Use this link to get you up to $40 off your stay of $75 or more! www.airbnb.com/c/asampson36
NOTE: if you’re driving to these parks, I highly recommend you take bear/pepper spray with you and have on your person at all time, especially while hiking. Just be smart. Tetons has the largest bear “problem” of all of the parks.
GLACIER NATIONAL PARK
- Make sure you drive the entire “Going to the Sun” road forward and back. Stop at EVERY overlook on the “Going to the Sun” road that you can. My favorite overlooks are the one near St. Mary’s Lake (Wild Goose Island) and as you descend on the east side, there is one right after you go through a small covered tunnel in the mountain. Stop and look behind you!!!!
- Don’t take the road around the south of the park… unless you have to. Why? Because it’s long and anticlimactic compared to the inside of the park.
Really Good Websites to Help Plan:
If you’re with someone over 62, make them buy this!
Here is a blog/wiki I wrote a year or so ago:
http://koa.com/campgrounds/whitefish/ or https://koa.com/campgrounds/whitefish/site-type/cabin-accommodations/
I also LOVED staying at the West Glacier RV Park & Cabins. I camped there for around 4-5 nights with no issues!
$30 to get in per car.
A good map: http://www.nps.gov/hfc/carto/PDF/GLACmap1.pdf
Good ideas: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attractions-g143026-Activities-Glacier_National_Park_Montana.html
Drive the Going to the Sun road. Start early, when the visitor centers open. This drive will take all day! Stop here:
- All the visitor centers.
Make sure to get some photos of the Lake McDonald AND take the EASY paved trail hike: Trail of the Cedars. Both will be easy to spot on the map. Lake McDonald has beautiful colored rocks. Make sure to head down to the water and dip your feet in for a bit.
- Logan Pass is at the top of the road. Parking is VERY crowded. You can also take the shuttle, but don’t do this unless you know your plan for the day. Watch for goats! http://www.nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/loganpass.htm
- Go on some hikes:
Overall hikes site by location: http://www.hikinginglacier.com/glacier-national-park-trails.htm
Don’t miss this! It’s easy, takes 1-2 hours, and WORTH the view at the end! Hidden Lake Overlook Trail (at the top at Logan Pass). One of my fav hikes! During the day it’s clear blue. At sunset, the overlook is unreal. Both are dramatically different.
Beautiful. Trail of the Cedars (West side of park). Beautiful and easy walk/hike.
Highly recommended. Grinnell Glacier Hike (lots of people love this longer, but easy hike)
I like the Highline Trail Loop. It’s SUPER LONG, so make sure you know where you’re going and when you are coming back. http://www.hikinginglacier.com/highline-loop.htm
- On your way down the pass, make sure you stop just after the tunnels and take photos looking BEHIND YOU from where you came. Amazing!
- You’ll be driving along St. Mary’s Lake. There is a little stop on the right (south) that usually isn’t marked on the map. you’ll see the famous view of the Wild Goose Island. It’s halfway down the mountain towards the St. Mary’s Visitor Center. There are small pull offs. Don’t miss this stop!
- Drive up to Many Glacier. Lots of little hikes near there. Take one if you have the time!
- To get BACK to the other side of the park you have to drive through the Going to the Sun or drive around the south side of the park (not that exciting). I would just stay the night somewhere outside the park or try to make it to Great Falls (east of the park).
- Canoe on Lake McDonald.
- If you have a passport, go up to the Waterton-Glacier Canada side. It’s much quieter! I like the road to the canyon. Here is a list of hikes: http://www.hikinginglacier.com/waterton-lakes-national-park-canada.htm
- Take a boat tour! I did the Two Medicine boat trip and hike. LOVED IT. Get tickets in advance. http://glacierparkboats.com/
If you’re going to drive 2000 miles to Montana, might as well go to Canada! This side is less crowded and stunning.
- Red Rock Canyon – really really pretty!
Not really a hike, Red Rock Canyon is a must –see when in Waterton. It is a 14km drive from the parks main road and offers parking. The red of the rock along with the clear mountain stream are one of Waterton’s most stunning attractions.
Bears Hump and Red Canyon areas: http://www.mywaterton.ca/TheBearsHump.cfm
- Short but worth the view:
- Prince of Wales Hotel.
I did stay here, and it’s worth a night’s stay! Expensive. If you’re not staying the night, at least drop by and walk inside and around the grounds. The hotel is beautiful.
- Goat Haunt.
Didn’t do, but wish I did:
Out past the park:
- Head over to Libby to see the Kootenai river. Some good fishing there I hear. http://www.libbymt.com/areaattractions/kootenairiver.htm
- South of the park is Flathead Lake. Lots to do and very big and beautiful. Here is a link to all sorts of things to do there. Summertime brings fresh cherries! http://www.fcvb.org/flathead-lake-montana.php
- Fly fishing. This is a MUST in Montana! I was a little biased because I chose a guide I went to college with. I can’t recommend Grizzly Hackle out of Missoula, Montana enough! I was an amateur when I started and felt like an expert caster when I left. https://grizzlyhackle.com/
Here are some places you may see! http://amysampsonphotography.wordpress.com/the-glacier-national-park-collection/
DON’T MISS: Anything Huckleberry! My personal fav is a huckleberry shake. Make sure you have one on the trip! Most ice cream places have them. A “light” take is to get ice cream with huckleberry topping.
Huckleberry soda and pancakes are delicious, too.
Park website: https://www.nps.gov/yell/index.htm
Maps and brochures to take: https://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/brochures.htm
A good map of the park: http://www.nps.gov/hfc/carto/PDF/YELLmap1.pdf
$25 to get in per car
DO NOT expect good phone reception in this park. It comes and goes. There is a pay phone and I had to use it. Make sure to have change or a calling card if you think you may need it.
Good summary of information about your trip: http://www.crazyfamilyadventure.com/preparing-for-your-yellowstone-vacation/
Yellowstone is HUGE. Make sure you decide in advance which places you want to see. Look at images on google images to get a better “picture” of what you want to see.
- Yellowstone National Park Trip Planner (1 MB PDF)
- NPS Yellowstone National Park app
- Official Park Newspaper: Seasonal park information and activity schedules.
- Backcountry Trip Planner: The most important publication for anyone planning to camp in the backcountry.
- Beyond Roads End (618 k PDF): Regulations and guidelines for backcountry travel in Yellowstone.
- Official Park Map (large PDF, Adobe Illustrator, JPEG, and small HTML maps)
- Translated Visitor Information
FOR THE FAMILY:
- Make sure to stop at the visitor’s’ centers and get a Jr. Ranger program info.
- Buy a National Parks Passport book.
- Find out what the daily Ranger Programs are. Ranger talks, guided hikes, and other activities are a great way to explore the park!
TOP THINGS TO SEE:
- Old Faithful – make sure to know the times it goes off and arrive early to get a good parking place.
- Canyon Village (Upper and Lower Falls). I THINK these are prettier in the morn/afternoon. Make sure to hit up Artist’s Point.
- Mammoth Hot Springs – beautiful
- Grand Prismatic Spring is cool, but really difficult to see (most of the cool photos are taken from airplanes). Has a neat boardwalk worth stopping to walk on, though!
- Morning Glory Pool – small and pretty
- Fountain Paint Pots Trail – short and worth the stop
- Wildlife – the buffalo will stop you! You may see bears! Lamar Valley is a perfect spot for animals.
- Take a dip in the Boiling River http://www.yellowstonepark.com/swim-yellowstones-boiling-river/
- Norris Geyser Basin and Steamboat Geyser (the world’s largest!)
- Little Gibbon Falls
- Uncle Tom’s Trail (Super strenuous, semi-dangerous. I wouldn’t take young kids on this.)
- Geyser Hill Area
- Pelican Creek Loop
- Lamar River Trail
Really, just meander through the park and stop as often as you see something! The park is so diverse from area to area.
GENERAL INFO ABOUT THE PARK:
- You can stay or eat here: http://www.signalmountainlodge.com/ They have huckleberry margaritas!
TOP THINGS TO SEE & DO:
- If you have bikes, take your bike. Cycling here is sublime. You can also rent bikes at various places.
- By far the coolest excursion in the Tetons is to float down the Snake River. Make a reservation early. There are various outfitters. Here is one: http://www.signalmountainlodge.com/lodge-services/snakeriver
- Take a photo of this place at sunrise: Antelope Flats Rd, Moose, WY 83012
- Death Canyon Trailhead. Short hike to the overlook. Hike further for more views.
- Jenny Lake Area. Take a boat to get across and hike at Inspiration Point and Hidden Falls. Some of the most beautiful areas of the park.