West Yellowstone to East Glacier: Recreation Route

West Yellowstone to East Glacier: Recreation Route

One of the most popular Montana traditions is to make the trek from Yellowstone to Glacier National Park or vice versa. As you travel from one Park to the other, you will find some of Montana’s hidden treasures. While everyone knows of the National Parks, the road less traveled between the two promises just as many memories. This itinerary connects West Yellowstone to east Glacier providing suggestions for pit stops along the way. As you make your way to the backbone of the Rockies, don’t shy away from the opportunity to truly immerse yourself in the culture and lifestyle of Montana!

Day 1:

West Yellowstone to West Glacier: Small Town Route

  • Earthquake Lake
  • Madison River
  • Norris Hot Springs

As you exit Yellowstone National Park, you will begin your drive north through Montana. Winding along the Madison River, you will continue to be met with the unspoiled nature and breathtaking views Southwest Montana has to offer. This route is considered by many to be a fly fisherman's paradise. When you enter the charming small town of Ennis, Montana, you will find numerous guides, outfitters and tackle shops to ensure you make the most of your fishing excursion! Finish off a packed day with a soak in the 'Water of the Gods' at Norris Hot Springs.

Earthquake Lake

On August 17, 1959, an earthquake (magnitude of 7.3) devastated the Madison River Canyon area, causing a massive landslide which dammed the river and created Quake Lake. The visitor center is open Memorial Day through mid- September and provides a detailed account of the aftermath of the quake.

Ennis Fly Fishing

Anglers from across the world come to Montana to fish in “paradise.” Montana’s rivers are home to an abundance of trout, walleye, and bass that are ready to take a fly or lure. Whether you are a regular fisherman, or simply off on vacation, Ennis has something for you. Visit the guides and outfitters in the area to plan your perfect trip.

Norris Hot Springs

The Water of the Gods offers a simple, rustic, yet authentic experience for visitors. With clear and clean hot mineral water bubbling up from the earth at 120 degrees, the historic wooden pool is filled. With a valve installed by miners in the 1880s, the pool is emptied nightly. Food, drink and live music await visitors.

Day 2:

Queen City

  • Lewis & Clark Caverns
  • Mount Helena City Park
  • Historic Walking Mall

Southwest Montana boasts 10 of the State Parks in Montana, and one of the most popular happens to be on your drive to Glacier National Park! Lewis and Clark Caverns is the perfect addition to any bucket-list, and promises to provide an adventure that you will not forget. As you continue on to Helena you will pass through Boulder, another charming small town with shops and restaurants perfect for an afternoon of exploration. Montana's Queen City, Helena, offers countless ways to spend your evening and a wide range of restaurants and lodging options that are sure to please!

Lewis & Clark Caverns

Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park is Montana's first and best-known state park featuring one of the most decorated limestone caverns in the Northwest. These spectacular caves, lined with stalactites, stalagmites, and columns are electrically lighted and safe to visit.

Mount Helena

Mount Helena City Park covers 620 acres on the edge of Helena. Trails crisscross the entire park, some summit the mountain, while others connect with trails in the surrounding Helena National Forest. This park provides the best of both worlds for both hikers and bikers, and it is all in the backyard of the Queen City.

Helena Walking Mall

Downtown Helena has always served as a place for the community to gather. Year-round there are activities, but in the summer, the walking mall truly comes alive. The gulch features a wide variety of shops, as well as restaurants and entertainment.

Day 3:

Historic Afternoon

  • Gates of the Mountains
  • Augusta, Montana
  • Two Medicine Dinosaur Center

With a final day of exploration, visitors will wind their way from Helena to the East Glacier entrance. The area is packed with outdoor recreation opportunities, but our favorite is a stop at Gates of the Mountains Wilderness Area on the Missouri River. After a boat tour, it's time to again hit the road, making another pit stop in Augusta for a bit of shopping and a bite to eat. Finally, you will make your way to the Backbone of the World (the Rocky Mountain Front) encountering the small town of Bynum, which is a tourist hot spot, especially if you are looking to roam with the dinosaurs! Entering Glacier National Park, your Montana adventures are only beginning.

Gates of the Mountains

In many places,” wrote Meriwether Lewis, “the rocks seem ready to tumble on us… I shall call this place “gates of the mountains.” During the summer months, there are tours offered throughout the week through the Gates. The 105-minute cruise starts in the marina, just three miles east of I-15, between Helena and Wolf Creek.

Augusta, Montana

Augusta sits in the midst of spectacular scenery. To the east, the earth stretches out in miles of undulating prairie grass. To the west the earth rears skyward along the rugged Rocky Mountain Front, and Augusta is perfectly situated as a gateway to the sprawling Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex.

Two Medicine Dinosaur Center

The Two Medicine Dinosaur Center was established in 1995, and attracts thousands of visitors every year. They believe that the best way to learn is by experience. Some of the most significant discoveries in Paleontology have been made in the area, and this museum exhibits these findings of importance.