An Out-West staple, Yellowstone to Glacier National Park is a popular road trip for visitors wanting to see all Montana has to offer. Montana is the 4th largest state in size and the 4th least populated state! This means lots of wide open spaces in the Big Sky State. Although there is a lot of nature and mountains to be seen the Montana’s National Parks, the road trip between these two tourist hot spots is also very enjoyable.
I have been to Montana more times than I can count. I have lots of family there, which makes it easy for yearly trips. Over the years, I’ve had lots of time to drive from Yellowstone to Glacier National Park, as well as explore the small towns in depth. Let me tell you, it’s one of my favorite places in the world!
In this post, you’ll learn about all the best stops to take from Yellowstone to Glacier National Park. From the capital city to hidden small towns, and awesome downtowns, there is something for everyone on this road trip. Plus, I’ll answer some FAQs and give insider tips all about Montana! Let’s get started!
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ULTIMATE GUIDE TO YELLOWSTONE TO GLACIER NATIONAL PARK ROAD TRIP
Overview of Yellowstone to Glacier National Park Road Trip
Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park are two of the most popular and beautiful national parks. These national parks are on many travelers’ bucket lists and are both in Montana. This makes it super easy to create an epic road trip between the national parks!
Yellowstone National Park is one of a kind and is famous for its abundance of wildlife and unique geysers and hot springs. On the contrary, Glacier National Park is famous for its scenic driving and jaw-dropping beautiful views. Combining these together makes for an incredible Out West road trip.
A Yellowstone to Glacier National Park road trip (or vice versa) is the best road trip you can take in America. I absolutely love the wide open roads in Montana, endless mountain views, and slow-paced life here.
So, without further ado, let’s get started with the ultimate road trip guide from Yellowstone to Glacier National Park!
There are two main entrances to Yellowstone National Park in Montana, West Yellowstone and Gardiner. Both of these towns are popular spots for tourists staying in Yellowstone. So, this guide will take you to the best stopping points from each of these towns to West Glacier National Park.
Both routes are absolutely gorgeous with plenty of stopping points. The closer you get to Glacier National Park, the more grand and beautiful the views become. I have driven both of the routes, and I think both are really great. You’ll want to choose your route based on where your accommodation is in Yellowstone National Park.
Best Road Trip Route From West Yellowstone to Glacier National Park
This road trip itinerary from Yellowstone to Glacier National Park takes you to all the best stops along the way. Ideally, you have between 1-3 days to complete this route. So let’s get into the places worth stopping.
Stop 1: Butte
The first stop from Yellowstone to Glacier National Park is Butte, Montana. Butte is just under a 2.5-hour drive from West Yellowstone.
Butte is a small Montana town known for its mining. Right off I-90 you immediately see the massive mining fields here. While in Butte, consider heading to Montana Tech University to take the Butte Underground Mine Tour. On this tour, you’ll get to walk inside a retired mine wearing hard helmets.
I did this tour and had a lot of fun on it! I was pleasantly surprised with the amount of information and how interesting I found it all!
To participate in the Butte Underground Mine Tour, you can buy your tickets in advance here.
Outside the mine tour, Butte Montana is a local town with a small downtown area for you to grab food or coffee.
Stop 2: Missoula
Missoula is the next town you will pass from Yellowstone to Glacier National Park. It’s another 1 hour and 45 minute drive on I-90. Between Butte and Missoula, you’ll pass through a few other very small towns, that may be worth a stop to get gas or stretch your legs.
Missoula, Montana is known as a college town, as it’s home to the University of Montana! This Division 1 school has just over 10,000 undergraduate students in attendance. While in Missoula, you’ll be able to find lots of hip cafes and bars, museums, and beautiful mountain views.
This is a great stop to grab a bite to eat. Missoula is a very walkable city, so you can park anywhere in the downtown area and be close to your destination.
Stop 3: Flathead Lake
Another 1 hour and 15 minute drive from Missoula, you’ll find Flathead Lake. At this point, you’ll be off I-90 and on Highway 93.
Flathead Lake is the largest freshwater body of water west of the Mississippi River. This lake hugs Highway 35 and offers some pretty breathtaking views on your way to Glacier National Park.
While here, stop in one of the small towns and take in the views of the lake. Flathead Lake offers many fun activities in the summer such as sailing, swimming, waterskiing, picnicking, and camping. Finley Point is one of my favorite stopping points here!
This is a great spot to camp between Yellowstone and Glacier National Park.
Stop 4: Whitefish
Making our way to Glacier National Park, Whitefish is an incredible stop! Whitefish, Montana is close to the entrance of West Glacier National Park. Here, you can hang out by Whitefish Lake, hike, and explore the downtown.
In the summer months, many tourists use Whitefish as a base for exploring Glacier National Park. Although it is still about a 45-60-minute drive from the entrance to Glacier National Park, it’s a good spot with hotels and plenty of food.
Stop 5: West Glacier
Of course, near the entrance of Glacier National Park, you’ll find West Glacier. West Glacier is essentially a small town at the base of the national park. This is an awesome spot to stop for last-minute snacks, souvenirs, or relax because once you enter Glacier you’ll be driving the beautiful roads inside.
This is also a perfect base for your Glacier National Park trip. However, staying here is competitive and pricey because of its perfect location.
Best Road Trip Route From Gardiner Yellowstone to Glacier National Park
Gardiner, MT is located at the north entrance/exit to Yellowstone National Park. It’s a decent-sized town that is used as a gateway to the national park. If you are visiting Yellowstone, consider staying here to be close to Mammoth Hot Springs.
Driving from Gardiner, MT to West Glacier National Park takes you on a different route to be the most efficient. Let’s get into the best places to stop from Gardiner Yellowstone to Glacier National Park!
Stop 1: Bozeman
Another university town in Montana, Bozeman is known as the gateway to Yellowstone National Park. This is the closest airport to Yellowstone and because of this, the town is growing.
From Gardiner, MT Bozeman is an hour and 15 minute drive. This drive is really easy through the vast mountains in Montana.
Bozeman is an awesome spot to load up on snacks, have lunch, or visit a museum. The Musem of the Rockies is here, and it’s one of the best things to do in all of Montana! This world-class museum has lots of dinosaur fossils, a planetarium, and more. If you have time on your road trip, seriously consider checking this museum out.
Stop 2: Three Forks
Three Forks, Montana is a very small town with big historical significance. It’s where the Jefferson, Gallatin, and Madison rivers converge to make the Missouri River. This area is well documented during Lewis and Clark’s expedition in the early 1800s. There’s signage for it to learn all about it as well!
Three Forks is a good spot for a picnic outside. You can even play in the river here. My family has been in Montana for many generations, and they even said you can find Native American spear stones here too!
Stop 3: Helena
The capital city of Montana, Helena, is exactly the halfway point from Yellowstone to Glacier National Park. I’m definitely very biased, but this city is worth a stop!
I have family in Helena and have spent a lot of time here over the years. I’ve even put together multiple guides about what to do here!
Helena is a great halfway point to sleep in during this road trip. There are lots of hotels, a cute and walkable downtown, and plenty of hiking in the area. You can visit the capital, take a train tour the city, and ride down the famous Missouri River in the Gates of the Mountains boat tour.
Helena has a classic Montana charm, which makes it a great halfway point.
Stop 4: Seeley Lake
Another 1 hour and 45 minute drive from Helena is Seeley Lake. This beautiful Montana lake is the local’s hidden gem, but also makes for a great stopping point. Here, there’s a small downtime, ice cream shops, and a couple of hikes around.
While here, I recommend stopping for a snack or a quick leg stretch. You can park and easily walk to the lake and enjoy the views.
Stop 5: Bigfork/ Flathead Lake
Bigfork, Montana is the city at the northern point of Flathead Lake. As previously mentioned, Flathead Lake is the largest freshwater body of water west of the Mississippi River! It’s beautiful and offers stunning views, lots of outdoor activities, and the cute town of Bigfork.
While in Bigfork, you can head into the Wayfarers/Flathead Lake State Park. This is a nice spot to just be in nature and take in the views.
Stop 6: Kalispell
The biggest city closest to Glacier National Park, Kalispell is home to an airport, lots of restaurants and hotels, and accommodates many visitors wanting to see Glacier National Park. I absolutely loved my visit to Kalispell and would recommend staying here if you want a nice hotel during your Glacier National Park visit.
It’s the best place to go to the grocery store and get food for your trip. However, it is at least a 45-minute drive from here to the entrance of Glacier National Park.
If you are not staying in Kalispell, it’s still a cute town to stop in to go shopping, get souvenirs, and more.
Stop 7: West Glacier
Finish off your road trip at West Glacier! As previously mentioned, West Glacier is the stop right at the entrance of Glacier National Park. Here is your last chance to stock up on snacks and get gas for your car before you head inside. For this reason, it does get very crowded.
That’s why I recommend you stop in Kalispell to do those maintenance tasks because West Glacier has become very busy. But, if you can score a hotel room here, consider yourself lucky! This is an awesome place to stay during your trip to Glacier National Park.
How Far is Yellowstone to Glacier National Park?
Yellowstone to Glacier National Park is between a 6-7 hour drive. There are many entrances to Yellowstone and two different entrances to Glacier National Park.
The quickest drive between Yellowstone and Glacier National Park is 6 hours, and it’s from West Yellowstone to East Glacier. Although this is the fastest, it’s not the most popular route.
Many people visiting Glacier National Park are staying at West Glacier. West Glacier is where the majority of accommodations are and it’s home to the local airport, Kalispell. So, the drive between Yellowstone and West Glacier National Park is 6 hours and 40 minutes.
How to Get from Glacier National Park to Yellowstone
To get from Glacier National Park to Yellowstone there are a few different driving options.
The scenic route between Glacier National Park and Yellowstone is on Interstate 90 to Missoula. You’ll want to drive by Flathead Lake to make the most of the road trip. This lake is gorgeous and worth stopping at if you have the time.
Another popular route is to drive through Helena and Bozeman. Both of these Montana cities are great stopping points and have a lot of fun things to do in them.
Where To Stay Between Glacier National Park and Yellowstone
If you are looking for hotel accommodations between Glacier National Park and Yellowstone, you’ll want to look at the bigger cities in Montana. Montana has the 4th smallest population in America, and the 4th biggest in size. This means the cities are spread out and not very big.
The best places to stay between Glacier National Park and Yellowstone are Helena and Missoula. Both of these cities are sizable and accommodate travelers. These are especially good if you need a hotel for the night, as there are many in both cities.
Outside of there being a lot of hotels, each of these cities is about the halfway point between Glacier National Park and Yellowstone, which makes it a good stopping point. There are also lots of things to do here, that can extend your stay and make it worthwhile.
How Big is Glacier National Park compared to Yellowstone?
Glacier National Park is substantially smaller than Yellowstone National Park. It’s less than half the size of Yellowstone! Although Glacier is significantly smaller, it still has 700 miles of hiking trails. It’s very easy to spend 4 days or more just in Glacier National Park.
Yellowstone National Park has more hiking trails than Glacier, with over 1,100 miles of trails, but the trails are more spread out. Yellowstone is famous for how big it is, so there can be a lot of driving between hiking trails and points of interest.
Glacier is smaller but still has plenty to do, which means there is less driving between hikes and other points of interest. This is one of the reasons I really love this park. Less driving means more time outside, but there are also more people around because there is less space to spread out.
How Many Days Does It Take To Drive From Yellowstone to Glacier National Park
The drive from Yellowstone to Glacier National Park takes between 6-7 hours depending on the route you take and what entrances you drive between.
If you don’t want to stop all that much, you can easily complete this drive in 1 day with a quick stop for lunch and small activity. However, if you want to enjoy the road trip and see the small towns in between, 1-4 days is ideal for this route.
Although the national parks are the star of the road trip, the stopping points along the way are very fun and allow you to see the less touristy side of Montana.
If you only have a one-week vacation to complete Yellowstone and Glacier National Park, I would spend 2 days on the drive, 3 days in Yellowstone, and 2 days in Glacier National Park.
Allowing 2 days for the drive is the perfect amount of time to be efficient in your drive time while also allowing you some good hikes and fun activities along the way.
Best Time To Go On a Road Trip From Yellowstone to Glacier National Park
The best time of year to go on a road trip from Yellowstone to Glacier National Park is between late May and early September. May and September are the shoulder seasons when snow starts becoming more prevalent. Especially in Glacier, snow will shut down most of the park very quickly because the roads become too dangerous to drive.
Visiting June-August guarantees the parks will be open and the drive will be easy and accessible. This time of year is also the hottest and has the nicest weather to spend outdoors.
Late September to May you’ll find that the national parks are closed due to snow or you may need a permit to enter. Also, during these months the roads become more dangerous to drive. However, if you do travel here during the winter months, there are lots of fun skiing and winter sports to do in this region.
Best Places to Stop Between Yellowstone and Glacier National Park
Although I have gone through each stop on both routes between Yellowstone and Glacier in-depth, here are the highlights of the best places to stop between Yellowstone and Glacier National Park.
- Bozeman – A larger-sized university town near Yellowstone National Park. Here you’ll find plenty of interesting museums, restaurants, and things to do.
- Helena – The capital of Montana that is exactly the halfway point between the two parks. Stop here for a glimpse of local and less touristy life in Montana. But, there is plenty of things to do here like visiting the capital, historic mansions, and hiking.
- Butte – Close to Helena you’ll find the mining city of Butte. This small town is worth stopping in if you are interested in a mining tour.
- Missoula – Home to the University of Montana, Missoula has plenty to do and is a good spot for food.
- Flathead Lake – A beautiful lake with plenty of infrastructure to make your stop more comfortable. It’s closer to Glacier National Park and offers a stunning scenic drive.
- Kalispell – The largest town closest to Glacier National Park. Use this city as a place to stock up on groceries or have a nice restaurant meal while in Glacier
Things To Do in Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park is one of the most beautiful parks in all of America! It’s souring mountain peaks, untouched nature, and sparking blue water is world-class. If you are visiting Glacier National Park, here are my must-dos.
- Lake McDonald – At the entrance of West Yellowstone, you’ll find this massive beautiful lake. Here you can take a scenic boat ride or get out on some kayaks.
- Hidden Overlook Trail – One of my favorite hikes at the height of Logan’s Pass. This is an easy trail with a stunning view
- Sun Point Nature Trail – A hidden gem in the park that’s not to be skipped, this little trail is an easy walk that rewards you with insane views. Visit here for beautiful pictures of the lake
- Avalanche Lake Trail – This popular trail transports you to the pacific north west. It’s really different than the rest of the park in terms of vegetation, and definitely worth the hike.
Things To Do in Yellowstone National Park
The original national park, Yellowstone National Park is famous for its wildlife, geysers, and wide open spaces. Here are my favorite things to do in Yellowstone National Park.
- Old Faithful – Of course, Old Faithful is at the top of this list. This predictable geyser erupts multiple times a day, making it easy for visitors to see.
- Mammoth Hot Springs – These famous hot springs are very unique and cool to see. Located at the north entrance of Yellowstone, this is an easy stop to make right along the road.
- Grand Prismatic Spring – a beautiful spring erupting in colors. This spring is my favorite thing to see in Yellowstone and unlike anything else in the world.
What To Pack for Yellowstone and Glacier National Park
When packing for this trip, there are a few essentials you need. Here are my tips on what to pack on a Yellowstone to Glacier National Park road trip.
- Hiking boots – It goes without saying, you’ll need these! If you plan on hiking, you’ll want to have these around.
- Bear spray – Bear spray is essential to have in these national parks and on road trips. Montana, in many ways, is the wild west. The untouched land has many animals freely roaming. Keep bear spray on you at all times.
- Toilet Paper – Along the road, many gas stations with facilities can be very spread out. Toilet paper is nice to have in your car in case of emergencies, but also to used as a napkin.
- Coat and Layers – If you are visiting during the summer, it can be home. But because of the elevation, it does get chilly at night, year-round. Pack some layers because the temperatures are unpredictable
Yellowstone to Glacier National Park is an epic out-west road trip that I would recommend to everyone. Both national parks offer something different and unique. There are also lots of great stops to make along the drive between them. You’ll have an incredible time driving from Yellowstone to Glacier National Park!