Grand Teton, Yellowstone, and Glacier National Parks are three of the top parks to visit in the United States. With 10 days, you can visit all of them on an epic road trip.
Start in Grand Teton, where the lakes and the jagged mountain range create a hiker’s and photographer’s paradise. Journey north to Yellowstone, a national park that is situated on top of the world’s largest supervolcano. The land literally hisses, steams, and bubbles while bison and elk roam the grasslands. Your road trip ends in Glacier National Park, one of the USA’s most beautiful national parks.
About this Itinerary
We have done this road trip twice. The first time was way back in 2001, before we had kids. Tim and I did a condensed version of this itinerary, cramming Grand Teton, Yellowstone, and Glacier into a 7-day road trip, with a quick detour through Idaho, for a total of 10 days.
In August 2019, Kara and I went on a “girl’s trip,” doing an almost identical itinerary to the one that we have listed here. Kara and I had a total of 11 days so we were able to add in Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada. At the end of this article, I’ll let you know how to do the same thing. It’s worth it if you have an extra day to spare.
This itinerary is a road trip, so you will need to rent a car. On our recent trip, rental car prices were very expensive. Since this is done as a point-to-point road trip, there will be an extra fee for the drop charge. Our rental car fee averaged just under $100 per day, factoring in this drop charge.
If you want to avoid this fee, you can drive back to Grand Teton, the starting point of this itinerary, but you should know that this adds on an extra day and hundreds of miles of driving to this itinerary.
Finally, this itinerary can be done in the opposite order. You can start at Glacier National Park and work your way down to Grand Teton.
Lamar Valley, Yellowstone
Best Time for This Road Trip
Due to snowfall and the road closures that come with it, there is a narrow window of time to do this road trip.
Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park is only open during the summer months (typically late June/early July through mid-October).
In Yellowstone, many roads close between mid-October and early November and don’t reopen until mid-April through mid-May.
Dates are very similar for Grand Teton. Teton Park Road is closed from November through mid-May.
At the end of this article, I give the links to each national park so you can get updates on park conditions and road closures.
You still can visit these parks in the winter, but your activities are limited and getting around is a lot more difficult. Therefore, the best time for this road trip is from early July through mid-October, when all of the roads in each park will be open. This is also the busiest time to visit the national parks, so make your hotel or campsite reservations many months in advance and be prepared for big crowds.
If you don’t have to travel during the summer months, the end of September into October would be an awesome time to visit. Crowds will be lower and you could see some fall colors.
Arrive in Jackson, Wyoming
On the Road: 15 to 280 miles (30 minutes to 5 hours) depending upon the airport
There are three main airports near Jackson, Wyoming.
The closest airport is Jackson Hole Airport, which is located in the park. In fact, Jackson Hole Airport is the only commercial airport located within a national park. Since this is a small airport, it could cost more to fly in here, but it will save you some driving today.
Idaho Falls Regional Airport is 94 miles away and is a 2-hour drive from Jackson. Salt Lake City International Airport is 280 miles away and it is almost a 5-hour drive to get to Jackson.
What We Did: We flew into Salt Lake City and drove up to Jackson, Wyoming in the afternoon. We picked Salt Lake City not only because we had a direct flight but also because flight costs were lower.
Spend the remainder of the day in Jackson. This is a cool little town, filled with great restaurants, art galleries, and boutique shops. You can even go to the rodeo. Don’t miss the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar and the Mangelsen Images of Nature Gallery.
For dinner, the Gun Barrel Steak & Game House is a popular spot in town. Other great restaurants include Bin22, Liberty Burger, and Blue Lion.
Where to Stay
Here are ideas of where to stay in and around Grand Teton National Park. You will stay here for two nights.
Inside the Park: There are numerous lodges and campgrounds available inside of the park. Click here to learn more about your options.
Jackson: From Jackson, it takes just 15 minutes to drive to Moose (the southern end of Grand Teton National Park) and 30 minutes to drive to Jenny Lake. With a large number of accommodations and restaurants, this is a great place to base yourself for visiting the park.
This is where we have stayed both times that we visited Grand Teton National Park.
Wyoming Inn at Jackson Hole. This is one of the highest rated hotels in Jackson. It is not located in the city center, so you will have to drive to the town square and park your car if you want to visit the heart of Jackson. But we loved the spacious room, excellent Wi-Fi, and comfy beds.
Cowboy Village Resort. On our first visit to Grand Teton National Park, this is where Tim and I stayed. Western-style cabins come equipped with a private bathroom and a kitchenette.
The Wort Hotel. If you want an upscale experience in the city center of Jackson, the Wort Hotel gets rave reviews.
Teton Village at Jackson Hole: Ski resort by winter, outdoor playground by summer, this resort offers hotels and restaurants, plus gondolas, chair lifts, and a cable car that will whisk you up to Rendezvous Peak for stunning views over the Tetons. If you like the idea of staying in a resort town just outside of the park, this is a great place to consider.
Grand Teton National Park
On the Road: 42 miles plus extra driving time to/from Jackson, if you are staying in Jackson
This is the first of two days in Grand Teton. Today, you will visit the most popular sites.
I recommend getting an early start. Not only will you get to tour the park crowd free, at least for a little bit, but you also get to see the park at sunrise.
Visit Mormon Row at sunrise and then spend the morning driving the 42-mile scenic loop drive. Schwabacher Landing, the Snake River Overlook, and Oxbow Bend are beautiful places to visit, and photograph, in the morning hours.
As you head south, towards Jenny Lake, consider taking the detour up Signal Mountain for stunning views over the park.
Spend the afternoon in and around Jenny Lake. One of the most popular things to do in Grand Teton is to take the boat across Jenny Lake and hike up to Inspiration Point. Nearby, the walk around Leigh Lake is an easy, very pretty stroll. The hike out to Taggart Lake is longer but it’s also a very nice hike.
Tonight, sleep in Grand Teton National Park or Jackson.
Grand Teton & Yellowstone
On the Road: 140 miles, 3.5 hours
Today, spend the morning in Grand Teton and the afternoon in Yellowstone.
Here are several ideas on how to spend the morning in Grand Teton:
- Rent a canoe and spend an hour or two paddling around Jenny Lake. Kara and I did this at 7:30 am and we had the lake to ourselves. It was wonderful!
- Visit the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve and Visitor Center and hike to Phelps Lake.
- Take your pick from longer hikes in the park. Cascade Canyon, Lake Solitude, and Static Peak Divide are great hikes. These range from 10 to 15 miles, so they will take up most of the day, but if you are big into hiking, it would be worth it. You’ll have less time in Yellowstone so you will have to adjust this itinerary.
Midday, start the drive to Yellowstone. Along the way, you can make a quick visit to Jackson Lake, since you will drive right past it before exiting Grand Teton National Park. At Colter Bay Village, there is a gas station and restaurants, a great place to refuel your car and your own batteries before continuing on to Yellowstone.
At Colter Bay, you also have the option to walk the Lakeshore Trail. This flat, easy trail is 2 miles long, takes about 45-minutes, and offers decent views of Jackson Lake.
Head north into Yellowstone National Park. It’s a relatively short drive. From Colter Bay, it is less than 20 miles to the South Entrance of Yellowstone National Park (about a 30-minute drive).
Spend the afternoon at the Midway Geyser Basin. It is here that you will see the Grand Prismatic Spring, the most colorful hot spring in the park. At Midway Geyser Basin, you can get right up to it, while walking on raised boardwalk trails.
Just a few miles away is the Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook. This is a jaw-dropping view of the hot spring and a must-do on a trip to Yellowstone.
From here, you have the option to hike to Fairy Falls, one of the tallest waterfalls in Yellowstone.
Where to Stay
Ideally, stay in the park. This will minimize how much driving you will do. However, reservations for the park lodges need to be made months in advance (as much as 6 to 12 months in advance!).
Pro Travel Tip: Consider staying in two different locations while you visit Yellowstone. Yellowstone is enormous so it can save you time, and driving, by staying in two separate locations. However, if you get lucky enough to get a room or a campsite at Canyon Village (a relatively central location within Yellowstone), you can spend every night here.
If you stay within the park, the Old Faithful Inn is the most convenient place to stay tonight.
If you are not lucky enough to get a room at the Old Faithful Inn, you should be able to get a room at a hotel in West Yellowstone. This is where we stayed and we booked our trip last minute. Kara and I stayed at the Kelly Inn and ate dinner at Café Madriz, a great tapas restaurant.
Old Faithful Inn
Hot Springs, Old Faithful & Hayden Valley
On the road: 75 miles, 2 hours (if you stay at Old Faithful and Canyon Village); if you stay in West Yellowstone, add 40 miles and 1.75 hours onto this driving estimate for a total of 115 miles, 3.75 hours
If you look at Yellowstone on a map, you will see that the roads make two loops through the park. Today, you will see the sights along the southern loop. This is the area of Yellowstone with the highest concentration of geysers and hot springs, including the famous Old Faithful geyser.
Starting near Midway Geyser Basin, you will hop from geyser basin to geyser basin. Visit Fountain Paint Pot Trail and Biscuit Basin first thing in the morning.
Old Faithful and Upper Geyser Basin
The highlight of the day is the visit to Old Faithful, the world’s most famous geyser.
There are three different ways to view an eruption of Old Faithful: take a seat on the boardwalk that surrounds the geyser, hike to Observation Point for a bird’s eye view, or grab a seat at the viewing deck at the Old Faithful Inn.
Old Faithful erupts roughly every hour and thirty minutes, so there’s a good chance that you could catch two eruptions while you are here.
After the first eruption, spend some time exploring the Upper Geyser Basin and Geyser Hill. Within one square mile, there are over 150 geothermal features here, making this one of the best spots in the park to see geysers, hot springs, and thermal pools. It takes about 2 hours to thoroughly explore this area.
Morning Glory Pool
A visit to Old Faithful, combined with Upper Geyser Basin, typically lasts three hours.
Near the Old Faithful Inn, you will also find restrooms, gift shops, a convenience store, and restaurants, so this is the perfect place to grab lunch.
West Thumb Geyser Basin & Hayden Valley
Once you are finished at Old Faithful, continue your drive counter-clockwise around the lower loop. Make a quick stop at West Thumb Geyser Basin and then continue on the Hayden Valley. Keep your fingers crossed that the bison are hanging out along the road side (the first day Kara and I did this, we only saw two bison next to the road…the main herd were tiny specks way off in the distance).
West Thumb Geyser Basin
If the bison are hanging out along the road, expect big traffic jams here. It can take 30 to 60 minutes to drive through the valley in this situation.
Stay Safe: Do not get out of your car to get a closer view of the bison. These animals look slow but they can move fast and have been known to charge at people. Pull into a turnout and view the bison from your car. Not only are you staying safe but you are also not blocking traffic. If you have an SUV with a sunroof, pop your head out of the sunroof and enjoy the view.
Where to Stay
In the park: Grand Canyon Village is the best location to stay within the park.
Outside of the park: West Yellowstone
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Norris Geyser Basin & Lamar Valley
On the Road: 100 miles, 3 hours if you stay at Canyon Village; 140 miles, 4 hours if you start in West Yellowstone and end in Gardiner
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
Spend the morning at Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. The Yellowstone River carved out this canyon. Stretching along each side of the river are scenic overlooks and hiking trails. You can either walk the rim trail or drive to each overlook.
I recommend starting on the North Rim. If you get here in the morning, before 9 am, traffic should be light enough that you can drive to each overlook. Visit Brink of the Lower Falls, where you can get up close to Lower Falls. Of the overlooks on the North Rim, Lookout Point and Inspiration Point were our favorites.
For more details on visiting the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, don’t miss our best things to do in Yellowstone post.
On the South Rim, the highlights are Artist Point (one of the most iconic views in all of Yellowstone) and Uncle Tom’s Trail.
A visit to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone will take all morning.
Norris Geyser Basin & Lamar Valley
From the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, it is a short drive to Norris Geyser Basin. Similar to Upper Geyser Basin, this is another large collection of geothermal features.
Norris Geyser Basin
Pro Travel Tip: If you are staying at Grand Canyon Village, you can take a midday break at your lodge or campsite. Go back out at 3:00 or 4:00 pm, when crowds start to quiet down. It is possible to do this if you are also staying outside of the park but you will do a lot more driving.
End the day at Lamar Valley. This is the best spot to view wildlife in Yellowstone. Elk, bison, pronghorn deer, bear, coyotes, and wolves can all make appearances. The best time for wildlife viewing is in the morning and evening, so time your visit for the end of the day.
Where to Stay
In the Park: Grand Canyon Village is the best location, although Mammoth is also a good option
Outside of the park: Gardiner, Montana
Gardiner, Montana is located just outside of Yellowstone, north of Mammoth. This is a cute little town with a small assortment of restaurants and hotels. To get into the park, it’s a bit of drive. I know, because we did this a lot. We spent three nights in Gardiner.
We stayed at the Yellowstone Gateway Inn and I highly recommend it. We had a one-bedroom apartment with a full kitchen. It was clean, it was quiet, and we loved having the space and the ability to cook our own food. There is a grocery store within walking distance of the hotel. Yes, it feels like a long drive to get into the park, but since we booked our trip so late, we were lucky to get this.
Mt. Washburn, Tower Falls & Mammoth
On the road: 37 miles, 1.25 hours if you start at Canyon Village and end at Mammoth; 74 miles, 2.5 hours if you stay in Canyon Village both nights; 80 miles, 3 hours if you stay in Gardiner
If you are looking to be more active, the hike up Mt. Washburn is a great hike to do in Yellowstone. This is a popular day hike and from the top you get panoramic views over the park.
In the afternoon, drive the scenic Dunraven Pass to Tower, pop out of your car to see Tower Fall (it’s a bit mediocre but since it’s a quick visit, it’s still worth it, if you find a parking space). Spend the afternoon at Mammoth Hot Springs.
This evening, you have time to revisit Lamar Valley, if you love spotting wildlife. It can be a different experience every time (it has been for us).
Where to Stay
In the park: Canyon Village or Mammoth. Tomorrow, you will head north out of Yellowstone. If you stay in Mammoth, you will eliminate an hour of the drive. It means reserving another hotel room or campsite but it might be worth the time savings for day 7.
Outside of the park: Gardiner, MT
Drive to Glacier National Park
On the road: 394 miles, 6.5 hours from Gardiner, MT to Many Glacier
This is the biggest driving day of the trip. It takes almost six and a half hours to drive from Gardiner, MT to Many Glacier. If you are staying at Canyon Village, add another hour onto this drive.
There are several regions in Glacier National Park. On this itinerary you will visit two of them: Many Glacier and the heart of the park around Going-to-the-Sun Road. In order to maximize your time in the park, you will stay in both areas.
It’s worth staying in Many Glacier. This is a beautiful, sometimes overlooked region of the park that many people skip on a quick visit to Glacier.
On this itinerary, you will visit Many Glacier first. By ending near Going-to-the-Sun Road, you will be much closer to the airports near Kalispell.
Below is a map of the drive. The first half is fast, since you are mainly on highways. The second half is more scenic and feels much more remote, now that you are on smaller, country roads.
There are gas stations all along the route, although they become sparse once you get north of Helena. Before entering Glacier National Park, refill your tank in Babb.
Optional Detour: Butte, Montana
If you don’t mind a little extra driving, you can add on a quick visit to Butte, Montana. Tour the World Museum of Mining and/or take the bus trip up to see Our Lady of the Rockies. Grab a pork chop sandwich at Pork Chop John’s before hitting the road again.
Most likely you will arrive to Many Glacier in the mid-afternoon. You can either relax in the lobby of the Many Glacier Hotel or go on a short hike. Apikuni Falls is a 2-mile hike to a waterfall and it is located a short drive from Many Glacier Hotel.
Many Glacier Hotel
Where to Stay
In the park: Many Glacier Hotel or the Swiftcurrent Motor Lodge
Outside of the park: St. Mary Village. This lodge is located next to the Saint Mary Entrance of Glacier National Park. To get to Many Glacier, it is a 30-minute drive.
On the road: 0 to 5 miles, if you stay in Many Glacier
Many Glacier is one of Glacier National Park’s best spots for hiking. Since these hikes all come in at around 10 miles, you will only have the time for one. Grinnell Glacier and Iceberg Lake are the most popular hikes, but there are literally ten more hikes to choose from.
Hiking to Grinnell Glacier
Kara and I hiked Grinnell Glacier and it was amazing. This hike has it all…alpine scenery, waterfalls, emerald green lakes, wildflowers, and of course, a glacier. On this hike we spotted moose, mountain goats, and a black bear with her cub. The wildlife sightings and the gorgeous scenery made this one of our favorite experiences in Glacier National Park.
If you are not a big hiker, ride the boat across Swiftcurrent and Josephine Lakes. You have the chance to spot moose right from the boat.
Where to Stay
Same accommodation as last night (Many Glacier Hotel, Swiftcurrent Motor Inn, or St. Mary Village)
On the road: 70 miles, 2.5 hours from Many Glacier to West Glacier
This just might be the moment you have been anticipating this entire trip…the scenic drive along Going-to-the-Sun Road.
For the best experience, you need to get a very early start today. Ideally, time your visit so you arrive at Logan Pass by 7:45 am. I know it is early, but if you want a parking space, that’s the latest I recommend getting here. During our visit, we got one of the last parking spaces right at 7:45 am (so getting here even earlier is better).
To get from Many Glacier to Logan Pass, it is a one-hour drive. Extra time for photos along the way can add 15 to 30 minutes. Ideally, plan on leaving Many Glacier by 6:15 am.
From Many Glacier, you will exit the park and re-enter at Saint Mary. As you drive to Logan Pass, there are numerous turn outs where you can stop and enjoy the view. One of the highlights is the view of Wild Goose Island at Wild Goose Island Lookout.
Now that you are at Logan Pass, you have several options on how to spend your morning. The most popular thing to do here is the short hike to Hidden Lake Overlook. This hike is 3-miles long and takes about an hour and a half.
If you are looking to add on an epic day hike, consider the Highline Trail. This is an 11.6-mile point-to-point hike. The trail literally clings to the cliffs above Going-to-the-Sun Road and you will be treated to some of the best views of this part of the hike. This is our favorite hike in Glacier.
From Logan Pass, continue the drive towards West Glacier. In my opinion, this stretch of Going-to-the-Sun Road, from Logan Pass to the Loop, is the most spectacular. Traffic usually crawls here, but that’s OK, it just gives you more time to enjoy the views. There are turn outs where you can safely get out of your car to enjoy the view and take photos.
As you continue the drive to West Glacier, you will pass the trailhead for the Trail of the Cedars and Avalanche Lake. Combining these two trails is one of the most popular hikes to do in the park.
The Trail of Cedars is a 1-mile boardwalk and gravel trail that winds its way through a thick forest of cedars.
The hike to Avalanche Lake starts at the Trail of the Cedars. This hike is 4.5 miles round trip and is more strenuous.
Finally, before you exit the park, you will pass Lake McDonald.
Where to Stay
This is a full day of sightseeing, especially if you added the Highline Trail. To minimize your driving today, stay near Lake McDonald or in West Glacier. If you have an early flight tomorrow, stay closer to the airport, either in Whitefish or Kalispell.
In the park: Lake McDonald Lodge or the Village Inn at Apgar Village
Outside of the park: In West Glacier, we stayed at the Great Northern Resort. This place is wonderful. We had an enormous room with two beds, air conditioning, and great Wi-Fi.
In Whitefish, we stayed at the Best Western Rocky Mountain Lodge and also had a great experience. From here it was a short drive to Glacier Park International Airport.
Fly home or continue your road trip.
There are two airports near West Glacier. Glacier Park International Airport is the closer of the two airports, but Kalispell City Airport is just a short drive down the road.
How to Modify this Itinerary
With Less Time
If you want to visit Grand Teton, Yellowstone, and Glacier National Parks but don’t have a full 10 days, what should you eliminate?
To make this a 9-day itinerary, remove one day from Yellowstone. If you don’t mind early starts to your days, and making them a little bit busier, you can still see everything we have listed in two and a half action packed days in Yellowstone. Ideally, stay in the park to minimize your driving.
To make this an 8-day itinerary, drive directly to Yellowstone on day 3 of this itinerary. This eliminates a half day from Grand Teton and a half day from Yellowstone. Now, you only have two days in Yellowstone so you will have to skip several of Yellowstone’s top sights.
To make this a 7-day itinerary, take one day from Glacier. Now that you only have one day in Glacier, I recommend spending it on Going-to-the-Sun Road, the best experience if this is your first time in the park.
Sample 7 Day Itinerary
Day 1: Arrive in Jackson
Day 2: Grand Teton
Day 3: Drive directly to Yellowstone, visit the Grand Prismatic Spring and Old Faithful/Midway Geyser Basin
Day 4: Yellowstone: Grand Canyon and Lamar Valley
Day 5: Drive to Glacier
Day 6: Glacier
Day 7: Fly home
With More Time
If you have one or more days to add to this itinerary (lucky you!), here is what we recommend.
Waterton Lakes National Park, Canada
Waterton Lakes National Park sits just across the border from Glacier National Park in the United States. With beautiful lakes, jagged mountains, thrilling hiking trails, and a small town to explore, this is a smaller, laid-back version of Glacier National Park.
One day is really all you need to see this park. Go hiking or biking or take a boat tour of Waterton Lake.
Visit Waterton Lakes from Many Glacier. For the best experience, consider staying one night in Waterton, although you can also visit Waterton Lakes on a day trip from Many Glacier.
Add More Time to the Parks
With more time, add your extra days to any of these three parks. If you like hiking, more time in Grand Teton and Glacier would be great.
Planning Your Trip
Here is where I recommend you stay. For a trip in the summer, make your reservations far in advance (6 to 12 months before your trip to get a room in one of the lodges in Yellowstone National Park).
Day 1 & 2 (Grand Teton): Jackson, Wyoming
Day 3 (Yellowstone): Old Faithful Inn (1st choice); Canyon Village (2nd choice); West Yellowstone (3rd choice)
Day 4 (Yellowstone): Canyon Village (1st choice); Old Faithful Inn (2nd choice); West Yellowstone (3rd choice)
Day 5 (Yellowstone): Canyon Village (1st choice); Mammoth (2nd choice); Gardiner MT (3rd choice)
Day 6 (Yellowstone): Mammoth (1st choice); Gardiner MT (second choice); Canyon Village (3rd choice)
Day 7 (Drive to Glacier): Many Glacier Hotel (1st choice); Swiftcurrent Motor Inn (2nd choice); St. Mary Village (3rd choice)
Day 8 (Glacier): Many Glacier Hotel (1st choice); Swiftcurrent Motor Inn (2nd choice); St. Mary Village (3rd choice)
Day 9 (Glacier): Stay in West Glacier or Whitefish
National Park Fees
Here are the fees to enter each park. When you pay the entrance fee, it is valid for 7 days.
Grand Teton NP: $35
Yellowstone NP: $35
Glacier NP: $35
Grand Total: $105
America the Beautiful Pass
If you have plans to visit Grand Teton, Yellowstone, and Glacier National Parks, it is worth it to purchase the America the Beautiful Pass. This annual park pass costs $80 and is valid for one year. Not only will you save money on park fees for this trip but you will also get free admission to any other national park or federal recreation sites that you visit within 365 days of purchasing this pass.
Purchase your pass at the first national park that you visit (in this case, at Grand Teton) or you can get it online.
Click here to learn more.
Important Links for Grand Teton, Yellowstone, and Glacier
Here are the links to each national park website. Check park conditions and road closures before you go.
If you have any questions about this road trip through Grand Teton, Yellowstone, and Glacier National Parks, let us know in the comment section below.
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