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Yellowstone/Glacier Family Trip
So our summer family vacation has been canned because of Covid, that makes the 2nd big trip canceled for us. My kids are 21 and 16 years old and unfortunately the family trips will probably be winding down the next few years so we want something special for them. We're now planning a 9 day trip at the end of August to Teton/Yellowstone/Glacier. We've been reading up quite a bit on all three parks so we do have 75% of the trip planned but I'm looking for some things that are can't miss or maybe under the radar type of things. Not looking for any death march type hikes but we did Angels Landing last year so cliffs and some strenuous hiking don't really bother the kids. Couple years ago a buddy and I tagged out early on a Wyoming mule deer hunt and spent a couple days in the Tetons and Yellowstone but we was so sore from the pack out that we didn't walk more than 250 yards from the vehicle. Here's a few things I was hoping to get help on and anything else you can add is appreciated.
The kids love to whitewater raft. Being in August where would the best place to do rafting?
What are the can't miss hikes in Yellowstone and Glacier? We have like 10 hikes in each listed and everyone has a different list and order.
Anything cool to do around Flathead Lake? Are there fishing charters there?
Any cool places to see between Gardner and West Glacier? I'd love to get into the Crazy Mountains but not sure this is the best trip for that.
Any really good food places? Bars? My daughter will be turning 21 while in Glacier so I need a cool place for her birthday celebration.
Thanks for any and all help.
Following...sounds like a great trip and one I’d like to do with the family. Best of luck and hope you have an outstanding time!
Look into the "open-ness" of Glacier. This area is deeply influenced by the Native Americans. Basically was shut down for tourism. Again, look into it. This past year we did the Badlands, Yellowstone, and Tetons. This was around a September elk hunt. Traveling was good, except through one reservation in between Nebraska and S.D. They were pretty aggressive at checkpoints and with strict instructions.
Best wishes. Enjoy the kids while you can!!
I will tell you if you really want to enjoy the vacation really need to spend at least 2 weeks at one or the other there is so much to see and do in Yellowstone you could easily spend a month there and not do the same thing twice ,many great hikes one i really liked was up Mount Washburn nice family hike ran into a foot of snow first week of August so much different terrain in Yellowstone so diverse , The Tetons are the same so much hiking there also same can be said for Glacier if i only had 9 days would pick one and really enjoy my time at the one,PS dont forget the bear spray!!
I've done the Glacier thing...it's a beautiful place. A lot of tourists though. The wife and I did a cool train ride trip out of Cheyenne or Laramie I think it was. It was like a 6 - 7 hour deal. You ride on an open cattle car w/seating....or inside if you choose, and follow the old pony express route and then go into the mountains....near Centennial I think it was. You get off and have nice bbq dinner then hop back on the train for a night ride back into town. Beautiful country and a fun ride. I don't know if this place is still doing train rides but it's something to check if you think the family would be into that type of experience, scenery and history.
I'll also throw out the Buffalo Bill Museum in Cody. A lot of great history there too.
Nine days would be pretty rushed for 3 parks. Maybe you should either go to Yellowstone/Teton area or Glacier. If you go to Glacier and the border is open by then, Waterton Lakes is worth a look. There is a really great hike there. You take a boat across the lake and hike to Crypt Lake. Also some great hikes in the Many Glaciers area of Glacier.
I would try to do two weeks if at all possible Thiers just so much to do. Definitely raft the middle fork of the flathead outside Columbia falls. Exit or enter the park through beartooth pass. Early in the morning if possible. The drive is great. Plan to have bfast or lunch at the glacial lakes at the summit.
Drive out the northeast gate of Yellowstone and over the Beartooth mountains. You won’t regret it!
Yup. What Ron said. That area outside of Red Lodge over beartooth pass is incredible. I would also agree on the posts recommending to just do one or two max with that timeline. There is so much to do and see in Yellowstone or Glacier alone and the distance between the two is a solid days drive. I live in Bozeman, feel free to pm me if you need anything. Hope you guys have a great trip. Its incredible country.
You can do it in 9. I think.... is that including the drive out and back???
Yellowstone is huge. You can spend 3 days there and not see the whole park. But you can certainly hit and run the place in 2 long days. Grand Canyon, Old Faithful and a bunch of boardwalks around volcanic activities. Spend one night in West Glacier. I like it there. You could buzz Jackson for half a day when you get there prior to going to Teton. Teton and Glacier aren’t nearly as big. I really like Glacier. Not as many tourists as Yellowstone. Obviously you have to drive the Going to the Sun Road. At the top stop at Logans Pass and take the short hike back behind the visitors center. Incredible views and some mountain goats. If you go back into the Many Glaciers area you might spot grizzlies feeding on the grassy south slopes at the base of the rocky hills to the north in the back end of the road.
You’ll lose pretty much one day traveling from Yellowstone up to Glacier. Watch for free ranging cattle if you’re in a hurry!
I did that trip starting in Glacier and moving south once. It’s a great trip for you and your kids are at a great age to enjoy and appreciate it.
You better check and make sure the parks don't need reservations or admittance. Camping spots are filling up for summer all ready I have read.
JL the train out of Laramie is long gone.
Mule Power's Link
What he said! You need reservations for everything and right now.
The bison range north of Missoula on 93 is worth the drive . Also if you need and more ideas PM me . Living here have had lots of friends do just this trip. Enjoy . Hunt
Flathead Lake- figure on somehow getting a canoe and paddling to Wildhorse Island, home of maybe 40 bighorn sheep. Cody- a must do stop is the Buffalo Bill Museum- plan on at least 4 hours. Everything from Indian lore, mountain men, animals and guns (something like 4000). You can spend a zillion days at Yellowstone and not see everything you would like. Glacier is nice, but a couple of days should cover it.
plan on spending a night in Polson and do the raft trip below the dam on the Flathead. Its a blast with great whitewater but safe for families. Think it is Flathead Raft Company in Polson. Also, spend a night in West Yellowstone, lots to see and do. Our family did 7 or 8 summer vacations in Yellowstone until they headed off to college and it never got old.
In Yellowstone, go check out McBride Lake off Slough Creek up toward the Montana border. It's where they used to get most of the breeding stock for Yellowstone cutthroat trout. If you're into fishing it's a super cool place and about 7 miles round trip. Will have to ford Slough creek to get to it, so bring shorts and a towel to dry off an puts the shoes back on each way.
As Ron said, the Beartooth Hwy from just north of Cody to Red Lodge Montana is an absolute must see. I spend 7 weeks up there this summer and fall and can't recommend it more highly.
If you make it all the way to Glacier, check out Avalanche Lake. It has tons of water falls cascading down into it and lots of rock hopping around and views to incredible peaks like the Little Matterhorn. The top of the pass on Going to the Sun Hwy has some nice hikes and is definitely worth a look, just be forewarned that going out the east side of glacier is definitely not as cool as the west side down the Swan and over toward Lincoln and Helena on your way back or up there will give a real flavor of rural Montana.
If you decide to stay down near Teton and Yellowstone, you could also do a day or two out past Henry's Lake into Montana again over Red Rock pass and hit up Red Rock Lakes. Flyfishing Red Rock creek upstream of the lakes can put you on some incredible fishing with grayling and rainbows in a tiny river with epic back drops. Ultra rural area 30 miles from the closest paved road. If you want to stay out that way check with Mel at the Red Hawk Lodge at Lakeside.
Probably could send you lots of places, but your going to be limited trying to hit all that as folks have said. In any case, enjoy, kinda my home stomping grounds and the areas I always head toward depending on where I have to be in the summer and fall :)
One of my favorite family vacations growing up was when we took our boat to Yellowstone lake and camped in the Southeast arm for a few days. This was in the mid 90's and I think prior to the lake trout infestation, but when we went the fishing was phenomenal with fly and a bubble for trout. Super fun trip and of course pre-digital cameras, so if we do have any photos, I haven't seen them.
Many glacier hotel, can't recommend it enough, what a view and great dining! Just drive slow going in the hwy is a potholed mess.
Yes theMany Glacier is my choice too. I liked it better than the Old Faithful Lodge in Yellowstone. In that picture you can see what I meant about the grassy slopes at the base of the hills. Take a spotting scope and look for grizzlies feeding there. This thread has me itching for a trip up there.
For your daughters birthday try the Isaac Walton Inn in Essex.
For charters on Flathead there are a couple of shops in Big Fork (at mouth of Swan river) worth talking to, fishing can be good for big lake trout in August.
Many Glacier! (if the east side of the park is open this year). Lots of great hikes there. Iceberg lake hike is an easy 5 miles each way. Take your bear spray, and maybe a stick to whack other hikers with.
As Hunt Man said, the National Bison Range between Missoula and Glacier is awesome. Sit and glass there and you can see every species in MT, except maybe Mountain goats.
Whitewater rafting will be limited in August. They'll take you down the middle fork of the Flathead but it'll be pussycat conditions.
Many Glaciers is where most of the griz are in that park. And we saw two going up the Going to the Sun Highway from the St Mary side. One on top, only a couple hundred yards away on the hiking trail. Goats right up close. Whitefish has some good bars and rest. The Bierstube...
sorry the link is a facebook page, I did not put in enough effort to find a URL. but this is cousin Paul fishing on flathead lake, He will do you well. As for the rest of the visit in the Flathead, send me a p.m. I can give you many ideas.
If you can make a day trip to Waterton in Canada (who knows with border issues and covid) the Crypt lake hike mentioned earlier in the post is amazing and Taco's at the Taco bar. (Cousin Paul's sister owns the Taco Bar).
Anyways I have some connections if you decide what you want to do and where, p.m. me and I will give you honest input.
Thanks for all the pointers guys! Some great advice on here. We'd love to go for a full two weeks but between my work, my wife's work, daughters college and sons high school it just can't happen. I'm sure we will be back in the near future to go at a much slower pace but the kids really want to see as much as possible on this trip. I'll send some pm's once I have a few more specific questions for you guys. Thanks again
If I go back to Yellowstone, I want to do a lama pack in trip and fish with Mark Livesay.
Send me a PM Brett, I live in Helena halfway between Glacier and Yellowstone. I can give you some local bars/food stops to hit on your way through. As some others have said, Wildhorse Island is a must see on Flathead Lake. To do Wildhorse and Glacier I would recommend 2 days in the area. Paddling to Wildhorse is fun but to save time they have ferrys that will take you over and pick you up in about a 10 minute total trip. Spend your time hiking on the island rather than paddling to it.
For Yellowstone, exit out the west entrance through West Yellowstone and make sure to hit Quake Lake on your way north. There are so many other cool things to see between the parks but you will need to keep moving to get it done in 9 days. That said, if you have time and you like fishing, let me know and I will make time to get you in the water on some quick hit spots that usually produce fish every time. From a former PA resident, I will say that a bad day fishing here exceeds my good days in PA. It is a totally different league.
The vast areas you have just described: you could spend 9 days at just one of them.
"Any cool places to see between Gardner and West Glacier?" Yah, hundreds. There is no way you will have time to do all you think you will. The traffic alone in those parks will jam you up for more time than you expect.
"I'd love to get into the Crazy Mountains but not sure this is the best trip for that." Not alot of public access, and unless your family is up for alot of hiking, again I think you're overestimating the amount of things you can do in 9 days and underestimating the size of MT and things to see and explore.
Scale it down man, way down, so everyone can enjoy and soak up the sights. IMO....
North East out of Yellowstone, thru the Beartooth to Red Lodge is awesome. Plan it right and you can get dinner,drinks, and bet on the pig races in town. Get a reservation for that!
Lower St. Marys goes by here...
If you only have 9 days I’d actually skip old faithful. Do the hike up by fairy falls to see prismatic spring from above. My logic is old faithful is a tourist trap. The lodge is nice to see but if you’re on this site you’re probably out for some adventure rather than drive around and see buses of old people. Jackson’s hole: gun barrel steak and game house. Must see if you’re a hunter. Even if it’s just for a beer go in and look around. Teton: Jenny lake lodge restaurant only if you need brownie points with the wife. Maybe you’ll get a few more rut days? It’s $100 a head but amazing. We did Teton and Yellowstone in 10 or 14 days and it wasn’t enough time.
Glacier is our family favorite. One of our favorite hikes is to Avalanche Lake. OUr first time there we mostly stayed on the west side of the park. The second time we learned the east side had a lot more hiking than we thought, but that was before the internet, and research was more difficult. Honestly our family could spend a couple weeks in Glacier hiking.
Also, IMO Stay away from the Issac Walton Inn. My wife and I stayed there on our honeymoon. I would never go back to that place, or recommend it to anyone. Sorry.