Road Tripping Montana: What are the best places to go in Montana by car?

Glacier National Park Road to the Sun - Photo source: U.S. National Park Service

Now that Covid restrictions are being alleviated and more people are being vaccinated, it’s time for a safe, fun and family-friendly vacation. Montana might be the best place to visit in the United States, when it comes to road trips, outdoor activities, nostalgic scenery and light traffic.

Not only is Montana the fourth largest state in the U.S., but it only has a population of just over one million. Therefore, you can find wide open spaces which are ideal for hiking and camping; or you can just drive the back roads to see where the deer and the antelope play.

The best way to visit Montana is to divide our large state into two halves, northern Montana and southern Montana, both of which contain a national park. If you are traveling by car or by RV, make sure you have a park pass and plenty of time to explore both Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park. There are also a handful of fee-free days, so you don’t have to pay for a pass to get into the park.

To simplify your experience, here is a condensed list of things to do in both national parks. 

Top 3 Things to do in Glacier National Park:

  • Drive the Going to the Sun Road. This is a windy, steep mountain pass that is closed for the winter, so make sure you do your homework to determine whether it’s open and assure you have the proper pass.
  • Swim in Lake McDonald. There is nostalgic Lake McDonald Lodge with scarcely available rooms, but if you give yourself enough planning time, this would be a great place to stay. Regardless, you can canoe, kayak or swim in the clear, cool water.
  • Camp in Glacier Park. Whether you are hiking to a remote tent site or parking your RV, there are many options for camping in Glacier Park during the summer. One of the most legendary car camping options is Many Glacier in Browning, Montana. With 109 campsites, it’s not necessarily remote or off-grid, so if you want that experience, you might be better off hiking in to a tent-only campground. Just be sure to bring your bear spray!

Top 3 Things to do in Yellowstone National Park:

  • Visit Old Faithful. This highly predictable geyser has erupted every 44 minutes to two hours since 2000. Since Yellowstone is America’s first national park, it is a must see and Old Faithful a must visit. Everyone at home will ask you if you saw it, so make a plan, get a pass and just do it.
  • Walk to The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Just like the canyon it’s named after, this area of Yellowstone is a stunning geological feat. The canyon walls are red, orange and brown with a frothy blue waterfall cascading down into the Yellowstone River below. The parking lot signs will guide you to a. short walk to tiered viewing areas to get the best selfie of your summer.
  • Hike and fish Slough Creek. This is a fly-fisherman’s paradise and an adventure you will never forget. The hike is relatively long, so planning a backpack overnight is probably the best way to conquer this adventure. You will need to secure permits to fish and camp in Yellowstone, so do that ahead of time and get more information when you check into the ranger station at the Mammoth entrance of the park. Going with someone who has been there before and knows what they are doing will be in your best interest, so consider hiring a guide to do the hard work for you.

Vacationing in Montana by car will be a highlight of your summer. Visiting two of the United States most beautiful, historic national parks in one state will check two items off of your bucket list and create memories that will last a lifetime. As with any mountain vacation, be prepared for weather changes, be “bear aware” and stay hydrated. You’re going to be amazed by your high altitude, outdoor adventures and have stories to tell your friends for decades to come.

Photo source: U.S. National Park Service nps.gov