ENP 30 The Ultimate Family Road Trip: Yellowstone, Grand Teton and Glacier National Parks with Carter Walker
06/08/2020Moon Travel Guide writer Carter Walker.
Once-In-A-Lifetime AdventureEpic adventures require meticulous planning - and a trusted guidebook. Moon Guides, a perennial favorite for Everybody’s National Parks, has a catalog of thoroughly researched titles to popular destinations and roads less traveled. Moon Yellowstone to Glacier National Park Road Trip is no exception. Author Carter G. Walker joins Danielle with recommendations for planning a two-week expedition covering three of the country’s best-loved national parks: Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and Glacier.
But First...Pragmatic National Park PlanningPractical considerations form the foundation of this three-park extravaganza. Carter recommends giving everyone a say when it comes to must-see attractions then incorporating those “wish list” items into the final itinerary as best you can. Seasonal concerns, lodging availability, and vacation time constraints are just some of the details to iron out before any trip to a national park. When the timeline includes three parks with a combined yearly average of 11 million visitors, the latest apps, guides (such as Moon), and trail maps make planning ahead easier than ever before.
First up is Yellowstone National Park. For the purposes of this discussion, Carter suggests a Bozeman-to-Bozeman loop but she includes several additional gateway cities in her book. How long of a visit is up to you. “I love the idea of being able to spend three or four or five days or a week [at Yellowstone] and in each park,” Carter says. “That said, I understand people don't necessarily have three weeks to do something like this. So I think the ideal time is, is really whatever works for you and your schedule and your family.” Her ultimate tip for visiting Yellowstone’s top attractions sans crowds? Go at night! For example, set an alarm according to Old Faithful’s overnight eruption schedule (there’s an app for that). Or plan off-peak visits. Winter is prime time for enjoying cross country skiing, seasonally-dressed scenery, and rides by snowmobile or snow coach.
Yearning For Yellowstone
Shadows and clouds make art around the thermal features in Yellowstone. Photo © Tino Woodburn.
A Grand Tour Of Grand TetonThe town of Jackson Hole, WY offers year-round excitement and provides an excellent base from which to explore Grand Teton National Park. Popular hiking trails include Jenny Lake and Two Oceans Lake. Here again, Carter suggests avoiding summer high-season crowds, if possible, in favor of autumn’s fiery beauty. “I love Grand Teton in the fall because the colors are magnificent.” The route takes you back into Yellowstone via Mammoth Hot Springs and Paradise Valley. Points of interest include Saloon at Chico Hot Springs, a former boarding house that once attracted gold miners with its promise of hot water and fresh strawberries. Then it’s on to Rocky Mountain Front, winding through stunning scenery and thinly populated towns. Don’t miss O’Haire Motor Lodge, home to the Sip ‘n Dip Lounge and its nightly mermaid show.
Elevation gives hikers a bird's-eye view between Yellowstone and Glacier parks. Photo © Larry Holman.
Gorgeous GlacierLast but certainly not least is Glacier National Park. Flexibility is key when visiting Going-To-The-Sun road, the park’s scenic mountain pass. Enlist a park ranger for up-to-date shuttle information and possible alternatives as they’re your best resource for real-time intel. Additionally, Ranger programs offer something for every visitor regardless of age or interest. Nearby Glacier Institute is another option for outdoor education while the Museum of the Plains Indian in Browning, MT, showcases a rich collection of historic arts created by tribal people of the Northern Plains.
Back To The BeginningThe adventure ends back at Bozeman. If time allows, visit the nooks and crannies of the area. Wander around Whitefish, MT for your fine dining fix. Visit Chola, MT, home to the National Bison Range. Or spend the night in Seeley Swan Valley, a prime destination for year-round outdoor pursuits. Whatever your road trip profile, this Moon Guide is sure to help you make the most of your trip.
The Mission Mountains provide the backdrop at Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge. Photo © Carter G. Walker. This photo was taken south of Glacier, south of Flathead Lake, between Glacier and Missoula.
With the art museum in the background, a paddler tackles Brennan's Wave. Photo © Carter G. Walker. This photo was taken in Missoula, between Glacier and Yellowstone parks.Algae mats, water runoff and steam make for stunning pictures of the thermal features in Yellowstone Photo © Tino Woodburn.Three Forks. Natural features determine where the roads go in Montana and Wyoming. Photo © Larry Holman. This photo was taken near the town of Three Forks, just west of Bozeman. It would be on one route between Glacier and Yellowstone.
Discussion includes the following:[00:02] Introduction - Carter G. Walker, Moon Yellowstone to Glacier National Park Road Trip: Jackson Hole, the Grand Tetons & the Rocky Mountain Front (Travel Guide); Suggested additional reading Yellowstone Resources and Issues Handbook (updated yearly)
[01:48] Pandemic park travel planning plus additional Moon Guide resources by Carter G. Walker
[04:33] Time Travel: What’s the perfect amount of time to allot for your Yellowstone-to-Glacier road trip?
[06:20] Car rental tips: Montana’s gateway cities maximize your budget - Billings, Missoula, Great Falls
[07:53] Stocking up: Tips for buying road trip provisions in Jackson Hole (Grand Teton National Park), Bozeman, Livingston (Yellowstone National Park), and Great Falls, Kalispell, or Missoula (Glacier National Park)
[08:58] Let’s Go: An overview of your epic journey
[10:35] Beginning in Bozeman, MT: Tips and resources for your first days in Yellowstone, NPS Yellowstone app, recommended ENP episodes for Yellowstone 4.1 through 4.8, Mammoth Hot Springs, National Geographic May 2016, Upper Geyser Basin
[14:18] Seasonal timing for your trip and the Yellowstone winter snow coach
[15:58] Bozeman sightseeing
[16:46] On to Jackson Hole, WY: Daytrips to Grand Teton and things to do
[18:12] All about Grand Teton: Seasonal highlights and activities at Jenny Lake, Two Ocean Lake, Snake River, Jackson Lake
[21:03] Jackson Lake Lodge activities and its environs: Signal Mountain, Oxbow Bend, Elk Island, DuBois, WY, Moran Junction, Ocean Lake, Emma Matilda Lake
[22:45] Lodge booking tips
[23:13] Yellowstone’s east side: Canyon Village, Tower Junction/Roosevelt, Mammoth Hot Springs, Paradise Valley, Lamar Valley
[24:08] Paradise Valley area highlights:Gardiner, MT, Chico Hot Springs, Chico Saloon
[25:57] Rocky Mountain Front, MT to Great Falls, MT: Sluice Boxes State Park, Wishaw, MT, White Sulphur Springs, O’Haire Motor Inn and Sip 'n Dip Lounge, Piano Pat Spoonheim
[28:12] Browning, MT: Glacier Country activities and lodging: Museum of the Plains Indian, Blackfeet Nation
[29:03] Browning to Many Glacier highlights and camping resource
[31:32] Seasonal challenges: avoiding the crowds, backcountry safety, Highline trail
[34:04] Glacier National Park: Ranger-led programs and activities, St. Mary Visitor Center
[35:27] Glacier Institute programs and multi-day camps
[36:37] Everything you need to know about Going-To-The-Sun Road
[37:43] Lake McDonald Valley and Lake McDonald Lodge area highlights and activities
[39:28] Crowd control: Planning your Highline or Going-To-The-Sun hikes including shuttle tips
[42:19] Lake McDonald to Whitefish, MT: Activities and lodging in nearby Essex, MT at Izaak Walton Inn
[43:28] Ending the trip in Bozeman: Flathead Lake, Jewel Basin, National Bison Range, Missoula, MT, Mission Mountains, Flathead Indian Reservation, Seeley Swan Valley, Helena, MT
Thank you to Moon Travel Guides for sponsoring this episode.
Connect & SubscribeYou can find Everybody’s National Parks podcast on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, and tag #everybodysnationalparks. Make sure to subscribe to Everybody’s National Parks wherever you get your podcasts, so you’ll never miss an episode.
Send us your stories, tips or comments to Hello at everybodynps.com you can write us a message or even record a short voice memo on your phone, and then attach it to the email. You may be featured on an upcoming episode.
If you like the show, become a patron to support the show.
Most of all, enjoy exploring the national parks with your family.