are: Jackson Lake, Leigh Lake, Phelps Lake, Bradley Lake… the list goes on! So we knew we had to visit one with our one day and soak up the views and relaxing atmosphere.

Jenny Lake is the best option since we just had a day because it is easily accessible, has a lot of trails, and offers amazing views. We arrived around 10 am, and parking was already starting to get tricky. I do recommend getting there early as Jenny Lake is a really popular area of Grand Teton. There’s a lot to do there, so it attracts a lot of visitors.

Here are a few ways you can fill your morning:

  • Kayak and canoe rentals are available from Jenny Lake Boating for either $20 per hour or $80 per day. Rentals are first-come, first-served. Motor boating permits can be acquired at the visitor center, and cost $20 per day or $40 annually.
  • Part scenic-tour, part water-taxi, take the Jenny Lake shuttle. The ferry departs from South Jenny Lake roughly every 15 minutes and carries you across the water to the Cascade Canyon trailhead. From here, you can check out Hidden Falls, Inspiration Point, or a different section of Jenny’s lakeshore. Round trips on the Jenny Lake shuttle cost $18 for adults, $15 for seniors (age 62 and older), and $10 for children. One-way tickets are $10 for all adults and $8 for children. There is no fee for children age 2 and under or adults over 80.
  • See the visitors center, shop, and read about the history of Grand Teton National Park
  • Go for a hike – AllTrails has an excellent list of hikes! Many different trails leave from Jenny Lake, some are very strenuous, others are paved and quite easy.

We chose to hike part of the Jenny Lake Loop trail along the lake. Don’t forget to make frequent stops to take in the view and overall enjoy getting away from the crowds around South Jenny Lake. We also packed our lunch and enjoyed it while on our hike. 

Early Afternoon

In the afternoon, we headed over to Mormon Row Historic District. Mormons from the Salt Lake Region settled in what is now Grand Teton National Park in the late 1890s. Settlers secured 27 homesteads that they built close together to share labor and community. Today, five of the buildings are left.

We loved making a stop at this spot because it gave a picture of what homesteading in Wyoming back in the 1800s would have been like. You cannot enter the buildings, but we found the view incredible. It felt like we were taking a step back in time to when settlers first came to the area.

This area is a popular photo spot, and you’ll be able to get some great shots in the afternoon light! Bring a good camera and some patience.

Head to Glacier National Park

After spending the early afternoon, it’s time to head to Glacier National Park. From Grand Teton National Park, it’s a 6-hour drive up to Glacier. However, there are places to stop, and you can eliminate the day in Grand Teton National Park altogether if you want to and make some stops along the way instead. We decided it was worth it to spend a day there when we were so close to such a beautiful place and think you will feel the same too!

There are a few options within the park for where to stay in Glacier. These take a LOT of planning and luck to get. The lodging is very limited, and so you can potentially get lucky (definitely worth a try!) or book a place in a town nearby.

West Glacier and St. Mary are the closest and most accessible places to stay, and there are many options in nearby towns too. Below are links to some options:

Day 6 – Glacier National Park

We stayed about a 20-minute drive outside the park in Columbia Falls, MT. We quickly got in that morning with our pass around 8 am. As mentioned at the beginning of this post, we chose to stay on the west side of Glacier, mainly because it was cheaper, but also because Lake McDonald looked beautiful, and we saw the hikes we wanted to do mainly were on this side!

We also knew we wanted to kayak on one of the lakes, and Lake McDonald looked like the best one to kayak on because it was so easily accessible from the West Entrance. It’s literally like a 10-minute drive into the park next to Lake McDonald Lodge. Plus this is the lake most famous for it’s rainbow-colored rocks at the bottom of the lake.

Although as you can see below, we learned a lot of people photo shop those rocks to make them look more colorful. It’s a beautiful lake though with stunning views on a misty early morning!

Kayaking on Lake McDonald

 

We started our morning pretty early because all kayak rentals, done through Glacier Park Boat Company, are first-come, first-serve. They open at 9 am, so we wanted to get in line well before that to ensure we got the kayaks of our choice. We arrived around 8:15 am, snagged a coffee at the lodge, and were the first ones in line! We enjoyed the lake views and watched as the crew set up the kayaks.

$18 an hour for a single kayak, $22 an hour for a double canoe, rowboat, and $30 an hour for a motorboat.

This meant we were the first ones to get onto the lake and got it all to ourselves for the first 15 minutes or so until they got the next people out there! It was beyond peaceful and gorgeous to be on that lake. It was the perfect way to start the day. The water is a beautiful bright blue color due to the iron content in sedimentary pebble rocks and the degree of its oxidation.

Mid-Day Hike and Lunch

After kayaking for about two hours, it was 11 am and time for a mid-day hike followed by lunch. We wanted a hike that would be easy to access on the way to our boat tour at Lake McDonald Lodge. We were not disappointed with the easily accessible Trail of the Cedars.

There were beautiful views along this 1-mile hike through the cedar trees. It smelled amazing, and we got to take in views of a unique and beautiful waterfall as well as a river running down into Lake McDonald. The hike took less than an hour but was a perfect pit stop before heading to the lodge for lunch.

There’s a longer hike here as well that’s pretty popular which we considered doing called Avalanche Lake. We had a hike planned to another lake later in the day and so decided to skip this one. If only we had known that the hike we wanted to do later that day was closed!

Lake McDonald Lodge has two restaurants (only one was open last summer), and they tend to have really long lines. Like, over an hour for take-out only… We were so glad we had packed a lunch of our own to enjoy on the lake. We were able to find a park bench near the lake and relax while we ate our packed sandwiches, chips, and snacks. I’d highly recommend this option over getting food in the park.

Boat Tour

 

As mentioned at the beginning of the article, we had to book a boat tour to go on Going to the Sun Road. We chose to do a 1 pm boat tour so that we had a mid-day break. It ended up being a blessing and a curse. It was fantastic to get to ride on a historic boat across Lake McDonald, and the guide was hilarious, but also… it was a historic boat and the hottest part of the day.
We had a tough time hearing our guide, ended up sweating profusely, and fell asleep. Am I glad we did it? Absolutely! Would I recommend it? Only if you need it for a pass or can sit up front so you can hear the guide. The screaming baby and person arguing about wearing their mask were not fun either.

Driving Going to the Sun Road

 

With our boat tour over, it was time to take in the rest of the park by driving Going to the Sun Road. This can take just a few hours, or you can spend a whole day just doing this. We ended up spending about 6 hours doing this part of the park. The mid-day nap helped.

About the Drive

Going to the Sun Road can be a terrifying to drive. If you’re afraid of heights or not used to winding roads, this will be a challenging drive for you. There are sharp turns, giant cliffs, and waterfalls across the street. With that being said, it’s a gorgeous drive. I’ve driven on some of the scariest roads, including Route 1 in California and the Amalfi Coast… This one might be scarier due to the frequent stops cars make along the road.
For safety reasons, 45 miles per hour is the speed limit in the lower elevations of the road and 25 miles per hour in the alpine section. They also restrict the size of vehicles on the road to 21 feet long and 8 feet wide. There’s also a shuttle – Glacier Shuttle System that you can take from Apagar or St. Mary’s. It was closed when we went this summer due to restrictions. Check their website ahead of time as wait times can also be really long.

Along the Drive

There are so many beautiful places to stop along this 50-mile road. We drove the entire thing in about 2 hours and made over ten stops. We also stopped at the top at Logan Pass to hike Hidden Lake, but it was closed due to bear activity. This is where Elvis wanted to propose but ended up doing it at a stop on the way down instead since it was closed!

Logan Pass is the highest point along the drive at 6,646ft, the halfway point. There’s a visitor’s center and a great chance for a photo opportunity as well as some other short and beautiful hikes.

We drove to St. Mary’s Lake and back, the entire length of Going to the Sun Road. There are so many beautiful stopping points the drive doesn’t feel long or taxing. We loved stopping at all the waterfalls and lakes to take in the view, do a quick hike, or enjoy breathing in the fresh mountain air.

Elvis ended up proposing along the way back down and it was the absolute perfect place to do it! This is such a special spot to us obviously and I just love that our first trip together was to the mountains in Denver in winter, we got engaged in the mountains in Glacier, and are getting married in the mountains too! I guess we are mountain people?!

We went back at our guest ranch around 7:00 pm, where we cleaned up and headed into Columbia Falls for dinner at Gunsight Saloon. They had great food, drinks, and live outdoor music in a relaxed setting. It was a great way to end the day!

Day 7 – Glacier National Park

On day two, we decided to head to a part of the park that did not require a pass – Two Medicine. It was about an hour drive from West Glacier/Columbia Falls. 

The Two Medicine Valley sits in the southeast corner of Glacier National Park. Two Medicine is less visited than other parts of Glacier but will impress with its dramatic views, rushing waterfalls, and reflective lakes. There are lots of easy trails here, too, like Sun Point Nature Trail.

Two Medicine has a campground, picnic areas, camp store, gift shop, scenic boat tours and rentals, wildlife watching, and numerous hiking trails. We also saw quite a few people fishing on this lake (this does require a permit). You can actually bring your own boat to this part of the park, too.

There are three lakes here – Lower Medicine Lake, Upper Medicine Lake, and Medicine Lake. We chose to hike from Medicine Lake to Aster Falls. This could easily be turned into a full-day hike as there are tons of trails from here you can take. Our hike took us the morning to do then. We chose to hang out by the lake and relax!

We honestly barely saw people that day despite a full parking lot, and I love how much more relaxed this part of the park felt. It was quiet, beautiful, and a much more restful day than our first day in the park!

After this relaxing and fun day, we head out to East Glacier Park Village to have an early dinner at a Glacier Village Cafe around 4 pm and head back to Bozeman, where we arrived around 9 pm. 

Day 8 – Head Home

By now, you’ll be pretty tired and ready to head home – I know we were! This is a fun and packed trip to Yellowstone and Glacier National Park that you won’t regret.

Here’s your guide through the process of planning a trip from Yellowstone to Glacier National Park! See the best these parks have to offer.
Here’s your guide through the process of planning a trip from Yellowstone to Glacier National Park! See the best these parks have to offer.
Here’s your guide through the process of planning a trip from Yellowstone to Glacier National Park! See the best these parks have to offer.
Here’s your guide through the process of planning a trip from Yellowstone to Glacier National Park! See the best these parks have to offer.

 

Meghan

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