The Perfect 10 Day Montana Road Trip Itinerary (+ Optional Wyoming Stops)

With a host of mountain trails, trout streams, and downtown art scenes, a Montana road trip should be next up on your USA bucket list.

The state is home to several national parks, including Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area and Glacier National Park.

This road trip also offers drivable access to the northern entrance of Yellowstone National Park in neighboring Wyoming should you want to extend your trip to be both a Montana and Wyoming road trip!

Are you ready for one of the best road trips in the USA? Let’s get going: here’s all you need to know to plan the best Montana road trip.

PLANNING FOR MONTANA AT A GLANCE: 

When to Go: There is no doubt you can visit Montana any time of the year but if your road trip involves visiting Glacier National Park (which it should as it's one of the state's highlights), then the best time to visit is in summer. This is because most roads and lodges in Glacier National Park close in winter due to snow and it doesn't make sense to visit Montana and skip GNP.

Where to Stay: For this itinerary, you'll have sleepovers in Billings, Bozeman, Bigsky& Yellowstone, Missoula, and Whitefish & Glacier National Park.

For your first sleepover in Billings, I recommend staying at Northern Hotel, a charming historic hotel with a touch of luxury. And while in Bozeman, I recommend staying at Kimpton Armory Hotel, a chic boutique hotel.

Missoula might not be a popular overnight stay area but if it makes sense for your road trip, then you can spend the night at Blossom’s Bed & Breakfast.

And for your adventures in Whitefish & Glacier National Park, I recommend staying at The FarmHouse Inn, a quaint B&B or Firebrand Hotel if you want to stay in the middle of everything.

How to Get Around: You're definitely going to need a car while road tripping Montana otherwise you'll have to spend a lot of money on private tours. In that case, you can compare car rentals and prices from here if you don't know where to rent one from.  Alternately, you can rent an RV or campervan via RVShare and save on accommodations. 

Best Activities: Don't want to drive or plan? Booking a few different activities can help you eliminate the need for driving around. You can book a Bighorn Canyon cruise, whitewater rafting experience, or river floating experience in Glacier National Park, or this 2-day Yellowstone guided tour if you choose to extend your Montana road trip to Wyoming. 

3 Things Not to Forget to Pack:  A sturdy pair of hiking boots will serve you well -- I love my Ahnu boots. A dual purpose phone mount and charger will come in very handy and you'll be happy to have a roadside emergency kit should your car break down while road tripping.

Road trip pro tip: Purchase an annual pass (AKA the America the Beautiful Pass) to save money on the entrance fees for the multiple locations in this itinerary run by the NPS!

How this Montana Road Trip Itinerary Works

An overcast day in Glacier National Park, turquoise water next to melting snow, surrounded by evergreen trees and mountains with little snow.

This Montana road trip is designed for people who don’t mind a few longer days of driving, but are truly all about the sights and hikes that this beautiful state has to offer!

Personally, I don’t like staying in a new place every single night, so I try to break the itinerary up a bit so that you have a few multi-night stays — typically 2 nights, occasionally 1 night or 3 nights in the case of Glacier National Park and Whitefish at the end.

Breaking up this Montana road trip with longer overnight stays in a place helps you get to really know each destination on this trip rather than just passing through in a car as fast as possible and ticking off the “main sights”, as many other road trips have you do!

I want this road trip through Montana (and Wyoming, if you wish!) to mix as much sightseeing as possible with a leisurely pace… so you don’t end up needing a vacation from your vacation!

There are a few places on this Montana road trip where you can “choose your own adventure” so to speak. When you stay in Big Sky, I give you the option to make a side trip to Yellowstone National Park. And of course, you could also visit Grand Teton National Park while you’re in Yellowstone, and extend the stay a little there, making this more of a 2 week Montana road trip than a 10 day one.

However, since you probably got here by searching for “Montana road trip”, this post is going to focus on the best places to stop on a road trip through Montana. However, I will note when a quick side trip or detour into another state would be a good idea, in case you are hoping to visit a bit of Wyoming as well on this road trip!

The Best Time of Year for a Montana Road Trip

Pink wildflowers blooming in an alpine meadow in a valley between peaks in Glacier National Park, a Montana road trip itinerary must-see!

Let me start off by saying that while the best time to visit Montana is really any time, the best time to road trip Montana is a little different: especially if you have Glacier National Park on your Montana itinerary!

While of course, you can visit Glacier National Park in the winter (and it’s beautiful and worthwhile!), many of the roads are closed which makes the whole ‘road tripping’ part a little more complicated.

Due to the high elevation of Glacier National Park (the highest part of the park, Logan Pass, is located at 6,646 feet above sea level!) and northern location near the border of Canada, heavy snow sets in rather early in Glacier National Park.

As a result, this road trip through Montana is at its best in the middle of the summer: think July or August.

This is when you’ll enjoy the best weather with a limited impact of snow (though a few trails in Glacier National Park may still have some patches of snow — it is Glacier National Park, after all!).

Early September is also a good time to visit Montana. There is no fixed date to when the roads and lodges close, but the later you get into September, the more you risk not being able to see as much of the park as you wish.

So, for that reason, I’d say late August is perhaps the best time to start this 10 day Montana road trip: that way, you end up in Glacier National Park right at the beginning of September, with little chance of closures interrupting your road trip plan.

Flying Into Montana

An airplane connected to a jet bridge with the mountains in the background as seen at a Montana airport

Flights are typically best through Billings or Bozeman. However, Missoula and Kalispell are worth looking into. 

Booking one-way flights from different cities versus a roundtrip might make sense if you need to save some time on the road. The state is large and there is a lot of ground to cover!

Year-round flights into Billings are offered from larger hubs including Denver, Salt Lake City, Seattle, Las Vegas, Dallas and Phoenix.

Chances are you one layover away from the start of your trip. Seasonal direct flights are also available from Chicago and LAX.

We’ll assume you are flying into Billings for this Montana road trip itinerary as it is the most common arrival hub, but you may need to reorganize this itinerary if that is not the case.

Luckily, this Montana road trip goes in a circle once you leave Billings, so it’s pretty easy to adapt to your needs if your flight booking means you need to rejig the itinerary.

If you’re not flying into Billings, you may decide to skip it, as it’s a bit out of the way compared to the rest of the itinerary, and spend more time along the loop we detail in days 3-8 of these 10 days in Montana itinerary.

Renting a Car

A blurry red car driving past a landscape road tripping in Montana's Glacier National Park

If you’re flying into Montana for a road trip, you’re definitely going to need a car!

The best prices can be found by picking up and dropping off at the same pickup point, which will likely be Billings.

Keep in mind, though, that this means a 6-hour straight drive from the last point on this 10 day Montana road trip itinerary, Glacier National Park, back to Billings.

If that sounds tiring to you, you may want to look into one-way rentals between Billings and Kalispell, the nearest airport to Glacier National Park. It will almost certainly cost more, but it may be a whole lot more convenient.

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 as the best site to rent with in the USA – it searches dozens of rental companies to find the cheapest price for your rental! Compare car rentals for your trip here!

Montana Road Trip Map

Day 1-2 of Your Montana Road Trip: Billings

Welcome to Billings!

Since you’ll be driving a lot on this Montana road trip itinerary, we’ll get you out onto the hiking trails to stretch your legs as much as possible between each Montana road trip stop.

Take a Hike

View from rocks and trees above the city of Billings from a local hike around sunset

From Billings, several day hikes are within a quick drive from downtown. Moderate hikes include Phipps Park and Skyline Trails — pick one or the other to start your Montana itinerary.

The Skyline Trail

If you want to hit the trails pretty much as soon as you hit the road, about a 5-7 minute drive west from Billings Logan airport is the Skyline Trail. It is an easy 1.7-mile loop around the ridge of Zimmerman Park.

With sweeping views of the city below (and Bighorn, Pryor, and Beartooth Mountains in the distance) it’s a quick way to get your directional bearings before further exploring Billings. The trail is rated as easy, but take good hiking shoes and be prepared for a slight scramble.

City partnerships are currently in the fundraising process to build out a paved multi-use Skyline Trail extending for 7 miles between Zimmerman and Swords Parks.

Check in on the trail status before your trip, as you might be able to tack on a longer bike ride as trail sections are completed!

The Phipps Park Trail

Clocking in at a slightly longer 2.5-mile loop, Phipps Park Trail is located farther west from town and offers similar views of Billings. The trailhead parking is just past the Yellowstone Country Club off Rimrock Road and about 20 minutes or 10 miles from downtown.

Most of the trail’s 450 foot elevation gain is tackled in the first mile, and the shared trail is also good for running and mountain biking. If walking, plan for about 1.5 hours.

Bighorn Canyon

A Grand Canyon looking landscape with rocks with red, orange, and yellow tones creating a large canyon.

For longer, more difficult hikes head to Bighorn Canyon for the day. Located 1.5 hours from Billings, the national recreation area is a great spot for hiking around, or watersports on, Bighorn Lake.

The lake extends nearly 60 miles from Montana into Wyoming with the majority of the area in the Bighorn Canyon. The area is vast, over 70,000 acres, so checking in at the Fort Smith Visitor Center will give you the best information for the day.

One of the best ways to explore Bighorn Canyon without the hike is by taking a two-hour scenic boat tour of the canyon, learning about America’s third-largest canyon and its importance to the Native American people who have lived in this area for centuries, narrated by an expert guide.

Book your Bighorn Canyon cruise here!

You can also try your hand at fly fishing below the Yellowtail Dam or hit trail sections like Sullivan’s Knob Trail (easy at 0.8 miles), Upper Layout Creek (moderate at 1.8 mile), or Medicine Creek and South Pasture Loop (hard at 11.6 miles).

Check Into Your Hotel

The landscape of downtown Billings, Montana: buildings against greenery and plateaus

Since this Montana road trip itinerary places you in Billings overnight, we recommend you check into the Northern Hotel.

Dubbed as “unpretentious historic luxury”, the Northern’s renovated guest rooms feature warm, contemporary interiors, and a central location to the best drink and fare downtown.

Though the hotel’s restaurants serve up good food, plan to branch out and explore for dinner instead — the dining scene in Billings is too good to miss!

>>> Book a room at the Northern <<<

Enjoy the Brews

A benefit of staying downtown is walking from your hotel straight onto the Billings Brew Trail, Montana’s only walkable brewery trail.

The 1.5-mile self-guided tour covers the heart of historic downtown while mixing your choice of six breweries, two distilleries, and one cider house.

Favorites include Uberbrew and Montana Brewing Company, the state’s first brew pub.

Day 3-4 of your Montana Road Trip: Bozeman

Bozeman in the early fall, orange-pink college buildings surrounded by green and orange trees.

Bozeman will be your next stop from Billings.

At 2 hours due west on I-90, Bozeman has a college town vibe with growing art, music, and food scenes. It also serves as a launching point to the Gallatin River and Big Sky.

Whether passing through or staying the night, the best restaurants are centrally located downtown near the Montana State University campus.

I also have a full guide to visiting Bozeman in case you need more inspiration!

Check Into Your Digs

Architecture in downtown Bozeman, a hotel made of brick with a fire escape and distinctive arched windows

There are several chain hotel options to choose from, but your best lodging choice is the Kimpton Armory.

The Kimpton Armory Hotel has been renovated from its National Guard roots to restore its Art Deco design and new, comfy communal spaces set it apart from bland chain hotels in Bozeman.

It’s a lovely chic and central place to stay the night in Bozeman!

>> Book a room at the Kimpton Armory on Booking.com | Book it on Hotels.com <<

If you’re on a budget, Airbnb is your best bet.

Look for a location a few blocks north or south of W. Main Street. The neighborhoods here have a quaint, just-off-campus feel, with a short walk to the center of all Bozeman action.

Stroll the Downtown

A bunch of landscaped flowers in front of a large house in downtown Bozeman.

In fact, just strolling through the downtown and near campus neighborhoods is well worth it, especially with a cup of coffee.

Go-to coffee shops are Wild Joe’s Coffee or Treeline Roasting Room. Lean towards Wild Joe’s if you need some food alongside your latte.

Hit the Trails with a Picnic Lunch

A grassy creek or river landscape with mountains in the distance.

There are several hiking options near town, primarily to the north in the foothills of the Gallatin National Forest or south towards Big Sky.

Whichever direction you head, grab a lunch to go from the Bozeman Co-op. The local co-op grocer is near the above coffee stops on W. Main.

The Storm Castle Peak Trail

Storm Castle Peak Trail is located 25 miles south of Bozeman, with access from the Gallatin Road. This is the road that eventually leads into Big Sky so the peak hike is an easy stop on the way out of town.

Storm Castle is 4.6-mile out-and-back trail that rewards hikers with worthy views. Be prepared for an elevation gain of just under 2,000 feet, but with several accommodating and manageable switchbacks.

Bozeman Creek Trail

Also due south of Bozeman (but not on the way to Big Sky) is Bozeman Creek Trail. The 16-mile out-and-back trail is moderately rated with a turnaround point at Mystic Lake in the Custer Gallatin National Forest.

Elevation gain totals nearly 1,800 feet, and it is a popular dog-friendly trail. Despite the noted elevation gain, most visitors report the hike feels a bit steeper. Time your trip during wildflower season for the best experience!

Drinking Horse Mountain Trail & M Trail

Shadowy hills and mountains with lots of evergreen trees and yellow grass in the summer on a sunny day

If wide open mountain meadow trails are more your cup of tea, plan to hike north of town off Highway 86.

There are two trailheads on U.S. Forest Service land near Drinking Horse Mountain. The first, Drinking Horse Mountain Trail, is a short, but steep, 2.1-mile loop best tackled from May through September. Most hikers suggest going counterclockwise.

The second trailhead, located just across Highway 86, is for M Trail, a slightly shorter moderate climb with less elevation gain and views of the valley, city, and mountains to the south.

Enjoy the Culture

Circle back to Bozeman post-hike for music, arts, and dinner. Once again, downtown on W. Main Street is where you should start and stick around.

Several galleries are located on W. Main or one block off, between S. Rouse and N. 3rd Avenue including Visions West Contemporary, Altitude Gallery, and Thomas Nygard Gallery.

Keep an eye out for dinner spots while you gallery hop. South 9th Bistro and Dave’s Sushi are two of the author’s favorites.

Listen to Live Music

The view of the Bozeman skyline at night, with a purplish pink sky just after sunset, with all the buildings lit up for nighttime.

There will likely be a live-music option following dinner if you continue your exploration of W. Main Street. Try Haufbrau House, Rialto, and Live from the Divide (Northeast of Main on Peach Street) for current shows.

One great benefit of a college town is there is likely a good music option regardless of the night of the week!

Day 4-6 of Your Montana Road Trip: Big Sky & Yellowstone

Your next Montana road trip stop, Big Sky, is an hour south of Bozeman along the stunning Gallatin River.

The wide-open views surrounding Bozeman quickly narrow to continuous steep-sided gorge which winds for about 30 miles along Gallatin Road.

There are several U.S. Forest Service designated camping sites, as well as turnoffs for perfect fly fishing spots, if you wish to extend your trip up Gallatin Road awhile longer.

Get Oriented

A rolling highway road leading towards Big Sky Montana mountain resort, grassy fields leading to mountains in the distance.

Big Sky, MT comprises of a base village called Town Center and an upper mountain village connected by a steep 8 mile stretch of road.

In-town transportation is easy as the community boasts a reliable public bus route, complete with bike racks. Be sure to check the current schedule as route times change between seasons.

Relying on bus transportation makes it easy to get into town or up to the resort village and puts less pressure on deciding beforehand which part of town to stay.

The majority of restaurants and shops, including flyfishing and mountain biking outfitters, are located in Town Center. Particularly during summer months, not much will be open at the upper mountain village.

Go for a Mountain Bike Ride

A small river or creek surrounded by grass and a hill covered in pine trees.

Big Sky is the best spot on this Montana road trip for mountain biking at any experience level!

For beginners to intermediate bikers, check out the Mountain to Meadows Trail. The entrance begins at the resort base (upper mountain) near the Ramcharger Chairlift.

A short 10-minute uphill climb is rewarded with a downhill trail for the remainder of the 5-mile ride.  The trail averages 7% grade with a max 35% grade.

The trail ends right behind Gallatin Alpine Sports in Town Center which happens to offer very reasonable daily and weekly bike rentals!

Soothe Your Muscles

New mountain bikers will soon realize a host of ignored muscle groups are used during a ride.

If a yoga session or massage is in order stop, by Santosha Wellness Center in Town Center.

The studio offers a host of vinyasa and ashtanga classes as well as massage methods ranging from Swedish to Cranio-Sacral to Reflexology.

Grab a Bite to Eat

By now you’ve probably worked up quite an appetite — luckily, several delicious eateries can also be found in Town Center.

Favorites include Lotus Pad (Thai), Pinky G’s (Pizzeria), Hungry Moose (Market and Deli), and Blue Moon Bakery.

Hit the Hiking Trails

Lots of rocks in a shallow water pool surrounded by rocky mountains and green grass on an overcast day hiking

Apart from a range of mountain biking trails, Big Sky is also host to several fabulous hiking trails. Two popular outings are Beehive Basin and Cinnamon Mountain.

Beehive Basin

Beehive Basin clocks in at 7.1 miles out-and-back and has great views of Lone Mountain (which towers over Big Sky resort).

It includes stops at alpine lakes before the return trek to a convenient parking lot.

Cinnamon Mountain

Cinnamon Mountain is a moderate 8-mile out-and-back trail through a denser pine forest.

Both trails can be muddy after heavy rains and also hold snow in shadier spots, so plan around the weather.

Both hikes entail a consistent, steady climb and easy descent, so they’re great for less experienced hikers.

Take a Day Trip to Yellowstone

The orange and brown striations of Grand Prismatic Hot Spring in yellowstone national park with a steaming center that is bright turquoise blue.

If time for a detour is allotted, a good Montana road trip addition is a drive to Yellowstone National Park.

It’s a one-hour drive from Big Sky to West Yellowstone, which you can use as a jumping-off point for all Yellowstone adventures.

Important Note: If you are visiting Yellowstone in winter, road access is seriously restricted, so you will have to plan for snowcoach transport. Learn more on my guide to visiting Yellowstone in winter.

Day 7 of Your Montana Road Trip: Missoula

The architecture of downtown Missoula, what appears to be a college building

From Big Sky, continue your road trip in Montana towards Missoula.

On this particular Montana road trip itinerary, the city is the ideal afternoon stopping point before heading north to Whitefish and Glacier National Park.

You can stop just for lunch if you’re short on time, but we recommend staying the night.

Missoula is home to the University of Montana and, because of the connection, has a vibrant near-campus Main Street similar to that in Bozeman.

Grab a Lunch or a Hike

A hiking path above Missoula with wild yellow flowers next to the path, the city below, on a partly cloudy day.

Take in a long lunch downtown or pack a to-go snack for a quick hike before continuing on to Whitefish.

If you choose the quick hike option, check out Hellgate Ridgeline on Mount Sentinel. The brief 3-mile out-and-back trail features views of the city, valley, and river.

With a trailhead conveniently located near the campus and downtown, the hike can be easily paired with a quick lunch.

The hike is steep and strenuous but not long. Make it up to the “M”, a student-built Missoula landmark since 1908, or continue on for even better views.

Enjoy the Downtown

A building tower with an American flag on it raised above the tops of green trees on a blue sky cloudless day.

Missoula’s downtown district follows the Clark Fork River and is teaming with unique restaurant options.

Many include outdoor seating with views of the riverfront. Hob Nob, Bernice’s Bakery, Tamarack Brewing, Scotty’s Table, Catalyst Café, and Biga Pizza should spark your interest. 

While downtown, stretch your legs at Caras Park before getting back on I-90.

The park overlooks Brenan’s Wave, Missoula’s manmade wave installation in the Clark Fork River. It is an entertaining spot to watch surfers and kayakers take on a brief rapid.

Consider an Overnight Stay

If staying the night in Missoula makes sense on your personal itinerary, grab a room at the Blossom’s Bed & Breakfast.

Blossom’s B&B is in the Lower Rattlesnake Historic District near downtown. The comfortable rooms give you the sense you are staying at a friend’s or family member’s home.

“Wine down” on the porch with views of Mt. Jumbo. Amenities also include backyard games and guest bikes.

>>> Check out other Missoula hotels here <<<

Day 8-10 of Your Montana Road Trip: Whitefish & Glacier National Park

From Missoula, Whitefish and Glacier National Park are next up on this Montana itinerary, located within a 2.5-3 hour drive through the Flathead National Forest. Much of the drive is uneventful until reaching the shores of Flathead Lake.

The lake spans 27 miles and Highway 35, which follows the lake’s eastern shore, passes several privately-owned cherry orchards.

Many of the orchards operate roadside cherry stands during high season which lasts from June through August.

Check Into Your Whitefish Digs

The shores of Lake Whitefish near Glacier National Park, a popular place to stay for easy park access. The lake is clear with some ripples and a slight reflection of the mountains.

Whitefish is just 30 minutes north of Flathead Lake and your home base for all activities in and around Glacier National Park.

Whitefish is similar to Big Sky in that, while it may be more widely known for its ski resort and winter activities, the area doesn’t lack for summer fun. The town itself is about a 15-minute drive from the resort by way of Whitefish Lake.

The best places to stay in downtown Whitefish include The Firebrand Hotel and The FarmHouse Inn and Kitchen.  

On Lupfer Avenue, The FarmHouse Inn is a quaint B&B comprised of two guest rooms. One sleeps four and the other sleeps two.

It is centrally located and the onsite bakery and café churn out local farm to table meals and Czech pastries. This is your spot for gluten-free options and fresh-pressed juices. Hotel guests can also enjoy the backyard fire pit on cooler evenings.

>>> Book your stay at the FarmHouse Inn here <<<

The Firebrand Hotel sits right in the mix of downtown nightlife on the corner of E. Second Street and Spokane Avenue. The hotel’s vibe mixes urban sophistication with a node to Montana’s rugged Northwest.

Amenities include a rooftop patio and spa along with bicycle rentals in the summer months. The hotel also includes shuttle transportation to Amtrak and their sister property, the Lodge at Whitefish Lake.

>>> Book your stay at the Fireband Hotel here <<<

You may opt for the Lodge at Whitefish Lake if you prefer a quieter setting closer to the water.

The Lodge amenities include a lakeside pool, onsite yoga classes, and quick access to watersports and boat rentals from a private beach.

>>> Book your stay at the Lodge at Whitefish Lake here <<<

Grab a Bite

An aerial view of Whitefish Montana in the autumn with some yellowing trees.

There are several great breakfast, lunch, and dinner options in Whitefish.

Local favorites include Wasabi Sushi Bar, Jersey Boys Pizzeria, Tupelo Grille, and Amazing Crepes.

Head to Glacier National Park

An early morning light on a lake in the middle of mountains in Glacier National Park with a small island with a few trees on it in the middle of the alpine lake.

Whether staying lakeside or in town, access to Glacier National Park is an easy 35 minute drive to the Apgar Visitor Center.

Visitors are encouraged to avoid traffic and minimize impact to our collective natural resources by utilizing the park’s free shuttle service.

Shuttles leave every 15 to 30 minutes from the Apgar Visitor Center and take visitors to all of the best park sites.

Shuttle stops from the Apgar side include Apgar Village, Center, and Campground, Sprague Creek Campground, Lake McDonald Lodge, Avalanche Creek, The Loop, and Logan Pass which serves as the transfer to the east side of the park.

Want more information on Glacier National Park? Read my two-day Glacier National Park itinerary which will lay out exactly how to have the perfect time there.

Go for an Adventurous – or Leisurely! – Rafting Trip

Two rafts ahead on the Flathead River, which is calm, turquoise and surrounded by trees and hills on a sunny day in Glacier National park

One of the most popular things to do in Glacier National Park in summer is to take a rafting trip on the scenic Middle Fork Flathead, which has fun whitewater rafting that’s perfect for rafters looking for an easy to moderate level (class II and III) experience.

Book your whitewater rafting experience!

Of course, whitewater rafting isn’t for everyone, and if you’re in the mood for more sightseeing and relaxing rather than adrenaline-pumping, a lovely float trip on a calmer stretch of the Flathead River is a perfect option for you!

This is better suited for families of all ages, as whitewater rafting can be a little scary for younger kids.

Book your river floating experience here

Hit the Hiking Trails

Glacier National Park has 734 miles of hiking trails and something for all hiking levels, including day and overnight hikes.

Note that overnight hikes require reservations and park permits. Popular day hikes include the Highline Trail (11.4 miles), Avalanche Lake (4.6 miles) and Pitamakan Pass (15.4 miles).

The Highline Trail

View from the Highline Trail over Glacier National Park's glacial mountains and valleys, covered in trees in the middle of summer with very little snow.

The Highline Trail features views of Logan Pass and includes some technical areas of hiking, some which come with the safety of a cable railing.

Highline is one of the best hikes for catching a variety of scenery as you will see alpine meadows, creeks, avalanche ridges, and portions of the Livingston Range. The hike can be made shorter by stopping at Haystack Butte.

However, hikers should press on for views of the Grinnell Glacier. The overlook area for the glacier sits on the Continental Divide. If you chose to bypass the park shuttle, you can still access the trailhead from the Logan Pass Visitor Center parking lot.

The Avalanche Lake Trail

A deep teal and turquoise glacial lake, surrounded by pine trees and steep mountains with some waterfalls coming down the sides from snow melt.

Avalanche Lake Trail is a shorter hike with equally breathtaking views. The trail follows Avalanche Creek until meeting with the alpine lake.

Views of waterfalls at the lake’s far end can be seen from the trail. The total elevation gain is an easy 600 feet.

The Pitamaken Pass Trail

If you want to take on a longer hike, shoot for Pitamaken Pass Trail. The hike swaps between forested and meadow trails while passing by Oldman Lake, Sky Lake Waterfall, and finally Cut Bank Basin’s alpine lakes.

You might even come upon bighorn sheep at higher elevations, especially nearing Bighorn Basin. The total elevation gain is a stout 3,300ft.

Trailhead access begins at the campground at Two Medicine by Pray Lake and is preferred as a counterclockwise route.

Grab A Set of Wheels

Sign which reads "West Glacier, MT" against a backdrop of a partly cloudy sky and green trees.

Another popular way to explore Glacier National Park is by bicycle.

Parking is available at Glacier Guides in West Glacier, MT where bike rentals are available.

From there, a 1.5 mile downhill trail takes you to the Apagar Visitor Center where trails continue within the park’s boundary. Access to the park via bicycle is also half the cost of standard admission, so it’s good for cost-conscious travelers!

Feeling a little intimidated to try biking in Glacier National Park all by yourself? This 6-hour guided cycling tour is a great way to see the park by bike without the stress of self-guiding.

Book your cycling tour of Glacier National Park here!

Optional: Tackle Other Hiking Trails

View of the lake of Whitefish with yellow and green pine trees in early autumn.

There are several hiking options outside the park boundary and closer to Whitefish.

Many of the best can be accessed in Whitefish Lake State Park near the Whitefish Mountain Resort base.

If you visit during the summer season, you might be able to jump on the gondola for a one-way trip.

From the resort base, try Journey Mountain (2.8 miles), Big Mountain via Summit Trail (16.1 miles), Danny on National Recreation Trail (7.2 miles), or Gray Wolf Ski Trail (17.9 miles).

Ending Your Montana Road Trip Itinerary: Kalispell or Back to Billings

View of rivers winding amidst yellow and green trees in early autumn in Kalispell, MT, a popular place to end a Montana road trip itinerary.

While some of the more frequent and better-priced flights are found out of Billings and Bozeman, it’s worth checking options in and out of Kalispell.

The city and airport are just 22 minutes south of Whitefish, and you can often find cheap connections to Salt Lake City.

Do a bit of research on one-way rental prices, consider the time (it’s a 6-hour drive back to Billings!), and check the best ways to get to and from Montana.

While we have covered some of the best places the state has to offer, Montana offers still offers so much to explore!

How to Extend This Montana Road Trip

Mountain peaks of the Teton Range reflecting perfectly in still lake water on a sunny day in Grand Teton National park
Continue this Montana road trip to Wyoming to add two more National Parks to your list!

Of course, there are several ways to extend this Montana road trip in order to see even more of this gorgeous part of the United States!

The most natural addition to this Montana road trip is spending a few days exploring Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park.

From Big Sky, you can easily head down south to Yellowstone and spend some time in the park. I have a two day Yellowstone itinerary which you can simply insert into this Montana road trip itinerary between days 6 & 7!

If you want to extend your Wyoming explorations even further, overnight (or stay a couple days) in the Jackson Hole area, which is one of the prettiest parts of Wyoming and a perfect midway point between Yellowstone and your next stop, Grand Teton National Park.

I also have a two day Grand Teton National Park itinerary, which you can add after Yellowstone, before heading back up to Missoula. Just note that you may want to stop in Big Sky again on the way up, or you’ll be in for a long driving day (6 hours point-to-point without stopping, traveling via Idaho).

10 Day Montana Road Trip Itinerary at a Glance

An adult white mountain goat and its baby walking in the landscape of Glacier National Park with an alpine lake below and a mountain half-covered in snow, the rest clear of snow.
  • Day 1: Fly into Billings
  • Day 2: Billings
  • Day 3: Bozeman
  • Day 4: Bozeman
  • Day 5: Big Sky
  • Day 6: Big Sky (optional Yellowstone Day trip)
  • Day 7: Missoula
  • Day 8: Whitefish & Glacier NP
  • Day 9: Glacier NP
  • Day 10: Fly out of Kalispell or drive back to Billings

2 Week Montana and Wyoming Road Trip at a Glance

The sunset at Old Faithful, a geyser spouting into the air with the setting sun showing up in a sunburst behind the geyser in Yellowstone National Park
Add a few days to add both Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks to your itinerary! I recommend staying in Jackson, WY if you do.
  • Day 1: Fly into Billings
  • Day 2: Billings
  • Day 3: Bozeman
  • Day 4: Bozeman
  • Day 5: Big Sky
  • Day 6: Yellowstone NP
  • Day 7: Yellowstone NP
  • Day 8: Grand Teton NP
  • Day 9: Grand Teton NP
  • Day 10: Missoula
  • Day 11: Whitefish & Glacier NP
  • Day 12: Glacier NP
  • Day 13: Glacier NP
  • Day 14: Fly from Kalispell or return your car in Billings

What to Pack for a Montana Road Trip

A road near Glacier National Park with greenery and some mountains with a bit of snow nearby

I have a full road trip packing list here, but here at the top things you shouldn’t forget!

Road Trip Essentials

Roadside emergency kit

You should already have an emergency kit in your car with things like a reflective triangle, rain poncho, emergency blanket, safety vest, safety whistle, etc. in case of an emergency.

But if you are renting a car and aren’t sure it’ll have the full emergency kit, now is a good time to invest in a roadside emergency kit that also includes a first aid kit.

Car charger & hands-free phone holder

You will zap your phone battery FAST while on a road trip, so it’s essential to have a car charger.

I like this dual purpose phone mount and charger!

Of course, it’s pretty hard to connect your phone and charge it and do all sorts of other necessary 21st-century things without USB cords.

Bring 1 or 2 more than you need, it’s always a good idea!

External batteries

The Anker external battery pack is a travel must. While you can charge your phone while driving, you may want to charge other devices — a camera, a drone, portable speakers, an e-reader — as well.

Or if you notice your battery is running low while you’re out hiking or sightseeing, you can just start charging right away without having to return to your car. It holds several charges on a single battery pack and will last days at a time.

Face mask, alcohol wipes & sanitizing gel

When in places where distancing is not possible, you will need to wear a face mask to keep yourself and fellow humans safe.

Bring multiple cloth face masks and circulate them, allowing face masks ample time in the sun when possible (such as leaving them on your dashboard) or washing them in between uses in order to sanitize the masks.

You should also bring alcohol wipes or sanitizing gel in case you aren’t close to a place where you can wash your hands.

Rehydration packets

Long hikes, lack of schedule, random meal times, salty snacks, sunny days, hangovers from wine nights after driving duty is done: there are many reasons it’s easy to get dehydrated while road tripping.

I always pack some rehydration packets with me on my travels as I’m prone to getting dehydrated and getting headaches, and they’re a lifesaver. I recommend these ones.

Camera & extra batteries

For all my years of running this travel blog, I’ve relied on my Sony A6000 to take nearly-professional quality images. I don’t sell my photography, but I do love having wonderfully preserved memories, and this camera is the perfect middle-ground above a smartphone yet below the 5-figure kits that most photographers give.

Whatever camera you choose, be sure to have plenty of extra batteries and the battery charger as well — plus extra memory cards! I rely exclusively on 64GB Sandisk memory cards.

Clothing & Hiking Essentials

A woman in the Montana wilderness wearing shorts, hiking boots, and a day pack with her hair in a ponytail on a summery day.

Comfortable clothing

When road tripping, think loose clothing that’s easily breathable which transition from car to outside easily.

For women, I suggest the following at a minimum for car/outdoor comfort:

  • yoga pants or leggings
  • jeans
  • hiking shorts
  • T-shirts
  • sports bras
  • hiking boots
  • sneakers
  • flipflops
  • warm sweaters

You’ll also want to bring layers like a jacket for any needed warmth, depending on the temperatures you expect on your Montana road trip.

Rain jacket

I included this separately from the comfortable clothes section because I wanted to highlight and underline how important a good rain jacket is. Rain is inevitable at times, so might as well dress for it!

I love the Marmot PreCip rain jacket (there’s a women’s version and a men’s version). I used mine for years biking in all sorts of rainy NYC weather and it always kept me dry without making me too hot and uncomfortable like some other rain jackets can, due to the zippered armpits which provide ventilation. This is key if you plan to do anything active on your Montana itinerary like hiking while it’s raining.

Proper Hiking Boots & Trekking Poles

This Montana road trip includes a ton of hiking opportunities, and you’ll definitely be happy with yourself for bringing along a pair of hiking boots!

I recommend these Ahnu boots for women and these Keen boots for men. Both are waterproof, comfortable, and provide lots of ankle support for harder hikes.

If you’re doing some harder hikes, you may also want to bring a pair of collapsible trekking poles with you!

Water Bottle with Filter

You always end up needing lots of water when you hike!

You can either carry liters upon liters of water, which can be heavy, or you can pack a backup water bottle and use your water bottle with a filter to refill anywhere along the trail — streams, rivers, springs, anywhere!

I use the Grayl for its ease of use and to reduce my plastic footprint: I love mine and highly recommend it!

Day pack

Day packs are essential when hiking or leaving the car for a bit to do some sightseeing and needing to bring essentials like bug spray, sunglasses, water, and sunscreen with you.

This Osprey day pack is the perfect size and it’s designed by a company that specializes in ergonomic solutions for backpackers, so you know it’ll be comfortable.


Don’t forget travel insurance!
Travel insurance coverage helps you recoup your losses in case of emergency, accident, illness, or theft. I’ve relied on World Nomads for my travel insurance coverage for four years with no complaints, and I’m a happy paying customer. I recommend them highly to fellow travelers!

Get your free quote here.

Pin This Montana Road Trip Guide!

Your Perfect 10 Day Idaho Road Trip Itinerary

We’ve covered a few special spots around Idaho before, like the best Idaho hikes and hot springs.

This time, we’ve pulled them all together in a collective Idaho itinerary which helps to highlight the unique characteristics of each place as well as the shared natural beauty consistent throughout the Gem State.

Starting from Boise and working your way counterclockwise around the state to some of the best outdoor spots makes for one memorable Idaho road trip.

Follow along for an epic Idaho road trip through Ketchum, Stanley, Salmon, Missoula (a little side trip to Montana), Coeur d’Alene, and McCall.

The full road trip route can be covered in just over a week in Idaho, but you’re better off with 10 days in Idaho to maximize your trip time and spend more time enjoying and less time driving.

There are also options to pare down for a two to three-day excursions from Boise. Check out the previous post on Idaho hikes and incorporate some of those along the way.

Alternately, you can plan your itinerary around hitting up some of the best, most unique Airbnbs in Idaho — I’ll also include suggestions throughout this post for accommodations, both traditional and unique.

PLANNING FOR IDAHO AT A GLANCE:  

When to Go: Idaho is beautiful all year round but since this itinerary involves a lot of hiking and other outdoor activities, the best months to go are between June and late September since some roads and trails are inaccessible during the winter months. 

However, if you want to go hiking in the best conditions, then July and August are the best months for your Idaho road trip but if your road trip involves seeing the stunning Idaho fall foliage, then I recommending going in late September.

Where to Stay: For this itinerary, you'll have sleepovers in Boise, Ketchum/ Sun Valley, Stanley, Salmon, Coeur d’Alene, and McCall.

For your first sleepover in Boise, I recommend staying at The Modern Hotel & Bar, a stylish boutique hotel, Inn America if you're on a budget, or this loft if you want a homey feel. 

And while in Ketchum, I recommend staying at Hotel Ketchum, a contemporary boutique hotel, Wood River Inn & Suite for budget travelers, or this Barnhouse if you want something less traditional.

For Stanley, I recommend staying at this tiny house if you ever dreamt of staying in one or this Redfish Riverside Inn (Lodge). 

Salmon has several accommodation types but I suggest staying at this tiny converted wagon trailer if you want something unique or at this log cabin for a homey and cozy feel.

Since you'll have a number of nights in Coeur d’Alene, I recommend choosing a comfortable place to stay and in that case, I suggest Greenbriar Inn a cozy Inn, this houseboat if you want to be right on the lake, or this cowboy cabin for a western-themed stay.

And for your last overnight stay in McCall, I recommend staying at this McCall cabin if you're traveling as a group/family, or Scandia Hotel for a Nordic Inspired comfort.

How to Get Around: You're definitely going to need a car while road tripping Idaho. If you don't know where to rent one from, you can compare car rentals and prices from here. Alternately, you can rent an RV or campervan via RVShare and save on accommodations.

3 Things Not to Forget to Pack:  A sturdy pair of hiking boots will serve you well -- I love my Ahnu boots. A dual purpose phone mount and charger will come in very handy and you'll be happy to have a roadside emergency kit should your car break down while road tripping.

Road trip pro tip: Purchase an annual pass (AKA the America the Beautiful Pass) to save money on the entrance fees for the multiple locations in this itinerary run by the NPS!

How This Idaho Road Trip Itinerary Works

An open road with yellow grass on the sides of it, a barn on one side of the road, and mountains with some snow lit up orange by the sun.

This Idaho road trip departs and leaves from Boise, Idaho, which has the main airport with service from several major cities in states all over the country, as I figured this would be the most useful departure point for most travelers.

This Idaho road trip follows a loop, starting and ending in Boise, which means that you can also start at any other point along the loop and follow it from there, just reorganizing the stops on this itinerary to make the road trip work for you personally.

However, if you are traveling from a neighboring state, you may want to treat this road trip itinerary a little differently. For example, if you are based in Tacoma, Washington, you’d most likely want to start this Idaho road trip in Couer d’Alene and make a loop from there, as it would require the least backtracking.

This Idaho road trip is also focused on covering all the best natural beauty there is in the state as opposed to covering city and town travel. You’ll find plenty of beautiful hikes and outdoor activities to indulge in, but we won’t be stopping at too many larger cities and towns, although there is an exception for Boise and a quick side trip to Missoula, Montana, which is an easy addition to an Idaho road trip.

This Idaho road trip is structured to cover 10 days at a leisurely pace without too many long driving days without interesting stops in between. However, you could easily parse it down to 7 days by cutting out a few destinations or spending less time in each destination. If you have to cut anything, I’d suggest cutting Missoula from your plan, as hey — it’s not even part of Idaho anyway!

The Best Time of Year for an Idaho Road Trip

Autumn is the best time for an Idaho road trip: yellow trees, green evergreens, and orange mountain tops on a partly cloudy day.

This Idaho road trip itinerary, including suggested roads and activities, is best taken between June and late September, as some road and trail conditions are inaccessible during winter months. 

For the best hiking conditions, July and August are the banner months, as the snowmelt on the highest altitudes we’ll cover here should definitely be gone by then.

However, if you want a chance at some beautiful Idaho fall foliage, I’d suggest timing your Idaho road trip to begin in late September.

While foliage does reach its peak around mid-October, you’ll also have to potentially contend with early snowfalls and inclement weather, so late September is a safer bet in terms of not having to reroute or skip parts of this Idaho itinerary.

Meanwhile, starting this Idaho road trip in May or June means you’ll have the peak wildflower season on your mountain hikes, as the wildflowers are at their best shortly after the snow melts, so truly any season is a great one for this road trip!

We don’t recommend this exact Idaho itinerary for the winter time because many of the hikes are not possible and some roads may not be passable, leading to time-consuming re-routes.

However, there are definitely some great things you can do in Idaho in the winter, such as creating a skiing and hot spring-themed road trip — check out these Idaho hot springs for inspiration around planning a winter road trip!

Renting a Car in Idaho

Sepia-toned photo which shows the back of a car approaching a sign which says "welcome to Idaho" on an Idaho road trip with a field in the background.

If you’re planning on driving into Idaho from a neighboring state like Washington or Montana, feel free to disregard this section!

But if you’re flying in and planning to rent a car in Idaho, I suggest picking up at the Boise Airport.

It’s the easiest airport to get to in Idaho, and for that reason, it’s both the starting and ending point of this itinerary. It’s also where you’ll find the cheapest car rental prices in Idaho — smaller airports tend to have pricier rentals.

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 as the best site to rent with in the USA – it searches dozens of rental companies to find the cheapest price for your rental! Compare car rentals for your trip here!

When renting a car in Idaho, be sure to purchase the proper car insurance coverage unless your credit card covers those for you.

You don’t want to be on the hook for damage to your car, especially as this Idaho road trip is rather adventurous and involves some gravel roads and other conditions that may give your car a bit of wear and tear if you’re not careful (gravel + windshields do not mix — I learned this lesson well in Iceland!).

Your Perfect Idaho Road Trip Itinerary

Boise (Day 1)

View of downtown Boise with lots of buildings and a busy road in the autumn as the colors change on the fall trees,

Distance: Minimal — from the airport to downtown & any hikes you want
Driving Time: 15-30 minutes

Boise is an easy and logical place to begin and end your Idaho road trip. Boise International Airport offers multiple flight options to connecting cities, is centrally located to all things downtown, and is near some of the best local trailheads for a quick hike upon your first day’s arrival. 

Boise is also a pretty feasible day drive if you are based in the Pacific Northwest and are not planning to fly to Idaho. It’s just about 6.5 hours from Portland, 7.5 hours from Seattle, 5 hours from Salt Lake City, and 10 hours from the Bay Area.

Similar to other cities in the Northwest, Boise’s backyard is full of hiking, skiing, and mountain biking trials with the accompanying park infrastructure to make it both accessible and enjoyable.

The city and its suburbs have seen huge population growth in the last few years. The downside of this is you may experience higher traffic on some of the shorter trails closest to town, especially during weekend days. The upside of the growth is the increased number of new boutique hotels, restaurants, and coffee shops at manageable prices.

Upon arrival, check in to The Modern Hotel & Bar on West Grove Street, four miles from the airport. Vogue magazine describes this hotel as “a seedy motel-turned-stylish boutique hotel, [with] one of the buzziest bar scenes in town.”

The mid-century modern renovations and minimalist interiors are a nice change-up from your run of the mill hotel and you get a distinct Austin, Texas vibe (though not overkill) as you drive in.

The Modern Hotel is a great option if you roll into town on the later side as Txikiteo, the on-site restaurant (pronounced “chee-kee-tay-o”), serves up pasta, tapas, gourmet sandwiches, and cheese boards. Enjoy a drink by the outdoor fire pit before turning in for the evening.

The Modern Hotel is conveniently located near Hulls Gulch Reserve, the nearest of Boise’s main hiking trailheads. Access to Hulls Gulch Trail, the most popular in the reserve, is two miles from the Modern Hotel off North 8th Street and behind Camel’s Back Hill.

View of a hiking trail near Boise with lots of yellow grass and trees, in the distance you can see the buildings of the Boise skyline at sunset

This is a well-traveled, moderate hike with views of the city which ends at a scenic waterfall. Out and back is 6.3 miles with a total of 1,131 feet in elevation gain. Hulls Gulch Reserve has suitable terrain for trail running, but the trail gets direct sun and summer months can be hot. Plan for about 2.5 hours. 

Also near the Modern Hotel is road access to Bogus Basin, another popular hiking and activity destination in Boise sure to make your Idaho road trip itinerary.

This ski area doubles as lift-accessible hiking terrain during spring and summer. Located about 40 minutes from Boise, Bogus Basin has several trail options, including a 7-mile loop around the winter skiable acreage. Check out Bogus’ summer schedule for free activities like Yoga on the Mountain. 

Regardless of your plans in and around Boise, Neckar Coffee should be your first stop of the morning. Conveniently located near the Modern Hotel, and on the way to the above recreation areas, Neckar has quality lattes, pour overs, and pastries. A crowd favorite is the pain au chocolat.

Where to Stay

View of a spacious modern Airbnb loft with kitchen equipment, table for two with blue chairs, and a couch seating area with white walls and modern design.
Image provided by Airbnb

LOFT | If you prefer the cozy touches of an Airbnb, this chic loft in the lovely Hyde Park neighborhood of Boise is affordable, cozy, and well-styled. It’s affordable but has all the creature comforts you’d want from a home away from home| Book on Airbnb

UNIQUE | How much more Idaho does it get than sleeping in an actual potato? Yes, really: a 6 ton potato you can stay in, right on a farm outside of Boise! Believe it or not, the interior is ultra-chic (think mid-century modern meets Scandinavian minimalism) and cozy, and best of all, there’s a friendly pet cow on the farm!| Book on Airbnb

BOUTIQUE | We suggest the Modern Hotel, which is a great choice for travelers on a mid-range budget who want a cool, personality-packed hotel in the hip Linen District which is great walking distance to all attractions. | Reserve on Booking.com | Reserve on Hotels.com

BUDGET | If money is a concern, Inn America is a well-reviewed option at a fair price that won’t break the bank, though it’s not quite as cool or, well, modern as the Modern! | Reserve on Booking.com | Reserve on Hotels.com

Ketchum / Sun Valley (Day 2-3)

Grass with purple flowers sprouting up like wildflowers in it on a sunny day.

Distance: 153 miles
Time: 2 hours, 40 minutes

Next up on your Idaho itinerary is the Wood River Valley, 2.5 hours due east of Boise. 

The Wood River Valley is home to the Sun Valley and Ketchum area, widely known for its winter sports infrastructure and ski resort.  It’s an easy drive along I-84 then US-20 through the Camas Prairie.

If you plan the timing of your trip just right, you may be able to catch the Camas lilies blooming between late May and mid-June. Many of the lilies are in fields outside Fairfield. It is a spectacular sight to witness and a common stop for many painters and photographers looking to capture the mature blooms.

Fairfield’s Wrangler Drive-In, featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, is a good lunch stop for burgers, patty melts, and ice cream. If you have time for a hiking detour here, head towards Soldier Mountain Ski Area. The family-oriented ski hill is 11 miles north of Fairfield and has a few short but steep hiking trails and a new mountain bike trail system for summer months.

The Ketchum / Sun Valley area is another 40 minutes past Fairfield. The resort town is full of top-notch restaurants, an intricate and well-maintained trail system, and fishing access. Your best and priciest hotel options of your Idaho road trip will be in Ketchum, but with amenities (think spa services) to match.

Ketchum has become something of a campervan pit stop because it is an ideal place to grab supplies before setting out toward the Salmon-Challis National or Sawtooth National Forests.

A building which reads "the higher you get the higher you get" on the roof top, a popular site near Ketchum in the Sun Valley, with mountains and trees in the distance.

Apart from notable summer hikes like Warm Springs and Pioneer Cabin, attractions to explore include the Roundhouse Express Gondola on Bald Mountain, golf at one of the local courses, or camping just outside town near Trail Creek or Cathedral Pines.

There are several alpine lake hikes do-able in under 3 hours’ time and any activity near Ketchum gives you the best of two worlds, easily accessible nature and fine dining in town!

If you need a day off from longer trail hikes you will be quite content walking or biking along the Wood River Trail, a 20-plus-mile paved, multi-use path which spans between the communities of Bellevue and Sun Valley.

Yellow trees in autumn surrounding a blue river, with a person standing in the middle of the river fly fishing.

Much of the trail follows abandoned Union Pacific rail lines which were originally used to help settle and grow the valley.

No matter where you stay in the Wood River Valley you will be near an entrance to the trail, locally known simply as ‘the bike path’. It is a friendly trial and always filled with other people making it a nice choice for those who may be traveling alone.

Look into Hotel Ketchum, Limelight, or the Sun Valley Lodge for accommodations and Pioneer Saloon (steak), Rickshaw (Southeast Asian), or Cookbook (Italian) for fare.

Hank and Sylvie’s makes the best coffee and pastries to get you started for the day. There is more than enough to do in Ketchum to warrant extending your stay one or two days if you’re looking for a more leisurely pace to your Idaho road trip.

Finally, if you’re down for a little extra driving, you can head to Shoshone Falls, one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Idaho, which is an hour and 40 minutes south of Ketchum.

Where to Stay

View of a red barn available for rent as an Airbnb.
Image provided via Airbnb

BARN | Yes, you can stay in a beautifully renovated barnhouse property while you’re visiting Ketchum, rented out via Airbnb! This stunning property gives off all the cozy vibes you can imagine, and the price is more than fair, great for budget travelers who want to stay in something a little less traditional. | Book on Airbnb

BOUTIQUE | For a contemporary, chic place to stay in Ketchum with great amenities like a fitness center, hot tub, and large spacious rooms, Hotel Ketchum is a fantastic choice. It’s a little pricier than other options in Ketchum, but it’s definitely the coziest. | Reserve on Booking.com | Reserve on Hotels.com

BUDGET | Accommodations in Ketchum generally run on the expensive side, being a ski resort town, so if budget is a concern, I suggest moving 15 miles outside to Hailey, ID, which has a better range of accommodation options such as the well-reviewed Wood River Inn & Suite. Enjoy a hot tub, heated indoor pool, fitness center, and complimentary breakfast. | Reserve on Booking.com | Reserve on Hotels.com

Stanley (Day 4)

A yellow field next to some evergreen trees with several mountain peaks in the background on a clear day.

Distance: 62 miles
Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

You really start to see the changes in scenery about 40 minutes due north of Ketchum as you’re en route to Stanley, as softer rolling hills quickly transition to the more rugged side of Sawtooth Mountains.

The drive is beautiful, and you will want to appreciate it during the day. Don’t let Stanley’s year-round population of 69 people fool you. During summer, the surrounding campgrounds, rivers, and lakes swell with visitors, but you are always able to find a (somewhat) secluded spot even in the height of tourist season, as long as you steer clear of the Redfish Lodge.

Stanley is the best town on your Idaho itinerary to try your hand at fly fishing. There are several access points along the Salmon River for trout fishing but if you are new to the area or fly fishing in general, price out one of the guide services to help you maximize your experience. Sawtooth Adventure Company can place you with an experienced guide who knows the waters.

View of a river with mountains surrounding it on a clear sunny day.

If you are unfamiliar with a guided fly-fishing day by raft, or a “float”, they come highly recommended. The guide ratio is typically one for every two guests and half day floats start in early morning or early afternoon. All needed equipment is provided, like nets, rods, reel, and flies.

Guides also come in handy for learning a bit of casting technique or for telling you where the best fishing spots are along the river. More times than not, the local guides are pretty fun and make for a better outing than hitting it solo or with your own group.

There are only a handful of accommodations in Stanley and they are typically booked well in advance during summer months. However, the camping is so good in this area it would be a shame to stay inside anyway.

Alturas, Lake Stanley, Salmon River, and Casino Creek Campgrounds take reservations but at a minimal cost. They each are primitive campgrounds and have bathhouses onsite. Look to the National Forest Service website for campground locations and pertinent information.

A lake with a perfect reflection on the evergreen trees and mountains in the still water, some yellow and orange fall foliage in the left corner.

Of course there is good hiking near any of the campsites you select, particularly around Lake Stanley.

Restaurants to pay attention to in town are Stanley Baking Company, Luce’s, Peaks and Perks, and Scoops for an ice cream dessert. 

Stanley Baking Company will likely have a decent wait time for breakfast but it is well worth it if you can hang around. Popular plates include a pancake plater and a classic egg breakfast or hearty sandwiches for lunch. The restaurant also has coffee and homemade pastries to go if you don’t feel like waiting for a table or prefer to take you treats on a hike. Peaks and Perks is a walk-up window for to-go coffee and it’s your best option if in a hurry to get on the road.

If you have 30 minutes to spare before leaving town lookout for Boat Box Hot Spring on your right as you drive from Stanley to Salmon. A small turnout from the Highway 75 along the Salmon River is 4 miles north of town and a path leads to a small tub with hot water piped in.

If you chose not to fly fish this go around, you can relax in the tub and watch boats quietly float by. The hot spring is best in the early morning hours around sunrise.

Where to Stay

A tiny house with a small kitchen, small coach, and large windows overlooking a nature landscape.
Image provided by Airbnb

TINY HOUSE | Have you ever wanted to stay in a tiny house? In Stanley, you can see what it’s like by renting one easily via Airbnb! There are 4 similar tiny house properties to choose from, but this one is my personal favorite for its great full-windowed views and spacious layout that belies its small size. | Book on Airbnb

LODGE | For a lovely but no-frills typical lodge in Stanley, check out the Redfish Riverside Inn. This place has all the amenities you’d need at a fair price, perfect for if you’re not quite into the camping scene and prefer a bit more luxury where you lay your head down each night. | Reserve on Booking.com

Stanley to Salmon (Day 5)

A woman in a blue bathing suit with white stars sitting in a hot spring with a mountain valley landscape behind her.

Distance: 116 miles
Driving Time: 2 hours 15 minutes

This section of your Idaho road trip is the time to explore natural hot springs like Goldbug Springs near Salmon in the Salmon-Challis National Forest.

A gravel road at mile marker 282 off Highway 93 (the road between Stanley and Missoula) will mark your turn off. From there, both trailhead and trail are well marked. The springs are accessed by a steep 2-mile trail climb.

Goldbug is a perfect choice if you want to pair your hot springs outing with a bit of physical exertion. After hiking up to the springs and soaking for a while, leave enough time to exit back via the hiking path before following Highway 93 along the Salmon River to the town of Salmon where you will find a quaint, main street feel.

Try the Junkyard Bistro (tapas, sandwiches, salads, and wraps) or Last Chance Pizza for dinner before turning in for the night at the Stagecoach Inn or Syringa Lodge.

Where to Stay

A green wagon-style tiny house converted into an Airbnb in a forest with trees and plants.
Image provided by Airbnb

RIVERSIDE WAGON | For a unique place to stay, this tiny home slash converted wagon trailer is a great place with epic views of the Salmon River. It’s so cozy inside and the views of the river are absolutely unbeatable. What other chance like this do you get? | Book on Airbnb

CABIN | For a more spacious stay, this cozy log cabin gives off all the old school vibes, and the interior is lovely and warm with all you need to host up to 3 guests| Book on Airbnb

Coeur d’Alene via Missoula, MT (Day 6)

A sunny view of the sun setting below Missoula mountain ranges with some buildings on one side, the river in the middle, a bridge crossing the river, and trees on the other side of the river.

Distance: 305 miles
Driving Time: 5.5 hours

Driving from Salmon to Coeur d’Alene via Missoula, MT makes for a long day on the road (5.5 hours) but ensures you experience the northern parts of the state.

From Salmon you navigate through the Selway Bitterroot Wilderness (National Forest lands) towards Missoula.

With plenty of eatery options near the University of Montana campus, Missoula should be your planned stop for lunch. The campus is easily accessible as you enter downtown and sits along the Clark Fork river.

Scotty’s Table, Catalyst Café, and Hob Nob are three restaurants near the riverfront that continuously have good reviews.

Their locations on the river are also in close proximity to Brenan’s Wave, Missoula’s manmade wave installation in the Clark Fork River. It is an entertaining spot to watch surfers and kayakers take on a brief rapid.

From your pit stop in Missoula, take I-90 towards Coeur d’Alene for your next road trip stay. You’ll be staying here for several nights, so pick where you want to stay carefully.

Where to Stay

Image provided by Airbnb

COWBOY CABIN | The well-named ‘cowboy cabin‘ offered on Airbnb is a great place to stay for couples looking for a cozy, Western-themed stay. The cabin has all you need for several nights of a cozy stay, including a full kitchen, and the surrounding Ponderosa pines and the location walking distance to town and a short drive from the lake make this a fantastic and budget-friendly choice. | Book on Airbnb

HOUSEBOAT | If you want to be right on the lake… literally… then it doesn’t get better than this Coeur d’Alene houseboat which sleeps six right on the lake. With several comfortable beds, a full kitchen and bathroom on board the boat, and an epic patio area to enjoy lake sunsets, it doesn’t get better than this. | Book on Airbnb

OLD FASHIONED INN | For a lovely, cozy inn with traditional B&B vibes, head to Greenbriar Inn for a vintage yet budget-friendly stay. The inn dates back to 1908 and rooms have all sorts of lovely touches like clawfoot tubs and four-poster beds. An outdoor gazebo is the perfect place to relax and take in the views of the inn in all its glory. | Reserve on Booking.com | Reserve on Hotels.com

BUDGET CHAIN | There are a number of budget-friendly chain hotel offerings in Couer d’Alene which offer plenty of standardized comfort but not necessarily unique charm or offerings. The best reviewed is the Quality Inn & Suites, which is loved for its tasty included breakfast, hot tub, kids play area, and location just 3 miles from the lake. | Reserve on Booking.com | Reserve on Hotels.com

Coeur d’Alene (Day 7-8)

View of the boat houses on the lake at Couer D'alene: two rows of teal-roofed boat houses on a still lake with a dock.

Coeur d’Alene (CDA) is located in the northwest corner of the state and just 30 miles from neighboring Spokane, Washington.

It is known as a hub of watersports and lake view scenic hiking as the city rests on the shores of Lake Coeur d’Alene.

It is also a spot of a popular Ironman event so you can imagine there are ample running, swimming, and cycle opportunities around the area. The town has a deep history as a fort settlement and has hosted large Fourth of July festivities on the holiday for many years.

If your travels have you in Idaho during early July, you should schedule around CDA for the 4th. The holiday events include ample street vendors and massive amounts of fireworks, depending on national forest fire conditions of course.

With such beautiful lake scenery, it would be a shame to hike without making the lake views a central theme. Popular hikes include Mineral Ridge Trail and Tubbs Hill Park.

Mineral Ridge is 11 miles east of CDA proper and has well-labeled parking with restroom access and picnic amenities. Estimate about 1 hour for the 3.3-mile loop.  If you feel like taking a break halfway, there are plenty of benches and rest areas to fit your needs.

Calm, blue water surrounded by a road on one side and mountains covered in trees on the other on a sunny day in Couer d'Alene, a muston any Idaho road trip.

Tubbs Hill is a 120-acre park which borders the city and is closer to downtown attractions. The park features a moderately rugged 2.5 miles of trails with views of the lake and city.

Apart from Ketchum’s Wood River Trail, the Centennial Trail outside of CDA is one of the best places to cycle on this Idaho road trip.

The Centennial Trail in CDA runs 23 miles from the Idaho / Washington border to Higgins Point on Lake Coeur d’Alene. A longer 72-mile paved Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes creates a longer route for more seasoned cyclists.

If you do not have a bike with you there are several places to rent a bike in town, like Coeur d’Alene Bike Company, as the activity and trial are quite popular with tourists.

Near the midway point of the Centennial Trail is Coeur d’Alene Resort, a good location to grab a meal or happy hour libation post-ride. The Coeur d’Alene Resort offers wonderful lakeside accommodations but there are several alternate options, including campsites outside of town, if you are not looking to splurge.

There are also miles of world-class mountain biking trails at Silver Mountain Resort and on the Canfield Mountain Trail systems if you’d prefer a little more intensive bike action.

McCall (Day 9-10)

A view of the small marshy lakes and larger lake in the background in McCall Idaho on a cloudy, overcast day.

From Coeur d’Alene, head south for 5 hours along US-95 to the city of McCall. McCall sits on the edge of Payette Lake and the Payette National Forest.

Similar to Coeur d’Alene, the area is perfect to explore the water (lake and river activities) as well as head out hiking for a day.

Save McCall for whitewater rafting on this Idaho road trip. Several outfitters in town provide multi-day, full or half-day adventures. Multi-day outings are fully catered experiences.

Whether you hit Hells Canyon or other areas of the Snake or Salmon Rivers, you are in for a blast. Check out Salmon Raft or Canyons River Company to show you the way.

There are several lodging options lakeside, such as Shore Lodge, which offers amenities like lakeside pool areas and boat rentals.

A small lake at the base of a rocky mountain covered in pine trees.

Two of the best hikes from the McCall area are Bears Basin and Louis Lake Trails. Louie Lake Trail is 2.6-mile moderately rated trail that rewards hikers with an alpine lake and dramatic views at the hikes mid-point.

You can also opt for a 7-mile loop to nearby Boulder Lake if you feel like a longer trip. The total time for the main trail is about 1 hour but plan for 4.5 to 5 hours if you try the Boulder Loop.

Bear Basin Trail system is easily accessible by hiking or by bike from downtown McCall along the Bear Basin Connector Trail. The trail system allows for multiple variations and most follow through a mixture of wooded areas and meadows with excellent views of the surrounding lakes and mountains.

The upside of the trail system is you can mix and match trails for the exact distance you feel that particular day. The downside is you need to watch out for mountain bikers!

Where to Stay

A well-lit small cabin with an armchair, kitchen with island and stools, and wood details and white walls.

MODERN CABIN | For a cabin that’s distinctly modern and good for groups (it can hold 4 guests in two bedrooms), this McCall cabin is a great choice. The design is modern and spacious yet comfortable, and the location is hard to beat. The kitchen is a dream to cook in, which is great for people trying to save on food costs while road tripping!| Book on Airbnb

NORDIC INSPIRED COMFORT | For the ultimate in Scandinavian design and comfort, check into the boutique Scandia Hotel, which draws its inspiration from Swedish and Finnish design elements. Think white walls with textured wood elements and lots of plant life and detail to bring in greenery and life to the rooms. It’s an incredibly comfortable and stylish place to stay in a small town, so book ahead if you want to splurge on an extra comfortable stay for the final night of your Idaho road trip | Reserve on Booking.com | Reserve on Hotels.com

Back to Boise (Day 10)

Yellow trees with a few red trees showing fall foliage, in front of the downtown Boise skyline with buildings rising above the tree tops on a sunny fall day.

Wrapping up your Idaho trip, returning to Boise is just over 2 hours due south on ID-55.

While the trip was outlined counterclockwise, it works just as well in the opposite direction.

Eight to ten days in Idaho can be a lot to spare, so if you don’t find yourself with that much time away from your home base, try pairing down this itinerary down to either the Boise-Stanley or Boise-Coeur d’Alene routes.

How to Extend This Idaho Road Trip

The waterfalls of Shoshone Falls cascading in a horseshoe shape over a large cliff edge, tumbling into a pale green pool of water below, surrounded by a rocky landscape.

This Idaho road trip does make a few notable omissions in order to create a road trip that makes sense and doesn’t backtrack too much. The most obvious omission is Shoshone Falls, one of the most beautiful waterfalls in all of Idaho.

If you want to add that to your itinerary, add it after your trip to Ketchum and Sun Valley, but be prepared to spend more time getting back to your next stop, Stanley, if you do so.

If you have more like two weeks in Idaho for a road trip, you can add on Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve (a stunning lunar-like landscape) on your way back from Shoshone Falls, or you could also head to Idaho Falls, a fun and funky city located along the Snake River. From Idaho Falls to Stanley, it’s 3.5 hours, where you can continue this itinerary.

What to Pack for an Idaho Road Trip

Interracial couple (white woman and Black man) sharing a thermos of coffee while pulled over on the road while wearing cold-weather clothing, sitting in the back of their car.

I’ve created a full packing list for a USA road trip here, which you may want to peruse before heading out on your trip!

Travel guides

I’ve packed this Idaho road trip itinerary with so much practical information but sometimes travel guides provide deeper insights than I put in one article since they dedicate more time and resources to research. That being the case, I recommend combining my first-hand experience and the information in this Moon Idaho guidebook and I guarantee you’ll have an amazing time road tripping this beautiful state.

Phone Mount & Car Charger

You will use up your phone battery fast while road tripping in Idaho, or anywhere, so it’s essential to have a car charger. And for navigating, a phone mount is clutch and takes the pressure off of your front-seat passenger. Personally, I can’t imagine road tripping anywhere without this dual purpose phone mount and charger!

Snacks

There’s a funny road trip quote about buying snacks… I don’t know who said the quote originally, but it goes something like this: “It doesn’t matter how old you get, buying snacks for a road trip should always look like an unsupervised 9-year-old was given $100.”

I’m not sure who originally said it, but it’s true. Nothing ruins a road trip faster like hanger… so be sure to avoid it! Have a good mix of snacks — and not just sweet ones. Too many sweets on an empty stomach = major headaches. Likewise, too many salty snacks and not enough water will also do you in!

Rehydration packets

Impromptu hikes, the lack of a predictable schedule, random meal times, overly salty snacks, days exploring out in the hot sun, hangovers from celebrating after your driving duty is done: there are many reasons why it’s so easy to get dehydrated while road tripping.

I always pack some rehydration packets with me on my road trip travels as I’m prone to getting dehydrated, and when I’m dehydrated I get nasty headaches. Rehydration packets are a lifesaver: I recommend these ones.

Bug spray and after-bite care.

Nothing ruins a scenic sunset hike or lakeside lay-out worse than being besieged by bug bites! For a natural DEET-free solution, try this lemon eucalyptus-based mosquito repellent. It works surprisingly well on even the most persistent mosquitos!

Unfortunately, some bites are inevitable no matter how diligent you are with bug spray and reapplying it periodically, especially if you have sweet blood that attracts mosquitos like crazy like I do! Keep itchiness at bay with an After Bite itch eraser, which instantly soothes any bug bites. It’s a must-have for any summer road trip.

Sunscreen

Did you know you should always wear sunscreen while driving? The windshield doesn’t protect you against all UV rays — while they protect against UVB rays (which cause sunburn), most do not block UVA rays, which cause aging and skin cancer.

Plus, you’ll want it for hikes, days out in the sun, beach days, and that sort of thing. This is the sunscreen I use on my face daily (to prevent breakouts — my skin is very sensitive to chemical sunscreens, so I need something gentle). Meanwhile, I use a cheaper basic sunscreen for my skin.

No matter what your skin tone or race, you need to wear sunscreen daily, whether you’re white and pale AF like me, or whether you’re Black, Latinx, or Asian — sun cancer doesn’t discriminate based on skin tone, so always lotion up!

If you’re hiking, don’t forget about your scalp either — I often end up with a burned scalp and it’s no fun, often leading to headaches. Buy a special sunscreen for hair and scalp to avoid this!

Rain jacket

Even the best-laid plans can be felled by rain! While Idaho isn’t extremely rainy, it’s definitely a possibility during your trip, and you’ll want to be prepared.

I love the Marmot PreCip rain jacket (there’s a women’s version and a men’s version). I used mine for years doing all sorts of activities, from biking to hiking and traveling.

It always keeps me dry without making me too hot and uncomfortable like some other rain jackets can, due to the zippered arm-pits which provide ventilation. This is key if you plan to do anything active like hiking while it’s raining!

External batteries

The Anker external battery pack is a travel must. While you can charge your phone while driving, you may want to charge other devices — a camera, a drone, portable speakers, an e-reader — as well.

Or if you notice your battery is running low while you’re out hiking or sightseeing, you can just start charging right away without having to return to your car. It holds several charges on a single battery pack and will last days at a time.

Travel Insurance

Let’s be real: US health insurance sucks, and it can get complicated when you cross state lines to try to find in-network care in case of an emergency.

As long as you’re traveling more than 100 miles away from your home destination, World Nomads will step in where your insurance falters, and they make it super simple to purchase a policy for only as long as you’re traveling and not a bit more. Their policies are inexpensive and cover basically everything from theft to accidents to delayed baggage to trip cancellation and more.

I’ve been a happy paying customer of World Nomads since 2016 and have zero complaints about their service, interface, or claims process, and I’m happy to recommend them to any traveler I meet.

Get your free quote on World Nomads here

Idaho Road Trip Map

Read Next

Idaho Hikes: The 6 Best Idaho Hikes to Add to Your Bucket List

Idaho Hot Springs: The 7 Best Idaho Hot Springs to Visit

Montana Road Trip: The Ultimate 10 Day Montana Road Trip Itinerary

Utah Road Trip: The Ultimate 7 Day Utah Road Trip Itinerary

USA Road Trips: 25 Incredible USA Road Trips to Add to Your Bucket List

Road Trip Packing List: 50 Essential Things Not to Forget to Pack for a Road Trip

Pin This Idaho Road Trip Itinerary!

9 Utterly Incredible Day Hikes in Banff

Western Canada, specifically locales in and around Banff and Lake Louise, Alberta, offers blue lakes, rugged terrain, and dramatic mountain vistas worthy of the best hikes.

Much of the terrain is found Banff National Park, Canada’s first National Park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site which welcomes over 3 million visitors each year. While Banff is a skiing mecca in the winter, in the summer, hiking in the mountains is the thing to do.

The Park encompasses just over 2,500 square miles of Alberta’s Rocky Mountains and sits adjacent to the Trans-Canada Highway, a primary East-West artery connecting the towns of Banff and Lake Louise. 

Just an hour and a half’s drive west of Calgary, Alberta, Banff National Park should be included on any itinerary of must-visit hiking destinations, and it’s one of the main reasons to love Canada and all the incredible nature it has to offer.

Banff and Lake Louise proper are typically what com to mind when thinking of outdoor excursions in the National Park because the towns are central to the best day hikes and trailheads and each offer wide ranges of accommodations, restaurants, and amenities to make a Canadian Rockies adventure complete.

There are countless hikes you can do in the Banff area, but these are the best day hikes in Banff for all difficulty levels, from easy to experienced.

9 Best Hikes in Banff National Park

Lake Louise Lakeshore Trail

Even if you don’t recognize the name Lake Louise you have probably come across pictures of its pristine turquoise water, red canoes, and mountain backdrop before. It is undoubtably the most popular spot around Banff National Park, the primary image of Banff on Instagram.

Tackling the 2.9 mile out-and-back trail is an easy trek with minimal elevation gain.  It is heavily trafficked but paved for a majority of the way before transitioning to a packed dirt path making it stroller accessible and family-friendly.

It offers stunning views of Mt. Collier and Mt. Victoria North Peak on your way out and of the picturesque Fairmont Chateau hotel on the return. Lake Louise Lakeshore trail is partially shaded in a dense forest and follows the water’s edge which makes for cool temperatures even on hotter days.

While there is parking at the hotel, visitors often find the lots at capacity so plan on going quite early or in the late afternoon, particularly in summer months.

Lake Louise Lakeshore trail is also well suited to transition into a longer hike by combining with other nearby spurs like Devils Thumb, Beehive Circuit, or The Teahouses trails. Each begin and end at the Fairmont Chateau and follow the initial path along the Lake Louise’s shore.

The Teahouses Trail

The Teahouses trail is a 12.3-mile loop with substantial elevation gain at 3,530 feet affording arguably the best views of the Fairmont Chateau and Lake Louise in the distance.

Glacier scenes, waterfalls, alpine lakes and, of course, a visit to two historic backcountry teahouses are all experienced on the moderately steep loop.

The small log cabins which now act as privately-owned cafes, were originally built in the early 1900s to service the Canadian Pacific Railway. Today, both the Lake Agnes and Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouses serve hot and cold beverages (coffee and tea are go-tos) as well as sandwiches and assorted sweets.

There are some tradeoffs as Lake Agnes Teahouse has a slightly larger menu and is better suited for families, but Plain of Six Glaciers is more remote with fewer crowds. 

It might be hard work to make it to the spots but certainly worth the trip, once you grab a quick rest and a well-deserved treat before the return hike. Make sure to take cash for the transaction if Plain of Six is your destination.

Beehive Circuit Trails

Another convenient variation to the Lake Louise Lakeshore trails are the Beehive Circuits.

Little Beehive (5.6 miles out and back) and Big Beehive (6.4 miles loop) take you from the shore of Lake Louise to nearby unique “beehive” rock formations.

The routes can be combined to form an 8-mile loop by following some portions of each path. No matter the final combination, you are rewarded with stellar views of Lake Louise and the Fairmont Chateau, where your hike began. 

When paired together, the trails cover slightly less elevation than the Teahouses but in less distance. In total, the circuit covers around 3,000 feet so prepare for a steeper ascent.

Any variation which follows Big Beehive also takes you near Agnes Lake Teahouse where a full lunch or brief refreshment is up for grabs.

Devils Thumb

One last variation to check out from Lake Louise Lakeshore trail is Devils Thumb. Do note this is a very technical hike and requires significant skill to do, so it’s not a hike to do unless you are a skilled hiker. Ask at the Visitor Center for more information about the hike to see if it’s the right one for you.

This route, which also starts from the Fairmont Chateau, is an alpine lake hike covering 7.4 miles and nearly 2,900 feet.

The trail is quite similar to Big Beehive, in fact you will be able to catch glimpses of the same incredible rock formations and pass the Lake Agnes Teahouse too, but Devils Thumb takes you a bit higher and deeper into the backcountry.

Devils Thumb is a perfect option for those hoping to tag some rock climbing onto their hike.

Giant Steps via Paradise Creek

In close proximity to the Lake Louise grouped trails, but beginning from a separate trailhead, is Giant Steps. Giant Steps is a 12.8-mile hike with difficult rating.

Hikers are rewarded by reaching the trail’s namesake waterfalls, a cascading series of alternating water features and pools. The trail and falls are spectacular anytime May through October, particularly during the spring melt when water levels are at their highest and most intense before slowing toward the end of summer and fall. 

Depending on your schedule and transportation, and because parking at the Fairmont Chateau and Lake Louise can be a challenge, it may be helpful to checkout Parks Canada and Roam Transit websites for shuttle schedules before heading toward the hotel.

The shuttles are convenient, well-timed, and cost-effective. If you choose to stay in Banff, there are also several great hikes that begin closer to town and you won’t have to guess at crowds, timing, or parking availability.

Sulphur Mountain (near Banff town)

One such hike takes you up Sulphur Mountain, a steep, but moderate 6.3 mile out and back trail rising 2,400 feet and accessible right from downtown Banff.

It offers panoramic views including those of town, the Banff Upper Hot Springs, Sulphur Mountain, and the Banff Gondola.

Plan to stop for lunch at the Gondola top at one of three restaurants – Sky Bistro, Northern Lights, or Peak Patio. 

The trail includes several switchbacks and areas for scrambling, thus can be quite technical at places. Check the gondola schedule if you wish to cut the trail in half by downloading by machine power!

Spray Loop Trail and Bow Falls

Also easily accessible right from downtown Banff is the Spray Loop Trail.

The 7.6-mile path follows Spray Creek south from town and Bow Falls, with passing views of the Banff Gondola, Sulphur Mountain. Bow Falls viewpoint is located just near the trailhead and makes a perfect pair to the hike.

Elevation stays fairly steady creating a good route for trail running and several river access points lead from trail to water’s edge, although you stay fairly removed from the water throughout the hike.

The trail is very shaded and wonderful for warm days with no cloud cover. Spray Loop is prime for river and falls views but does not afford many of the mountain vistas found on other Banff National Park routes.

Cory Pass Loop

If you are on the hunt for more advanced terrain, including difficult rock-climbing routes, look no further than Cory Pass Loop.  

The trail circumnavigates Mount Edith with views of neighboring Mount Norquay. It is similarly close to downtown Banff, about 10 minutes’ drive, and easily accessible from the Trans-Canada Highway but the terrain is only suggested for experienced travelers.

The trail covers an elevation gain of over 3,800 feet in just over 8 miles and is steep and exposed at times. Most who have hit this trail before will tell you taking the loop counterclockwise is best because the alternative sets you up for quite a steep descent. In fact, this is one route for which you don’t want to forget your trekking poles.

Cory Pass rewards hikers with stellar views of Mt. Cory and the valley below. Pay close attention to weather patterns before heading out. Rain can make the slopes muddy difficult to navigate, especially on steep sections.

Eiffel Lake and Tower of Babel routes

Last but not least, Eiffel Lake and Tower of Babel routes should top off your list of Banff area hikes before departing the National Park.

Access is partway between Lake Louise and Banff but closer to the Lake Louise side and the turnoff to Moraine Lake Road is just before reaching the final drive to the Fairmont Chateau.

Eiffel Lake is a 7.3-mile-high-alpine trail beginning at the base of Moraine Lake. A moderate elevation gain of 1,870 feet ends at a quiet backcountry lake and serves as an easy resting point before the return hike. Plan for around 3 hours in and back.

The trail is narrow, making passing other hikers inconvenient at times. This can be avoided if you choose an early morning start or late afternoon return. The trail opens up after a series of switchbacks and is a decent mix of tree cover and open space.

Tower of Babel Route begins at the same trailhead but shoots off in the opposite direction from Moraine Lake covering much more technical terrain. In fact, the route should be reserved for advanced climbers. 

Novice hikers will prefer the tower views from Eiffel Lake route as the terrain consists of rock scramble with little path options. The route covers 1.8 miles, not so short when you’re primarily scrambling, and it is ideal for rock climbing and bouldering.

These trials and routes are just a small portion of the vast adventure opportunities available in Banff National Park but fully representative of the beauty of Alberta and its surrounding terrain.

Pin These Best Banff Hikes for Later!

The Perfect Weekend in Revelstoke Itinerary

Anchored by nearby Revelstoke Mountain Resort, the fast-growing outdoorsy town offers year-round thrills and family fun.

Not a skier? No worries. Summers in Interior BC offer just as much, if not more, adventure. World-class hiking, climbing, and dining await — here’s your ultimate summer in Revelstoke weekend itinerary!

Whether you’re visiting Revelstoke on its own or as part of a road trip from Vancouver to Calgary, there’s plenty to do in this charming town and neighboring National Park to fill 2-3 days, easily!

Your Perfect Weekend in Revelstoke: A 3 Day Itinerary

Friday

11 a.m. Explore Mount Revelstoke National Park

Pack a picnic lunch and head up Mount Revelstoke for the afternoon.

Access to the park is just off the Trans Canada Highway 3km outside of Revelstoke’s town center and parking is available after a scenic 26 kilometer drive up Meadows in the Sky Parkway.

Visiting the park is best during snow-free season of July through September when hikers can take full advantage of trail access. Shoot for July or August to catch the wildflowers in bloom.

Points of interest in the park include historic fire tower at summit, alpine lakes, and a memorial honoring Revelstoke’s rich history in ski-jumping.

4 p.m. Check-in at the Stoke Hotel or Poppy’s Guest House

Lodging options in the area run the gamut between car camping approved parking lots and the boutique Explorer’s Society Hotel.

If you are looking for something in the middle, try a room at the newly renovated Stoke Hotel or hostel-style Poppy’s Guest House.

Poppy’s tagline is “your gateway drug to Revelstoke” as it ends up being many traveler’s first stay in the area.

Each offers a walkable location to downtown and opportunities to meet other like-minded travelers.

5 p.m. Early dinner at Village Idiot Pizza

A meal at “the Idiot” is a must when traveling through Revelstoke. The menu has something for everyone but pizza and a caesar (Canadian for Bloody Mary, eh) is the way to go.

Grab a seat at the back porch railing and listen to passers-by to be in the know on happenings around town. Don’t skimp on the dipping sauces. Garlic aioli and the restaurant’s take on chalet sauce are crowd favorites.

6:30 p.m. Live Music at Grizzly Plaza

Pull up a plastic chair (they are provided by the city) and join literally everyone else in town for free live music. T

he Revelstoke Arts Council sponsors a new act each night during summer months and artists cover a full range of genres. 

If you fancy an ice cream, there are several options by the bandstand including The Roxy and The Sugar Shack. Take a jacket as the weather gets pleasantly crisp during summer nights.

Saturday

8 a.m. Bakery Breakfast

Breakfast and coffee options are plenty in the area and many spots bake their goods in house.

Dose and Modern Bakeshop are the easy places for a quick cup of coffee and meal to-go before the day’s outing. A croque monsieur (hot ham and cheese) is a Canadian staple worth waiting for in a brief line.

10 a.m. Downtown Farm and Craft Market

Meander through the closed-off streets near Grizzly Plaza and shop local selections of fruits, vegetables, baked goods, flowers, and local crafts.

You will find all the ingredients needed for a home-cooked meal if space allows at your hotel. If you do end up cooking yourself, supplement your picks with a meat selection from Ray’s Butcher Shop on nearby Victoria Road.

12 p.m. Head up to Revelstoke Mountain Resort for the afternoon

Revelstoke Mountain Resort (RMR) boasts the greatest vertical terrain in North America at 5,620 ft.

You’ll need to come back in the winter to access that descent, but you can still reach a good portion via the Revelation Gondola which operates year-round. A single gondola ticket can be purchased if you want to experience the view from mid-mountain.

From there, take your choice of mountain biking, hiking, or the mountain coaster for the way down. Grab lunch at the mountain base village before tackling your afternoon adventures. MacKenzie Tavern, La Baguette, and The Rockford are your go to’s there.

5 p.m. Cocktails and dinner

Hop into Quartermaster Eatery for some of the town’s best cocktails. Their barkeeps have perfected the smoky old fashioned.

 If you are staying for dinner, the cote de boeuf is worth every Canadian cent and is meant to share. If you prefer something more casual, cross the street to Pam’s Kitchen. They have some of the best curry around and the restaurant was just remodeled in 2019.

8 p.m. Late night fun

After good fare, head over for drop-in curling at the Revelstoke Curling Club where the beers are cheap and the curling is cheaper.  Get there early as the club caps capacity at about 40 people.

If you happen to be in town during the winter season, plan to attend a Grizzlies’ game. The local Junior B ice hockey team typically has sell-out crowds and games are a community event.  

If you’re a late-night socialite, slide into Traverse, the town’s only nightclub.  It usually gets geared up around 11 p.m. and is a great way to groove the night away. 

Sunday

10 a.m. Ease into Sunday

Sunday mornings are laid back in Revelstoke.

The regular coffee spots are buzzing and it’s the perfect time to window shop, visit one of the town’s several parks, or take a 30-minute walk on the Big Eddy Greenway or the Illecillewaet Bridge Trail, both walking trails near the city center with views of Mount Begbie and the Illecillewaet and Columbia Rivers.

Alternately, hop in your car and drive to Giant Cedars Boardwalk Trail in Revelstoke National Park, a beautiful rainforest walk just outside the city.

12 p.m. Lunch in Big Eddy & McPherson Trails

Big Eddy Pub, across the Columbia River from Revy, has all one could want for Sunday lunch and they specialize in smoked meats.  You’ll be sure to meet a few folks fresh off of the nearby McPherson mountain biking trails. 

There is easy trailhead access if you venture over to the trails yourself to hike or bike.  Make sure to take the detour to Begbie Falls.

5 p.m. Movie Night

Grabbing a movie at Roxy is a perfect way to wind down an epic weekend in Revelstoke.  They usually have two different movies playing each week, and you can check their website or marquee for details.

Pin This Revelstoke Weekend Itinerary!

7 Soothing Idaho Hot Springs Worth a Dip

Totaling 340 locations, Idaho has more natural hot springs than any other state. This, along with its rugged beauty, make for wonderful and relaxing soaking experiences.

The state’s mountainous terrain and proximity to tectonic plates offer an environment needed for natural geothermal activity and, while only 130 of the hot springs stay consistently at soakable temperatures, there are plenty of locations to enjoy for all.

Hot spring locations across the state are a mix of commercial and carefully curated backwoods pools. The public springs are typically located on National Forest Service lands and are maintained by caring patrons.

Commercial springs are larger and have accompanying built infrastructure like changing areas, showers, and other amenities but charge an entry fee. The fees vary location to location, around five to ten dollars, but are reasonable for the provided amenities.

Many of the springs explored here are easily accessible by small hikes from well-traveled roads. However, some springs are more remote, not covered by cell service, and winter roads can be dicey. Because of this you should be sure to grab GPS coordinates or well researched directions before heading out.

Fall is the most dependable time to visit the springs, especially when considering warm summer temperatures, spring thaws, and winter road conditions. But if roads are well maintained and conditions are safe, you can’t beat a winter dip when the snow is falling. Most commercial locations are open year-round and are the only options during spring thaws when river levels rise, flood pools or create muddy, runoff conditions.  

Best Hot Springs in Idaho

Goldbug Hot Springs

With an unbeatable view one of the most popular spots is Goldbug hot springs. It requires a bit of effort to get there but keep in mind a small hiking distance removes some of the expected crowds and makes the soak that much better.

Goldbug is located due south of Salmon, Idaho near the Salmon-Challis National Forest. A gravel road at mile marker 282 off Highway 93 will mark your turn off.

From there, both trailhead and trail are well marked. The springs are accessed by a steep two-mile trail climb. Goldbug is a perfect choice if you want to pair your hot springs outing with a bit of physical exertion. Leave enough daylight for the return hike plus time to drive back to Salmon or a campsite in the Salmon-Challis National Forest.

Launching to multiple hot springs from the Salmon-Challis National Forest actually makes for a great trip. It is centrally located to Goldbug, Sacajawea, Boat Box, Easley and Kirkham springs detailed here. Covered by six ranger districts the forest is home to 87 separate campgrounds, each offered on a first-come-first-serve basis.  

Want to get to Goldbug bright and early before others beat you to it? Stay nearby and glamp overnight! Gypsy Caravan Glamping is just 2 miles away from Goldbug and is an excellent place to spend the night.

Boat Box Hot Spring

After Goldbug, head south towards the town of Stanley (population 69). Stanley is small in area and population but swells with visitors in the summer months, particularly during fly fishing season.

It is a must stop for hikers, campers, and anyone planning to get out of the river for a full or half day professional or self guided trip.

About four miles north of town sits Boat Box hot spring. It’s just what the name connotates, a small “box” hot spring overlooking the Salmon River. The spring is man made by way of piped in hot water and sits about twelve feet above the river.

Stick to inviting only your closest friends as the tub comfortably fits about three people. Soaking early in the morning is ideal as you will see and feel steam rising off the river and can interact with the morning’s wave of fisherman on trout floats.

Facing south in the tub offers top notch views of the Sawtooth Mountain Range and Williams Peak. Access is directly off Highway 75 which follows the river.

Sacajawea Hot Springs

Due west of Stanley, on the backside of Williams Peak, hikers can gain access to Sacajawea hot springs. Sacajawea is nestled on the banks of the South Fork of the Payette River near Grandjean, Idaho in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area and is characterized by rock-walled pools built up over time by different users.

These characteristics allow you to adjust the pool temperature by moving various rocks around to let in, or block off, cold river water. Consistent with other springs on riverbanks, the pool is submerged during the spring thaw so plan your visit accordingly.

The hot springs are directly off Grandjean Road half a mile west of Sawtooth Lodge. You can easily park in a pull-off area and will likely see cars already there so get ready to socialize!

There are several primitive camping sites nearby, including Grandjean campground, or you can book in a Sawtooth Lodge if you prefer cabin accommodations. The Sawtooth Lodge also has a commercial hot spring, similar to a swimming pool, on the property with water piped in from the same geothermal system as Sacajawea but visitors will prefer the natural, riverside pool much more.

Kirkham Hot Springs

Continue to follow the South Fork of the Payette River on Ponderosa Pine Scenic Route towards Loman, Idaho for access to Kirkham hot springs. Because the highway follows the river valley, Kirkham is also easily accessed without a hike. Visitors should prepare for a small parking fee at the Kirkham campground.

A staircase leads you on a short walk from the camp’s property to the springs. What separates Kirkham from other areas is a steam waterfall feeding several pools of varying temperature. The waterfall cascades over a high rock wall creating a natural warm shower and patrons can enjoy the peaceful sound of the Payette River in the background.

Loftus Hot Springs

Include Loftus hot springs in an Idaho journey if you are eager to experience more waterfall pools.  At about a two and a half hour drive, Loftus is one of the closest pools to Boise, Idaho’s largest city. Because of its proximity to the metro area it can be one of the more social hot spring spots, often leaning towards a party atmosphere.

Despite being relatively close to Boise, the hot spring maintains a remote feel and you won’t miss out on a dose of nature thanks to the surrounding Boise National Forest. Loftus boasts two pools maintained throughout the year by visitors, including one pool with a reinforced masonry wall.

The benefit of masonry work is the pool is not as flood-prone, however, you won’t be able to alter the water temperature as easily as other hot springs locations around the state.

Jerry Johnson Hot Springs

Also, within a striking distance to a metro area, but on the opposite side of the state, is Jerry Johnson hot springs.

Jerry Johnson springs are a one and a half hour drive through the Lolo and Clearwater National Forests from Missoula, Montana and are a good detour when traveling through Missoula, Whitefish, or Bozeman areas.

The Jerry Johnson pools are located on the banks of Warm Springs Creek, an offshoot of the Lochsa River, and consist of three sandy bottom soaking areas, one of which has a waterfall cascading into. Unfortunately, the waterfall pool is submerged from spring until the end of August, however, no matter what time of year you venture to the spot, at least two of the pools will be available for a soak.

Access requires a moderate one-mile hike from a parking area on Idaho Highway 12 at Warm Springs Trailhead. The hike in is one of the best parts of the trip, taking you over a footbridge which spans the Lochsa. The hike will feel quite secluded and remote but, similar to other hot springs spots in the state, if you follow the river’s path you will end up in the right location.

Easley Springs

While there are several commercial hot springs in Idaho, the best facilities by far are those at Easley springs outside of Ketchum and Sun Valley. 

The location, a fifteen-minute drive north from Ketchum along Easley Creek and in the Wood River Valley, feels less like a campground and more like a rustic spa retreat. Amenities include showers, changing facilities, café and store and convenient campground are located next door if you chose not to stay in Ketchum or Sun Valley. 

Water for a large swimming pool, separate hot tubs, and showers are each supplied by local hot spring water and remain around 98 degrees year-round. Views of Boulder Mountain will top off your visit at Easley.

The only downside to the Easley springs, and common to all commercial facilities, is set hours of operation, so soaking under the stars on a clear night is out of the question. Easley’s proximity to Sun Valley’s ski slopes and the Blaine County Recreation District’s extensive Nordic ski and snowshoe trails make it a prime spot during winter months.

BONUS: Trail Creek Hot Springs

Editor’s Choice

Located near Cascade, Idaho off of Highway 55, this beautiful hot spring in Idaho requires basically no hike — it’s only a 0.1 mile short walk to the springs.

There are two rock pools perfectly suited for soaking if you’re not after a long hot spring hike. It can be a bit difficult to find, so the folks at Visit Idaho have given simple directions:

Turn east on Warm Lake Road just north of Cascade off Highway 55.  Around 19 miles in, look for a wide pullout on a left-hand corner. If you see a sign to Yellow Pine you’ve gone just a bit too far; turn around and the first pullout you come to is where you’ll need to stop.

***

Whether you string together a journey covering several Idaho hot springs locations or select only one to visit, you will find a nature-filled, relaxing experience awaits in the Gem State.

Pin These Idaho Hot Springs for Later!

6 Incredible Hikes in Idaho Worth the Trip

If you are considering where to tackle some of best outdoor adventures in the Mountain West, Idaho shouldn’t be counted out.

The Gem State is a hotbed of easily accessible, rewarding, year-round hiking. Check out some of these top options for Idaho hikes!

Best Idaho Hikes

Pioneer Cabin Trail (Ketchum)

Pioneer Cabin Trail is a popular Idaho day hike about 10 minutes outside Ketchum. There are several overnight camping sites on the approaching Corral Creek Road but Pioneer’s proximity to town makes launching from Ketchum or the Wood River Valley easy. 

Hikers are rewarded with stunning views of the Pioneer Mountains and Sun Valley’s Trail Creek in the distance. Grabbing a picture in front of the cabin, with its painted roof reading “The higher you get, the higher you get” is a right of passage. Plan for a 6-7 hour outing.

The cabin was originally built in 1938 by the Sun Valley Company to make backcountry ski training more accessible for the ski school.  Many of its earliest visitors served in the famed 10th Mountain Division during WWII. After falling into disrepair, local volunteers worked on a substantial refurbishment project between 2016-2018.

The main trail section is a 3.6-mile out and back path covering 2,809 feet in elevation gain and best accessed late May through September. Additional trails connect to Pioneer’s main route making longer loops convenient to add on and creating multiple paths to reach the cabin. Each of the trailheads meet at a central parking area at the end of Corral Creek.

Much of the trail, including 23 switchbacks, is below a forested tree line but the upper portion opens up into a large alpine meadow making for great views when wildflowers are in bloom early summer. Waiting until higher elevation snow is fully melted makes for an easier hike.

Warm Springs (Ketchum)

Warm Springs Trail is located in Ketchum within the Sun Valley ski area boundary. Beginning at the Warm Springs base area and rising 3,479 feet to the summit of Bald Mountain, the Warm Springs Trail follows ski slopes and crosses maintenance tracks for a round trip of 7.8-miles up Bald Mountain and back.

While the resort gondola and some chair lifts do run in summer months, there is something rewarding about climbing the mountain under your own power. You are able to descend on the gondola if you don’t feel like the return journey though.

Before reaching the summit where you can grab well-deserved lunch at the Roundhouse Lodge, the trail wraps to the west side of the mountain for views of Bassett Gulch.  

The mix of open ski slopes and tree trails makes for a fun variation in trail type and more demanding sections intermixed with relatively intermediate ones. If you prefer to stay in the sun, you can opt for a steeper but shorter hike directly up the middle of the Limelight ski run. Pack sunscreen if you do. The valley is aptly named!

Louie Lake Trail (McCall)

Louie Lake Trail outside McCall is another of the state’s top hikes and particularly convenient if you’re coming in from Washington or Oregon.

 At only 813 feet in elevation gain, the moderately rated 2.6-mile trail has the most “reward to effort” ratio and ends at an alpine lake with dramatic views of the surrounding mountains.

Grabbing a quick swim in the lake during warmer days is well worth the hike in.  Much of the trail shares an access road with motor vehicles so make sure to watch for bikes and off-road vehicles. You can also opt for a longer 7-mile loop to catch nearby Boulder Lake and Twin Peaks Ridge without adding much more elevation. Total time for the main trail is about 1 hour but plan for 4.5-5 hours if you try the Boulder Loop.

Louie Lake Trail is best experienced in summer and early fall when the seasons’ colors begin to change. It is best to wait a few days after heavier rains as some of the water elements may be unpassable after swells or snowmelt.  Access is a bit tricky because the parking lot is unmarked.

 However, once on the trail there are plenty of helpful directional markers to reach the lake.  While the main trail and longer loop are great options for most hiking abilities there are a few creek crossings that are not maintained and shaded portions that may be icy during colder months making for some precarious spots.

Mineral Ridge National Recreation Trail (Coeur d’Alene)

Another of the state’s best hikes can be found on the Panhandle at Mineral Ridge 11 miles east of Coeur d’Alene. Unlike other trailheads which are difficult to locate or navigate, access to Mineral Ridge is well labeled and includes a large parking lot, two picnic areas, drinking water and restrooms.

The 3.3-mile loop is well maintained by the Bureau of Land Management and sits on a bald eagle migration path.  Chances of catching a glimpse of the birds are best during winter months from November to February. 

Mineral Ridge is a great option for families with small children and hikers of all abilities, not only because of the trailhead amenities, but because multiple benches along the path offer a quick place to sit and rest.

It takes about 1 hour and, while there are a few switchbacks, they are neither steep nor lengthy. Hikers are rewarded with views of Coeur d’Alene and Wolf Lodge Bay. It’s worth timing your hike to align with the sunset as the view is spectacular.

Hulls Gulch Reserve (Boise)

If you want to stay close to the big city and catch skyline views from a different vantage point, Hulls Gulch Reserve near Boise is your best bet. The Reserve covers over 292 acres on the Northend and is well managed by the City of Boise Parks and Recreation Department. The Reserve was established in the 1990s to spare recreation area near the city from development and to offer ecological restoration for native trees, grasses, and shrubs. This foresight proved valuable as Boise now experiences one of the top population growth rates in the region. Access to Hulls Gulch Trail, the most popular in the reserve, is off North 8th Street behind Camel’s Back Hill. The well-traveled path is a moderately difficult and follows Hulls Creek for 3.1 miles to a scenic waterfall. Out and back is 6.3 miles of moderate hiking with a total of 1,131 feet in elevation gain. The easy pitch is ideal for trail runners but you’ll want to start early or head out later on in the evening as the path is in direct sun. Plan for about 2.5 hours.  

Sawtooth Lake Trail (Stanley)

Sawtooth Lake Trail is a 10-mile, in and out path, and one of the more difficult of Idaho’s best hikes.

The Stanley area is a mecca for hikes, camping, climbing, and especially fishing but due to its remote location, most who visit the Sawtooth Lake Trail are camping in the area for multiple days.

The trail is listed as accessible year-round but requires more technical skill, not to mention appropriate gear, during full snow cover. Even in summer, the higher altitude shaded sections will have snow patches and avalanches have been reported in some years.

The first 3 miles are relatively mellow and wooded with a few tree gaps for surrounding views.  The final 3 miles are the most advanced section. Total elevation gain is 1,873 feet and hikers are rewarded with views of Alpine Lake and McGowan Peak. Hike time without snow is about 4-5 hours.

Insider Tip: Don’t miss Stanley Bakery on your way to the trailhead. It’s a great option for breakfast or a paper bag lunch for your excursion.

Pin These Best Hikes in Idaho for Later!