If you haven’t been to Montana yet, stop whatever you’re doing and book a flight right now. After spending two weeks road tripping in this wilderness haven, I’m telling you what – I’m smitten! The mountains, the lakes, the wildlife around every corner. Sigh. Is it too soon to go back?
If you’re planning a road trip around Montana, this guide is for you! Our route took us from Glacier National Park to Yellowstone National Park, so if you want to hit up two of the country’s most stunning natural places, we’ve got you covered.
The Ultimate 7-Day Montana Road Trip Guide
Pin Me For Later
Montana Road Trip – Overnight in Kalispell Mt.
Start your Montana road trip in Glacier National Park. The best place to fly into is Kalispell, Montana (FCA). We were on the last flight into Kalispell that night, so we booked a hotel near the airport and saved our driving for the next day.
Click here to explore airport hotels near Kalispell or to book a shuttle to Glacier in the event you aren’t renting a car.
Tip: Wake up as early as you can and get a head start toward Glacier.
Glacier National Park to St. Mary
The drive from Kalispell to the western start of the Going-to-the-Sun Road takes about 45 minutes, so get an early wake up call, grab some coffee and head to the park entrance before it gets too busy. Crowd size inside the park will all depend on time of year, so expect Memorial Day to Labor Day to be quite busy.
A 7-day pass for Glacier National Park is a super reasonable $35, and you can purchase online in advance or at the gate before you get into the park. We spent the entire day on the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Around almost every corner is a pull off where drivers can pull over and take in the views, so plan to spend the whole day going where the road takes you.
TIP: Glacier is bear country, so it is ESSENTIAL to have bear spray with you at ALL TIMES.
Recommended hikes in Glacier National Park:
I love a good road trip, but there’s only so much you can see from the car. You absolutely have to get out and hike! Glacier National Park is 1,583 sq. miles of wilderness in Montana’s Rocky Mountains and has more than 700 miles of trails.
Trail of the Cedars
This is a very easy trail. It’s mostly flat and perfect for beginners – or Floridians! It’s even wheelchair accessible.
Halfway through the Trail of Cedars is the start of Avalanche Lake trail. The hike was labeled as moderate, but I struggled a lot. I’d like to blame the altitude, but I’m just not good at inclines. Probably pretty easy if you’re not from Florida.
About 1.5 miles into the 4.5 mile hike I said, “Do we really need to see the lake? It’s probably not that cool…”
When we finally made it to the gorge, the trail opened up to a large beach area with the perfect places to soak in the magnificent scenery. It was TOTALLY worth the breathless hike to see that view.
The lake sits at the bottom of Bearhat Mountain, making it a spectacular place for photos and a victory picnic.
We only had two days to explore Glacier National Park, so we didn’t have time to hike all 700 miles of trails. But the five miles we did hike were so spectacular, I can’t stop thinking about them.
Driving and hiking all day will really take it out of you! At the eastern end of the Going-to-the-Sun Road is the town of St. Mary. There are several restaurants, a very small grocery store, two gas stations and a few campgrounds. The loveliest place to make camp – rustic or not!
Hotels at Glacier National Park
Situated above the village of St. Mary are The Cottages at Glacier. The cottages are open for high season, May through October. There are eight different homes to choose from, and ours was Morning Star.
With panoramic views of the mountain peaks, valleys and rivers of Glacier, this is one of St. Mary’s best kept secrets. Our cottage was big enough for 4-5 people and had a fully equipped kitchen, two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a grill, fireplace and even complimentary bear spray.
My favorite thing about the cottages were the windows. They were so large we could see Glacier from both beds and the living room.
The Northern Lights were set to make an appearance that night, so we drove back into Glacier up to Logan Pass around 11 p.m. to try to catch them. We spent about four hours looking up at the stars and literally cheering every time we saw a shooting star. You just can’t see those in Orlando!
Unfortunately, the Northern Lights in Glacier did not cooperate for us, but the late night drive back into the park was so worth it. With no light pollution, the stars were incredible, both in quantity and brightness.
After sitting outside in the chilly night four hours, we were very grateful for the fireplace at The Cottages.
To explore more places to stay near Glacier National Park, click here.
More Adventures in and around Glacier National Park
- Full Day Glacier National Park Whitewater Rafting Adventure
- HOP ON-Montana Brew Bus Tour-Breweries, Wineries, Distilleries and Cideries
- Northern Lights Polebridge Tour
Glacier National Park to Whitefish, Mt.
Whitefish is a postcard come to life and a must on your Montana road trip itinerary! Towering mountains, pine-scented forests, crystal lakes and rivers are everywhere you look. The total drive time from the West Glacier entrance to Whitefish is an easy 30 minutes.
The town of Whitefish has that classic, small-town USA vibe. You know, the kind that make you want to drop everything and become the proprietor of a small bed and breakfast with quirky employees and handsome townspeople. What… that’s Gilmore Girls. Anyhow, you get the picture.
Hotels in Whitefish
If there was ever a place I wanted to live forever, this would be it. Welcome to the Snow Bear Chalets!
This ski-in, ski-out luxury treehouse sits on the slopes of Whitefish Mountain Ski Resort and is one of the coolest places I’ve ever stayed. And I’m not the only one that thinks so – Snow Bear Chalets was named by Time Magazine as one of the World’s Greatest Places in 2018!
Gail Goodwin, the owner, describes the chalets as “Harry Potter meets Hansel and Gretel.” Our chalet had two king-size beds, a bunk bed, heated floors in the bathroom, a private hot tub, gas fireplace and a fully equipped kitchen. I wish Angie and Rick weren’t sidelined by Hurricane Dorian, because it was the perfect spot for a family vacation. Next time!
Need more room? Check out the other 2 chalets.
We had all kinds of plans to get out and explore Whitefish our first day. But after settling into the Ponderosa Chalet, we couldn’t bring ourselves to leave.
Being here in the summer was awesome, but I want to come back in the winter and ski out from the front door!
Things to do in Whitefish Mt.
Like going to the spa or flying over glaciers in a sea plane? You’ll like Whitefish. Just a few minutes down the mountain is The Lodge at Whitefish Lake.
The Marina at Whitefish
The Marina at The Lodge has lots of fun summer activities, like jet skiing, stand up paddleboarding, kayaking, canoeing, even boat rentals. You don’t have to be staying at The Lodge to access these either because the Marina to open to the public. Just make sure you call in advance to reserve an activity.
Looking for a real adrenaline rush? Fly over Glacier Country and Northwestern Montana on the Backcountry Flying experience!
I thought seeing glaciers from the car was epic, I never thought I’d get to see one FROM THE SKY.
We spent an hour flying over Glacier Country and Northwestern Montana spotting animals. Our guide Lauren knew so much about the area and had been flying planes for years. He flew us over a lot of the same spots we had just hiked through.
This is something you can’t miss when you visit Whitefish. I’m afraid of heights but this was so cool. I wasn’t even scared, just in awe.
The Spa at The Lodge
After two days of hiking and the mini-adrenaline rush from the plane, a trip to The Spa at Whitefish Lake was the only thing on my mind. There’s a selection of services like therapeutic massage, body treatments, manicures, pedicures and facials.
Farmers Market & Shopping Downtown
Check out the live music, fresh food and crafts at the Whitefish Downtown Farmers Market every Tuesday during the summer from 5- 7:30 p.m. Looking to do some shopping? Stroll through the historic Railway District and downtown Whitefish’s locally-owned shops, restaurants and galleries.
Dinner at the Boat Club
We wrapped up our day with a sunset dinner at the Boat Club back at The Lodge. Tasty food and gorgeous views of Whitefish Lake make this a favorite among the locals.
Whitefish Montana to Big Sky, Mt.
We’ve made it to the real road trip part of this guide – at least the longest single stretch of highway driving. Fortunately, as with all of Montana, there’s no shortage of natural beauty to bask in, even along the main thoroughfares. Whether you take Highway 93 or 83, it’s about a scenic 6-hour drive from Whitefish to Big Sky, our next stop on the itinerary. This small town in the Rocky Mountains is best known for skiing, hiking and mountain-bike trails, it’s an outdoor-lovers dream!
Accommodations in Big Sky
First stop: the sparkling new Wilson Hotel! You wouldn’t know it at first glance because the outside looks like a rustic, local spot, but The Wilson is part of the Marriott Residence Inn portfolio. We loved our big suites with kitchens, views of the mountains, free WiFi, delicious free breakfast and spacious showers. And The Wilson is pet friendly – wish Sheba was here!
You can’t beat the location as a jumping off point for exploring Yellowstone, about an hour’s drive to the west entrance. It’s about an hour in the other direction from Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport (BZN). It’s a great spot if you’re hoping to do some fly fishing in the Gallatin, skiing or exploring and a bit of jaunting in and around Yellowstone.
To explore rates and availability at The Wilson in Big Sky, click here.
Things to do in Big Sky
Lone Peak Expedition at Big Sky Resort
If you’re ready for a super unique experience, reserve a spot on the Lone Peak Expedition. The expedition takes you 11,166 ft. up to Lone Mountain, where you get 360 degree views of three surrounding states.
The trip takes a total of 2.5 hours. You start at the base of the mountain and take a ski lift up 1,648 ft., where the Lone Peak Expedition vehicle is waiting to transport you up even more mountain!
On the drive, you might be lucky enough to see wildlife. Our guide pointed out a few goats literally hanging out on the side of the mountain. After about 15 minutes, the vehicle arrives at the base of the tram, where the final ride to the top awaits. The last bit takes you up 1,450 ft up to the very top of Lone Mountain. Let me tell you, you can’t fully appreciate how tall 11,166 ft. is until you’re way up there. What a rush!
The views of Montana’s highest scenic overlook are incredible and so worth the journey. (And even better, we didn’t have to hike up!) The Lone Peak Expedition is a must-do when visiting Big Sky Resort, make a reservation here. Like just about everything in this region, activities are seasonal, so be sure to check if it’s up and running before you go.
Other Fun Things to Do in and around Big Sky, Mt.
- Full Day Boat Rental at Big Sky Resort
- Gallatin River Scenic Float Rafting
- PRIVATE Guided snowshoeing tour of Yellowstone National Park
Restaurants at Big Sky Resort
hiking letting technology do the work on the trip up Lone Peak, we still had an appetite worked up! Not sure if it has anything to do with the altitude or if we’re just hungry little hippos, but fortunately there were several restaurants at Big Sky Resort Mountain Village Center to choose from.
Dinner at Andiamo Italian Grille
Did someone say Italian? You know I never turn down a steaming bowl of spaghetti! I dropped Ben off at the airport and scooped Angie up, and we made a beeline for Andiamo for cocktails and pasta with an Italian flair.
Dinner at Horn and Cantle
And the tour of Big Sky’s best eats continued the next night, where we went nuts at Horn and Cantle. It doesn’t get more authentic Montana than this! It took us, I dunno, 45 minutes to decide on what to eat from Chef Gruber’s extensive menu.
How do you choose between Montana trout, a tomahawk ribeye, bison short rib and elk bolognese? My mouth is watering just remembering the moment our massive platters were placed in front of us.
Get a look at this menu, y’all. I cannot recommend the fried chicken enough. I would fly back to Montana just for this… as a matter of fact, Horn and Cantle will be our first stop on our return trip!
Big Sky to Yellowstone National Park
Just one hour south of Big Sky is Yellowstone National Park, and it’s a beautiful, easy drive. We got up early to beat any late-season traffic and had no trouble at all getting to the entrance. Like Glacier National Park, Yellowstone offers a 7-day pass for just $35 – an absolute bargain for all the incredible sites you get to see.
Fun fact: Yellowstone was the first National Park ever established.
Yellowstone is bigger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined with 96% of Yellowstone sitting in Wyoming, 3% in Montana and 1% in Idaho. There are more than 10,000 hydrothermal features, 290 waterfalls and more than 500 active geysers.
No wonder it’s on everyone’s bucket list! We spent four days in this historic land but could have stayed a month.
Visiting the Geysers in Yellowstone National Park
There are geysers that erupt 300 times a year, others every day and a few that only erupt once every 50 years. We waited almost two hours to see if Steamboat Geyser would blow during our trip… it looked promising, but it wasn’t our day. There were dozens of others waiting as well, as apparently that’s one of the coolest (or hottest) ones to catch if you can. It shoots up to 400 feet in the air, dwarfing Old Faithful, the resident celebrity geyser.
The Yellowstone National Park website is a great resource with details on eruption times, locations and safety information. Read the safety information several times, guys. Trust me on this.
Hikes in Yellowstone National Park
Hikes in Yellowstone can be just as dangerous as in Glacier. You want to make sure you have bear spray and don’t stray off the paths.
Seriously, don’t stray off the paths. If you fall into a geyser, you will be dissolved.
The Lamar River Trail in Yellowstone
We decided on the Lamar River Trail as our big hike in Yellowstone. The maps said it was a fairly easy one and it lead to a beautiful river over a few mountains.
We started the walk with a few bison in the distance. After about 15 minutes, we noticed they started walking towards us. After standing in the middle of the valley for about five minutes deciding if we should continue on turn around, we choose safety first and when back up the trail.
It’s never a good idea to test your luck with a heard of bison, or any wild animals, and after watching HUNDREDS of them pass over the trail we were on just minutes before, we felt good about that decision. There’s no reason to get into a Lion King situation, so I was relieved we bailed when we did.
So if you ever hike Lamar Valley in the future, let me know how it goes!
Where to stay in Yellowstone National Park
Want to experience a little bit of rustic mountain living? We found the cutest cabin just outside the north entrance of Yellowstone thanks to Glamping Hub, Sunny Slope Lodge.
The lodge is roughly 3000 sq. ft. and sleeps 10 with four bedrooms, three bathrooms and a fully equipped kitchen. You can cook every night, make sandwiches for day hikes and BBQs at night. It’s big enough that your whole group can spread out comfortably.
I wrote a whole review of our accommodations at the Sunny Slope Lodge, so check it out right here.
After an entire week in Montana, traversing lands filled with frozen glaciers, crystal clear lakes, smoking geysers, towering mountains and so many cool animals — we did it! We reached the end of our adventure and left the national parks in the review just in time for Angie to speak at TBEX in Billings.
Our Montana road trip lasted a week, but you can certainly squeeze it into fewer days or better yet, a couple of weeks to a month. There’s something so magical about Montana, it seems a shame to rush through it too quickly. I recommend spending as much time as you can outdoors, taking it all in so you never forget your time in Big Sky Country. I know I never will!
We are 100% planning a return Montana road trip, so if we’ve left anything out that you love, please share in the comments. You never know what might make it into a future episode of The Jet Sisters!
Thank you to Glacier Country, Explore Whitefish, Big Sky Resort, The Wilson Hotel, Glamping Hub and all the partners for supporting independent content creators like us! And thank you, readers, for supporting the partners and travel providers that keep Angie Away and The Jet Sisters a free travel resource. Please note, AngieAway.com contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase using these links, we may earn a commission at no extra cost to you.