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MT/ID/WY road trip: All suggestions welcome

Lewes, United...
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MT/ID/WY road trip: All suggestions welcome

We planned out this trip over amonth ago, then decided we weren't happy with our plan - the duration of stays in the parks was wrong, and our route was unexciting. So we have decided to start again and open this up to all you contributors who so enjoy offering so many helpful and interesting suggestions of routes, things to see and do, places to visit/stay, etc. Also, anything we should avoid or be wary of, would be welcome information.

We will be doing a circular road trip, starting and finishing in Whiltefish, MT. We will already have purchased our America the Beatiful passes for all the NPs. We will have a normal rental sedan, not a SUV so certain routes are off limits to us.

We plan to depart Whitefish on the morning of Thursday, September 8 and would like to return to Whitefish on Wednesday, September 21 by late afternoon, so have 12 full days for the trip. We wish to visit Glacier National Park, Yellowstone NP and Grand Tetons NP. Apart from that, there are no deal breakers or must dos that I'm aware of.

We are a couple in mid/late 50s seeking scenic routes and interesting landmarks on the way, and we have some interest in American history and culture. We are both fit and healthy for our ages, but not athletes. We wish to spend some time in the parks, but are more interested in scenic day hikes rather than long, endurance hikes.

With regard to lodging and dining: We expect wayside motels and similar will meet our needs, and love to seek out down home diners and mom and pop places. We are familiar with the roadside American website, and know there are others with such recommendations, and are fans of the foodnetwork's 'Diners, Drive Ins and Dives' programs! Personal recommendations, however, are always appreciated.

Over to you guys ........

Edited: 25 April 2011, 12:10
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1. Re: MT/ID/WY road trip: All suggestions welcome

I'm not sure what your questions are. You could easily spend all your nights in the three National Parks and wind up eating cafeteria food all the time. So, are you planning on staying in the Parks or are you asking for suggestions of what to do between them? Have you any idea where you would be staying in the Parks?

We usually stay in campgrounds when we visit Yellowstone and we usually stay for about 5 days. However, in mid-September, it can be pretty cold there. I have visited in September a couple of times and each time we stayed at the Jackson Lake Lodge in the Grand Tetons. From there, you can explore both parks fairly easily, at least up to Canyon and Old Faithful in Yellowstone. Mammoth and Lamar Valley are a little too far of a drive.

If you don't want to drive that much each day, you could stay at Mammoth a couple of nights and then a couple at Old Faithful and then a couple somewhere in Jackson Hole. Precede that with two or three nights in Glacier and that would take up 8 or 9 nights leaving you with 3 or 4 for somewhere else.

You could spend a couple of nights in Cody, Wyoming. This is a must see in my opinion with some great museums that need an entire day (or two) to see. There's also Bozeman, Missoula, Butte, Great Falls and Helena Montana that could be interesting if you are going to be driving through them.

You have Idaho in your Subject Heading. Are you going to any places in Idaho? There's some interesting Lewis and Clark sights in Idaho but they are probably not on your route. There's also several ghost towns in Montana that are worth visiting if that interests you.

Maybe if you could give us a little more information about your plans?

Green Valley...
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2. Re: MT/ID/WY road trip: All suggestions welcome

Re: YNP, given the huge size of the park, miles of roads, limited speed, many sights, you really want to stay inside the park or, at least, West Yellowstone, MT. It's a long haul to the major sights from Jackson, even from lodging further north, and then you have miles of driving/sightseeing in YNP with shorter daylight hours.

I prefer, in order of access to the major sights: Canyon and/or Lake, primarily; a night or two in the Old Faithful area. If I wanted, or could get, only one location, I'd pick Canyon.

You might plan for 2 full days, GNP; 3 - 4 full days for YNP; 2 - 3 full days in GTNP. Cody is worth an overnight, but you could drive there from the latter two parks.

It will be cold morning and night, warming up during the day.

Here are a few articles and websites worth reading.

Official Lodging and Tour Vendor for Yellowstone National Park (Call them frequently, like every day, cancellations occur. Don't use other agencies, they charge a service fee and they have to contact Xanterra themselves, which you can do for free.) Locations, costs, lodging, camping, things to do and much more are here.


To enhance your wildlife viewing and photography, an article prepared by several TAs:


I agree about Cody, at the very least for this complex:

Cody, WY Buffalo Bill Historical Center – A fascinating complex (with cafeteria); plan on at least two to three hours. For all ages.


Another world class venue:

National Museum of Wildlife Art - North of Jackson, on road between Jackson and the south entrance to Grand Teton National Park.


Edited: 25 April 2011, 22:45
Green Valley...
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3. Re: MT/ID/WY road trip: All suggestions welcome

BTW, Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park is worth visiting; a bit of an uphill walk to the cave entrance, easy enough.


Consider also an interesting drive to Philipsburg, MT.


Lewes, United...
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4. Re: MT/ID/WY road trip: All suggestions welcome

Thank you very much for your contributions and suggestions. Sorry, obviously, I didn't explain myself carefully enough. We're after suggested driving routes, with the hope of finding interesting places to stop and even stay.

We also wanted suggestions of how to split our time in the parks. Having never been, it's difficult for us to get a scale of their relative sizes, and which ones would have more to interest us. I have looked at each of the individual park websites already, but these just promote the specific park and all there is to do in it. I was hoping to find somebody who has visited more than one of them to give a view on how to split our time.

I mentioned ID as we planned to go in a vaguely circular route - either clockwise or anti - to get from park to park to park and back, and we'd probably pass thru the corner of ID to do this.

Regarding the lodging options. We presume at this stage we won't get any lodging availability in any of the parks, where there is any. We have no plans to tent camp - either with own tents or in fixed tents. We probably are not wanting cabins either for the reason already mentioned of it being cold (we experienced very cold nights when we stayed in Grand Canyon North Rim, and don't wish to repeat that.)


Green Valley...
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5. Re: MT/ID/WY road trip: All suggestions welcome

Re: lodging, that was covered by the suggestion to call Xanterra, don't rely on the website. All of their cabins are heated. Or, for example, lodge in West Yellowstone...

Since you are not in the US, perhaps you know someone who can do the calling for you. First choose the type of lodgings acceptable to you, then have them keep calling Xanterra.

Re: time in the parks, that has been suggested also. YNP is huge, hence more nights than, say, GT and G NPs. And much to see. Once in the parks, just "drive the roads", you'll find the major sights well marked. The park interactive map, also provided in hard copy at the entrances, will help you plot your routes... but one does not need to set routes and time in stone, you'll spend time in places to which you'll want to return. The interactive maps are on the home page for each park, see "View Map".

Re: routes, several suggestions were provided about things to do/to see, besides the parks. When you plot them on Google Maps, you'll see a possible route emerge that includes your park visits.

Consider also seeing, for example, Craters of the Moon National Monument, in Idaho.

I'm sure others will chime in with things to see.

When you have plotted these ideas, and any other ideas you folks generate from your research and additional comments provided here, post them so we can respond further. We can tell you how much time will be necessary for travel between the sights you have selected, how much time on site, etc.

Edited: 26 April 2011, 23:08
Sheffield, United...
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6. Re: MT/ID/WY road trip: All suggestions welcome


We are a couple in our 60's interested in wildlife and have visited Yellowstone and Grand Teton twice and Glacier and Waterton (which is a short trip over the border from the east side of Glacier) once.

Our first trip to Yellowstone was in September 2005 when we had just 3 days in the park and a quick drive through Grand Tetons on our way there and back, which left us longing for more.

Our second trip was in June 2008 when we spent 2 nights in Grand Teton and the rest in Yellowstone comprising 1 Old Faithful Inn, 2 Canyon Lodge, 2 Lake Lodge, 2 Cody and 2 Gardiner which I felt allowed us to cover the whole park. I must admit most of our time was spent trawling for wildlife which was plentiful as it was the beginning of spring. we saw grizzly and brown bear, wolves, coyotes and of course many bison and elk.

During our 2005 trip the elk were in rut which was interesting and although we saw wolves we didn't see any bears.

Last year we spent 1 week in Glacier as part of a trip to Glacier, Waterton, Banff, Jasper and Yoho NP's.

Glacier is really beautiful and we split our time as 2 nights Rising Sun, 2 at Swiftcurrent and 2 on the west side, which again I felt allowed us to cover the whole park. Even though we don't hike and missed views from top of mountains the secenery is amazing.

I would advise a short trip to Waterton NP if at all possible whilst at Glacier.

Between Yellowstone and Glacier, Yellowstone is my favourite - for the wildlife - and I can't wait to return - hopefully next year.

Uden, The...
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7. Re: MT/ID/WY road trip: All suggestions welcome


Well we have done similar to what you are planning, also in september and yes, it was rather cold and we had snow on Logan Pass, on Beartooth Pass and even little snow in Yellowstone (beautiful!!)

We also stayed Whitefish, even 4 days. Not exactly Whitefish though but Big Mountain. That was a mistake. Big Mountain is a skiarea and too much driving to and fro. We should have stayed in Whitefish, a nice town. We made big trips around Glacier but that's of no interest to you.

I'd go Glacier first. Don't know how long you want to spend here but it's awesome. Esp. it's eastern side imo.

1. Whitefish-Glacier

2. Glacier

3. Glacier-Red Lodge. That's a long drive....

4. Red Lodge-Beartooth hw-Chief Joseph hw-Cody Don't miss Beartooth. Fantastic. Count on at least 4 hours from Red Lodge to Cody and the morning drive on Beartooth is great. You'll have the afternoon for Cody. Unfortunately (??) no rodeo's but the Buffalo Bill Museums never should be missed as mentioned before.

5. Into Yell via its east entrance

6,7: Yellowstone

8: Yellowstone and to GTNP (loved our Jackson stay)


10. Now we drove from GTNP to Craters of the Moon and on to Sun Valley and Stanley to Salmon where we stayed for the night. This prob will be a too long day but you can stay in Ketchum, Stanley or Challis before.

11. We visited Big Hole Nat Battlefield (not much to see though) to Missoula and on to Polson. Just south of Polson is Miracles of America Museum. Odd place esp if you play the piano. There's a nice hotel at Flathead Lake called Kwa TagNuk resort. A Best Western right by the lake with a good restaurant. The area is famous for its cherries but too late for you that time of year.

12. To Whitefish.

We didnot do this route in one go but on seperate visits but we've done all the mentioned drives in that area.

To be honest, not sure if I would add Craters of the Moon. It's quite a detour and maybe spend longer in Glacier or Yellowstone.


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8. Re: MT/ID/WY road trip: All suggestions welcome

Go to Glacier first! We left there August 18th and were stunned to read that it snowed buckets (closed the GTTS Road) the next day! MIDSummer!! But absolutely beautiful and we paid only $157 US for a lakefront room in the Many Glacier Hotel, which may be the most beautiful spot on earth.

Cabins in Lake Lodge are cheap and cheerful (tiny!) in Yellowstone and by Australian standards at least the food is cheap and good. The towns outside the park are too far to drive, and you will want to maximise in-park time.

On the way from Glacier to Yellowstone, consider a stop at Nevada City; it's a ghost town / museum owned by the state of Montana and fascinating. You will get accommodation there or nearby at Virginia City if you search via Google.

I am 63, did this trip and walked a lot at 61, going to SouthWest to do it all again next year. Trip report when you return please?

9. Re: MT/ID/WY road trip: All suggestions welcome

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