Making the Most of a Yellowstone and Glacier Road Trip
The key to the best road trips is balance. You must strategically plan the drives and the fun, the hikes and the adventures. Like many families who want to explore the national parks of Yellowstone and Glacier, we put great effort into orchestrating the pieces that everyone wants to access like glamping, thrill seeking, ranch life and animal viewing. Flights and car rentals to this area of the world sell out months in advance, so get your flights and cars sorted out early when planning your road trip!
The Fora Difference
Book with Karen to access exclusive perks and experiences on your trip.
Free upgrades, spa credits and more—we got you
Customized travel planning for your style
Expert advice from people who’ve actually been there
Where to stay in Yellowstone & Glacier National Park
Under Canvas West Yellowstone
Located just 10 minutes from the primary Yellowstone entrance, this safari-inspired tent accommodation offers uninterrupted views of Montana’s picturesque landscape.
Upscale resort along the Yellowstone River with sleek rooms and cabins.
$100 food / beverage credit.
Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.
3 Spear Ranch
Nestled on 1,200 acres in Wyoming, this boutique ranch and resort offers cabins, dining and custom outdoor adventures.
Unlock perks by contacting Karen to book your trip.
Things to do in Yellowstone & Glacier National Park
Yellowstone, Grand Teton and Glacier are a day's drive from each other, so it is a strong strategy to fly into one and out of the other.
We found three key pieces to be key in making the stay at these parks special:
Pick the right trails: Choose hikes that fit the family, but don't burn them out. There are so many hiking trails to do it can get overwhelming and we've seen some families try to do too much, burning out the enthusiasm along the way. We do recommend securing bear spray for any hiking that is taking place off the populated boardwalk paths. Better safe than sorry.
Treat it like a domestic safari and hire a guide: The families that see the most wildlife, baby wolves, bears, moose families, along with the proverbial bison, have one thing in common: a guide! Guides know the off the beaten path places to see wildlife, getting sightings that are nearly impossible without lottery type luck. All tours usually start at daybreak or sunset, but for the families wanting to ensure they see it all, a night's stay in the Lamar Valley gives your guide two days to show you the animals. We hit the Yellowstone big five on our very first trip (wolf, bear, moose, elk, and bison, making it a double, plus babies from every species).
Opt out of park lodging: There is no cell service in the park. The lodges are older and they provide the only dining options. For many, a short drive outside gives you the chance to stay at a luxurious river lodge, or try glamping among the stars. Many times, these little respites provide the needed break from the park life, allowing families a day in between park visits to recharge, connect and relax.
Mix the Parks with a City Visit
Jackson Hole, Big Sky and Whitefish are small towns with super amenities. In every perfect national park trip, we suggest adding a stay in one of these towns. Activities can vary; everything from the charming and exciting Bozeman Rodeo to the opportunity to bike off the lifts in either Big Sky or Whitefish. All towns have good shopping, restaurants and hotels with pools, giving families a chance to rest and relax. A road trip still needs to feel like a vacation.
Add in a Dude Ranch
Our favorite way to start or end a trip West is with a few days on a dude ranch. While many properties do require a full week, we have a list of lodges around the parks where you can try it out for a shorter stay. Kids will love meeting the horses, learning wrangling skills and parents like the break from being the social chair. A dude ranch experience is fun for all ages and can offer the chance to add in fly fishing, archery or even learning to drive an ATV. Love Yellowstone? We can help you with a stay on a ranch so you can have your Beth and Rip moment.
Get Your Adrenalin on
Zip lines, via ferrata, white water rafting: everything is possible for the adventurous. The endless outdoor pursuits will leave every family member checking off a bucket list item.
Have someone with special needs?Those using wheelchairs, living with neuro difference or with vision impairments can take part in adaptive activities, including seated paragliding, biking and adaptive horseback riding.
A special tip for those looking for accessibility: The National Ability Center is located in Park City and offers adaptive activities for veterans and participants of all ages. Check out all the snow and summer sports offered. We can help you find the just right activity.
Extend Your Trip
Looking to add in a few more days to the experience or finding flights and car rentals are not available? Start or end your trip in Salt Lake City! The Salt Lake City area has a slew of exciting activities. Consider visiting Bear Lake, called the Caribbean Lake of the West. Or set out for Park City, reserving a condo or hotel packed with activities no matter what season.
Every family should try the magic of the West at least once. Balancing the activities is the secret sauce.
Places to eat & drink in Yellowstone & Glacier National Park
Jackson Hole Area
Breakfast: West you will find no shortage of bespoke, drive through coffee shops, something I think we need way more of along the east coast. For breakfast, there is only one standout option: the breakfast burrito. Jackson Hole had many options, my favorites being Creekside Market and Deli (also fantastic sandwiches) and Cowboy Coffee Company.
Dinner: For wine and tapas downtown Jackson, check out Bin22. There you can explore different seasonal tapas with a wonderful wine list. It is the perfect stop before grabbing a seat at the saddle bar at Million Dollar Cowboy Bar.
If views are your vibe, try taking the gondola to the top of the Jackson Village mountain and having drinks at The Deck at Piste. Call ahead in the warmer months as it is sometimes taken over for private events.
If you make your way to West Yellowstone (especially if you are staying at Under Canvas) do not miss the dive BBQ joint that you pick up behind the gas station. Firehole BBQ will have you licking your fingers and you can take back the family sized meal to enjoy with live music at the tented ranch. Perfection!
For breakfast, try Bear Country Bakery and enjoy sweet treats and quiches, along with great coffee to be fueled up for the day.
Montana/Glacier National Park
It takes a while to drive into Glacier National Park, and your best dining options will likely be in Whitefish. Remember that during tourist season waits can be long, so try to make reservations and call ahead if you can.
Our best pics for dining in Whitefish include Amazing Crepes for a casual meal.
For a more hearty dining experience, try Trupelo Grill, with the hint of New Orleans Cajun cuisine, perfect for both hot and cold nights.
Within the park, you can get food at the various hotels, but be prepared to wait alongside tour buses, so it is probably best to pack a picnic and bring it with you.
Need to Know
For more travel tips, check out Fora's guide, Family Travel to Jackson Hole and Yellowstone.
Get in touch with Karen
Did you like this guide? Reach out to customize and book your own experience. Or, just to chat about travel in general.
You can normally expect a response from Karen within a business day or so. You'll also be subscribed to our travel newsletter (you can unsubscribe at any time).
This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Montana.