Planning an amazing adventure road trip by doing the Yellowstone National Park to Glacier National Park drive? Believe it or not, there are many incredible stops along the way between the drive from Yellowstone to Glacier National Park in the beautiful state of Montana.
We’ve picked our favorite stops on this incredible journey plus road trip tips. Make your drive unforgettable by adding in some of these amazing stops. This guide covers some of the best things to do in each of these destinations as well as recommendations for overnight stays in case you plan on making a longer stop here.
Since this is one of the most scenic drives in the US, we recommend extending this road trip as long as you can and slowly enjoying the ride stopping along some of the best outdoor adventure stops and towns to visit!
Be sure to also read our guide on the best places to visit in Montana to get more inspiration!
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Table of Contents
The total distance from Yellowstone to Glacier National Park is anywhere between 368 miles to 402 miles depending on the route you take. You could definitely complete the drive from Yellowstone National Park to Glacier National Park in 6 to 7 hours in one day without stops.
However, we recommend building a scenic itinerary so you can make some of these incredible stops along the way of this Montana road trip.
You will also want to be sure to plan time to spend at both Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park.
There are two main routes on the Yellowstone to Glacier drive, the quickest and shortest route is along the US-287 & I-15 route passing through Helena and ending in East Glacier National Park.
The other route can be done in two different ways. Both of these start on the I-90 and after you pass through Butte you can either opt to stay on I-90 towards Missoula and passing along the east side of Flathead Lake to West Glacier or start on the I-90 then in Garrison you work your way towards 83 N passing through some gorgeous terrain to rejoin the other route north of Flathead Lake to end in West Glacier.
We are also going to include some slight detours to get to awesome stops on the drive from Yellowstone National Park to Glacier National Park including Big Sky and Bozeman, this is still heading North, the direction you’re driving, just a bit further east running parallel to the I-15 route.
The best time of year for the Yellowstone to Glacier drive is typically in the summer months through early fall (early October) because of the snowfall in the mountains. Snowfall causes road closures and while you can still visit during this time, certain areas will be closed off, but the places you do visit will be a little less crowded than the summer and peak visiting season months.
- One of the most famous stops in Glacier National Park is driving along Going-to-the-Sun Road. This is only open during the summer months from late June or early July through the middle of October.
- In Yellowstone National Park, some of the roads close starting in mid-October depending on weather though it could be as late as early November. These roads stay closed until the spring and depending on weather, they reopen typically between mid-April to mid-May.
- Visiting in the winter and off-season is a great way to see these natural beauties in a different landscape and can be done, but you will need to plan and be aware of what is closed and what is open not only to prepare your expectations but also for safety reasons.
Be sure to also secure hotels in advance if you plan on traveling or completing the Yellowstone National Park to Glacier National Park drive during peak season!
Be sure to also check out our road trip essentials for what to pack during your trip!
If you already don’t have a car for your starting point we recommend renting a car in advance on Expedia.
We also recommend getting travel insurance for this trip. Many travel insurance plans also cover Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) coverage up to $35,000.
We recommend World Nomads Travel Insurance for short trips like this since you can buy your travel insurance at any point and have coverage.
One reason why this is one of the best travel insurance out there is that they cover CDW for up to $35,000 if you plan on renting a car and upgrade to the Explorer plan. This is an incredibly great deal if you end up in a country.
We personally used World Nomads travel insurance for years because of how quick and easy it is to get coverage anywhere and anytime and there’s 24/7 emergency assistance making claims a breeze when or if you ever get injured or sick abroad.
But if you’re looking to upgrade to a longer-term travel insurance plan like we have for frequent travelers, we recommend checking out our guide to how to pick the best travel insurance for a few different options depending on what your needs are and type of coverage you’re looking for.
We will indicate below which route/highway each of these stops are along so you can plan accordingly! For the purposes of this post, we are starting in West Yellowstone, but depending on your route you can also start from Gardiner, Montana.
We recommend plugging in your directions on your GPS or Google Maps to get the best route for you, this is merely travel inspiration to plan for great stops you can make along the way from Yellowstone to Glacier National Park.
Also, you can easily reverse this route if you find yourself starting north and heading south!
Any road trip from Yellowstone to Glacier wouldn’t be complete without exploring all the things to see in Yellowstone National Park, the largest and oldest national park in the United States.
Staying in West Yellowstone sets you up well as it’s located just a five-minute drive from the West Entrance. First, you will need to decide how long you want to spend exploring Yellowstone, we have a suggested one day in Yellowstone itinerary that’s great if you are short on time, if not we recommend planning more time to visit the park as there is so many amazing places to explore.
Some of the top must-see stops include the amazing Norris Geyser Basin, to the north of the park, invites visitors to witness all types of thermal pools and geysers, spread over two main areas; the Porcelain and Back Basins.
On the drive here from West Yellowstone, you’ll also pass through Elk Park and get the chance to spot wildlife like elk and bison. Moving further to the south of the park, a must-see is the rainbow-colored Grand Prismatic Spring.
There are boardwalks leading to the base of the spring, Excelsior Geyser Crater, Turquoise Pool, and Opal Pool. Be sure to get the best view of the psychedelic colors from the Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook.
A little further down you’ll run into Old Faithful, the famous cone-shaped geyser named in homage to the predictability of it’s soaring eruptions.
Another worthwhile but lesser-known site near to Old Faithful is the Kepler Cascades on the Firehole River. You can gawk at the breathtaking waterfall from a wooden deck, and with no hike, it’s an easy yet rewarding stop.
This is also a great opportunity to stay the night, we stayed at Bar N Ranch, beautiful property and cabins as well as rooms in the main lodge. This is where we stayed with a group and we were blown away by their larger cabin that made us feel like we were at home complete with its own hot tub with a view of the nearby mountains.
There are also smaller cabins, rooms in the main lodge, and yurts as well.
Via route 191, 51 miles & ~ 1 hr drive from West Yellowstone
Big Sky, Montana is absolutely stunning and is around a 1-hour drive north of West Yellowstone taking Highway 191. The town is well-known as a ski destination in winter but also offers other experiences in the summertime, making it a great stop on the drive from Yellowstone National Park to Glacier National Park.
You can get your adrenaline pumping with outdoor activities like white-water rafting on the Gallatin River, horseback riding with spectacular views, mountain biking and zip lining through mountains and trees.
There are also hundreds of miles of wonderful hiking trails for all levels that zigzag the mountains around Big Sky.
We do recommend spending a night here and enjoying some of the great outdoor adventures this beautiful destination has to offer.
We stayed at one of the most incredible accommodations we’ve ever stayed at in the US at Lone Mountain Ranch. We had our own cabin complete with a vintage record player and records, a rushing creek right outside our door that we could listen to as we fell asleep at night, and of course nestled in the most incredible mountain terrain.
Via route 89 directly (65 miles & 1.5 hour drive from West Yellowstone) or 191 to Bozeman then I-90 to Livingston (116 miles & ~ 2 hr drive from West Yellowstone)
Livingston, although a little out of the way, is well worth the detour and a visit on the road from Yellowstone to Glacier National Park.
This old fashioned western railroad and ranching town is a couple of hours drive north of West Yellowstone heading east off Highway 191, or around 2.5 hours exiting the North Entrance of Yellowstone National Park.
You’ll feel the old-school charm walking down Livingston’s main street with its historical 19th Century buildings and eye-catching rainbow-colored vintage neon signs that are still in use.
We stayed the night here and recommend you do too! There is a brewery downtown, bars, restaurants, and cute shops to explore!
We love the historic Murray Hotel here in Livingston, which is a great option to stay on your Yellowstone to Glacier drive. This gorgeous hotel has had its fair share of famous visitors over the year including Calamity Jane & Buffalo Bill.
Even the elevator is still only able to work if you have an actual person operating it.
The rooms are incredible and this is one of those unique experiences that you don’t want to miss tied to the entire history of this town and area.
Via route 191 directly 90 miles & ~ 2 hour drive from West Yellowstone
This is another great stop on your drive from Yellowstone National Park to Glacier National Park. Bozeman is perfectly situated in the Rocky Mountains and has the friendly welcome of a small Western town mixed with the fun of a college community – it’s the home of Montana State University. Go Bobcats!
Bozeman is a great spot for outdoor adventures hiking in the Gallatin Canyon and cultural visits in the town itself. While here, we recommend going to the Museum of the Rockies to see a huge collection of dinosaur fossils, as well as a complete and standing T-Rex skeleton.
For a real-life animal experience on your Yellowstone to Glacier trip, you can’t miss The Montana Grizzly Bear Encounter. The rescue sanctuary was established in 2004 where you can now see the bears (who roam in a spacious area) and learn more about them.
You’ll also want to talk a walk around the culturally diverse downtown area, perfect for browsing the farmer’s markets, dining, visiting art galleries and shopping.
Via route 287 (138 miles & ~ 2.5 hour drive from West Yellowstone ) or via route 191 passing through Big Sky (164 miles & ~3 hour drive from West Yellowstone)
Continuing the Yellowstone to Glacier National Park drive, another great stop is the colorful mining city of Butte. To learn about the local history, you can take an underground tour of the mines at the World Museum of Mining.
There is also a reconstructed old mining town to get an impression of the past and a large collection of the type of minerals excavated.
As Butte is also located in the Rockies, it’s a great place to take advantage of outdoor activities like biking, hiking, camping and fishing.
Make sure you scan the landscape to catch a glimpse of the Lady of the Rockies too, a white statue of the Virgin Mary that measures 90-feet and overlooks Butte.
For a more, albeit, unusual sight you can also visit the Berkeley Pit, a huge former open-pit copper mine now turned toxic lake, which attracts visitors curious to take a look.
Via route 287 directly, 178 miles & ~3 hour drive
Helena, the state capital of Montana can be easily built-in on the way from Yellowstone National Park to Glacier National Park. While in the “Queen City of the Rockies” taking a boat ride through the Gates of the Mountains is a must-do to observe the interesting geology and wildlife while cruising through a beautiful river canyon.
Mount Helena City Park (620 acres) offers more opportunities in nature, with miles of hiking trails around and up the mountain that has a summit of 5,468 feet.
When in Helena, check out Montana’s State Capitol campus, either with self-guided tour booklets or a guided tour with an expert. You also can’t miss taking in the Gothic-style Cathedral of St. Helena, whose construction began in 1908.
Via route 287 to I-90, 265 miles & ~4 hour drive
Missoula, just off Highway 90 heading West, is a hub for outdoor activities and a worthy stop on your route from Yellowstone to Glacier National Park.
The warmer summertime months are perfect for enjoying horseback riding, rafting, hiking and biking in the area, with ski sports being popular in the winter months.
Whatever time of year you choose to visit, there will be wildlife watching, fishing and birding opportunities for animal lovers.
On the arts and culture side of activities to enjoy in Missoula, you can enjoy the Missoula Art Museum, local football games by The Montana University Grizzlies and wineries and breweries offering great drinks – sometimes alongside live music.
For history buffs, we’d recommend a visit to Fort Missoula to see antique trains, historic buildings and exhibits on local history.
We recommend staying in downtown Missoula at the Residence Inn. The rooms here are contemporary and very nice. We even had a kitchen in ours and a spacious living area and bathroom.
The lobby is connected to shops and has multiple access points to explore downtown.
Via I-90, 300 miles & ~4.5 hours drive from West Yellowstone
Among more touristic spots on the drive from Yellowstone National Park to Glacier National Park, there are some lesser-known stops we thought you’d like to know about too.
Passing by Ravalli north on route 93 off of the I-90, there are hikes around the Mission Mountains to see untouched and wild landscapes with incredible mountain views and high mountain lakes.
You can follow trails that lead to more popular lakes like Glacier Lake (easier level) and Mollman Lakes (more challenging) to admire their natural and isolated beauty.
Flathead Lake & Big Fork
Via I-90 directly (364 miles & ~6 hours drive from West Yellowstone) or via I-90 to route 83 (353 miles & ~6 hours drive from West Yellowstone)
Nearing the end of your Yellowstone to Glacier National Park drive, be sure to stop in or even stay the night in Big Fork at the north end of Flathead Lake.
This year-round resort village is perched on the northern tip of the beautiful lake where you can partake in water and mountain activities galore. This is a gorgeous place to fish for trout in the crystalline waters whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro.
There are also paddle boards and kayaks as another option for exploring the lake, plus the clear waters are swimmable.
We’d highly recommend exploring Wild Horse Island at the southern end of Flathead Lake and hiking to the summit for a look out on the view below. The journey over is fun too with transport by boat, kayak or even Jet Ski.
Via I-90 directly (381 miles & ~6.5 hours drive from West Yellowstone) or via I-90 to route 83 (372 miles & ~6 hours drive from West Yellowstone)
Another great stop on the road from Yellowstone to Glacier is Kalispell located on Highway 93, which follows the western periphery of Flathead Lake.
Kalispell is a fun place to spend a day before heading onwards. You can take a trolley tour to see the city while learning about some of its history, as well as eat, shop and drink at local breweries or take a guided tour of the impressive Conrad Mansion and gardens.
or those wanting an outdoor adventure, you’ll enjoy Herron Park, located around 10 minutes from downtown Kalispell. The park has 44 acres of land and 15 miles of trails where you can hike, bike or ride horseback.
There are also some breathtaking views to behold of the mountains surrounding the city.
Our final suggestion for amazing stops between Yellowstone National Park to Glacier National Park is Whitefish, north on Highway 93 from Kalispell right on the beautiful Whitefish Lake.
There is a lovely downtown area for having breakfast and wandering through – you can start at the old (but still functioning) wooden train station and check out the small museum on display there about Whitefish.
There are also galleries to browse, Stumptown Marketplace and other small shops perfect for picking up some souvenirs closing out the trip.
For a little something outdoors, there’s also Whitefish Lake where you cant rent paddleboards, kayaks and boats to swish through the crystal clear waters and breathe in the fresh air – all surrounded by those stunning Montana mountains of course.
Whitefish is a great option to spend your last night on your Yellowstone National Park to Glacier National Park drive to get rested up before all the fun at Glacier National Park nearby located right on Whitefish Lake.
The rooms at Whitefish Lake are cozy and have a rustic vibe. You’ll feel at home here in their condo-style rentals right on the lake. The condos have a full kitchen and have options large enough to accommodate a whole family.
Glacier National Park
And you’ve made it all the way from Yellowstone to Glacier! It’s time to enjoy some time at Glacier National Park, you’ll have to decide how much time you have and pick out some of the best outdoor activities and scenery to enjoy here.
We recommend adjusting your itinerary if you want to spend any additional time in the national parks in general, we were tempted to but we know we’d love to just come back.
Some places we highly recommend checking out are of course the scenic Lake McDonald, one of the most popular stops in Glacier National Park for viewpoints as well as Lake McDonald Lodge where you can get on a boat tour of the lake and enjoy the epic views and scenery.
Don’t miss the famous Going-to-the-sun-road either which gives you some of the best views of the park’s scenery. It’s not fair for the driver since they have to pay attention to the road, so we recommend hopping on the famous Red Bus Tours so everyone in your party can enjoy the views from a historic, restored red bus from the 1930s for an unforgettable memory.
Another great stop is Avalanche Creek and the Trail of the Cedars and we highly recommend checking out Two Medicine, just note alot of the facilities on this side of the park close by September!
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