The Perfect 2 Days in Yellowstone Road Trip Itinerary

Seemingly endless opportunities for adventure wait for you on this Yellowstone National Park itinerary.

With 3,500 square miles of wilderness terrain, over 10,000 hydrothermal features, more than 500 active geysers, and approximately 1,000 miles of exciting hiking trails, it’s hard to know where to start in this giant outdoor playground.

Where do I go first? What Yellowstone attractions do I absolutely need to see?

There’s no need to feel overwhelmed by the massive selection of recreation and site seeing options in America’s first national park because we have put together the ultimate 2 days in Yellowstone road trip itinerary.

You’ll get to make the most of your visit with famous attractions, insider tips (this itinerary was written by a Big Sky, MT local who lives less than an hour from the park!), hidden gems, and a thoughtfully designed driving route!

Have your camera, binoculars, and park map handy while tackling this Yellowstone itinerary! 

We have a lot of exploring to do to tackle one of the USA’s most bucket list-worthy destinations in such a short amount of time.

Photo of the waterfall at Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone (Lower Falls) surrounded by canyon and trees
PLANNING FOR YELLOWSTONE AT A GLANCE: 

When to Go: While Yellowstone is beautiful in winter, all its main roads close off to passenger cars which means that you won't be able to go on a self-drive. So the best time to visit Yellowstone National Park is in late spring, summer, and early fall.

Where to Stay: There are so many places to stay in Yellowstone both inside and outside the park but those inside can only be book directly at the Yellowstone National Park Lodges website!

However, if you don't book early enough and find the accommodations inside the park full, you can stay at one of these cabins in West Yellowstone which is next to the park entrance, or The Adventure Inn if you want a luxurious stay and if you're on a budget, Kelly Inn is the best option.

And if you're unable to get accommodation in West Yellowstone, you can opt to stay in Jackson, WY especially if you plan to visit Grand Teton National Park as well. In that case, I recommend The Elk Country Inn for budget travelers, Wyoming Inn (mid-range boutique), and Teton Mountain Lodge and Spa for a luxury stay. And for a homey feel, I suggest staying at this cozy and luxurious cabin.

How to Get Around: A car is key for Yellowstone National Park; there is no shuttle, and without a car, you'd have to rely on tours. If you're renting a car, compare car rentals and prices from here. Alternately, you can rent an RV or campervan via RVShare and save on accommodations.
 
Don't want to drive or plan? You can book this two-day Yellowstone tour from Jackson, or this full-day Yellowstone tour from West Yellowstone. And if you plan to visit both Yellowstone and Grand Teton, then I recommend going for this two-day tour of both Grand Teton & Yellowstone. 

3 Things Not to Forget to Pack: Binoculars are key for spotting wildlife like bears, elk, moose, and bison-- I suggest these Nikon binoculars. For hikes, you'll want a sturdy pair of hiking boots -- I love my Ahnu boots -- and some bear spray for safety reasons. 

Know Before You Go: If you plan to visit multiple national parks in a year, the America the Beautiful Pass will save you a bundle! It costs $80 for an annual pass (for an entire vehicle traveling together) to all US national parks and federally managed sites.  

How This 2 Day Yellowstone Itinerary Works

The Old Faithful geyser at sunset, a plume of steam shooting high into the air as the sun sets behind it, a classic sight on any Yellowstone itinerary.

Yellowstone is one of the largest national parks in America, so of course, there is simply no way you can see all of Yellowstone National Park in 2 days.

Since time is limited, we’ve picked the most essential sights in Yellowstone. I mean, you can’t visit Yellowstone and NOT go to the Grand Prismatic Spring or Old Faithful, right?

But as magical as those spots can be, they can also be rather crowded. With 4 million annual visitors, most of those in the summer months, you’re definitely not alone!

So we’ve also filled in the gaps between those busy-but-beautiful spots with some (relatively) off-the-beaten-path suggestions. 

These will allow you a chance to break away from the crowds a bit and experience the beauty of Yellowstone for yourself, away from masses of selfie sticks!

Of course, “off the beaten path” is relative to a place as well known as Yellowstone National Park! 

But Yellowstone is a park where most people simply drive between overlooks and drive-in spots, so allocating time for some of these short Yellowstone hikes that I’ve outlined is the best way to get away from the crowds.

This is the best way to experience the beauty of the park as it was intended to be experienced, before a time of mass tourism.

This 2 day Yellowstone itinerary is intended to be done by self-drivers, those with their own car or a rental car.

You don’t need any sort of 4×4 or special bells and whistles on your car, though if you are visiting in the early spring or fall, you may need tire chains depending on road conditions (check with the Yellowstone website for up-to-date information).

Be aware that Yellowstone is almost entirely closed to vehicle traffic in winter — more on this below.

Visiting Yellowstone in 2 days actually divides quite neatly due to the structure of the park’s main roads, which form a figure 8.

On the first day, we’ll tackle the lower loop, and on the second day, we’ll tackle the upper loop.

This way, you’ll see the main park highlights and some lesser-known spots without backtracking excessively and wasting precious time of your two days in Yellowstone!

Renting a Car for Yellowstone

A car on the road heading towards snow-covered mountains on a Yellowstone road trip between Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.

If you’re road tripping to Yellowstone from your home state, disregard this section.

If you need to fly in to get to Yellowstone, I suggest flying to Jackson Hole Airport (JAC).

In the peak summer season, 15 destinations fly directly to Jackson Hole, including NYC, Chicago, LA, Denver, Salt Lake City, Dallas, and others.

American Airlines, Delta Airlines, United Airlines fly to Jackson Hole year-round, and seasonally, Alaska and Frontier also service the airport.

At Jackson Hole Airport there are plenty of car rentals available.

Not sure where to get the best deal on your rental? I’ve rented cars dozens of times through various search engines and have settled on RentalCars.com as the best car rental search aggregator – it sifts through dozens of trusted rental companies to find the cheapest price for your rental! Compare prices for your car rental here.

There is also the West Yellowstone Airport, but flying here is usually more expensive and car rentals are often pricier here. I don’t recommend this one if you are on a budget!

Another option is the Bozeman-Yellowstone airport in Montana, though this requires a 1.5-hour drive to the park. That said, you may be able to find cheaper car rentals via Bozeman.

How to Do 2 Days in Yellowstone Without a Car

A bison on the edge of the orange part of Grand Prismatic Spring, the turquoise center of the spring is close by in the upper right corner of the photo.
This bison clearly didn’t read the “keep off” safety signs!

If you don’t have a car, you may be wondering how to tackle this 2 day Yellowstone itinerary. Honestly: it’d be basically impossible to do it without either A) your own car or B) a guided tour.

Unlike other national parks, Yellowstone does not have its own shuttle service, and there are no local buses that serve Yellowstone (just the area around Jackson Hole).

So, if you don’t have a car or don’t want to drive, you’ll definitely need to take a guided tour. I recommend staying in Jackson or West Yellowstone where most tours depart.

From Jackson: I recommend this two-day Yellowstone tour which covers both the Upper and Lower loops.

It’s a bit pricy but you will see all the best things to see in the park without missing out. Alternately, you could do this Lower Loop tour for Day 1, which pretty closely tracks this itinerary, and on Day 2, you could explore the lovely Jackson Hole area which has plenty to see!

Book your two-day Yellowstone tour here!

Another option if you’re staying in Jackson is doubling up on National Parks and visiting two-in-one with this 2-day Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone tour.

The parks are surprisingly close together and it’s quite easy to combine the two into a tour that’s been organized for this purpose. This tour is wildlife-focused so it’s perfect for people who are more interested in wildlife over landscapes.

From West Yellowstone: This full-day Yellowstone tour will cover most of the best things to see in the park in just one day, including most of the Lower Loop such as Old Faithful, Fountain Paint Pots, and Grand Prismatic Spring.

For your second day, you can go on a zipline adventure or rafting trip departing from West Yellowstone.

Best Time of Year to Visit Yellowstone

The waterfall at Tower Falls, a long exposure photo of a waterfall going off of a sheer cliff drop, surrounded by green trees in summer.

This Yellowstone itinerary is really only suitable for late spring, summer, and early fall, when you are able to drive yourself into the park and self-guide. 

This is because once there is significant snowfall, the main roads in Yellowstone all close to passenger vehicles, and the only way to access the park becomes by snowcoach tour (which can get pricy!) or by snowmobile (even pricier, unless you happen to already own your own!).

While Yellowstone in winter is an absolutely incredible experience, and one that I have no qualms recommending, this itinerary for Yellowstone simply will not work in winter because you won’t be able to access the roads needed in order to see the sights in the order suggested.

If you’re planning a winter Yellowstone trip, I suggest you read this post on 30 things to know before visiting Yellowstone in winter, written by the same Montana local who wrote this post!

I would suggest that the best time to visit the park would be in the shoulder season just before or just after summer.

May and September are brilliant months to visit Yellowstone, especially if you don’t have kids (or if you’re homeschooling), since the park definitely fills up with families during the summer vacation months. You’ll find better prices on accommodations as well outside of the peak season.

A nice thing to know about visiting Yellowstone in the summer is that temperatures are never that hot!

Even in July, the hottest month in the park, the average high temperature is 72 degrees F.

It can get quite cold in the evening due to the high elevation (8,000 feet!) though, so you’ll want to come prepared with layers for the evening chill!

Where to Stay in Yellowstone

Old Faithful Lodge near the geyser, a large wooden mountain lodge surrounded by trees, a popular place to stay on a Yellowstone road trip
The Old Faithful Lodge in Yellowstone books up months and months in advance!

There are so many options for where to stay in Yellowstone! I’ll make a few suggestions both inside and outside of the park.

Between May and October, some lodges are open in Yellowstone. You can find the full list here, which is also where you can book the accommodations.

You cannot book these accommodations on other booking portals, only directly. You must book several months in advance… like, we’re talking 6+ months for places like the Old Faithful Inn and the Canyon Lodge!

If you didn’t book your lodge inside Yellowstone on time, or if you’d prefer to stay outside the park, I’d suggest either West Yellowstone, Idaho or Jackson, Wyoming as your base.

West Yellowstone is closer to the park entrance and is better for following this itinerary. It’s where I strongly recommend you stay!

However, Jackson is doable if you are also planning to visit Grand Teton National Park during your stay, and it can be done as long as you get an early start each day of this itinerary.

There are options that are further afield, like Gardiner, Montana, and Cody, Wyoming. However, these will definitely add extra travel time to your trip and may not be worth it for a short 2 days in Yellowstone itinerary.

West Yellowstone, ID Accommodations

CABINS | If you want to stay in a self-contained cabin (great for social distance!), Explorer Cabins at Yellowstone is ideal.

The grounds are made up of 50 cabins which have plenty of space between them, and each unit is self-contained so there are no communal areas except for the fire pit (where you can toast your welcome s’mores!).

Plus, they’re dog-friendly, and just a few minutes from the West entrance to the park!
>> Check photos and reviews on Booking.com | Book on Hotels.com

VRBO | For a homey feel, I suggest this stylish and luxurious loft.

The cabin is perfectly located near Henry’s Lake and stylishly designed for your comfort. It is fully equipped with all the appliances you might need. It might be a little pricy but the comfort and serenity it provides will make up for that.
>> Check photos and reviews on Vrbo

BOUTIQUE | For design lovers who want a hint of luxury, I suggest the hip The Adventure Inn.

This stylish spot has a minimalist style, with a Scandinavian sensibility mashed up against a woodsy edge. It’s like a Brooklyn loft and a mountain cabin had a baby: it’s beautiful. 
>> Check photos and reviews on Booking.com | Book it on Hotels.com

BUDGET | If money is a concern but you want a place that’s comfortable, clean, and convenient, it doesn’t get much better than Kelly Inn.

This cozy, rustic hotel has perks like an indoor pool, sauna, and hot tub while not breaking the bank. However, the rooms are a little dated, but for the price, it’s perfect.
>> Check photos and reviews on Booking.com | Book it on Hotels.com

Jackson, WY Accommodations

BOUTIQUE | If the design and the personality of a hotel is important to you, I suggest Wyoming Inn.

This cozy inn features Western-style decor complete with a roaring fireplace, warm woodsy colors, rustic design touches, and large, modern rooms. 
>> Check photos and reviews on Booking.com | Book it on Hotels.com

BUDGET | If you’re traveling Yellowstone on a budget and want to stay in Jackson, I’d pick The Elk Country Inn.

It’s highly rated by fellow travelers and affordable (well, by Jackson standards). It’s located just 4 blocks from Town Square in central Jackson, and the rooms are modern, spacious, and clean.
>> Check photos and reviews on Booking.com | Book it on Hotels.com

LUXURY |  If cost is not a factor, the stunning Teton Mountain Lodge and Spa (a Noble House Resort) is a no-brainer.

Located in Teton Village, the rooms all have their own fireplace and cooking area, and there are rooms ranging from queen studios to two-level, two-bedroom suites.

There are indoor and outdoor pools and hot tubs (all heated year-round) and a massage and spa center for those who want a little luxury on their Yellowstone trip.
>> Check photos and reviews on Booking.com | Book it on Hotels.com

Your Perfect 2 Day Yellowstone National Park Itinerary

Day 1 of Your Yellowstone Itinerary

Sign that reads "Welcome to Montana, entering West Yellowstone".

Rise and shine! After spending a restful night in the gateway town of West Yellowstone, you’re conveniently located right near Yellowstone National Park’s West Entrance.

There’s no time to waste because your first day is going to take you on an exciting tour of the Yellowstone Lower Loop.

What’s the Lower Loop? Take a quick look at your map. Notice how Yellowstone National Park’s road system is shaped like a figure 8, which is broken into three loops, as follows:

Upper Loop: the northern circle of the figure 8

Lower Loop: the southern circle of the figure 8

Grand Loop: the outside perimeter of the figure 8

Now that you have a better idea of where Day 1 is taking you, we’re ready to get into the fun stuff — the heart of this Yellowstone itinerary!

Start at the West Entrance.

Sign that reads "Yellowstone National Park National Park Service", made of wood, surrounded by trees.

Welcome to Yellowstone! Excited?

This first section from the West Entrance to the Madison Junction is famous for phenomenal fly fishing.

The Madison River hugs the road providing the perfect view to spot anglers and the occasional moose wading the waters.

As you approach the Madison Junction, look to your right for a view of National Park Mountain standing 7,500 feet tall with the junction of the Firehole River and Gibbon River in the foreground.

We’re headed south at the junction to work the Lower Loop counterclockwise.

Firehole Canyon Drive

View of a rushing river, with rocks in the river bed, surrounded by mountains and trees.

Trust us… You do not want to miss the scenic Firehole Canyon Drive. The turn comes up pretty fast on the right, so be ready!

On this 2-mile detour, you’ll get an up-close look at the 40 ft tall Firehole Falls. We have a little bit more driving to do before the first hike of this Yellowstone road trip, but it’s coming!

For now, take a pullout and scope the hillsides with your binoculars. You’re bound to spot some wildlife in the Firehole River Valley.

Fountain Paint Pots

A geyser in Yellowstone, orangeish deposits on one side of it with a deep blue spring in the middle.

Yellowstone National Park is famous for its colorful hydrothermal pools and you’re going to witness them first hand.

The 0.6-mile loop at the Fountain Paint Pots will bring you past a variety of colorful pools. Don’t forget your camera!

Grand Prismatic Spring

The brilliant colors of Grand Prismatic Spring: purplish-brown, orange and yellow on the rim and deep turquoise in the middle, with a tree-covered mountain behind it.

The next hot spring is surely one you have seen before in photographs, but there’s nothing quite like standing in front of the real thing with its beautiful rainbow of colors.

There’s no way you can skip putting this on your Yellowstone National Park itinerary — it’s probably why you came in the first place!

It’s located in the Midway Geyser Basin, which also includes the Excelsior Geyser, the Turquoise Pool, and the Opal Pool. 

Note: Always stay on the boardwalk or designated hiking trail – it’s illegal and extremely dangerous to walk off the path here!

If you’re visiting Yellowstone with kids, be sure to be extra cautious here!

View of Grand Prismatic Spring and its orange and blue colors from afar, with a treeline in front of the view.

Most visitors stay on the lower boardwalk loop to see Grand Prismatic Spring, but if you’re looking for the best view available on foot, we know exactly where to go.

Drive to the Fairy Falls Trail parking lot and park your car. From there, head to the Grand Prismatic Spring lookout point, located about 0.6 miles into the Fairy Falls Trail, about a 20-minute walk one way.

From the trailhead, you’ll gain about 105 ft of elevation before ending up at the scenic overlook.

You could continue this hike all the way to Fairy Falls, which is a 5.4-mile roundtrip hike, that takes about 3 hours. 

However, with limited time on this Yellowstone itinerary, I think it’s best to just hike up to the lookout point and back.

Remember: Anytime you’re hiking in bear country, carry bear spray and understand how to use it.

Old Faithful

A geyser of steam bursting a hundred feet into the air, surrounded by a barren landscape, on a partly cloudy day with afternoon light.

Old Faithful is named such for its predictable eruptions which make it easy to schedule a trip around. 

It’s not the largest geyser in the park — that would be Steamboat Geyser, which is the world’s tallest active geyser — but it is the most predictable and thus the most popular to see.

The beautiful Old Faithful geyser is located in the Upper Geyser Basin, a separate part of the basin of Yellowstone than the previous springs on this itinerary.

Just outside the Old Faithful Visitor Center, there are rows of benches set in front of the geyser for a stadium-style viewing.

But… That’s not actually the best place to view the eruption of Old Faithful!

Insider tip: After checking the next eruption time in the visitor center, take the Observation Point – Geyser Hill Trail for a birds-eye view of Old Faithful!

This 2.3-mile loop is well worth the hike and will bring you past some less-trafficked thermal features like Doublet Pool and Giantess Geyser!

West Thumb Geyser Basin

A deep blue and turquoise geyster, with orange and white mineral deposits beside it, next to a deep blue lake.

Take the boardwalk along Yellowstone Lake and check out the geysers that hug its banks.

This is also a perfect spot for a picnic lunch if you didn’t already stop for a bite at Old Faithful!

Hayden Valley wolves and grizzly bears on your must-see Yellowstone wildlife list? This is one of the best places to spot bears, wolves, and many other YNP residents roaming the valley.

Be patient, scan the landscape with your binoculars, and use the pullouts off the main road for thorough searches.

Mud Volcano

Bubbling mud pool in Yellowstone National Park with steam rising off the top at the Dragon's Mouth part of the loop

As you head north towards the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, you can stop off at the Mud Volcano, where you’ll see many incredible volcanic elements in one easy 0.8-mile loop trail. 

Don’t miss the Dragon’s Mouth part of the loop — it’s a brief detour but it’s an incredible sight to see!

You’ll also see Mud Caldron, Sizzling Basin, Churning Caldron, Black Dragons Caldron, Sour Lake, and Grizzy Fumarole as you pass through this short, boardwalk hike.

Grand Canyon of The Yellowstone

A giant waterfall in a massive canyon surrounded by trees and orange-yellow rock canyon.

As you approach the Canyon Village area, turn right onto South Rim Drive towards Artist Point.

This is one of the most iconic viewpoints of the 308 ft tall Lower Falls. You definitely don’t want to miss the view on this short 0.1-mile paved walk!

Want a closer look? Take Uncle Tom’s Trail down to a viewpoint of the Lower Falls. Just remember that there are 328 steps: so easy to take down, so much harder to take back up!

There is also the shorter but still impressive Upper Falls, which are 109 feet but still massively impressive. Stop at the Upper Falls View for great photos.

Gibbon Falls

A waterfall in a river going over the steps of a tiered rock formation, forming a veil shape.

The 84 ft Gibbon Falls is another must-see waterfall. With its convenient location right off the road, there’s no reason not to stop and take a look!

There’s also an easy 0.5-mile roundtrip walk down to the falls if you’d like to get closer.

For a convenient starting point on your second day, we recommend camping at Madison Campground or Norris Campground.

If camping isn’t in the books for this Yellowstone road trip, there are cabins and hotel accommodations in the Canyon Village area near the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Get a good sleep to tackle the next day of this Yellowstone itinerary!

Day 2 of Your Yellowstone Itinerary

Yellowstone River meandering through grassy plains surrounded by trees on a partly cloudy day.

There’s still so much to see, and an early start gives you a better chance for some exciting wildlife sightings!

Today, we are going to visit the best of the Upper Loop.

We’ll start at the Norris Geyser Basin Area and head North towards Mammoth Hot Springs to take the loop clockwise.

Obsidian Cliff

This National Historic Landmark is a neat way to start the day!

The obsidian from these cliffs was first collected by hunters and gatherers over 11,000 years ago and has been traced across the country along historic trade routes. Obsidian was once used to make arrow and spear heads!

Sheepeater Cliff

Gray basalt columns with lots of smaller, broken apart rocks at the base, on a sunny blue sky day with a patch of clouds.

Here’s another interesting geological site that’s worth the stop.

If you’re ready to give your legs a morning stretch, take the fishing trail out of the picnic area. Follow the trail about for about 0.5 miles to get awesome views of the Gardner River and a small falls.

How’s that for a morning stretch?

Mammoth Hot Springs

White and rust-colored calcium deposits form a travertine staircase of a hot spring at Mammoth Hot Springs, a must on your 2 days in Yellowstone.

Park in the Lower Terrace Parking Area and hop onto the intricate boardwalk paths that weave around the many hot springs. 

It’s easy to spend over an hour exploring these intriguing thermal features formed by travertine deposits over the millennia!

This is also a popular area to spot elk! 

Look in the grass below the terraces and around the cone-shaped Liberty Cap, which is one of the area’s most prominent feature standing at 37 ft tall.

Optional: Boiling River

A 7-minute drive from Mammoth Hot Springs, the Boiling River is one of the few hot springs in Yellowstone that you can actually swim in!

There is a designated soaking and swimming area where a hot spring mixes and mingles with the Gardner River, creating a bath-like temperature where you can soak and enjoy the geothermal features of Yellowstone for yourself!

At the time of the last update (6/2/2021), this hot spring is still closed due to the pandemic, but check the NPS website for updates to see if that’s changed!

Blacktail Plateau Drive

Late afternoon light falls onto the landscape on Blacktail Plateau, illuminating a distant mountain and a grassy plain.

After you’ve taken a thorough tour of the Mammoth Hot Springs, head west to continue on the Upper Loop.

This section is famous for wildlife viewings, so keep your eyes peeled. It’s never a bad idea to take the scenic route! Right? Turn onto the Blacktail Plateau Drive and get off the main road for 6 miles.

Petrified Tree

The trunk of a tree which has been petrified, surrounded by trees and blue sky.

Almost immediately after rejoining the main road, the turnoff for the Petrified Tree will be on the right.

Is it a tree or a rock? Worth the very short walk up the trail to get a closer look!

Tower Falls Optional Detour

View of Tower Falls from above, a waterfall plunging into a pool below it, surrounded by rock formations and evergreen trees.

If you’re interested in checking out the 132-foot drop of Tower Falls, it’s only a short detour south at Tower Junction. The rock pinnacles framing the massive falls truly make it a sight to see. The trail to the viewpoint is less than one mile round-trip.

After the falls you will head back to the intersection and turn towards Lamar Valley… Have your binoculars in hand!

Insider tip: The Yellowstone River Picnic Area in the Lamar Valley is a great spot to stop for lunch. It even comes equipped with a quiet scenic trail down to the Yellowstone River.

Lamar Valley

Three bison walking next to a small river, with yellow grass and several mountain peaks behind them.

Lamar Valley is a wildlife lover’s dream. Take your time driving through this section and use pullouts frequently to scan the hillsides with your binoculars or scope.

Bison and antelope sightings are almost a guarantee, but you’ll have to be very observant to spot the resident bear and wolf packs.

For a short hike following your wildlife safari, check out Trout Lake. The trailhead is a small signed pullout on the main road. This lollipop loop trail is only 0.6 miles, and offers beautiful mountain views!

Beartooth Highway

A view of a highway going through some pine trees with a slight bit of fog on some of the distant trees.

As you approach Cooke City after your hike, prepare to say goodbye to Yellowstone National Park as you exit via the scenic Beartooth Highway to head towards the fun mountain town of Red Lodge!

This is where we leave you to discover your next adventure — hopefully you enjoyed this Yellowstone itinerary!

If You Have More Than 2 Days in Yellowstone…

Turquoise and white geyser and geothermal area with a boardwalk trail and pine trees in the distance on a hill

I’d suggest getting off the beaten path (no, not literally — stay on those boardwalks, for your sake and the park’s!) and checking out some of the more sedate areas of the park.

One such area is Porcelain Basin, part of the Norris Geyser Basin area on the West side of the park. There are two loops which will have you see all of the Porcelain Basin area, and the total walking distance for tackling both of the loops is only 1.1 miles. 

Tired of all the driving and want to stretch your legs? Take a hike up Bunsen Peak, a 4.6-mile roundtrip hike that is moderate in difficulty but outstanding in views.

Enjoy views of Mammoth Hot Springs, the Yellowstone River, and other stunning sites from a bird’s eye view on this lesser-visited hike.

What to Pack for 2 Days in Yellowstone

A woman wearing an orange hat and orange rain jacket and a backpack taking cellphone photos at one of the hot springs in Yellowstone by a lake.

I have a full guide to what to pack for a road trip here, but here are the quick packing essentials for a 2-day itinerary for Yellowstone.

Travel Guides: While I’ve given you as much information as I can in this info-packed Yellowstone itinerary, there’s no denying that a dedicated travel guide does it better as they just have so much more time to dedicate to research! Combine our firsthand experience with a travel guide like this Moon Yellowstone & Grand Teton guide for a more epic adventure.

Layered Clothing: Even if you are visiting Yellowstone in summer, due to the high elevation, it can get chilly at night so plan accordingly!

You’ll want at least 2 shirts (synthetic or wool, long and/or short sleeve depending on the season), 2 pairs of leggings or pants, 2 pairs shorts, 1 fleece outer layer, a waterproof jacket, beanie, gloves, and 3 pairs of socks.

Comfortable Footwear: You can go with sneakers or hiking boots (I love my Ahnu Sugarpine boots for women, and for men, I suggest theKEEN Durand boot.) However, if you pick sneakers, make sure they have good traction and are comfortable enough for 2-3 mile hikes.

Sunscreen: At 8,000 feet elevation, it’s so much easier to get sunburned even on a cloudy day (I learned this the hard way in Quito, Ecuador!). Bring and wear sunscreen every day of your trip, and be sure to reapply it every couple of hours. I like this chemical-free organic sunscreen.

Sunhat: I recommend a packable hat like this one which has a strap. It won’t blow off in gusts of wind (Yellowstone can get windy — it’s that high elevation!) and you can easily wear it on your back when you don’t feel like wearing it on your head.

Day pack: A compact day pack is helpful to have when in Yellowstone so you can easily put everything you need accessible and handy. I like this inexpensive and lightweight Osprey day pack.

Snacks: None of these Yellowstone hikes are particularly intense, but you should have some snacks just in case you get hungry and don’t want to waste time on your Yellowstone itinerary sitting down for a long lunch. Pack or pick up a picnic lunch or have plenty of snacks for the day. I recommend protein bars (I love CLIF bars), nuts, or other high-density snacks that give you a lot of energy for their weight.

Camera: I use and love my Sony A6000! It’s mirrorless, so it’s lightweight and perfect for a high-quality camera that won’t weigh your pack down. I suggest bringing a zoom lens for wildlife and a wide-angle lens for landscapes.

First aid kit: Don’t let things like blisters or scrapes ruin your Yellowstone trip! I recommend tossing a first aid kit like this HART Weekend First Aid kit in your day bag. It’s lightweight, but if you ever need it, you’ll be so glad to have it.

Headlamp (and extra batteries): If you want to do any sunrise or sunset hiking, I recommend bringing a headlamp like this Petzl headlamp.

Water filter bottle: While there are water fountains around Yellowstone, I still suggest having a water bottle with a filter so you can fill up anywhere there’s a water source! There are a wide variety of water filtration systems and treatments, but I love the GRAYL Geopress, which allows you to filter water from any source — perfect for filling up on a hike if you see water. It’s compact and easy to use and filters out 99.99% of microplastics, viruses, bacteria, and particles.


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The Perfect 2 Days in Grand Teton Itinerary: Road Trip Style

The Teton Range stands tall over Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.

Their recognizable formation is alluring to mountaineers, photographers, hikers, and road trippers alike.

We will be traveling across the park from south to north with stops at all of the best attractions! 

Grab your camera, binoculars, and hiking gear, and get ready for an adventure you’ll never forget – a memorable Grand Teton National Park road trip.

view of a marina with all the boats out on the lake with lots of mountains in the distance
PLANNING FOR GRAND TETON AT A GLANCE:

When to Go: While winter in Grand Teton is beautiful, summer is when Grand Teton shines the most. It's also when it's at its most crowded, so get an early start, especially if you are following this itinerary which uses the Moose entrance (the most convenient, but also the most crowded!).

Where to Stay: There are so many places to stay in Jackson Hole area! I stayed at the Gros Ventre Campground right outside the Elk Refuge and Mormon Row and loved it. 

There are a few lodges in the park (Colter Bay Cabins, Jackson Lake Lodge, Jenny Lake Lodge) but they book up quickly, often 6 months in advance.

If the lodges are all booked up, there is usually plenty of availability in Jackson and Teton Village. I suggest Wyoming Inn (mid-range boutique), the Elk Country Inn (budget/mid-range), or the Teton Mountain Lodge & Spa (high-end luxury).

How to Get Around: A car is key for Grand Teton National Park; there is no shuttle, and without a car, you'd have to rely on tours. If you're renting a car, compare car rentals and prices from here. Alternately, you can rent an RV or campervan via RVShare and save on accommodations

Don't want to drive or plan? You can book a wildlife tour of Grand Teton, a Jeep tour with boat ride, or a two-day tour of both Grand Teton & Yellowstone.

3 Things Not to Forget to Pack: Binoculars are key for spotting wildlife like bears, elk, moose, and bison-- I suggest these Nikon binoculars. For hikes, you'll want a sturdy pair of hiking boots -- I love my Ahnu boots -- and some bear spray for safety reasons.

Know Before You Go: If you plan to visit multiple national parks in a year, the America the Beautiful Pass will save you a bundle! It costs $80 for an annual pass (for an entire vehicle traveling together) to all US national parks and federally managed site.  

How This Grand Teton Itinerary Works

The snow-covered Teton Range is reflecting in a pond or river in the afternoon sunlight, surrounded by grass and trees.

This is a self-guided itinerary that assumes you’ll have access to your own car throughout the duration of your time in Grand Teton. 

Road tripping Grand Teton is definitely the best way to experience the park at your own pace and maximize your time.

If you don’t have a car, there is a free shuttle available. It connects Jackson, the Jackson Lake Lodge, Colter Bay Village, and the South Jenny Lake Visitor Center. 

However, besides these stops, there is no shuttle service within the park. As a result, it’d be pretty hard to follow this itinerary, which is designed to be a Grand Teton road trip itinerary.

This itinerary for Grand Teton is best suited for people who want to see the best of Grand Teton National Park’s main highlights, while also having time to hike and experience the beautiful wilderness of the region.

 It affords opportunities for appreciating the area’s wildlife while also seeing the natural wonders and highlights of the park.

However, since this itinerary just allows for 2 days in Grand Teton National Park, it’s not going to be possible to see everything.

We’ve had to make a few omissions in order to have an itinerary that is reasonable, not stressful!

This Grand Teton itinerary will work best if you are staying in the park itself or in the nearby town of Jackson, WY or Teton Village, WY. 

These destinations together (along with Hoback, Kelly, Moose, Moran Junction, and Wilson) make up the region of Jackson Hole, but Jackson and Teton Village have the most accommodation options.

Renting a Car for Grand Teton

An empty road leading towards the distinctive peaks of the Teton Range near Grand Teton National Park on a cloudless summer day.

If you are driving to Wyoming in your own personal vehicle, you can disregard this section!

If you are flying into Grand Teton, you’ll want to pick the Jackson Hole Airport (JAC). 

This offers the easiest access to the park by a long shot. If you are also visiting Yellowstone first, you may want to look into flying into West Yellowstone or Bozeman-Yellowstone Airport.

In the peak season (summer), there are 15 destinations that service Jackson Hole directly, including but not limited to Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago, Denver, Salt Lake City, Dallas-Fort Worth, and more. 

American, Delta, United, Alaska, and Frontier all service the airport, though Alaska and Frontier are only seasonal.

Therefore, I suggest renting a car from the Jackson Hole Airport.

Not sure where to get the best deal on your rental? I’ve rented cars dozens of times through various search engines and have settled on RentalCars.com as the best car rental search aggregator – it sifts through dozens of trusted rental companies to find the cheapest price for your rental! Compare prices for your car rental here.

How to Do 2 Days in Grand Teton Without a Car

The pale turquoise water of Jenny Lake, surrounded by evergreen trees and steep mountain peaks in the Tetons, on a sunny day visiting Grand Teton National Park in summer.

Honestly — it would be very tough! 

While there is a shuttle between Jackson and 3 key park stops, it’s not nearly enough to be able to handle this Grand Teton itinerary.

If you were to try to tackle this without a car, you’d end up fairly limited. 

You could spend one day at Jenny Lake and hiking to Inspiration Point and the next day visiting Colter Bay Village and the area around Jackson Lake, including Christian Pond Loop.

However, you’d miss all the wonderful scenic overlooks in between, as well as the National Elk Refuge which is a true highlight of the park (well, technically just outside the park).

If you can’t drive but you want to maximize what you can see inside Grand Teton in 2 days, the best option would be to go with a guided tour. 

I’d recommend this full-day tour which includes stops at Antelope Flats, Mormon Row, Oxbow Bend, Pacific Creek, Jackson Lake, Signal Lake, and Jenny Lake, as well as a light breakfast and hearty picnic lunch.

Book your full-day tour of Grand Teton here!

The following day, you’ll still have plenty of opportunities to enjoy the landscapes around Jackson Hole and the Grand Tetons.

You could enjoy all the fun things to do in the town of Jackson, enjoy a scenic flight over the Grand Tetons or even a sunrise hot air balloon ride, or take a day trip to Yellowstone’s Lower Loop to see all the highlights of Yellowstone National Park in a single day!

Best Time of Year to Visit Grand Teton National Park

Mt. Moran at Oxbow Bend in Grand Teton National Park, reflected in the river which is surrounded by orange foliage in the autumn.

The peak hiking season in Grand Teton is quite short, mostly consisting of late spring, summer, and early fall. 

If you are going to Grand Teton and hoping to hike without significant snow on the ground, you’re best off if you wait until at least late June, and better yet going in July or August. However, note that crowds at that time will be at their peak then!

September is a delightful month to visit Grand Teton National Park: the crowds are far fewer, due to school resuming and families disappearing from the park, and the temperatures are still warm in the day but there’s little risk of snow disrupting your plans.

The fall foliage is brilliant in September, generally from the middle of the month towards the end, and October usually has beautiful leaves as well, though the weather becomes colder and more unpredictable towards the end of the. month. 

However, the fall foliage season does shift year to year, so this is not a guarantee, but end of September / beginning of October is generally the “safest” window for beautiful fall foliage.

However, winter in Grand Teton is not a no-go! The park is absolutely beautiful in the wintertime, with lots of great winter activities and landscapes to enjoy. You simply have to be prepared and know what to expect in terms of closures and access. 

I have a guide to 30 things to know about visiting Grand Teton in winter that will help you plan a trip in the winter season.

Plus, unlike Yellowstone in winter which almost entirely shuts down to passenger vehicles and requiring the pricy booking of snow coaches and snowmobiles, much of Grand Teton National Park is still able to be visited in the winter independently, making it a great choice for the winter season.

Spring in Grand Teton is beautiful, with alpine wildflowers replacing the snow as its melts. 

However, you can expect snow on the hiking trails until at least the end of May, making hiking more treacherous unless you are experienced and equipped for hiking in the snow.

What to Pack for Grand Teton National Park

A female hiker looking at a valley in Grand Teton National Park, well-prepared with a backpack, hiking poles, and a sunhat on her back.

I have a full road trip packing list here, but here’s the quick rundown.

Travel Guides: I have included so much information in this Grand Teton Itinerary that I believe will be helpful in your trip planning process but sometimes guide books provide more than I can fit in one piece! Combine my personal experiences with this Moon Yellowstone & Grand Teton guide and you’ll be set for an adventure of a lifetime.

Layered Clothing: Even if you are visiting Grand Teton in the summer, due to the high elevation, it can get chilly at night so plan accordingly!

For summer or early fall, you’ll want at least 2 shirts (synthetic or wool, long and/or short sleeve depending on the season), 2 pairs of leggings or pants, 2 pairs of shorts, 1 fleece outer layer, a waterproof jacket, a beanie, gloves, and 3 pairs of socks.

For winter, you’ll skip the short sleeves and shorts and add in thermal layers, a parka, a scarf, waterproof pants, waterproof gloves, and snow boots.

Comfortable Footwear: Visiting the Grand Tetons is all about hiking! A sturdy pair of hiking boots with strong ankle support is really worth the investment. I love my Ahnu Sugarpine boots for women, and for men, I suggest the KEEN Durand boot.)

However, if you pick sneakers, make sure they have good traction and are comfortable enough for several 2-4 mile hikes over the course of this Grand Teton itinerary. Be sure your choice of footwear is waterproof if visiting any time there might be snow on the ground.

Sunscreen: At 6,500+ feet elevation for much of the park (such as Jenny Lake, Taggart Lake, etc. — you’ll go higher on any mountain hikes!), it’s easy to get sunburned, even if the weather seems cloudy. Trust me — I’ve learned this the hard way. Wear sunscreen every day, and ensure that you reapply it every few hours. I suggest this chemical-free organic sunscreen –especially if you plan on swimming, you don’t want to be polluting the pristine lakes with chemical-filled sunscreen!

Sunhat: I recommend a lightweight but packable hat that has a strap, so that you can ensure it won’t get blown off, never to be seen again, by a gust of wind. It’s also handy because you can just wear it on your back when you don’t feel like having it on your head (or for Instagram pics — no judgment).

Day pack: A lovely lightweight day pack is essential to have when in Grand Teton so you can easily put everything you need for a day out hiking in a place that is both easily accessible yet unobtrusive for active days out. I like this inexpensive and lightweight Osprey day pack, which has mesh panels on the back to allow for airflow (goodbye, sweaty backs!).

Snacks: None of these Grand Teton hikes are that strenuous, but I strongly recommend you always have some snacks on you when you hike, just in case you get hungry. You also may not want to waste time on your Grand Teton itinerary waiting for a sit-down lunch or heading to Moose or Jackson for a meal.

I suggest you make or pick up a picnic lunch on your way into the park, or have plenty of snacks for the day. I suggest things like protein bars (I love CLIF bars), nuts, or other high-density snacks that give you a lot of caloric energy for their weight!

Camera: I absolutely love my Sony A6000! It’s a mirrorless camera, not a D-SLR, so it’s lightweight and perfect for a high-quality camera that won’t weigh your daypack down like a larger camera will. That’s just the body: I also suggest bringing a zoom lens for wildlife and a wide-angle lens for landscapes, as the kit lens is OK, but nothing to write home about.

First aid kit: Don’t let a little thing like blisters ruin your Grand Teton trip! I recommend always keeping a first aid kit like this HART Weekend First Aid kit in your daypack. It’s lightweight and unobtrusive, but if you ever need it, you’ll be glad to have it.

Headlamp (and extra batteries): If you want to do any sunrise or sunset hiking, I recommend bringing a headlamp like this Petzl headlamp.

Water filter bottle: While there are water fountains around Grand Teton, I still suggest having a water bottle with a filter so you can fill up anywhere there’s a water source — like all the beautiful alpine lakes around you!

There are a wide variety of water filtration systems, but I personally have and love the GRAYL Geopress, which allows you to filter water from any source. It’s perfect for filling up on a hike if you see water anywhere on the trail. It’s compact and easy to use and filters out 99.99% of microplastics, viruses, bacteria, and other nasty particles, making water instantly safe to drink without plastic waste.

Where to Stay in Grand Teton

A two-story cabin overlooking a lake in Grand Teton National Park, surrounded by mountains and trees, with a few boats out on the lake on a sunny day.

There are lots of options for where to stay when visiting Grand Teton on a road trip! If you’re visiting in the summer, you can stay in the park… but you’ll need to book way in advance!

For where to stay in the park itself, I recommend Jenny Lake Lodge. It has a beautiful location and they have cute rustic cottages, each with its own entrance, as well as an on-site bar and restaurant serving delicious meals, including a 5-course dinner every night.
>> Book your stay at Jenny Lake Lodge on Booking.com | Book it on Hotels.com

However, for most people, unless you plan extremely far ahead in advance, lodging within the park isn’t that feasible. If you find yourself booked out of park lodging, I suggest staying in Jackson, WY or Teton Village, WY.

It’s just a short drive and there’s so much to do in Jackson any time of year (especially in winter!) that it’s worth the extra drive time… especially since the road between Jackson and the Moose entrance of the park is one of the prettiest in the United States!

Jackson Hole Accommodations

BOUTIQUE | If you love a hotel with design that’s packed with a punch of personality, I’d stay at the Wyoming Inn. This charming hotel is super cozy and rustic, with Western-inspired decoration on the interior: we’re taking roaring fireplaces, woodsy colors with lots of natural light, rustic touches and design elements, and large, renovated rooms.
>> Check photos and reviews on Booking.com | Book it on Hotels.com

BUDGET | While Jackson isn’t the biggest budget destination, if you’re trying to save a few bucks on accommodations without sacrificing comfort, I’d suggest The Elk Country Inn. It’s very highly reviewed and offers modern, clean rooms with plenty of space, just 4 blocks from the Town Square in Jackson.
>> Check photos and reviews on Booking.com | Book it on Hotels.com

LUXURY |  While not technically in Jackson but rather in Teton Village, the beautiful  Teton Mountain Lodge and Spa is an absolute stunner. The rooms each have their own fireplace, kitchen, and seating area, and the property has both indoor and outdoor heated pools and hot tubs, as well as a world-class massage and spa center perfect for some well-deserved R&R.
>> Check photos and reviews on Booking.com | Book it on Hotels.com

CABIN | The incredible views you get on the Grand Teton are why you should sleep at this beautiful cabin.

With large windows and a rustic but modern interior, you’re guaranteed an amazing stay at this place while taking in beautiful mountains views from every room. The cabin has a large kitchen, sitting area, a dining area, and a number of bedrooms to accommodate even big groups. The best part is that it’s near Teton River and Big Hole Mountains so you’ll never run out of outdoor activities to do.
>> Check photos and reviews on Vrbo

Your Grand Teton Itinerary

Day 1 of Your Grand Teton Road Trip

This Grand Teton National Park road trip departs from Jackson, Wyoming.

A popular ski town in the winter, Jackson becomes the ultimate gateway town to the Tetons for summer road trips and recreation.

National Elk Refuge

Focus on two elk interlocking horns, several other elk in the background with a tiny bit of snow on the ground on a summery day.

As you make your way north toward the Moose Entrance, the National Elk Refuge hugs the road to the right.

This area is home to one of the largest elk herds ever recorded! There is no fee to enter the refuge if you’re interested in getting a closer look.

Stop and take some photos of these gorgeous elks and start to get pumped for the wildlife and scenery that await you once you enter the park proper!

Mormon Row Historic District

The historic barn or homestead along Mormon Row with the Teton Range in the background

One of the first stops in the national park itself is the Mormon Row historic district located in the Gros Ventre section of the park. 

This is likely one of the photos you’ve seen in all the travel guides (including this one!) to promote Grand Teton. 

The view of the historic barns and homesteads from the 1800s, built by Mormon settlers, juxtaposed against the Teton Range are simply unforgettable.

Stop here to walk around and take some photos, but let’s keep it moving: you have a full day itinerary ahead of you!

Moose Junction

View of Moose Junction and the river snaking below it with a sunburst coming out of the trees as the sun sets behind the Teton range.

Welcome to the park! When you arrive at the Moose Junction, clearly marked, turn left onto Teton Park Road.

Soon after turning, you’ll cross over the Snake River, the largest tributary to the Colombia River.

The Moose Visitor Center is located down a road on the left and is a great place to ask questions about the park.

Windy Point Turnout

A grassy, brushy landscape with mountains in the distance and spotty clouds.

As you’ve probably noticed, there are no bad views in Grand Teton National Park!

If you’re eager to get some early morning photos of the mountains, use the Windy Point Turnout soon after the Moose Entrance Station.

From here, you’ll be able to see Grand Teton, Mount Owen, Middle Teton, and Teewinot Mountain in the distance.

Taggart Lake

Very clear lake water, showing rocks and logs at the shallow end of the lake, deepening in color as the water goes out deeper, and mountain peaks behind it.

Time to get the blood flowing with a 3-mile short hike to Taggart Lake. Fair warning, the Taggart Lake Trailhead parking area fills up early in the day. Arriving in the morning will be worth it!

From the Taggart Lake Trailhead, head down the trail until you come to the loop junction. Take a right at the junction to stay on the Taggart Lake Trail. 

A little farther down the trail, you’ll cross a bridge over Taggart Creek. Check out that waterfall!

Not much farther now, Taggart Lake sits at the base of the Teton Range with the mighty peaks standing proudly in the background.

After completing your photo op and taking in some mountain air, continue back the way you came… or add an extra mile to your round-trip by taking Beaver Creek Trail back to the Taggart Creek Trailhead. Both paths lead back to your vehicle and onto the next adventure!

Jenny Lake

Deep blue water reflecting two large mountains, and two pines in front of the lake.

There is so much to do at Jenny Lake! 

If the views weren’t enough for you, there’s also a visitor center, boat shuttles, camping, concessions, and amazing trail access.

All aboard! Park near the Jenny Lake Visitor Center and take the short trail towards the docks to catch the boat. 

The boat shuttle runs every 15 minutes and there is a small fee for riding. Worth every penny! 

Enjoy the ride until you hop off the boat ride on the west side of the lake at the base of the magnificent peaks.

The fun is just getting started. Any waterfall lovers here? From the dock, Hidden Falls is only a 2-mile round trip hike. This easy-to-access falls drops 100 feet!

Close up of a section of a waterfall cascading down rocks with some green trees in the foreground.

If you’re looking to add in some more hiking miles and really want to earn that ice cream waiting for you at the Jenny Lake Store, forgo the return boat shuttle.

Instead, take the loop trail 4 miles along the southern half of the lake for prime wildlife and mountain viewing opportunities! 

If you want to spend more time at Jenny Lake, there’s also the Cascade Canyon area near the West Shore Boat Dock area, which is really beautiful and scenic. 

hike to Inspiration Point is also fairly easy from the West Shore Boat Dock, taking about 1.8 miles roundtrip and gaining about 500 feet.

Back at the parking area, it’s time to refuel and relax by the rocky shore before hitting the road!

String Lake

Perfectly still water acting like a mirror to reflect the evergreen trees and green-covered low mountains at String Lake, a must on a summer Grand Teton itinerary.

Take the One Way South scenic road and don’t forget to stop at the Cathedral Group Turnout for more breathtaking mountain views. 

Not much farther down the road, you’ll want to make a right to head to the String Lake Picnic Area.

Hot summer days and String Lake were meant for each other! 

The picnic area at the crystal clear lake has an inviting sandy beach with plenty of room to set out chairs and towels for an afternoon swim.

If your legs aren’t cooked from the day’s hikes, there is an easy 4-mile loop trail that rounds the lake and offers additional views of the neighboring Leigh Lake. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife as you make your way around the loop.

Day one ends back at the beaches of String Lake. 

Insider Tip: Watch the sunset over the Teton Range from the Jenny Lake Overlook off of the One Way South scenic road, take a peek at the uninterrupted starry night sky and rest up for another exciting day. 

Day 2 of Your Grand Teton Road Trip

Good morning road trippers! Ready to start this adventure-filled day?

The northern half of Grand Teton National Park awaits! Make your coffee to go because this mountain sunrise is going to be epic.

Mountain View Turnout

Alpenglow (the reddish glow at sunrise on mountain peaks) illuminating a peak of the Teton Range with a pastel lavender sky.

Just past the turn to head toward Sting Lake on the Teton Park Road, you’ll find the Mountain View Turnout on the left.

Appropriately named, this viewpoint is a great spot to set up a tripod. Bring some camp chairs, blankets, and that hot coffee we talked about to watch the sunrise over the Teton Range.

Signal Mountain Road

Trees in front of a lake in the distance with a large mountain with a little bit of snow on it far away, on a clear sky day in summer in Grand Teton National Park.

Soon after leaving the Mountain View Turnout, Jackson Lake begins to come into sight.

Sitting at 6,772 feet above sea level,  this massive lake has a surface area of 4,750 acres! 

Take the scenic drive up Signal Mountain Road to get a look at the lake from above via the Jackson Point Overlook. 

Take this road slowly. There’s no rush. The switchbacks become very tight at the top and require conservative speeds to travel safely.

Up for a longer hike? You can get to the Jackson Point Overlook on Signal Mountain on foot. The moderate 7-mile round trip hike is well worth the early morning incline. 

For the sake of time, it may be worthwhile to opt for the scenic drive up to the viewpoint today, but if you’re a quick hiker, you may want to make the hike!

Jackson Lake Dam

A very large cement dam showing rushing water in a long exposure photo rushing underneath the dam, turquoise water coming from the dam, and pine trees on the sides of the dam.

Just after passing over the Jackson Lake Dam, there is a road on the right leading down to a parking area next to the river.

Walk up the steps toward the sidewalk and make your way across the dam for awesome views of the Tetons over Jackson Lake. 

Across the road, there are some paved interpretive trails along the lake that are fun and easy to explore.

The parking lot next to the Snake River at the dam’s outflow is a popular spot to stop and cast a fly!

Christian Pond Loop

Yellowing grass surrounding the pond at Christian Pond with brilliant blue water and rolling hills in the background on a blue sky summer or fall day.

Wildflowers and wildlife wait for you along the Christian Pond Loop Trail! 

This easy 3.5-mile hike departs from the trailhead parking next to the horse corrals at the Jackson Lake Lodge. 

As you approach the pond, be on the lookout for moose and elk grazing as well as trumpeter swans gliding through the shallow water.

The trail leads to the shores of Emma Matilda Lake before looping back toward the trailhead. Take a little detour and hike along the lake’s edge. Another great spot for wildlife viewing! 

When you’ve taken it in all in, head back to the Christian Pond Loop and back to the parking area.

Colter Bay Village

A mountain perfectly reflecting in the still water at Colter Bay, with lots of boats sitting still in the water, anchored.

It’s easy to spend a full day in the Colter Bay Village area, so we have narrowed it down to the best activities!

From the Colter Bay Visitor Center, take a leisurely hike along the Lakeshore Trail. 

This 2-mile nature trail offers amazing views of Mount Moran behind Jackson Lake. The trail will bring you along the lake’s astonishing shore. Don’t forget the camera!

After your short hike, make your way over to the nearby Colter Bay Marina just in time for the Jackson Lake Scenic Lunch Cruise! 

The boat will take you to the shore of Elk Island in the middle of the lake, where you can explore and enjoy a picnic-style lunch. There’s nothing like the panoramic views from this scenic cruise.

Want to guide your own watercraft around the lake? You can also rent canoes and kayaks at the marina and explore the lake shores on your own time! 

Paddling away from the high-use areas around Colter Bay provides great opportunities to catch a glimpse of wildlife along the water.

Lakeview Picnic Area

Boats on Jackson Lake in Grand Teton in summer

Take in one last good view of Jackson Lake at the Lakeview Picnic area on the northern part of the lake. From the picnic area, there is easy access to the lake’s shore for photos.

Those who are feeling extra brave can jump in for an icy swim!

Your exciting two-day Grand Teton itinerary ends on the shore of Jackson Lake.

From here, continue north toward Yellowstone National Park, where we leave you to discover your next adventure!

Have More Time in Grand Teton?

While this itinerary will completely fill 2 days in Grand Teton, if you are tempted to add extra time — and you should be! — there is a number of ways you could spend more time in the park.

If you want to get more hiking in, consider a hike to Surprise Lake and Amphitheater Lake. This is a hard hike, numbering 10 miles roundtrip and 3,000 feet of elevation gain. 

It is spectacular, though, so if you have the prowess for a hike of this difficulty, consider it! If not, I have a post on several other day hikes in Grand Teton that are a little easier.

Tired of hiking but want some outdoor adventure? You could go rafting on the Snake River with one of the many rafting outfitters that operate within the park. 

This 7-mile float down the river is a low-intensity rafting trip with a guide that would make an awesome addition to your Grand Teton itinerary.

Book your rafting excursion here!


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Your Perfect Arches Itinerary: 2 Days in Arches National Park

The perfect desert adventure is waiting for you in Moab, Utah, at Arches National Park!

This outdoor playground is home to the highest density of natural sandstone arches in the world: we’re talking over 2,000 documented to date!

Full of breathtaking red rock features and scenic hiking trails, Arches National Park is sure to impress every US national park enthusiast. 

But there’s a lot to see here, spread across 50+ miles of roads, and it can get overwhelming to plan the perfect route to hit all of the bucket list musts in Arches National Park.

Don’t sweat (save that for when you hit the trails!) — we’ve broken down the top things to do in Arches National Park, day by day, into this easy two-day Arches itinerary!

Travel Tips for Arches National Park

Allison exploring Arches National Park on a sunny day

Go early. This is one of the most popular national parks in the Southwest, so don’t expect solitude. Usually, there is a line to enter the park starting as early as 9 AM. 

Try to get an early start on both days, since you only have two days in Arches. Aim for at least one day where you wake up early enough for a sunrise hike!

Be sure to have a car. Arches National Park does not have a bus or shuttle system, so you’ll need a car to access the trailheads and viewpoints in this itinerary. If you’re not driving to Arches from your home state, you’ll likely want to fly into Salt Lake City and rent a car there — flights to Canyonlands Regional Airport are expensive and rentals are limited there.

Not sure where to get the best deal on your rental? I’ve rented cars dozens of times through various search engines and have settled on Discover Cars as the best car rental search engine – it searches over 500 trusted rental companies to find the cheapest price for your rental! Compare prices for car rental from Salt Lake City here.

If you don’t have a car, plan tours. It is possible to do Arches National Park without a car, but you’ll want to book some tours of the National Park and some Moab activities in order to fill up your itinerary.

Slather on the sunscreen. Arches National Park is hot, hot, hot in the summer! Be sure to apply sunscreen at least 10 minutes before a hike, and reapply every two hours or so (or more if you’re sweating a lot). 

Don’t forget exposed skin on the back of your body, like the back of your next, behind the knees, lower calves, etc! This is where I typically end up burned when I’m not diligent.

Bring a lot of water. As mentioned in the previous point, Arches gets quite hot in the summer season and it can be quite easy to get dehydrated. 

In every road trip packing list, I make sure to impress upon how important it is to have a large supply of water in your car just in case of an emergency. 

Define your accessibility needs. Not all of the park is accessible to people with mobility limitations. The following places are wheelchair accessible: Park Avenue Viewpoint, Balanced Rock Viewpoint, Lower Delicate Arch Viewpoint, and Wolfe Ranch Cabin. 

There is an accessible campsite at Devils Garden (#4H) and the Visitors Center and the restrooms are accessible all throughout the park.

It’s best not to bring your pet. Arches National Park is not a particularly dog-friendly national park. Dogs are not permitted on hiking trails or at overlooks, nor in the backcountry, which basically eliminates all of this itinerary! 

Dogs are only permitted at the Devils Garden campsite, picnic areas, and along paved roads. If traveling with a pet, check out these other dog-friendly hikes in Moab.

Where to Stay when Visiting Arches National Park

Glamping tent lit up from within with starry sky behind it

We give some details on campsites below in the itinerary, but if you’re not planning to camp — or the campsites in Arches are all full — here is where we suggest you stay in Moab!

GLAMPING | Not into full-on roughing it and camping? Glamping is the perfect middle ground where you can experience comfort and ease while also being in nature. Under Canvas Moab knocks it out of the park in terms of comfort, style, and entertainment, and is frequently cited as one of the best glamping lodges in the entire United States.

Book your stay at Under Canvas Moab here!

BUNGALOWS | The charming Moab Springs Ranch has private bungalows that are the perfect place to stay in Moab if you want more privacy than the typical hotel. Each bungalow has its own little terrace, and each room has A/C, TV, a kitchenette and dining area, and a private bathroom. The property also has a restaurant, garden, and BBQ facilities on-site.

Book your stay at Moab Springs Ranch here!

INN | For a rustic stay that nonetheless has all the amenities you need, Red Stone Inn is a fantastic choice. Rooms all come with a kitchenette, AC, TV, and en-suite bathroom. In terms of shared amenities, there is a hot tub and free WiFi throughout the property.

Book your stay at Red Stone Inn here!

5 Things Not to Forget to Pack for Arches

man standing below delicate arch in utah wearing hiking boots

Sunscreen. I’m weaning myself off of chemical-based sunscreens, especially if I’m doing any water activities like rafting or swimming. I love SunBum SPF 50 with Vitamin E as it’s all-natural and moisturizing without feeling icky and sticky.

Hydration backpack. You’ll want to rehydrate a lot while hiking in Arches, especially if visiting in the summertime! I recommend bringing a hydration pack like this Camelbak which you can wear on your back and sip water from, totally hands-free. It has a zipper pocket so you can throw in other essentials — car keys, cell phone, granola bars, etc. and use it in place of a day pack.

Hiking boots. This Arches itinerary includes a number of hiking trails that are rather rocky and uneven, and having ankle support is really key in these instances if you don’t want to roll an ankle and ruin your trip. 

I love my pair of Ahnu hiking boots (for women) and for men, I suggest these similar Keen boots. Whatever boots you pick, be sure to break them in with a hike or two before heading to Arches.

Hiking socks. Don’t forget to pack hiking socks! Regular old cotton socks in hiking boots can lead to massive amounts of blisters — I’ve learned this lesson firsthand, unfortunately! Moisture-wicking hiking socks are cheap but can save your vacation. These DriTech socks are a great and inexpensive option, or you may want to invest in some merino wool quick-drying socks.

Headlamp. Because this Arches itinerary includes some sunset hikes and sunrise hikes, you’ll need a headlamp like this one. Trust me, as someone who hiked back from a sunset hike at Corona Arch in the dark without a headlamp, you’ll absolutely want one! A smartphone flashlight won’t cut it.

Day One of Your Arches National Park Itinerary

Start the day at the Arches National Park Visitor Center.

the rugged landscape of arches national park, starting at the visitor center

Time to get ready for a full day exploring the beautiful red rock landscapes of Arches. 

However, the rugged landscape that makes up the 119 square mile park is more fragile than you may think!

Luckily, the Arches National Park Visitor Center near the entrance station is well-equipped to provide information about park stewardship. 

They also offer important insider details on how to access and appreciate the park’s many famous attractions.

Also, they’ll let you know of any important closures. For example, on my last visit, unfortunately, the Devil’s Garden was temporarily closed.

The visitor center is also a great place to top off all your water bottles! Although there are fill stations sprinkled throughout the park, it’s important to carry plenty of water at all times.

Summertime temperatures often exceed 100ºF/38°C, so proper hydration while tackling this Arches itinerary is extra important — especially if you’re hiking a lot!

Begin your exploration at the Moab Fault Overlook.

view from the moab fault overlook viewpoint over the red rock landscape of this beautiful utah national park.

As you continue into the park from the visitor center, you will begin to gain elevation.

Look around at the sandstone features as you make the switchbacks above the park entrance.

To the left, you will see three pinnacles called the Three Penguins. Can you make out the penguin shapes?

The turnout for the Moab Fault Overlook will be one of the first viewpoints in the park on the right side of the road. 

Check out the impressive fault and read through the helpful interpretive signs to understand the tectonic plates and how they have impacted the beautiful Utah landscape.

Hike the scenic Park Avenue Trail.

red rock formations seen from a hike on this arches national park itinerary.

From the Moab Fault Overlook, continue on the main road to the Park Avenue Trail and Viewpoint

The views are epic right from the parking lot — this stop makes a great backdrop for a group photo, even if you’re not planning to do a hike!

Park visitors that are unable to hike long distances can enjoy an amazing lookout here. The first section of the hiking trail is paved to be wheelchair and stroller accessible.

For those who wish to continue past the paved section, the trail leads toward the astonishing Courthouse Towers in the distance. 

The 2-mile out-and-back trail takes hikers to the canyon floor for a close-up of the various towers and fins!

The trail connects with the main road at the 1-mile turnaround point, so it’s possible to arrange for a private shuttle.

If you want to arrange a shuttle, be sure to do it in advance, especially if you don’t want to hike back to the Park Avenue Trailhead or if you are trying to save time on this Arches itinerary to maximize your trip!

Gaze at the La Sal Mountains Viewpoint.

the famous 'three sisters' rock formation seen from the la sal mountains viewpoint in arches national park

After a nice walk through the sandstone monoliths, head back to the main road and stop at the La Sal Mountains Viewpoint.

There’s not much of a trail here, but it’s a nice place for scenic views with some interpretive posters to read through. 

You’ll also be able to spot the Three Sisters rock formation here, one of the most beautiful landmarks in Arches National Park!

The La Sal Mountains that you can see in the distance are about 20 miles south of Moab and are the second-highest mountain range in Utah.

They offer great recreation opportunities for locals and visitors with skiing in the wintertime! But in summer, boy, do they make one beautiful backdrop.

Visit Arches’ very own ‘Great Wall’.

large red sandstone 'wall' next to a road with a car on it driving in arches national park on a sunny partly cloudy day.

This feature isn’t quite the same as the great wall you may be thinking of on the other side of the globe. It is, however, really beautiful and impressive!

The Great Wall in Arches National Park is a towering row of naturally formed sandstone cliffs and towers.

Take in a drive-by view of this phenomenal feature or stop at the Petrified Dunes Viewpoint.

From the designated viewpoint, you can see the Great Wall in the distance and the petrified dunes with the La Sal Mountains in the background. It’s picture-perfect!

Hike to the viewpoint at Balanced Rock Trail.

hoodoo holding up a rock that looks like its balancing. mountains capped with snow in the distance at sunset.

This next tower is going to blow your mind! If you’re looking closely, you can even spot it as you drive to the trailhead…

Continue past the Great Wall on the main road until you see the well-marked parking area for the Balanced Rock Trail on the right.

Near the trailhead, there are bathrooms and a nice picnic area. Take some time to regroup, hydrate, and refuel with a well-deserved picnic lunch before you head out on a hike to Balanced Rock.

Feeling rejuvenated? Good!

Now, it’s time to get a closer view. The short and easy 0.3-mile scenic loop will take you around the base of the iconic feature.

This rock formation, known as a hoodoo (the likes of which you’ll see all over Utah, in particular, Bryce Canyon National Park) appears to be balancing a bolder that is 55 feet in diameter.

The total height of the structure is 128 feet!

Explore the Windows Section of Arches National Park.

a giant rock with an arch showing blue sky behind it in arches national park

Not far past the Balanced Rock Parking Area is a side road marked with signs leading to The Garden of Eden, Double Arch Trail, and The Windows Section.

The first hike takes off at the very end of the side road. Park in The Windows Section Parking Area and look for signs that lead to The Windows Trail. 

The Windows Trail is an easy 0.65-mile loop that takes hikers to the North Window and South Window (nicknamed ‘the Spectacles’ for its unique shape)

The hike finishes off with an up-close view of Turret Arch. You can take epic photos of Turret Arch through the North Window for a beautifully composed shot.

As another option, hikers can take Windows Primitive Loop Trail for an alternate view of the North and South Windows. 

Truth be told, all the trails are all scenic in this section of Arches National Park!

Hike the Double Arch Trail.

low angle shot looking up to the double arch off the trail in moab.

The second trail that you must hike on this side road is the Double Arch Trail.

The Double Arch Trailhead Parking area is just a short drive from the Windows Section, so it’s great to pair these two Arches activities back-to-back. 

Set aside ample time to explore this next arch and don’t forget your camera!

This easy 0.25-mile hike begins in a cool desert forest of juniper trees. Continue on the trail until you come to the unmistakable Double Arch! There’s nothing quite like it.

Set up camp at Devils Garden Campground, if camping.

the campsite at arches national park, devils garden, surrounded by trees and red rocks.

A fun-filled day in Arches National Park is best rewarded with an overnight at Devils Garden Campground. It’s also the only campground in Arches proper.

As the only campground in Arches, you’ll want to book it well in advance online at recreation.gov

Bookings open six months in advance ($20 site fee), and so you’ll want to book as far in advance as time allows if you are trying to camp within the park. 

There are only 50 sites in all of Arches National Park for camping, and it is full pretty much every day between March 1 and October 31, when it is by reservations only.

If Devils Garden is all booked up, you may want to check out the Slickrock campground outside of the park.

Not trying to camp? Refer back to the top of the post where we suggest places to stay in Moab, and skip forward to the sunset hike in the next section. After that hike, you’ll return to your hotel.

Located right inside the park, this campground makes a perfect starting point for your next day’s adventures. The sites in this campground are all well laid out providing some shade and red rock views.

It’s also a great place for stargazing in Arches!

Take in the sunset at Skyline Arch.

skyline arch seen with brilliant colors and red rocks.

Did you think you were done for the day? No way! Arches National Park is famous for its glowing golden hour!

Right from the campground, take the short and easy walk over to the Skyline Arch. The round trip walk will be less than 0.5 miles from the trailhead.

If you have extra time, you could also tack on the short 0.3-mile hike to Sand Dune Arch, located just a short walk from the Skyline Arch. 

However, if you have to pick one, Skyline is better at sunset.

If you brought your headlamp along, stick around for the star show. The uninterrupted night sky is sure to reveal some stellar views of the Milky Way.

That’s officially all for day one. Now, it’s time to rest up for an early start!

Day 2 of your Arches Itinerary

Catch sunrise on the Broken Arch Trail.

view of an arch that looks partly broken, with a small crack in the rock, seen at sunrise.

Rise and shine!

Grab your headlamp, camp stove, instant coffee, and a breakfast bar for the trail, because this is a sunrise you will not want to miss. Mornings are hard, I know, but this will be 100% worth it.

Right from the campground (or driving in from your hotel), hop on the Broken Arch Trail

The arch is located less than a mile from the trailhead, and it offers a perfect spot to sit and brew some morning coffee as you watch the sun come up over Arches National Park. 

This is one of those great short hikes with an epic reward, especially if you time it for sunrise.

From Broken Arch, you can complete the loop to pass by Sandstone Arch on your way back to the campground or go back the way you came. The distances are about the same.

Trek through Devils Garden on one of Arches’ best hikes.

two hikers walking down a trail in the devils garden section of arches national park.

Take your time breaking down your campsite as you prepare for another day of adventure in this desert playground! 

Don’t forget to top off on water here, as refill spots can be few and far between in Arches National Park.

No trip to Arches is complete without a hike on the Devils Garden Trail. Within only 2 miles of hiking, you will pass by a dozen natural sandstone arches, including Landscape Arch.

Landscape Arch is the longest sandstone arch in the national park, stretching nearly 300 feet across. 

It looks impossibly thin at points — its thinnest section is only 6 feet across — which is wild when you consider its size!

This is a good hike to do earlier in the day before temperatures become too hot (hence the name Devil’s Garden!).

With detours to grab a closer look at some of the arches, the total distance on this hike becomes about 5 miles — so it’s not for the faint of heart. 

Be prepared to tackle this hike and bring lots of water, preferably in a Camelbak for easy access.

To amp up the difficulty, you can tack on the Double O Arch, also accessible off the Devils Garden Trail. 

However, this is on the hard side of moderate difficulty, so be sure to be prepared with proper footwear and water. 

Note that this is not for the faint of heart as there is quite a bit of drop in some sections of the hike, as well as some sections where you need to scramble and do some wayfinding.

Whatever hiking adventure you choose, return to the parking area to find some shade and a cool drink of water!

Take a scenic drive to the beautiful Fiery Furnace Viewpoint.

lots of beautiful red rocks at the fiery furnace viewpoint in arches

On the main road headed toward the park entrance, there is a parking area for the Fiery Furnace Viewpoint. 

From here, you can get an epic view into the thick fins, hoodoos, and arches of this area.

To hike in Fiery Furnace, you must obtain a permit from the visitor center or join in on a ranger-led hike (I recommend this latter option). 

You can book a ranger-led hike on recreation.gov: note that you need to book at least 4 days in advance, and it’s suggested to book several weeks ahead if possible as these are all small groups of no more than 25 people.

Note that since there are no maintained trails through Fiery Furnace, it’s easy to become disoriented and lost — another reason a ranger-led hike is a fabulous idea.

Visit Delicate Arch for sunset.

sunset at the scenic and iconic delicate arch with sunset colors and mountains in the distance.

We saved the most iconic arch in Arches National Park for last! You will probably recognize Delicate Arch from the many social media snaps of it, and even from Utah’s license plate!

To reach the trailhead, continue on the main road toward the park entrance until you reach the turn for Wolfe Ranch / Delicate Arch Viewpoint Road on the left. 

Continue down the side road and park at the Wolfe Ranch Parking Area — this is where you’ll start your hike to Delicate Arch.

The hike to Delicate Arch is a little challenging and requires hikers to follow the cairns marking the trail to avoid getting lost. 

However, there are usually a fair number of hikers here, so it’s hard to get too lost.

Take your time and be observant. At 3 miles round trip, this hike is well worth the close-up view of the arch!

Say goodbye – for now – to Arches at the pristine Panorama Point.

one last look at arches national park before finishing up this itinerary

Take one last good look at Arches National Park from Panorama Point.

This is the perfect place to reminisce and plan your next Utah adventure — trust me, there will be another one!

Take one last good look at Arches National Park from Panorama Point.

This is the perfect place to reminisce and plan your next Utah adventure — trust me, there will be another one!

Have More Time in Arches National Park?

the red rocks of tower arch in a more remote park of arches national park, seen shortly after sunrise in the morning light

This is already a fairly ambitious Arches National Park itinerary, but if you’re a fast hiker who doesn’t spend a lot of time soaking up views or photographing, you may want to tack on a few additional hikes in the park where it makes sense.

You may also want to keep these in your back pocket in case the crowds of Arches start to get to you: these are lesser-visited and a bit off the tourist path, though they are by no means a secret.

Here are a few additional arches in the park worth the hike!

Tower Arch: A moderate 2.7-mile roundtrip hike in a more secluded section of the park — this is great if you’re tiring of the crowds on the more on-the-beaten-path part of Arches and want to make a detour to shake off the crowds.

Pine Tree Arch & Tunnel Arch: These can easily be added onto a hike to Landscape Arch while hiking the Devils Garden section of the park. These are less-visited than some of the other arches in the section, but the Devils Garden area is still rather popular, so don’t expect total solitude.

Additionally, you can add some more fun activities in Moab, like this sunset cruise on the Colorado River, a half-day rafting tour, or a 4WD tour in Hell’s Revenge.

Where to Go Before or After Arches National Park

Allison visiting Mesa Arch in Canyonlands national park sitting in the middle of Mesa Arch

Arches National Park is often visited in conjunction with other incredible Utah bucket list destinations.

If you base yourself in Moab, you’ll likely also want to visit Canyonlands National Park (where you’ll find Mesa Arch — contrary to popular belief, this arch is not in Arches!).

You’ll also want to spend at least a half-day exploring Dead Horse Point State Park, where the Colorado River bends beautifully in a way similar to Horsehoe Bend in Arizona.

People often spend a few days in Salt Lake City before making their way to Arches, but you can also do this in reverse.

Other stops people often make include Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, and Capitol Reef National Park. 

I’ve included all of these on my one-week Utah Mighty 5 road trip itinerary, so if you are planning a longer stay, be sure to read that post!

I also have a post that combines all the best Utah attractions with some stops in Arizona like the Grand Canyon as well as Nevada in this Southwest USA itinerary.

Road Trip to Alaska: Top Sights Along the Alaska “Alcan” Highway

The Alaska Highway, or Alcan, is often listed as one of the ultimate North American road trip routes. We couldn’t agree more!

With winding mountain roads cutting through the remote reaches of British Columbia and Canada’s wild Yukon, this 1,390-mile scenic highway takes travelers all the way to beautiful Alaska. This road trip is unlike any other you’ve experienced before!

Quick Note: Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the border between the U.S. and Canada is currently closed to non-essential travel. While some Americans are permitted to travel on the Alaska Highway, you must have a legal, valid reason to do so. You must also follow all the laws of Canada while you transit through the country. Tourism and sightseeing is not a valid reason for travel, and this post is strictly meant for post-pandemic travel plans.

Please read this helpful page from the Canadian government website if you are planning to travel between the continental U.S. and Alaska via Canada to ensure you follow all laws.

An American and a Canadian flag side by side next to barren fields and a deep blue lake while driving the Alcan Highway road trip to Alaska

Originally built during World War II to connect Alaska with the contiguous United States, the Alaska Highway has seen drastic improvements since it’s opening in the 1940s.

No longer a treacherous dirt road, it’s paved and ready for your modern-day road-tripping rig!

This scenic highway begins in the town of Dawson Creek, British Columbia. With a population of about 13,000 people, Dawson Creek will be one of the larger towns on your route.

Load up on groceries and fuel, check over your road trip packing list, because you’re in it for the long haul!

Road Trip to Alaska: Alcan Highway Itinerary

Stop One: Dawson Creek (Mile 0)

Sign with three flags reading "You are now entering the World Famous Alaska Highway Dawson Creek BC"

Welcome to Dawson Creek, where your adventure officially begins! Brush up on the famous route’s history at the Alaska Highway House Interpretive Center.

Here, you can watch an educational film about the highway’s construction and explore some of the equipment used in the rigorous building process. This was no small project!

If you’re planning to spend multiple days in Dawson Creek, you’ll have plenty of time to take a trip over to the Kiskatinaw Bridge. Check out this bridge’s quality craftsmanship.

Built during the construction of the Alaska Highway, the Kiskatinaw Bridge was the first curved wooden bridge in Canada and is one of few that remain intact today.

Ready to hit the road? Dawson Creek features a fun sign marking the start of the Alaska Highway. This marker makes a great photo opp to commemorate the beginning of your road trip.

Let the journey begin!

Stop Two: Charlie Lake (Mile 52)

Logs and trees on the shore of a lake, which is still and mirroring the clouds above it.

The first scenic stop along the Alaska Highway is Charlie Lake. This magnificent lake sits right next to the road and is a convenient pull off to enjoy the views.

Don’t be shy, go take a closer look! There are two wonderful parks along the lake’s shore, Charlie Lake Provincial Park and Beatton Provincial Park.

Charlie Lake Provincial Park, on the west shore of the lake, offers some short scenic hiking trails, a boat launch, and a campground with full hookups.

Stretch your legs, take some memorable photos, and relax by the water!

Stop Three: Muncho Lake (Mile 462)

Jade green waters surrounded by some leaves and greenery with mountains and clouds in the distance on a road trip to Alaska

This next lake is definitely a sight to see while you road trip to Alaska!

Similar to Charlie Lake, you can’t miss this one because the Alaska Highway runs right along its eastern shore! Muncho Lake is a jaw-dropping jade-color. No filter needed!

With a backdrop of towering mountains and pristine wilderness, you’ll want to stay here for days, which is actually possible if you snag a camp spot.

Strawberry Flats Campground in Muncho Lake Provincial Park is a great place to spend a night or two. Most of the campsites here even offer direct access to the lake for fishing and the ultimate sunset viewpoint. You can’t beat that!

While you’re here, take a hike on one of the area’s awesome trails. The 3-mile Stone’s Sheep Trail offers hikers an epic view of Muncho Lake and the surrounding landscape. Be on the lookout: there’s always a possibility to see stone sheep and caribou!

Stop Four: Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park (Mile 496)

Woman with short brown hair in a colorful bathing suit in turquoise water at a hot spring in Canada surrounded by green grass and trees.

Bathing suit? Check. Towel? Check.

You’re ready to soak and relax at Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park.

As the second largest natural hot springs in Canada, there’s no wonder why this remote paradise is on so many traveler’s bucket lists! It’s a wildly spacious pool for soaking, but it’s also right in the middle of an incredibly beautiful boreal forest.

Make your way from the parking area to the hot springs using the boardwalk trail. You’ll feel like you’ve entered into a fairytale!

The Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park has a campground for those wishing to spend the night. Keep in mind, the sites tend to fill up quickly, so plan to arrive in the morning!

Stop Five: The Sign Post Forest (Mile 635)

Sign which reads "Sign Post Forest" surrounded by lots of signs from all over the world along the AlCan Highway

Looking for a sign? Well… Here’s over 77,000 of them!

Make a stop to walk through Watson Lake’s most popular attraction: the Sign Post Forest.

It’s encouraged to bring a legally obtained sign representing the town you’re visiting from! Make your mark on the growing forest and add to one of the posts.

This interesting tradition was founded by a soldier who decided to mark the distance to his hometown while working on the construction of the Alaska Highway in 1942. It’s said that he was homesick for his small Illinois town.

Interested in learning more about the history of The Sign Post Forest? The Alaska Highway Interpretive Centre is only a 5-minute walk away!

Stop Six: Whitehorse, Yukon (Mile 872)

Welcome to Whitehorse, the capital of Canada’s Yukon territory!

With a population of around 25,000 people, this is the largest town you’ve seen in a while. Whitehorse maintains a small-town vibe with friendly locals and rich history.

There’s a lot of fun activities to do in Whitehorse, and it’s often recommended that Alaska Highway travelers spend multiple days here.

Witness the Northern Lights

Green Northern lights above the lights of the town of Whitehorse, Yukon in Canada along the AlCan Highway

This spectacular light show is most commonly viewed in the wintertime, but it can make appearances during late summer and fall when the days begin to grow shorter. 

To see the Northern Lights, you’ll have to take a drive out of town to escape any bit of light pollution. The darker the better! Bring some hot chocolate and camp chairs to enjoy your evening under the stars.

Walk Under the Midnight Sun

For those visiting in midsummer, you may be able to experience the midnight sun.

Long summer days have a whole new meaning when you travel this far north!

Hike in Miles Canyon

Brilliant turquoise water on the Yukon River, surrounded by rocks and green trees

Explore along the Yukon River, and wander through the area’s most magnificent natural feature.

Here, you will see how the river’s powerful flows wore through the basaltic lava rock to form Miles Canyon.

Takhini Hot Pools

Another soak? Yes, please!

The beautiful outdoor pool at Takhini Hot Springs is the perfect place to relax for the day.

If you’re searching for a place to stay the night, there’s a nice campground with full hookups and a welcoming hostel right on location.

Explore the Local History

Become immersed in Yukon history at the MacBride Museum’s downtown location. Connect with the groundbreaking events that founded today’s modern Yukon and the people who originally inhabited the rugged landscape.

For some more on the mining history, the MacBride Copperbelt Mining Museum offers a fun and interactive interpretive experience. A great excursion for all ages!

There’s still more to discover! Visit the S.S. Klondike National Historic Site, and check out the fully restored riverboat. Before modern roads, riverboats connected the area to the outside world.

Stop Seven: Kluane National Park and Reserve (Mile 1,016)

Ice fields in Canada surrounded by tall mountains covered in green and orange foliage and grass.

After an exciting stay in Whitehorse, it’s back on the road toward Haines Junction.

Calling all mountain lovers! From Haines Junction, outdoor enthusiasts are urged to stop by Kluane National Park and Reserve.

Home to the largest non-polar ice fields in the world as well as Canada’s tallest mountain, Mount Logan, this park is a dream for mountaineers and front country users alike. Just from the road, visitors can view wildlife and the towering peaks of the Icefield Range.

Looking for a short hike to get your steps in? Head out on an easy ½ mile hike along the Soldier’s Summit Trail to witness the site of the Alaska Highway’s official opening.

For those looking to spend the night, the campground at Kathleen Lake offers tremendous views, and it’s a great basecamp for area hiking. Many people choose to spend multiple nights here because of the vast outdoor recreation opportunities!

As you explore Kluane, keep on the lookout for grizzly bears, black bears, Dall sheep, wolves, and mountain goats!

Stop Eight: Destruction Bay (Mile 1,083)

Soft blue water against beige sand in a bay in Canada, with larger hills in the distance and lots of cloud.

Wondering how this sweet little community along the Alaska Highway earned such an ominous name?

After a severe storm destroyed materials and buildings during the route’s construction, the name Destruction Bay seemed appropriate!

At the northern tip of Kluane Lake, Destruction Bay makes for a great place to pull off the highway and take in the views.

For those who have been fishing along the drive, Kluane Lake is a great place to put that license to use! Cast a line into the icy cold waters for a chance to catch one of the legendary monster trout.

Stop Eight: Delta Junction (Mile 1,390)

A family of three moose -- a mother and two babies -- crossing the road of the AlCan Highway with some pink flowers on the side of the road.

It’s the end of the road but the beginning of your next adventure.

From the end of the Alaska Highway in Delta Junction, AK, you now have to decide whether you will head north towards Fairbanks to explore the wild landscape of Denali National Park or make your way towards the coast in Anchorage.

Wherever you end up next, we know that adventure waits for you there!

Pin This Guide to Road Tripping to Alaska Along the Alcan Highway!

Grand Canyon in Winter: 19 Things to Know Before You Go

Snow covered landscape of the Grand Canyon in the winter months

If you have always dreamed of gazing into the Grand Canyon, you have probably pictured its 6,000-foot tall cliff walls, glowing red landscape, and unparalleled desert scenery.

Looking down into one of the world’s largest canyons and the many layers of rock revealed by the force of the Colorado River is like looking back in time millions of years.

Although Grand Canyon National Park sees unbearably hot temperatures in the summer, the winter in Grand Canyon is a little more bearable… and sees fewer crowds.

Snow blankets the North Rim, accenting the overhanging red rock, and visitation dips quite a bit compared to the steady traffic of summertime.

Although the shift in seasons may change the scenery, there are still many fun activities to do while bundled up in Grand Canyon National Park in the winter!

Grand Canyon Winter Road Closures

Snow covered landscape at the Grand Canyon in winter, red rocks with patches of white snow with the sun rising above the canyon at sunrise.

North Rim Scenic Drive and All North Rim Roads

If you were hoping to visit the North Rim in Grand Canyon National Park, you will have to wait until mid to late spring.

The North Rim Scenic Drive and all amenities in the North Rim area close down during the winter months.

In fact, this road is only open for a short window of time: between May 15th and October 15th. (Read more differences between the North Rim and the South Rim here.)

This scenic road is a common access point for visitors arriving at the park from northern states, but be warned, the South Entrance is over 4 hours driving from the North Entrance if you end up on the wrong side of the canyon.

Desert View Drive (South Rim)

Grand Canyon in morning light covered in snow, with snow blanketing the layers of rock in the canyon as well as some of the trees.

The scenic stretch of road known as the Desert View Drive or East Rim Drive is open year-round to private vehicles.

The drive travels along State Route 64, connecting the South Entrance of Grand Canyon National Park near the town of Tusayan to the East Entrance in the neighboring Navajo Nation.

Although the road is technically open 365 days per year, the park service may elect to close the road due to inclement winter driving conditions.

The weather can change quickly in Grand Canyon National Park in winter, so it is important for visitors to frequently check for weather updates as they prepare to drive to the park.

Hermit Road (South Rim)

Winter landscape at the Grand Canyon, white snow blanketing the higher elevation pockets of the park and tops of the mesas, and the valley below showing red rock and orange rocks

During peak visitation, the Hermit Road, which spans from the South Rim area to Hermit Trailhead where the road dead-ends, is closed to private vehicle traffic.

From March through November, the road can only be traveled by biking, walking, or hopping aboard the free Hermit Road (Red Route) Shuttle.

Once the season of high-visitation is over, the road opens up to private vehicle traffic.

For the months of December, January, and February, visitors can drive along the Hermit Road and park in designated parking areas to access hiking trails and viewpoints.

Grand Canyon Winter Hours of Operation and Facilities

A snow covered visitor center at the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park
The North Rim Visitor Center before winter closure can still get covered in snow

Although the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park is always open to the public, some of the facilities undergo reduced hours of operation come wintertime.

Remember the North Rim and all facilities are closed between mid-October and mid-May.

If you are visiting Grand Canyon National Park in the winter, you will want to be aware of these changes to facility hours and seasonal closures:

Grand Canyon Village (South Rim) Facility Hours

Grand Canyon Visitor Center: 9:00 am – 4:00 pm

Grand Canyon Visitor Center Park Store: 9:00 am – 6:00 pm

South Rim Backcountry Information Center: 8:00 – noon; then, 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm

Yavapai Geology Museum: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm

Verkamp’s Visitor Center: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm

Desert View (South Rim) Facility Hours

Watchtower Kiva Shop: 8:00 am – 6:00 pm

Watchtower Stairs: 8:00 am – 5:30 pm, stairs always close 30 minutes before the store

Tusayan Museum: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm

North Rim

All facilities and roads are closed for winter at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, so don’t even factor this into a winter trip.

Visitor Centers in Winter

Man standing a few feet from the edge of the Grand Canyon in the snow, wearing a hat, sweater, and jeans.

Visitor centers in Grand Canyon National Park are open in the winter, except select holidays. It is always a good idea to begin a national park trip with a stop at the visitor center.

This is a great way to make sure you have the most up to date information, and it allows you to review your itinerary with professional park staff.

They may even have some insider tips to share with you!

Winter Camping in Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon camping tents near the Grand Canyon
Image provided by Airbnb

Many who come to Grand Canyon National Park choose to camp during their visits.

During the summer months, there are three different campgrounds to choose from: North Rim Campground, Desert View Campground, and Mather Campground.

However, North Rim and Desert View Campgrounds both close in October.

Mather Campground on the South Rim as the only front country year-round camping option in Grand Canyon National Park.

For those planning to stay at Mather Campground during their winter visit, advanced reservations are highly recommended.

As the only open campground in the park, spaces fill quickly! Reservations can be made online up to 6 months in advance.

Not into camping? There are also great Grand Canyon Airbnbs available in the winter.

Winter Safety in Grand Canyon National Park

Icy Trails

Icy trails at Grand Canyon in winter, with snow on the sides and in the canyon itself interspersed with red rock, with visitors at the end of the trail.

With limited daylight, cold nighttime temperatures, and limited sunlight in the deep canyon during the winter, one of the greatest cold season hazard in winter in the Grand Canyon becomes icy trails.

Many of the most popular trails remain open year-round. It’s not uncommon to have clear dry trails. However, ice may be lingering in the shaded areas.

To prevent slipping on icy trails, many hikers choose to carry along Yaktrax or spikes. These handy accessories will help you keep your footing on slick surfaces!

Hypothermia

Woman wearing hat, jacket, jeans, and snow boots at the Grand Canyon in winter, with her arms up in the air as the sun sets.

When your body temperature falls to dangerously cool levels, you begin to experience hypothermia. Wet clothes from snow or rain combined with cold winter temperatures can create a high-risk.

To avoid hypothermia, the park service recommends wearing non-cotton clothing, eating high-energy foods before chill takes effect, and staying dry. Hypothermia is five times more likely to occur in wet conditions!

Rockfall

Snow covering red rocks at the Grand Canyon, other parts of the canyon left untouched by snow, as fog rolls on the top of the canyon

Rockfall is a year-round hazard in Grand Canyon National Park. When recreating within the steep canyon, be aware and alert.

If a rockfall occurs, the park service advises visitors to safely move out of the way. If it is not possible to move out of the way of falling rock, seek shelter behind a large and stable rock feature and place your backpack over your head.

Although rockfall can occur at any time, the risk can become increased due to water freezing behind the cliff walls.

When the water freezes, it can cause the cracks behind rocks to expand occasionally lodging the rocks out of place.

Winter Driving Conditions

Checkpoint for entering Grand Canyon in winter, with a sign that reads "icy road ahead" with little light, either at dusk or dawn.

The elevation on the South Rim is 7,000 feet, and winter weather conditions are not uncommon!

Throughout the winter months, visitors driving the park roads should use caution and slow down. Snow and ice may be lingering on the roads.

Things to Do in the Grand Canyon in Winter

Backpack into the Grand Canyon

View as you hike into the Grand Canyon in winter, with snow covering the top edges of the red rocks and blanketing the trees.

Backcountry permits are hard to come by during the busy season. Once the winter months come around, a permit to camp in the backcountry is a little easier to come by.

Backpacking is one of the best ways to experience the vastness of the Grand Canyon while exploring more remote terrain.

One of the most recommended overnight backpacking trips in the Grand Canyon is to Bright Angel Campground.

This trail has a lot of sun exposure making it difficult to do in the heat of summer, but comfortable during the wintertime!

This backcountry camp offers potable water and toilets year-round, and it is at the very bottom of the canyon about 1/2 mile from the Colorado River.

Bright Angel Campground is about 10 hiking miles from the South Rim.

Keep in mind the first day would be primarily hiking down into the canyon, while your second day would be mostly uphill! The trail’s high sun exposure keeps it free of snow and ice most of the time.

Mule Trips

Mules wearing a winter pelt and saddle traveling into the Grand Canyon, which has some snow on the side of the trail.

There are mule trips offered year-round on Grand Canyon National Park’s South Rim.

Going on one of these excursions in the wintertime offers a welcome relief from the hot summer sun!

Winter mule trips vary in length and type of terrain. If you are short on time and not a fan of traveling steep terrain on a mule, you may enjoy the Canyon Vistas Ride. This excursion is a short 3-hour scenic trip along the canyon rim.

Visitors with more time to spare can choose to book a multi-day trip that includes an overnight stay at the Phantom Ranch.

The historic and well-known ranch sits at the bottom of the Grand Canyon on the east side of Bright Angel Creek.

A mule trip to Bright Angel Creek is a great alternative to backpacking!

Winter Landscape Photography

View of the North Rim from Yaki Point in winter at the Grand Canyon South Rim in Arizona, high elevation points blanketed in snow surrounded by trees.

Grand Canyon National Park’s breathtaking landscape becomes something even more picturesque once the snow begins to fall. The tall canyon walls become dusted with snow and the cliff’s red colors pop.

Visitors hoping to capture Grand Canyon’s winter landscape can travel the Desert View Drive along State Route 64 while using the marked turnouts and designated parking areas to find the perfect angles.

Since many of the trails stay open year-round, photographers can also hike to scenic vistas, such as Grandview Point and Mather Point.

Pin This Guide to Winter in the Grand Canyon!

11 Best Hikes in Glacier National Park

With over 734 miles of scenic hiking trails, Glacier National Park has a wealth of hiking to explore.

There’s a trail for every experience level and age group from a family-friendly boardwalk hike around the massive old-growth cedars near Lake McDonald to challenging mountain passes that offer rewarding views of the pristine landscape below.

Pack your backpack, grab your camera, and don’t forget the bear spray. These are the best day hikes in Glacier National Park you won’t want to miss!

Best Hikes in Glacier National Park

Grinnell Glacier

Brilliant turquoise blue water surrounded by white glacial ice, with green grass with red wildflowers on the edge, surrounded by tall mountain edges lightly covered in snow.

Mileage: 10 miles or 7 miles using the boat shuttle

Elevation Gain: 1,600 feet

The Many Glacier Valley in Glacier National Park is a true hiking paradise. One of the most commonly suggested hikes in this area is to see Grinnell Glacier. There are at least 35 named glaciers in the park, and Grinnell is one of the most accessible.

Now, let’s talk about how to get there…

From the Grinnell Glacier Trailhead, hike along the north shores of Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine. The mountain views from this section of the trail are beautiful!

The trail doesn’t begin to gain much elevation until you have passed the lakes. The last 3 miles are fairly steep, but at least there are plenty of wildflowers to occupy your attention as you climb. Seeing a glacier up close is worth the effort!

If you’re short on time or can’t manage a 10-mile hike, you can shave off 3 miles from the trek by using the park shuttle boats. Taking the shuttle boats costs a small fee and may require advanced registration. The boats can be used to shuttle across Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine.

Grinnell Glacier Alternative: Grinnell Lake Trail

Male hiker wearing blue jacket and blue backpack sitting after doing some Glacier National Park hiking, looking over the teal colored Grinnell Lake, surrounded by mountains dusted with some remaining snow.

Mileage: 7 miles

Elevation Gain: 1,600 feet

The trail to Grinnell Glacier can hold snow for much longer than the lake trail below.

If hiking through snowfields on a steep trail sounds uncomfortable, you can still enjoy a nice view of Grinnell Glacier from a lower elevation at Grinnell Lake.

Hikers can also use the boat shuttle to eliminate a few hiking miles.

St. Mary and Virginia Falls

Waterfall cascading over a cliff, with trees surrounded the edges of the cliff with a small sunburst poking through the trees.

Mileage: 3 miles

Elevation Gain: 450 feet

Hiking in Glacier National Park isn’t complete without a trip to St. Mary and Virginia Falls!

At the western end of St. Mary Lake, there is trailhead parking for the falls. You can also use the shuttle bus to get to this scenic waterfall trail.

Once you’re at the trailhead, hike downhill toward the St. Mary River. You will mostly be hiking through a historic burn area, which has beautiful wildflowers every spring.

Soon after you reach the river, you will come across St. Mary Falls. Take the bridge across St. Mary River to continue on your way toward Virginia Falls.

You can continue hiking on what is now the Continental Divide Trail for as long as you’d like, or flip around and head back to the trailhead.

Avalanche Lake

Green mountains with waterfalls cascading down the sides of it, towards the pool at the bottom that is Avalanche Lake, surrounded by pine trees and blue sky.

Mileage: 4.5 miles

Elevation Gain: 750 feet

Early in the springtime, many of the park roads are still closed for snow removal. Avalanche Lake is one of the first alpine lake trails to become accessible as the roads reopen!

From the Trail of Cedars Trailhead, follow signs to the Avalanche Lake Trail. The trail climbs steadily uphill while paralleling the icy blue waters of Avalanche Creek.

For a more secluded experience, continue 0.7 miles to the other end of the lake. It’s arguably a better view than the main beach!

Trail of Cedars

The brilliant turquoise Avalanche Creek, surrounded by mossy boulders and cedar trees on this easy Glacier National Park hike.

Mileage: 1 mile

Elevation Gain: 50 feet

The Trail of Cedars can be wandered before or after visiting Avalanche Lake.

The area includes boardwalks that weave through the impressive cedar trees.

There are plenty of interesting interpretive displays to read through and if you look carefully you may be able to spot the resident deer roaming around. This is a great place to wander with young or new hikers!

Redrock Falls

Small cascade over red rocks at Redrock Falls, a popular hike in Glacier National Park, surrounded by trees and blue sky.

Mileage: 4 miles

Elevation Gain: 285 feet

Head to the end of the road in the Many Glacier Valley to access this scenic waterfall. Park at the Swiftcurrent Trailhead and follow the Swiftcurrent Pass Trail.

You will come to the cascading waterfall after about 2 miles of hiking. Many small side trails wander around the falls offering different viewpoints.

If you were hoping to spot a moose during your trip to Glacier National Park, this is your best bet! Moose frequent the wetland area about 1.5 miles into the trail.

No luck? Take the short detour to Fishercap Lake and scan the shoreline. The best times to spot moose are in the mornings and evenings.

The first best part of this hike is the waterfall, but the second-best is that it ends close to the general store, which sells huckleberry ice cream!

Swiftcurrent Pass

View of glacial mountains which have eroded to leave a valley behind, covered in green grass and foliage, with small emerald greenish-blue lakes in the deep valley below it.

Mileage: 14 miles

Elevation Gain: 3,766 feet

Often considered the most challenging day hike in Glacier National Park, the trail to Swiftcurrent Pass is full of outstanding views, alpine meadows, emerald lakes, and wildlife. If you are rugged enough to take on this trail, you won’t be disappointed by the beauty it holds!

As you would if you were hiking to Redrock Falls, park at the Swiftcurrent Trailhead and follow the appropriately named trail. You will get to see Redrock Falls, Redrock Lake, and Bullhead Lake along the way. Both lakes offer great views and provide excellent habitat for moose!

Soon after Bullhead Lake, you will begin your ascent up toward the pass. Make your climb up the many switchbacks for an excellent view of the valley below. The trail is pretty narrow and steep in some spots, which doesn’t pair particularly well with a fear of heights.

Iceberg Lake

Blue glacial water topped with some unmelted glacial ice, surrounded by reddish-brown rocks lit up orange-red by the last of the afternoon light, on a popular hike in Glacier National Park

Mileage: 9.3 miles

Elevation Gain: 1,450 feet

Begin your trek to Iceberg Lake from the Iceberg Ptarmigan Trailhead, which is nearby the trailhead used to access Redrock Falls and Swiftcurrent Pass.

From the trailhead, follow signs to stay on the Iceberg Ptarmigan Trail. Soon after you reach Ptarmigan Fall, you will arrive at a junction. Here, you will veer left and follow the Iceberg Trail.

Your efforts will be rewarded with an epic view of the emerald blue lake and floating ice chunks. The lake is surrounded by 2,000’ tall cliffs that are frequented by mountain goats.

In addition to the goats and bighorn sheep you will probably see, keep an eye out for moose, bear, and deer. This trail is a wildlife photographer’s dream!

Highline Trail

A dirt path winding through the beautiful green mountains of Glacier National Park, with some purple wildflowers and views of the other glacial mountains in the park.

Mileage: 15 miles

Elevation Gain: 2,578 feet

Due to the long mileage and difficulty of this scenic hiking trail, it is often done as an overnight backpacking trip. Although challenging, seasoned hikers could make this particular trek in a single day.

For those wishing to embark on a multi-day adventure, the Highline Trailhead is the starting point for endless miles of exploring, including a popular route that traverses most of the park.

Park at the Logan Pass Parking Area or take the shuttle bus to access the trailhead. You’ll want to get on the trail early! Follow signs to Highline Trail and begin your steady climb up. This scenic trail will bring you along the garden wall followed by an opportunity to detour to the Grinnell Glacier Overlook. Adding the detour to Grinnell Glacier makes the total distance closer to 17 miles.

Continuing on, you will  eventually reach the Granite Park Chalet, which historically provided accommodations for visitors to Glacier National Park. Now, it is a National Historic Landmark and a comfortable backcountry camp for backpackers.

After taking in the view at the chalet, head back the way you came toward Logan Pass. Keep an eye out for wildlife, there are many reports of hikers encountering grizzly bear and mountain goats!

This trail is very exposed, and anyone with a sensitivity to heights is encouraged to seek other options.

Upper McDonald Creek Trail

Brilliant emerald-turquoise waters at Upper McDonald Creek, surrounded by rocks covered in green moss and trees.

Mileage: 5 miles

Elevation Gain: 278 feet

Hikers of all levels will love this scenic creek-side trail. Beginning from the Upper McDonald Creek Trailhead, which is only a short drive past Lake McDonald.

The trail starts by wandering through an old-growth forest. This section of trail is a common place to spot grazing mule deer. As you continue, you will encounter the glacial-blue Upper McDonald Creek.

This is an out and back trail, so continue as far as you feel comfortable before turning around and heading back toward the trailhead.

Florence Falls Trail

Mileage: 9 miles

Elevation Gain: 1,174 feet

This is just one of the many spectacular waterfalls in Glacier National Park. Begin this out and back hike at the Jackson Glacier Overlook, where there is a good amount of parking available.

Along the way, you’ll pass Deadwood Falls. This 10’ falls may be stout, but it’s quite loud as it spills into Reynolds Creek. The main event is further down the trail.

Florence Falls is a tower of cascading falls. Each cascade ranged in height from 30 to 50 feet! Bear frequent this trail in the springtime because of the abundance of cow parsnip that grows in the area.

Be bear-aware anytime you are hiking in Glacier National Park!

Pin This Guide to Glacier National Park Hikes

The 10 Best Grand Teton Day Hikes

Many people travel to Grand Teton National Park to get a glimpse of the iconic Teton Range, scout out some of the area’s diverse wildlife, and go on a scenic hike in the Tetons.

With over 200 miles of beautiful hiking trails in Grand Teton National Park, there’s no shortage of choices.

Every experience level and age group can find a trail they will enjoy from a family-friendly nature walk in Colter Bay to challenging mountain passes that offer rewarding views of the pristine landscape below.

Load up your backpack, grab your camera, and don’t forget to pack the bear spray. These are the best day hikes that Grand Teton National Park has to offer!

Best Day Hikes in Grand Teton National Park

Taggart and Brady Lakes

Still lake at Taggart Lake reflecting the Teton range above it, surrounded by trees, rocks, and foliage.

Distance: 6 miles

Elevation Gain: 585 feet

A trip to Grand Teton National Park is not complete without a hike to Taggart and Brady Lakes. These lakes are nearby each other and are both worth visiting.

Being such a scenic hike, this is a well-well-trafficked trail. With that said, there is limited parking at the Taggert Lake Trailhead, and arriving early is highly recommended so you can find a parking spot easily.

Take in the stunning views of Grand Teton, the tallest mountain in the Teton Range, from the parking area. When you are ready to get your blood flowing, depart from the trailhead and hit the trail. When you come to the first trail junction, veer right and follow the sign toward Taggart Lake Trail.

A little farther down the trail, you will come to yet another junction. The trail is very well marked. Just remember you are following the signs to Taggart and Brady Lakes! A map helps too!

Next, cross the sturdy footbridge over Taggart Creek. Look upstream to get a glimpse of the cascading waterfall. The trail begins to climb a bit starting here. Make your way through the forest of lodgepole pines and thick aspen groves.

After you’ve hiked about 1 mile, you will come to another trail junction. Heading left will take you to Taggart Lake. However, if you wish to visit both of the lakes keep right and check out Brady Lake first. Just a little way farther, and you will be rewarded with multiple scenic overlooks of Taggert Lake!

Once you come to the Valley Trail Junction, keep right and you will shortly arrive at the shores of Bradly Lake. When you are finished soaking up the Teton views, head back to the Valley Trail Junction and take the Valley Trail this time to get a closer look at Taggart Lake and complete the loop back to the trailhead.

String and Leigh Lake

Narrow footbridge crossing a section of String Lake surrounded by green trees at the start of this Grand Teton hike.

Distance: 4 miles

Elevation Gain: 50 feet

Begin your hike at the String Lake Picnic Area. At the trailhead, you will find stunning mountain views from the sandy beach at String Lake. This is a great spot to refuel with some lunch or cool off with a dip in the chilly lake.

The trail wraps around the shore of String Lake until you come to a junction that will lead toward Leigh Lake. Unlike String Lake, accessing the shore of Leigh lake can be a little trickier. Keep an eye out for a well-used trail down to the lakeshore.

From Leigh Lake, continue back the way you came and complete the loop around String Lake. For a much longer hike, you can choose to hike to Bear Lake from Leigh Lake. This would add an additional 4 miles to the hike.

Jenny Lake: Inspiration Point and Hidden Falls

Giant boulders in front of the view from Inspiration Point, showing lots of evergreen trees in front of a brilliant blue lake with some clouds on the horizon but an otherwise clear sky.

Distance: 2.5 miles

Elevation Gain: 330 feet

If you make a visit to hike in Grand Teton National Park, definitely plan for a stop at Jenny Lake! There is so much to do at Jenny Lake, it is well worth dedicating a half-day to.

Who doesn’t love a waterfall hike? The hike to Hidden Falls is one of the most beautiful in the park. This trail is short enough that it is considered a novice and great for families. Hop on the boat shuttle at the docking area. This will cut off about 5 miles from the hike and offer beautiful mountain views as you cross the lake. There is a small fee for taking the boat shuttle.

Once on the other side of the lake, begin your hike on the Cascade Canyon Trail. The trail climbs quite a bit before reaching Hidden Falls and the viewing area. Hidden Falls is a towering 100’ and is often regarded as the most scenic waterfall in Grand Teton National Park!

Continue on your way up to Inspiration Point. Since it is less than a half-mile from Hidden Falls, it’s worth the climb, but if your legs are exhausted, you can always choose to turn back to the boat dock. Inspiration Point offers a great view of Jenny Lake and the distant mountains.

Jenny Lake Loop

Hiking in Grand Teton National Park along the perimeter of Jenny Lake, a brilliant sapphire blue lake surrounded by rocks and pine trees.

Distance: 7.5 miles

Elevation Gain: 275 feet

This scenic loop around Jenny Lake offers countless photo opportunities and chances to gaze up at the stunning peaks known as the Cathedral Group in the Teton Range!

The loop begins at the Jenny Lake Trailhead and stays fairly close to the lake throughout the entire hike. This is a great long hike for those hoping to avoid super strenuous hills or elevation gain.

Along the way, you can choose to veer off to visit Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point, which are mentioned previously.

If you were hoping to experience solitude while hiking in Grand Teton National Park, this may not be the ideal trail for you. Although scenic and rewarding, this is a very popular trail. The road is nearby part of the trail too, and it can interrupt the quiet of nature at times.

Phelps Lake Overlook

View over the sapphire blue Phelps Lake surrounded by pine forest on a clear, cloudless day with mountains on the horizon.

Distance: 2 miles

Elevation Gain: 400 feet

The Phelps Lake overlook is a fairly easy hike that wanders through a pine forest and aspen groves before opening up to a scenic viewpoint. This hike begins at the Death Canyon Trailhead, which is located at the end of a rutted dirt road.

From the trailhead, you will enter the forest and follow the well-maintained trail for 1 mile. Phelps Lake sits at over 7,000’ in elevation and is a common place to spot moose and waterfowl.

Surprise and Amphitheater Lakes Trail

Still lake reflecting back the mountains and foliage above it, covered in some light snow that hasn't yet melted.

Distance: 10.2 miles

Elevation Gain: 2,900 feet

This hike is perfect for anyone looking for a low-mileage overnight backpacking trip or a challenging day hike! At just over 10 miles round trip, you can expect the first half of the trail to be an uphill slog. However, the dessert of this rugged incline is two pristine alpine lakes surrounded by beautiful rocky cliffs.

Begin the trek at the Lupine Meadow Trailhead and head toward Glacier Gulch. After many switchbacks, you will first reach Surprise Lake. A little farther down the trail awaits Amphitheater Lake.

Lake Solitude

Green and brown grass, with some pine trees sparsely populating the landscape, and a tiny blue lake at the foot of mountains on a remote Grand Teton hike.

Distance: 7.5 miles

Elevation Gain: 2,350 feet

Another hike that begins at Jenny Lake is the beautiful hike to Lake Solitude. Surrounded by mighty peaks, Lake Solitude is a great challenge for anyone looking to experience an alpine lake, possible wildlife sightings, and seasonal wildflowers.

The hike to Lake Solitude begins just like the hike to Inspiration Point, with a boat ride across Jenny Lake. This time, when you make it up to Inspiration Point, you will continue climbing on the trail instead of turning around.

The trail will level out a bit after Inspiration Point as you enter into Cascade Canyon. In the early summer, you will see a variety of colorful wildflowers. As you always should while hiking in Grand Teton National Park, be bear aware as you make your way deeper into the canyon.

The trail passes by a series of ponds before the scenery transformed into a pine forest. Keep trekking along until you finally arrive at the lake!

Lake Solitude sits just above 9,000’ in elevation and should only be tackled by experienced hikers that are prepared for a challenge.

Christian Pond Loop

A blue river or pond surrounded by yellowing grass with some low mountains behind it

Distance: 3.5 miles

Elevation Gain: 250 feet

This easy loop is well-known for wildlife and wildflowers!

Begin your hike to Christian Pond from the trailhead parking next to the horse corrals at the Jackson Lake Lodge. As you approach the pond, be on the lookout for moose and elk grazing as well as trumpeter swans gliding through the shallow water.

The trail leads to the shores of Emma Matilda Lake before looping back toward the trailhead. Take a little detour and hike along the lake’s edge. Another great spot for wildlife viewing! When you’ve taken in all in head back to the Christian Pond Loop and back to the trailhead.

Colter Bay Lakeshore Trail

A mostly still lake reflecting the mountains of the Teton Range beautifully in its glassy, slightly rippled surface.

Distance: 2 miles

Elevation Gain: 150’

The Lakeshore Trail in Colter Bay is a perfect walk for families or anyone new to hiking in a national park! The trail is made up of two scenic loops and can be shortened as necessary to meet your experience and comfort level.

From the Colter Bay Visitor Center, walk toward the marina and find the trailhead for the Lakeshore Trail. From the trail, hikers can easily access the rocky shore of Jackson Lake to take photos or scout for wildlife.

Pin This Guide to Grand Teton Hikes!

Winter in Zion National Park: What to Know Before You Go

Many outdoor enthusiasts argue that winter in Zion is the best time to visit this beloved national park in southwest Utah!

Home to Angels Landing and the famous Emerald Pools, Zion National Park is often ranked as one of the most visited national parks in the United States.

However, in the winter, Zion’s tall canyon walls become accented in powdery white snow, and the crowds of summer become a distant memory. 

Although the shift in seasons may change the scenery, there are still many fun activities in Zion National Park in the winter! However, there are a few things you should know about visiting Zion in winter, first.

Zion Winter Road Closures

Curve in the road going through a snow covered section of Zion National Park in the winter on a sunny day

Zion Scenic Drive

During peak visitation in the summertime and between December 24th – January 2nd, the Zion Scenic Drive can not be accessed by personal vehicle.

All visitors wishing to explore the Zion Scenic Drive by vehicle must use the park’s shuttle bus system.

The wintertime buses generally run between 8 am and 5 pm and can be used to access trailheads for hikes like Emerald Pools and the West Rim.

When the shuttle bus is not operating in Zion National Park, visitors can use their personal vehicles to access the trailheads and attractions along the Zion Scenic Drive.

The park service recommends arriving at trailheads early in the day because trailheads do fill up. Once a trailhead is full, there will be no more parking allowed, so it is a good idea to have a secondary plan in place.

Zion Mount-Carmel Highway

For visitors traveling from Springdale, UT to the eastern side of the park near Mt Carmel Junction, the Zion Mount-Carmel Highway is the shortest route. This drive does pass under the famous Zion Mount-Carmel Tunnel, which is just over 1 mile long!

Passenger vehicles can pass through the tunnel at any time, but oversized vehicles do have a few prerequisites and restrictions.

All vehicles 11’4” tall or taller or 7’10” wide or wider, including attachments and accessories, will require a tunnel permit. Tunnel permits can be obtained at the entrance stations and cost $15 in addition to park entrance fees.

The final obligation of oversized vehicles using the tunnel is that the vehicles must use the tunnel during operating hours, which are between 8:00 am and 4:30 pm in the winter.

Semi-trucks, vehicles over 13’1”, and single vehicles over 40’ long are prohibited. For more information on prohibited tunnel vehicles or using the tunnel, contact Zion National Park at (435) 772-3256.

Kolob Canyons Road

Wintertime conditions such as impassable snow and icy roads can cause frequent temporary closures on Kolob Canyons Road. The road is maintained throughout the wintertime and is open to private vehicles year-round.

Kolob Terrace Road and Lava Point Road

The Kolob Terrace Road is open year-round. However, 4-wheel drive and tire chains may be required to pass safely through the winter driving conditions.

West Rim Road

The West Rim Road closes during the winter season.

Zion Winter Hours of Operation and Facilities

Snow on the valley floor of Zion National Park, next to a small river, with snow-covered trees and red cliff rock faces showing a winter Zion landscape

Although Zion National Park is always open to the public, some of the facilities do undergo reduced hours of operation come wintertime.

If you are visiting Zion National Park in the winter, you will want to be aware of these facility hours and seasonal closures:

Zion Canyon Visitor Center: 8:00 am – 4:00 pm

Zion Canyon Wilderness Desk: 8:00 am – 10:00 am and 3:00 pm – 4:30 pm

Park Store: 8:00 am – 5:00 pm

Kolob Canyons Visitor Center: 8:00 am – 4:30 pm

Zion Human History Museum: closed

Zion Nature Center: closed

It is always a good idea to begin a national park trip with a stop at the visitor center. This is a great way to make sure you have the most up to date information, and it allows you to review your itinerary with professional park staff. They may even have some insider tips to share with you!

Winter Camping in Zion National Park

Snow-covered mountain near the Watchman Campground, with a partly cloudy sky in the background. Red rock showing behind the snow.

Many who come to Zion National Park choose to camp during their visits. During the summer months, there are three different campgrounds: Watchman Campground, South Campground, and Lava Point Campground.

However, Lava Point and South close in the fall leaving Watchman Campground as the only front country year-round camping option in Zion National Park in winter.

Although there are many other lodging accommodations and campgrounds in the town of Springdale, UT, winter visitors with their hearts set on camping at Watchman Campground should plan to arrive early for first come, first serve camping beginning in December.

The campground capacity does reduce for the winter season in Zion!

Winter Safety in Zion National Park

Icy Trails

With limited daylight and cold nighttime temperatures in the wintertime, one of the greatest cold season hazard in Zion Canyon becomes icy trails and icy chains.

Many of the most popular trails, including Angels Landing, remain open year-round. It’s not uncommon to have clear dry trails.

However, ice may be lingering in the shady sections of high elevation trails, which can be especially dangerous on trails like Angels Landing which have sheer-face drops and require the use of chains for leverage!

To combat icy trails, many hikers choose to carry along Yaktrax or spikes. These handy accessories will help you keep your footing on slick surfaces.

Hypothermia

A woman in a lavender top and leggings hiking the ridge of Angel's Landing covered in a light snow, looking over a snow-covered valley in Zion in winter.

When your body temperature falls to dangerously cool levels, you begin to experience hypothermia.

Although Zion National Park is well-known for its mild wintertime temperatures, wet clothes combined with lower temps found in the narrow canyons can create a high-risk.

To avoid hypothermia, the park service recommends wearing non-cotton clothing and eating high-energy foods before chill takes effect.

Thermal layers and leggings will keep you a lot warmer than cotton, and be sure to also bring a waterproof jacket in case of rain, sleet, or snow.

Rockfall

Rock formations covered in snow, surrounded by fog on a wintry day in Zion national park

Rockfall is a year-round hazard in Zion National Park. When recreating within the steep canyon, be aware and alert.

If a rockfall occurs, the park service advises visitors to safely move out of the way. If it is not possible to move out of the way of falling rock, seek shelter behind a large and stable rock feature and place your backpack over your head.

Although rockfall can occur at any time, the risk can become increased due to water freezing behind the cliff walls. When the water freezes, it can cause the cracks behind rocks to expand occasionally lodging the rocks out of place.

Rain is also a big risk for causing rockslides, so even if it’s not freezing or snowing, you do have to be aware when visiting Zion in the winter!

Things to Do in Zion in Winter

Snowshoe to Observation Point

Kolob Canyon walls covered in a light snow which shows from underneath the red rock, a stormy sky with dark clouds above.

If you are fortunate enough to visit Zion National Park after a fresh snowfall, you may be able to cross country ski or snowshoe on some of the park trails! The higher elevation areas in Zion can hold snow from late October until March.

Kolob Canyons’ high  elevation makes it a great place to have fun in the snow all winter long. However, if you are looking for a snowshoe adventure in the main part of Zion National Park, you must check out the trail to Observation Point!

Beginning from the Weeping Rock Trail, hike up the switchbacks and out of the deep canyon. You may not need snowshoes at the beginning part of the hike, but the East Rim is known for holding deep snow. Check current conditions with a ranger before departing!

The trail to Observation Point is much wider than the trail to Angels Landing, but it has quite a bit more elevation gain. From Observation Point, you will be 700 feet higher than the summit at Angels Landing! This 8-mile round trip hike includes a look at Echo Canyon as well as one of the most iconic views in all of Zion National Park.

Take a Scenic Drive Through Zion Canyon

Snow-covered canyon walls with a sunny sky with some clouds, a plowed road that is empty winding through Zion in winter.

Parts of the Zion Scenic Drive are closed to private vehicles during the summer season. Once the crowds disperse, the shuttle bus shuts down, and visitors are allowed to travel through this section of Zion National Park in their own vehicles.

Traveling this scenic route in your personal vehicle allows for the opportunity to stop as needed and take in the gorgeous canyon views. This 57-mile scenic drive is well worth the trip with chances to see wildlife and the ability to stop frequently for photographs. The drive takes about 1.5 hours depended on the number of detours you choose to explore!

Most travelers begin the drive near St. George, UT, and continue through Zion National Park toward Mt Carmel Junction.

Try for Wildlife Viewing

Two goats or sheep with horns looking at the camera, perched on some snow on a red rock landscape in Zion National Park in winter.

There is no better season than winter to spot some of Zion National Park’s wild turkeys roaming the canyon.

Although some of the park wildlife hibernates during the wintertime, it is still possible to spot mule deer, bighorn sheep, and even eagle along the Virgin River!

Binoculars and a keen eye may be necessary to spot some of these well-camouflaged residents. Roaming the park after a fresh snowfall may make it easier to spot deer and bighorn sheep.

Practice Your Wintertime Photography

View of Zion's red rock cliff landscape juxtaposed with bits of white snow in the higher elevation crevices of the canyon on a blue sky winter day in Zion National Park

Zion National Park’s beautiful landscape becomes something even more picturesque once the snow begins to fall. The tall cliffs become dusted with powdery white snow and the wall’s red colors begin to pop.

Visitors hoping to capture Zion’s winter landscape can travel the Zion Scenic Drive while using turnouts and designated parking areas to find the perfect angle. Since many of the trails stay open year-round, photographers can also hike to scenic vistas like Angels Landing and Observation Point.

Pin This Guide to Visiting Zion in Winter!

Winter in Glacier National Park: 21 Things to Know Before You Go!

Towering peaks, lush meadows, alpine lakes, and abundant wildlife sightings await visitors in Glacier National Park no matter the time of year.

A well-known piece of the Crown of the Continent, Glacier National Park is home to over 700 miles of hiking trails, making it a paradise for outdoor adventures!

In the summertime, grizzly bear can be spotted grazing in the meadows and the tall peaks of the Northern Rocky Mountains reflect in the icy blue waters of Lake McDonald. The highest peaks in Glacier can hold deep snow all summer long depending on the year, but many of the hiking trails are accessible without snowpack between June and September.

Glacier National Park quickly begins to transform into a winter wonderland come late fall. Although the backcountry in Glacier National Park is more accessible during the warm season, there is still much to explore and see once the snow begins to fall.

However, a winter vacation to Glacier National Park still requires some forethought and planning due to challenges that snow and closures present. Here’s everything you need to know about visiting Glacier National Park in winter!

Glacier National Park Winter Road Conditions

Going to the Sun Mountain from the East Tunnel of the Going to the Sun Road, the sides of the mountain are covered in a light snow, road has been plowed before the road closes in Glacier National Park in winter.

Going-to-the-Sun Road

The stretch of road between the Lake McDonald Lodge and St. Mary Entrance is closed throughout the wintertime. When the road closes is entirely dependent on weather and road conditions.

The Going-to-the-Sun road reopens again once the national park operators can plow the alpine section of road clear of snow and it is deemed safe for private vehicle traffic. Due to the somewhat unpredictable mountain weather, there are no set opening or closing dates.

This road is considered one of the best scenic drives in the USA, but in the wintertime, it is socked in under many feet of snow with even deeper snowdrifts!

Once spring approaches, the road sees various stages of reopening. Be sure to call ahead for an accurate and updated road conditions report.

West Entrance to Lake McDonald Lodge

This is the only section of road that stays open year-round, weather permitting. This ten-mile stretch of road from the West Entrance to the Lake McDonald Lodge is plowed throughout the winter to allow for private vehicle traffic.

Just beyond the Lake McDonald Lodge, the road is gated to prevent further travel.

Many Glacier Road

The road to the Many Glacier Hotel is closed between November and April due to impassable winter road conditions. Folks who wish to explore this section of the park in the snow must either snowshoe or ski down the road.

Two Medicine Road

This road also goes unplowed during the wintertime and is considered closed once the snow is impassable. Call to talk to a ranger at Glacier National Park for current road conditions.

Inside North Fork Road

The Inside North Fork Road travels the western boundary of Glacier National Park leading travelers towards the Canadian Border. During the summer, the road is bumpy and is best taken at a leisurely pace. Once the snow begins to pile up, the road closes to private vehicle traffic.

Camas Road

The Camas Road, which connects West Glacier to Polebridge closes due to impassable snow conditions. However, it does transition into a fun scenic snowshoe trail once the snow is deep enough.

Winter Weather in Glacier National Park

An empty bench with footstep tracks next to it, looking out over Lake McDonald and all the snow-covered mountains surrounding it.

Winter in Glacier National Park can be summed up in a word: cold. I mean, the word ‘glacier’ in the name should be a hint!

Here is the average temperatures for winter months in Glacier National Park (which I’ll call November through March)

November: Average highs of 33° F and average lows of 21° F, with approximately 19 days of rain or snow.

December: Average highs of 27° F and average lows of 14° F, with approximately 19 days of rain or snow.

January: Average highs of 30° F and average lows of 17° F, with approximately 19 days of rain or snow.

February: Average highs of 32° F and average lows of 14° F, with approximately 16 days of rain or snow.

March: Average highs of 39° F and average lows of 20° F, with approximately 18 days of rain or snow.

Winter Hours of Operation and Facilities in Glacier NP

Snow-covered evergreen trees next to a lake, in front of a pyramid-shaped mountain covered in light snow.

Although recreation in Glacier National Park is technically open year-round, some of the facilities undergo reduced hours of operation or close completely come wintertime.

However, note that restrooms and potable water are available at the Apgar Visitor Center year-round.

If you are planning to visit Glacier National Park during the off-season, which is between late September and early May, you will want to be aware of these changes to facility operations:

Apgar Visitor Center: Closed during the winter. Outdoor informational exhibits are open year-round.

Logan Pass Visitor Center: Closed during the winter.

St. Mary Visitor Center: Closed during the winter.

Apgar Village Camp Store: Open intermittently throughout winter.

Backcountry Permit Offices: Call to assure staffing.

Note: All in-park lodging is closed during the wintertime, so you will want to stay in a nearby town, like West Glacier, Hungry Horse, or Whitefish.

Since Glacier National Park is home to such a rugged winter environment, it is a good idea to begin your trip by calling ahead to talk with a park ranger.

Where to Stay near Glacier National Park in Winter

Since you can’t actually stay in the park in the winter, you’ll have to stay nearby. Luckily, there are plenty of great options: these ones are all in Whitefish, which has the most options in terms of accommodations, but you can also look at West Glacier, Hungry Horse, or Kalispell.

Luxury

Lodge at Whitefish Lake: This cozy 4-star lodge boasts a beautiful location, an on-site spa, cozy rooms, and an award-winning restaurant — what else could you want when visiting Glacier in winter? The Spa is a great place to relax after a day recreating in Glacier National Park, with massages, facials, treatments, a steam room, a hot tub, a relaxation room, and more in their wellness center!
>> Book your stay the Lodge at Whitefish Lake here

Mid-Range

The Firebrand: This chic boutique hotel is one of Whitefish’s newest offerings, and it’s a great place with tons of personality. Amenities include a fitness center, ski storage and ski pass sales, and on-site restaurants and bars. Cozy robes and luxe en-suite bathrooms make each room feel spa-perfect.
>> Book a stay at the Firebrand here

Budget

Grouse Mountain Lodge: This cozy lodge is no-frills, but it’s a lovely place to stay in the winter when all you want is a roaring fireplace, lovely log cabin vibes, and snow-covered scenery! It has some great amenities including an outdoor firepit and hot tub as well as an indoor pool and a Finnish-style dry sauna.

Winter Camping in Glacier National Park

The unfrozen surface of Lake McDonald in early winter in Glacier National Park, reflecting the snow-covered mountains with a patch of fog on a sunny winter day.
Lake McDonald, where you’ll find the only winter Glacier campground at Apgar Campground

Many national park travelers like to camp during their outdoor adventures. Glacier National Park is home to thirteen front-country campgrounds, which are spread throughout the one million acre park!

During the busy season between May and most of September, many of the popular campgrounds are on an online reservation system and are full each night.

Out of the thirteen front-country campgrounds, Apgar Campground on Lake McDonald is the only one that stays open year-round.

The campground sees reduced site availability and primitive camping only during the cold season. Primitive camping in Glacier National Park means there are vault toilets open, but no potable water available.

Luckily, if you are unable to snag a site inside the park, there are plenty of camping opportunities and lodging accommodations ranging in levels of luxury nearby in West Glacier and Hungry Horse.

Winter Safety in Glacier National Park

A man wearing weather-appropriate clothing hiking through the snow, exhibiting winter safety guidelines in Glacier National Park in the snow.

Hypothermia

When your body temperature falls to dangerously cool levels, you begin to experience hypothermia. Wet clothes combined with freezing outside temperatures can create a high-risk environment.

To avoid hypothermia, the park service recommends wearing non-cotton clothing and doing everything possible to avoid submerging yourself in water.

According to the National Park Service, water is the number one cause of fatality in Glacier. If you are recreating near water, avoid walking on slippery rocks and crossing over moving water on thin snowbridges.

Staying Found

Trails covered in a fresh layer of snow can become difficult to follow. As you snowshoe, ski, or hike along, pay close attention to trail markers and junctions signs. Cell phone coverage is spotty to nonexistent in most areas of Glacier National Park. If you do become lost, stay where you are, and wait for rescue.

Always pack a map with navigation tools, and remember to tell someone where you are going before departing for the trail. If you are unsure of your abilities, always go with companions.

Avalanche

The deep powdery snow combined with the steep mountain terrain in Glacier National Park is the perfect formula for avalanches.

If you plan to recreate in the backcountry during the winter season, you should be professionally trained in avalanche safety and know how to use the appropriate safety gear.

Snowbridges

The thin layers of snow and ice covering water, crevasses, or massive snow caves can be difficult to detect. The fragile ice can give way to your body weight and leave you victim to the hazards below.

Before recreating on glaciers, in snowfields, or near bodies of water in the winter, be sure to talk to a park ranger about snowbridge safety.

Wildlife

Glacier National Park is home to diverse and magnificent wildlife. Although there will be many great opportunities to view wildlife, always make sure you are doing so safely. If it is a hoofed animal, such as moose, elk, sheep, and goats, keep back 75 feet. For grizzly and black bears, always try to maintain a distance of at least 300 feet.

Although bear hibernate in the wintertime, Glacier National Park is still grizzly country. Carry bear spray and follow appropriate bear aware protocol while recreating.

Things to Do in Glacier National Park in Winter

Go for a Scenic Drive

Icy surface of Lake McDonald as seen in winter, wth snow and ice on the banks of the lake, with snow-covered mountains in the distance.

As you have learned, many of the roads in Glacier National Park shut down due to impassable snow in the wintertime. However, there is still enough roadway open to private vehicle traffic for a fun drive through the snowy mountains!

The section of road between the West Entrance and the Lake McDonald Lodge remains open year-round due to the exceptional plow operators. The 10-mile stretch of road winds along the scenic and picturesque shore of Lake McDonald.

Although you may not get to see the lake’s colorful rock shores in the wintertime, you can still appreciate the towering peaks, such as Stanton Mountain, McPartland Mountain, and Heavens Peak, in the background.

This drive is perfect for photographers hoping to capture the beauty of Glacier National Park’s front country. As you drive along, use the frequent turnouts to access the lake’s shore and capture every accessible angle.

It is common to spot whitetail deer roaming along the roadway, but keep an eye out for other wildlife like moose, elk, fox, and coyote.

The bear may be fast asleep during your visit, but if you’re coming during the late fall or early spring, it is possible to spot bear grazing along the shore.

Go cross-country skiing and snowshoeing

Female hiker in snowshoes with trekking poles wearing a black jacket and baby blue pants, looking over a snow-covered mountainous landscape in Glacier National park in the winter time.

Winter is the dominant season in Glacier National Park and all of northern Montana, since all the other seasons are so short-lived!

To make the best of the snowy months and continue exploring, strap on a pair of snowshoes or cross country skis.

The Apgar Village has a variety of ski and snowshoe trails for everyone to enjoy. For a short 3-mile outing, consider exploring the Lower McDonald Creek Trail.

Those who are looking for something a little longer in the Apgar Village area might like the 6-mile round trip trail to Rocky Point, which offers multiple viewpoints featuring Lake McDonald and surrounding peaks!

Take a scenic snowmobile ride

Snowmobile tracks on the frozen lake at Whitefish Lake in Whitefish, MT with houses and lodges in the background.

For those looking for a little high-octane adventure, rent a snowmobile and explore the backcountry areas around Glacier National Park for yourself.

While snowmobiling is not permitted within the park itself, you can snowmobile just outside of the park’s limits. Snowmobiling is one of the most popular winter activities for visitors to Northern Montana, with snowmobile tours departing from common bases like Whitefish and West Glacier.

I recommend traveling with Action Rentals, who offer independent and guided snowmobile rentals departing from Whitefish, MT.

Book a snowmobile rental here!

Go ice climbing

A woman in a pink jacket and red pants climbing up the icicles of a frozen waterfall with climbing equipment and harness.

Winter’s answer to rock climbing is ice climbing!

This fun activity allows you to scale up beautiful, otherworldly landscapes like frozen waterfalls and icy, snow-covered cliff edges, equipped with little more than ice picks and a harness.

Ice climbing is dangerous to do solo, so make sure you go with a trusted guide like Whitefish Vertical Adventures.

What to Pack for Glacier National Park in Winter

Baby blue and pastel pink sky at sunrise over the trees and mountains of the Montana winter landscape in Glacier National Park

Waterproof Parka: In the snow of Glacier in winter, you’ll want a really warm winter jacket, like this ultra-insulated North Face parka. I admit it’s a bit pricy, but it comes with a guarantee that it’ll last a lifetime.. and I tested this guarantee by sending in a zipper to be fixed which got damaged after 4 years of abuse wearing it every winter day to cycle 15 miles — my jacket came back like new and better than ever.

I’ve had my North Face parka for literally 10 years, and it’s held up from winters biking through New York City to multiple trips north of the Arctic Circle in places like Tromso and Abisko. It’ll serve you well in Glacier in winter!

Get the exact jacket I have here! 

Waterproof Pants: If you’re cross-country skiing or snowboarding or doing some winter hiking, you’ll absolutely want waterproof pants. Jeans put you at risk of hypothermia if you get wet, so avoid at all costs.

Snow Boots: Since you’ll likely be trudging through quite deep snow both in Glacier National Park and wherever you set up your base, you’ll absolutely need proper snow boots for a trip to Glacier in winter. I love these stylish and warm Sorel boots for women, which are waterproof and warm but also have plenty of traction. For added steadiness on your feet, throw on some Yaktrax to the bottom for grip on icy surfaces and pathways. These are a godsend (they saved me from eating it many times when I was in Tromso!)

Warm Leggings: There are two choices when it comes to a cozy base layer for your bottom half: fleece-lined for people with sensitive skin like me, and merino wool for people who don’t find wool itchy like I do. I own several pairs of these fleece-lined leggings in a variety of colors (I have black, gray, and maroon). Be sure to wear waterproof layers over this if you’ll be out in the snow, though! For people who like wool, merino wool leggings are the way to go – the absolute warmest you can get. However, it’s too much wool for me to handle, but I have particularly sensitive skin.

Fleece-Lined Knit Hat: If you enjoy fashion, winter can be a bit of a drag because you basically commit to one jacket (typically in a neutral color) for an entire season. I absolutely live for livening up my look with tons of different colors of knit hats. I have one in virtually every color, but I love red and yellow best for the best ‘pop’ of color against the snow. Since I have so many hats, I don’t really have anything special: just a snug knit hat lined in fleece and with a pompom that does absolutely nothing to add warmth but I love them anyway.

Thermal Top Layer: Again, what kind of thermal you go for will definitely depend on whether or not you have any skin sensitivities and if you can handle wool. I hate wool on anything but socks, so instead, I go for thin performance thermals like this Heat Plus layer from 32 Degrees. However, if you’re a fan of wool, a merino wool base layer will keep you insanely warm. Better yet, wool doesn’t trap odors the same way other materials do, meaning you can re-wear it several times before your under-layers will need to be washed — great for people who pack light!

An Enormous Scarf: I go for big, warm, and infinite-style scarfs. I tend to opt for bright, bold colors to liven up my look. I love these ones — they’re cheap and feel cashmere-soft, but they aren’t pricy like it.

Touchscreen Friendly Gloves: You’ll likely want to have your hands out of your pockets at times when you’re navigating on Google Maps, looking up something you’ve bookmarked (maybe this blog?), etc.! Most gloves these days tend to be touchscreen-friendly, but check before you buy. These gloves are cute, smartphone-compatible, and inexpensive.

Waterproof Gloves: You’ll also want to layer waterproof gloves over your touchscreen gloves if you’re snowshoeing or cross-country skiing, or anything where you are out and about in the snow and need your hands out for balance or gripping poles, etc.

Headlamp (and Extra Batteries): Glacier National Park in winter can get dark early — and quickly! — due to the early sunset time that naturally occurs in winter… plus the mountains making it get dark long before that! Bring a headlamp in case any outdoor excursions take longer than expected. You don’t want to get lost after dark in the snow. This Petzl headlamp is highly-rated and affordable.

Waterproof Backpack: You’ll want to keep your belongings dry, especially if you’re doing long treks on cross-country skis or snowshoes in the snow or freezing rain. Bring a waterproof backpack — you won’t regret it, especially if you’re carrying pricy camera equipment.

Snowshoes (optional): Many trails in Glacier National Park in winter will require proper snowshoes (different than snow boots — these allow you to ‘float’ on top of snow instead of sinking through it!) as well as trekking poles if you want to do some winter exploring. You can also rent them, but they’re pretty cheap to buy and will last you for future winter trips, so I recommend investing in them if you are a fan of snow travel.

Camera: You’ll want a camera to capture all that Glacier National Park winter beauty. I use and love my Sony A6000! It’s mirrorless, so it’s lightweight and perfect for a high-quality camera that won’t weigh you down. Be sure to bring a handful of extra batteries! Trust me, I’ve learned from many an experience in the cold photographing the Northern Lights that batteries burn out sooo much faster in the cold.

Battery Pack: Going off of what I said above, extend that to your phone as well! Cold weather depletes cell phone batteries extra quickly, so if you’re using your cell phone as your primary camera and navigation device (and who doesn’t these days?) you’ll absolutely want the ability to power up without a wall outlet while you’re out enjoying nature. I rely on an Anker battery pack to keep all my devices charged in the cold — and as a blogger who takes frequent winter trips to the Arctic and beyond with way more gear than a normal person needs, it’s served me very well!