Northwest national park road trip

Northwest national park road trip

Northwest national park road trip to Wyoming and Montana

I’ve always wanted to do a Northwest national park road trip, especially the parks around Montana and Wyoming, focusing primarily on Glacier National and Yellowstone parks.  It was perfect timing when my niece, Sunny, agreed to join me on this road trip in collaboration with Holiday Inn Hotels. This was both our first visits to these national parks, and I knew that this would be a fun pre-college adventure for Sunny who will be a college freshman this fall. The road trip through both states of Wyoming and Montana was surprisingly easy while traveling through the mountain terrain and rugged countryside filled with amazing landscape and stunning panoramas.

 

 

Helena Capital building Northwest national park road trip

The capital of Montana at Helena

Helena, Montana is right at the center and cross roads to both national parks.  I flew to the small airport and quickly checked out my rental car for the week. It’s an easy drive from the airport to downtown Helena where the Holiday Inn Hotel is located which is perfect for walking around the historic capital. I quickly dropped my suitcase in the spacious room which had all the wonderful space, comfortable beds and amenities that you get from staying at a Holiday Inn Hotel. Ready to explore, I headed down quickly and walked out directly to a walking promenade in the historic district filled with attractive brick buildings and other western inspired architecture. I was pleasantly surprised by the nice galleries, cafes and, yes, a plethora of brew pubs located downtown.  There were many art galleries, coops and museum/stores that I enjoyed walking through and seeing the creative inspirations from local artisans from around the state. After a nice long walk through the historic district and after picking up my niece from the airport, we were ready to get some rest in preparation for a long day ahead at Glacier National Park.

Helena downtown area Northwest national park road trip

 Walking the downtown promenade in Helena

 

Cool architecture in Helena, Montana area Northwest national park road trip

 

 

 

 

 

Glacier National park Northwest national park road trip

Road trip to Glacier National Park

Possibly one of the most scenic drives in North America, the trip from Helena to Glacier National Park takes about three hours and faster if you drive at the incredibly fast speed limit at 80 mph in Montana, which is the fastest limit I’ve ever experienced in any state. It doesn’t even seem like you are driving at that speed, with all the gorgeous scenery unfolding at every turn. We pass by mellow rivers, rolling hills and finally impressive mountain ranges of the Glacier National Park region (a part of the Rocky mountain range). Instead of driving most of the way through the main interstate, we decided to go by the smaller roads on the way to the park so we could see more beautiful landscapes and check out some of the quirky towns and countryside we would pass along the way.

Glacier National park lake MacDonald Northwest national park road trip

In no time, we made it to the west entrance of Glacier Park and the typical morning backup through the main toll gate was relatively mild since we arrived closer to mid-day. I read that the “must do” thing when visiting Glacier is to drive the entire length of the Road to the Sun. This scenic route starts at the lower base area, climbs uphill, and opens up to magnificent peaks, offering incredible views, brilliant wildflowers and waterfalls and panoramic vistas of the entire park below. The drive starts out easy and you quickly enter forested areas with peek-a-boo views of prominent lakes around the park floor. Slowly, you start to drive up to some of the mid sections in the park, affording the first views of the landscape below. It seems like the more we kept driving uphill, the views kept getting better and better, with clear vistas of the valley floor below along with scenic alpine ridges and dense pine forests. Luckily when we visited, the entire park bloomed with wildflowers popping up from the valley floor and into the alpine areas in the higher elevations. Even the burned forest areas were filled with stunning wildflower meadows, creating a stark contrast to the burnt out tree silhouettes. Overall, the road trip on the Roadway to the Sun is one of the highlights of visiting Glacier Park and is a can’t miss activity driving from one side of the park to the other.

Glacier Park Road to the Sun panorama

 

Glacier National park panorama Northwest national park road trip

 

 

 

 

Fronting Yellowstone Grand Canyon 2016

Yellowstone National Park 2016

 

Road trip to Yellowstone National Park

From Helena, Montana the drive to Yellowstone is relatively easy and is also scenic driving into the main cities of Butte and Bozeman, to the north of the park. We decided to enter the national park along the north entrance at Gardiner and Livingston. This was perfect so we could see the north section of the park including the wonderful landscapes at Mammoth Hot Springs, the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and the wilderness areas of Mount Washburn and Tower Junction. While driving through the expansive meadow areas north of  Yellowstone Lake, we were able to spot our first bison which happen to thrive in this area of rolling meadows, rivers and grassy plains.

Yellowstone's Grand Canyon, Yellowstone National park

Once you start driving around the park area, you realize how expansive and large the entire park is and how much driving it takes to see everything. The next day we spent touring the major sites and stunning attractions and still barely covered all the key park attractions. Part of that is the constant slow traffic due mostly to wildlife on the road, and or congestion entering the main attraction areas, and challenges with finding parking in the area.  In spite of this being the peak summer season, I think we did well and covered all the main attractions to be seen around the park.  Here are some of the highlights driving around the different areas and key sites of Yellowstone Park.

 

Exploring Mammoth Hot Springs at Yellowstone

 

Mammoth Hot Springs Yellowstone National park

Tip: if you plan to visit the park especially in peak season, make sure you have your hotels, rental car and touring activities booked in advanced since everything fills up quickly and prices tend to fluctuate higher when there is limited availability.

Where we stayed on our road trip

 

Holiday Inn Helena Montana

Holiday Inn Hotel at Helena, Montana

This was a perfect location in between both national parks with an easy airport to arrive and leave from. The Holiday Inn at Helena is located right downtown in the historic district which is perfect for walking around the heart of the capital. We stayed in a fantastic standard size room with comfortable and plush queen size beds. The bathrooms were also well appointed with wonderful bathroom amenities. Other nice features included a nice office desk area and complementary in room wifi access.

Holiday Inn bedroom Helena Montana

Ready for a comfortable sleep at Holiday Inn, Helena

Holiday Inn bathroom Helena Montana

Holiday Inn, Cody Wyoming

Holiday Inn Hotel at Cody, Wyoming

Located in the ‘Rodeo Capital of the West’ at Cody, the Holiday Inn Hotel is situated on the main road which is perfect for walking around the main street after you settle into your room. We were greeted warmly even after a late night arrival and I was ready to hit my deluxe queen size bed. The in room wifi was fast and complementary with the stay which is perfect for me.

Holiday Inn bedroom, Cody Wyoming

Ready for a good nights sleep at Holiday Inn Cody

Holiday Inn bathroom, Cody Wyoming

If you enjoyed this post, please check out my other post on visiting Yellowstone below

A wildlife tour of Yellowstone National Park

Thanks for visiting today and checking out this post on Northwest national park road trip, hopefully you will be able to see and experience these amazing national parks on a road trip and enjoy the rest of the evening at a Holiday Inn close to the parks. If you enjoyed the images and post, could you please share it with any of the social media buttons located around the post.

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Tepee hotels towards Glacier National park

Disclosure – this road trip made in collaboration with Holiday Inn Hotels, all thoughts and opinions are completely my own and the road trip was a fabulous way to visit the national parks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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14 Responses to Northwest national park road trip

  1. Agness of Fit Travelling March 6, 2017 at 10:55 am #

    These gardens are magnificent, Noel! Keep up the good work!

  2. Monika October 3, 2016 at 7:20 pm #

    Hey Noel, your blog is really amazing and you have decorated your blog a great way! Really amazing writing style. Thanks dear for sharing with us and keep it up.

  3. Bella August 22, 2016 at 2:59 am #

    Hello Noel,
    I am interested in visiting all of the US national parks. Contact me if you are interested in joining me along the way!
    Bella

  4. Dave August 2, 2016 at 3:39 am #

    I love your photos! They have such wonderful scenic views. Looking at this makes me want to visit the place.
    Thanks for sharing!

  5. Nisha July 31, 2016 at 7:06 pm #

    Amazing trip! Yellowstone is in my bucket list. Of all the things, I would like to stay in the tepee! 🙂

  6. Mar Pages July 31, 2016 at 6:22 pm #

    I love the city, but I definitely miss the feeling of being in wide open spaces filled with gorgeous natural landscapes. I’ve been seeing a lot of people visiting Yellowstone, and no wonder- its gorgeous!

  7. Caroline July 31, 2016 at 11:30 am #

    Montana and Wyoming are two states that are perpetually underrated … love the time I spent out there years ago!

  8. Veronika July 31, 2016 at 7:15 am #

    Hi, wow, there are some amazing places around Montana. I would love to visist the Glacier Park as it looks really pristine and as you mentioned there is quite some wildlife. Your pictures look like from another planet – greener and more beautiful. So cool this kind of places still exist.

  9. Cristina July 31, 2016 at 6:31 am #

    The Yellowstone National Park photos are great. I would love to go one day.
    Cristina

  10. Drew July 30, 2016 at 10:22 pm #

    I did a similar trip a few years back with family and it was a highlight of my US travels. We also started in Helena, a fantastic little town, and then made our way south to Yellowstone and Grand Tetons. As a Midwesterner, I was familiar with the concept of Big Sky Country but it really must be seen to be believed!

  11. LeAnna Brown July 30, 2016 at 9:56 pm #

    When I was a kid we went to Cody Wyoming on the way to Yellowstone and it was awesome! I Can’t wait to return with my own kids in the future. Gorgeous pictures- reminds us just how beautiful the US is!!

  12. mark wyld July 30, 2016 at 11:18 am #

    What a trip. America is not big on my lists of places to visit anytime soon but if i did these are the sort of places i would hot up. National Parks, road trips and small town America all appeal to us. The hotel rooms looked very comfortable

  13. Bintu July 29, 2016 at 10:09 pm #

    It looks like Helena is a great base being at the crossroads of both parks. I would love to go to Yellowstone park and explore the hot springs. What a great trip you had

  14. Melanie July 29, 2016 at 10:05 pm #

    Great post. Haven’t been to this part of the US yet. My last trip was in Utah and I especially loved Moab. The national parks are really great and so happy you could take your niece. She looks super happy on that pic. I think she had a great time together with you. Also the hotel looks great.

I look forward to hearing from you and continuing our discussion with any comment you would like to add