Craig and I are not really “sit around a resort” type of people. And don’t think I’m saying that in a bragging manner, I WISH we were resort type of people because we tend to run ourselves ragged on every vacation. But alas that is the man I married, and apparently I’m stuck with him for life. For our honeymoon, we wanted to do something uniquely “us”, so we planned a non-stop road trip through the beautiful vast landscape of Wyoming and Montana, checking off 2 new states and 3 new national parks (this is very important to our relationship; we often list off the states and parks we’ve been to as if we’re presidential candidates gaining territory. Hence why we married each other– because no one else would have). Here’s how we broke down our epic highway honeymoon–
Day 1: Butte to North Yellowstone
We flew into Butte (lol) instead of the other nearby airports because it was HELLA CHEAPER– like hundreds of dollars cheaper, so be sure to do your research (see Travel Tips at the end of this post), and drove about two and a half hours to the North Entrance of Yellowstone. Yellowstone has a huge figure-8 shaped loop that hits all the best parts of the park, so it’s worth looking at their website to figure out what you absolutely want to see, and then plan your route accordingly. Keep in mind it takes about 4-5 hours to drive/sightsee/stop for buffalo, and the roads are not fun to drive on when it’s dark.
- Hayden Valley (Buffalo Galore!!!)
- Grand Canyon of Yellowstone (arguably my favorite sight throughout the park)
- Mammoth Hot Springs (the hotel is also worth checking out for the Map Room!)
- West Thumb (cool geyser basin with boardwalk)
If You Have Time
- Blacktail Plateau Drive (small dirt road, cannot accommodate RVs)
- Lamar Valley (cool buffalo watching spot, rare wolf sightings)
Day 2: Grand Tetons & Jackson
The next stay, we turned our attention to the smaller, but equally-if-not-more impressive and beautiful Grand Tetons National Park, about 2 hours south of the South Entrance of Yellowstone near Jackson, Wyoming. It rained during our scenic float tour from TriangleX, but the Snake River is an amazing way to see all of the landscape, and about 29 bald eagles. As the weather cleared, we drove the 42 mile scenic loop road, then stopped to hike to Hidden Falls, a moderate but extremely gorgeous 3.5 mile round trip hike (there is a shorter version if you take the ferry, but going through Cascade Canyon is unbeatable!)
Hungry and in need of a beer, we headed to the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar in Jackson, Wyoming. Then I got into a giant fight with Craig because he wouldn’t two-step with me, all because he didn’t feel cowboy enough compared to the obvious regular who didn’t leave the dance floor all night.
Day 3: Grand Tetons to West Yellowstone
We headed back the next day to conquer the other half of Yellowstone, Geyser County. In the lobby of the Visitor Center is a timetable for all the geysers in the area, and if you’re spending a whole day here, use this to plan your hiking. Old Faithful isn’t the most impressive in the park, but you will definitely see a geyser blow, and also 80,000 people watching the geyser blow. From there, you can walk around the boardwalk through all of the vents for the world’s largest underground super volcano and think about the documentary you watched that said when Yellowstone blows, we’re all doomed…
- Old Faithful (duh.)
- Upper Geyser Basin (directly near Old Faithful, good chances of seeing geysers)
- Grand Prismatic (hike to Fairy Falls for a spectacular elevated view)
- Boiling River (usually PACKED, but the only place you can legally get in the water in the park…bring a bathing suit, towel and water shoes!)
If You Have Time:
- Shoshone Lake (an 8,000 acre lake in the middle of the park)
- Midway and Lower Geyser Basins (less impressive than the Upper Geyser, but still worth a visit if you have the time)
- Artists Paint Pots (an easy nearby 1 mile round trip hike with minimal elevation change)
- Norris Geyser (2.25 mile round trip hike through sporadic geysers)
Day 4: Livingston to Helena
After staying in the most awesome Air BnB compound of tiny homes, we headed to Livingston, Montana as we began our road trip up to the Crown of the Continent. This is a non-negotiable, you MUST go to this town to shop at High Trash Boutique, have dinner at 2nd Street Bistro and a beer at Katabatic Brewing. A railway town that served as the gateway to Yellowstone during it’s expansion, the mixture of old facilities and architecture, and modern artistic vibes gives the town a truly unique atmosphere.
Day 5: Helena to Glacier Nat’l Park
We chose the capitol of Helena as a halfway point on our journey, and followed the path of Lewis and Clark’s western exploration on the Gates of the Mountain boat tour. The captain was weird AF and as usual we were the youngest people without children on the tour, but I LOVE HISTORY so I found it fascinating.
The last farmer’s market of the season was happening downtown, filled with local goodies and food trucks. Make a stop in Parrot’s Confectionary, go see Reeder’s Alley, drive by the Capitol Building and DEFINITELY get a beer at Lewis & Clark Brewing Company (just don’t get stung by a bee like I did and smash your phone on the ground).
Day 6: Glacier
Unfortunately, the entire West End of Glacier was on fire, so we had to readjust our trip a bit. Our genius government environmental team explained that the forest fires were happening because there are too many trees, but neglected to mention that there are too many trees because climate change has caused over half of the glaciers in the park to melt and produce forests…but anyway… We circumvented Going to the Sun Roads closures and drove to the less-visited East End of the park to explore Many Glacier, then took a ferry and hiked through bear country to the glacier that has melted significantly in the past decade, which makes you really appreciate the opportunity you have to see it while it’s still there. We drove as much of Going to the Sun Road as was possible with the closures, and my ending thought was…
SAVE THE PLANET PEOPLE! In all seriousness, Glacier National Park is a very special place that might not be around for our children or grandchildren to enjoy, and that’s sad, and needs to be respected and preserved.
Day 7: Glacier to Butte
Anyway, off my soapbox for now. Glacier was amazing, and I got totally addicted to huckleberry everything and I can’t wait to go back to see more of the park. The last leg of our journey was a road trip back to our starting point, Butte. Roadside America has an awesome library of weird attractions to see along your road trip.
- Norm’s Soda Fountain (THE FRIENDLIEST KID WAITERS EVER OMG!)
- Peeping Tom Cowboy (roadside art throughout the town)
- Sapphire Mining
- The Sweet Palace (best candy store in America)
- Phillipsburg Brewing Company (Montana LOVES beer)
- Our Lady of the Rockies (bizarre Mary statue super high up in the mountains)
- The Stack (a huge, creepy smokestack in the middle of a park)
- All Nighter Head of JFK (apparently it should look like him after a wild night out)
If You Have Time
- Big Silver Slipper (by a casino…we waited in traffic for an hour to get to it, it’s not THAT impressive but a fun weird thing to see)
- Bison Range (if you haven’t had enough of them from Yellowstone)
- Miracle of America Museum (I was too scared to go in)
Afterwards Craig and I flew home and settled into married life where he cut the grass and I took a nap. Life is good 🙂
- PLAN, PLAN, PLAN!
- This is not a trip that just “comes together”…being from the East Coast I think that everything is like an hour away. It’s not. If there are certain things you want to do/see and you have limited time, you need to schedule your route around those must-dos. Get to attractions as early as possible to avoid full parking lots and huge lines, and have the best chance of wildlife viewing.
- Pack for Success
- It’s cold AF out there in the mornings and at night, plus the weather in unpredictable, so get layers (definitely bring a rain jacket!). The best investment I made for this trip was a set of packing cubes from The Container Store; it made it so easy to grab the clothes I needed without unpacking my suitcase every single time.
- Be Budget Friendly
- Vacations are expensive, so do your best to bring your costs down. For instance, flying in to Jackson Hole or Kalispell would have been hundreds of dollars more than the round trip flight we took into Butte, which was a great starting and ending point. Plus, we were able to avoid astronomical car rental fees by returning at the same airport. Stock up on snacks and water at the grocery store and see as much as possible with your park passes.
- Don’t Be a Nat-Hole (National Park Asshole)
- Our national parks are special (even though we stole most of the land from native people through bad treaties, but I’ve done enough political preaching in this post), and we have a responsibility to take care of our land. Leave as little a carbon footprint if you can– don’t litter, don’t approach the animals, don’t disturb the fauna– so that future generations can enjoy it too!