Looking to collaborate? I’m your gal! Quirky Globetrotter is an award-winning, international travel blog that
America’s iconic western road trip itinerary nearly always includes Yellowstone National Park. In fact, the first road trip I embarked when I was 1 year old was to this exact location. Now, every ten years, I attempt to revisit the locale, which I’m convinced, sparked my wanderlust. On my third voyage to Yellowstone, I also ventured to Glacier and Grand Teton National Parks.
For 10 days, I roamed among the plethora of cow herds and navigated my way through the canyons and mountains in each of these parks. I also remixed many versions of “Home on the Range,” which I’m sure my camping neighbors greatly appreciated, ha! Here’s the rundown of how my 10 days out west in Glacier, Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks panned out.
Day 1 & 2
I set off in the midafternoon towards the mountaneous west. I planned to drive through the night to get to my first destination — Glacier — because I was so excited. Also, is it really a road trip if you haven’t pulled an all-nighter? Without stopping I would arrive at Glacier National Park as the sun was rising, an ideal time to nab a camping spot, since I did not have a reservation.
If you are driving this stretch of road during the daytime make sure to stop at Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The national park celebrates the vast Great Plains and the rugged Badlands.
I ended up stopping at a truck stop for a quick snooze in North Dakota due to numerous wildlife sightings and them nearly becoming acquainted with my bumper. Furthermore, visibility was low due to fog and I didn’t dare drive faster than 35 mph. After a cat nap, the sun started to lighten up the sky and I finished the last leg of my journey.
Arriving at Glacier
Unlike other campgrounds, a majority of Glacier’s campsites are first-come first-serve. In fact, there are only two campgrounds in Glacier where reservations can be made — Fish Creek and St. Mary. A handful of campsites at Many Glacier and Apgar Campground are also reservable in advance, but a majority of the sites are first-come first-serve.
After checking the number of campsites available, I quickly drove to Two Medicine Campground where there were a handful of sites still available. My impromptu nap in North Dakota had set me back, so I was pressed on time. I nabbed the last spot in the campground and assembled camp.
Since I was exchausted from my cross-country jaunt, I decided to relax at my campsite for the day and explore the campground.
In my campground there was a small lake nearby. It was a calm day with little to no breeze, so the water was still and perfectly reflecting the surrounding mountains. The hazy clouds turned the sky into pink and purple hues as the sun set. I watched a beaver forage for wood for his dam in the lake as the sunset.
One of my favorite parts about camping is the delicious campfire food. Sadly, I wasn’t able to start a campfire due to the high wildfire risk in Glacier National Park. I grilled some food on my camp stove before going to bed early. Tomorrow was going to be a big day.
There are numerous other hiking trails located nearby Two Medicine that you should explore. Many of these hikes range from day hikes to waterfalls, lakes and mountain passes.
I woke up before the birds were awake. Without their chirps, the campground was relatively mute. I cooked a quick egg omelet where the only thing that stirred with the squirrel living in a nearby tree. I was determined to beat the crowds and explore the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road. The road is 50 miles long. It was a hazy day in the park due to the wildfires, but the views were still emaculate.
Years prior, I have visited Glacier and remember how captivated I was by the beauty we drove past on the Going-to-the-Sun Road. This trip, even with the haze, also didn’t disappoint.
Along the roadway, you’ll see beautiful vistas of the mountains and even valleys filled with lush wildflowers. This is the main road of the park, so to beat crowds, I drove the entired extent of the road first and made notions on the map where I wanted to pull over later to take pictures. This was a great approach because I was able to first just enjoy the view and secondly, not worry about the crowds. Since the road isn’t a loop, this worked perfectly.
You can also take the park shuttle, which I definitely want to try next time I visit. Granted, you won’t be able to pull over as often to take photos, just at the shuttle stops.
At the western end of the Going-to-the-Sun road there is Lake McDonald. This is one of my favorite places in Glacier National Park. I spent a few hours paddling across the lake in a kayak and savoring the moment. The lake was tranquil and also as if it was a safe haven. The mountains around the lake also seemed to act as it’s fortress walls.
I was unable to paddle the entirety of the lake, so I rented a motorboat and explore more of the lake. I often would turn off the motor just to view the still beauty that surrounded me.
There are also numerous hiking trails that surround Lake McDonald. I took a short hike and then spent some time cooling off in the hot August temps in the cool Lake McDonald Lodge.
To get a campsite in Yellowstone National Park, you have to be there early. Unfortunately, when I arrived, there were no campsites available in Yellowstone. Fortunately, I was able to get a campsite outside the park in West Yellowstone.
After setting up camp, I drove through the park and developed my barrings.
The road from Mammoth Springs to the center of the park was under construction so I wasn’t able to get many photos along this route. The roads were very congested and there was no time to simply admire the beauty around us. This is probably my biggest pet peeve about Yellowstone — how crowded it is.
I did manage to find a beautiful waterfall that nearly no tourists were at. I ate my snack as I soaked up soem hot August sun.
After an afternoon drive through the park, I spent the evening popping into tourist shops in West Yellowstone and enjoying Huckleberry ice cream, a customary treat for any tourist.
I woke up before the rooster crowed, 4:30 a.m. to be exact, to get a campsite at Norris Campground in Yellowstone National Park. Luckily, I was successful and celebratory with my first campfire meal: eggs and bacon.
After a late breakfast, I planned to have a relaxing day in the park. Since, I wasn’t able to leave my campsite early to beat the crowds, I decided not to pack too many activiites into my day. I decided that I was going to explore the southern and southwestern areas of the park. I was able to see most of the sites in the park because I explored a section each day.
Off I went to see Yellowstone’s famous natural phenomenon — geysers.
Most of Yellowstone’s geysers basins are located in western areas of the park. I opted to venture to Black Sand Basin first because it was located next to Old Faithful, which in a Yellowstone classic and highlight. This is also going to be the biggest geyser basin in the park for that precise reason.
I unplugged while I watched Old Faithful erupt to truly enjoy the experience. In fact, the best place to watch Old Faithful erupt is not at the observation walkways around the geyser, it’s on the hiking trail in the Black Sand Basin. You’re far enough away from the crowds so your view isn’t blocked. In comparison, you’ll have most of the trail to yourself.
Old Faithful erupts every 60 to 110 minutes, so you can hang around the Old Faithful Inn to see Old Faithful erupt a few additional times if you like. I ended up hiking the Black Sand Basins trail and returning to watch the geyser erupt again. I toured the inn to enjoy some much needed A/C. There are also a general store nearby where you can nab a scoop of ice cream. I did exactly that as I waited!
After a hot afternoon of hiking through geyser basins, I headed back to my campsite to cook some food. For dessert, I indulged in quite a few s’mores. I also stayed up late to look at the glowing constellations.
If you want to see wildlife in Yellowstone, get up early! I can’t emphasize this enough. Wildlife is often active during the early morning hours and into the evening. And some of the best places to view Wildlife in Yellowstone are in Lamar Valley in the northeast section of the park.
I watched bison roam in the Lamar Valley that day. Along the way, I saw numerous osprey and even a mountain sheep! Though I did not sight any bears. The mountains are beautiful here and you’ll definitely want to check out Mount Washburn and pull over to snap a picture of the view.
Mid-afternoon, near Roosevelt Arch, I spotted numerous elk with their calves.
Afterwards, I ventured towards Mammoth Hot Springs in the Northwestern corner of the park. They are located near the Roosevelt Arch. This road was under construction, so instead of driving two times on the road I opted to include it with the northeastern portion of the park to prevent stress and save time.
I returned to my campsite as the sun was setting and feasted on some delicious campfire-roasted hot dogs.
Today, I needed a break from geysers and the smell of sulfur, so I visited some waterfalls and the Yellowstone Grand Canyon in the eastern edges of the park.
First, I ticked off the iconic photos at the famous Upper and Lower Falls. I had set out early this morning so the viewing area was not as packed. The viewing area gets you up close to the water spray.
This is my favorite area of Yellowstone because of the variety in the landscape. After admiring the falls I quickly hiked a few trails through some geyser basins. In this area, there some other geothermic wonders that visitors can explore. There are Paint Pots, gurgling mud volcanos and more.
Finally, I made my way to Yellowstone Grand Canyon. I was able to drink it the beautiful views of the dusty, yellow-orange rock that makes up the canyon’s walls. The viewing area for the Yellowstone Grand Canyon is crowded because there are lots of photographers who are aiming to capture the perfect, picturesque shot.
A few artists were also there with sketchbooks and easels attempting to capture the beauty.
Before leaving Yellowstone, make sure to journey south and visit its national park neighbor Grand Teton National Park. The park is located 45 minutes south of Canyon Village in Yellowstone. The drive is completely worth it. You’ll scoot around the edge of Lake Yellowstone, which is completely mesmerizing, even in the rain.
The Grand Teton National Park is relatively small compared to Yellowstone National Park, measuring 45 miles long and 26 miles wide. In fact, it doesn’t take long to during through the park. Many visitors will often drive through on their way to Jackson Hole.
In Grand Teton, I spent most of my time at Jackson Lake watching the sun slowly set in the sky. The water was cool and there were a few other folks swimming and paddleboarding nearby. Other than the few stragglers I met at the lake, I had the park to myself.
After swimming, I dried off and took a scenic drive through the rest of the park. The Teton Range runs through the park and was particularly stunning. The sunshine was setting behind the mountains and silhouetted the huge peaks as I drove through the park.
Another hot stop for travelers is to visit Mormon Row near the park. Many iconic photographs have been taken here. It’s an artists’ dream to visit, but also is a great scenic drive for those in the area.
After my drive to Grand Teton, I made my way back to Yellowstone. I made a pitstop in West Yellowstone one last time for some more delectable ice cream.
Day 9 & 10
Unfortunately, I had to head homeward. I slept in for the first time during my vacation and packed up camp. I had seen nearly all that Yellowstone had to offer except the eastern entrance to the park. Most of the stops are viewable from your car, so I only had a few pullovers to take some last scenic shots. Then it was homeward bound.
To head home, I drove through Wyoming and the Big Horn National Forest, which was beautiful. The windy road offered such beautiful views of the orange rock behemoths that shadowed me. Some wild horses, cows and a moose on the road even made a guest appearance.
I then drove past Crazy Horse Memorial and made a quick pit spot before barrelling the rest of the way home.
Again, I drove through the night and arrived home in the early morning. Over the past 10 days, I had clocked more than 3,700 miles total for the entire road trip. A lot of miles, but one heck of a trip.