? between Helena and Canyon/ Yellowstone

Aug 15th, 2015, 09:02 PM
  #1  
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? between Helena and Canyon/ Yellowstone

I'll be traveling next month and planned to stop at Norris Hot Springs after I leave Helena and before I get to Yellowstone. Alas, in September they don't open until 4pm. Doesn't seem wise to go for even an hour's soak. Leave at 5 for a 2 hour drive with sunset at 7:45.

Anyone have another idea to see/ top along the way between Helena and West Yellowstone and on to Canyon? Plenty to see in the park, of course? Just looking for new experiences.

If just the drive, what about going on 191 through Big Sky (vs. 287 through Ennis)?

Any suggestions very much appreciated.
starrs is offline  
Aug 17th, 2015, 08:59 AM
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I think it depends on what you want/expect about Norris. I think it's a fun stop for a beer and a soak. And they often have live music. It's pretty rustic: wooden pool (they drain it every night), and no bathrooms, just porta potties. I haven't been there in two years, so maybe they have bathrooms now, but I doubt it.

I really love the drive between Three Forks to Ennis. The Tobacco Root mountains are beautiful; it's also where I grew up. I would look at a stop at Lewis & Clark Caverns. It takes two hours to do a tour. They shouldn't be busy in September, and the cave is highly decorated with formations. It's an amazing cave.

Going through Big Sky is nice, too. It's mostly canyon driving along the river as opposed to farmland and mountains on 287.
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Aug 17th, 2015, 09:48 AM
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not sure from your post if you are trying to get to West Yellowstone/Canyon (Canyon Village in YNP)? before sunset and how much time you have to allocate on the drive but I'll throw out a few ideas. I was just in YNP staying at Canyon campground last week and drove from Bozeman - home now and wish I was still there!

On the hot springs question there is the Bozeman Hot Springs right past 4 Corners on H191 that you could try (see Bozeman Hot Springs website for hours) - I haven't been there for ages but I recall they have weird hours on Saturdays so be sure to check hours.

On your route options (287 through Ennis vs 191 through Big Sky)....

They are both nice routes and people have different preferences. The biggest difference is that H287 goes through Madison River valley which is relatively wide and open with the highway loosely following the river. Think valley grassland with mountain vistas all around.

H191 goes through the Gallatin River Canyon which is a heavily wooded and narrow river canyon (although there are a few wider spots) and the highway pretty much sticks right next to the river the whole way.

You can see the difference if you look at Google maps and also from Helena, the 191 option might add another 30 minutes or so. Both are beautiful - my personal preference is usually 191 through Big Sky just because I love the Gallatin Canyon and driving next to the Gallatin River.

Along 287 you can stop at Ennis/Ennis Lake or take a detour to Virginia City (restored "Ghost Town") - think "wild west gold town". Or you can stop at Quake Lake on 287 right before Hebgen lake.

Along 191 you can stop at Big Sky and take a small detour to drive up for views of Lone Mountain/Spanish Peaks. On this route you basically are traveling through National Forest Land with a small section that actually dips into Yellowstone Park.

Hope that helps!
NorCal_Jo is offline  
Aug 17th, 2015, 09:51 AM
  #4  
 
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Kureiff- great point on Lewis and Clark Caverns! I loved going there as a kid (and as an adult although it's been a long time since I've been)..
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Aug 17th, 2015, 09:56 AM
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NorCal, I was a tour guide at Lewis & Clark Caverns when I was in college. Best job ever!
kureiff is offline  
Aug 17th, 2015, 10:18 AM
  #6  
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These are great ideas! Thanks for sharing options.

We are starting closer to Billings, then heading to Great Falls for one night, on to Helena and then down to Yellowstone. Later is GTNP and back up to Billings. We've both been to Yellowstone and the Tetons and are trying to focus on seeing new/different things.

I'm guessing we'll be leaving my friend's place in Helena around noon and would rather get to Canyon Lodge in Yellowstone before dark. Open for just about any route and/or ideas. Norris doesn't open until 4pm and I think that's too late to make that happen.

Again, thanks for the great ideas and more are welcomed!
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Aug 17th, 2015, 10:40 AM
  #7  
 
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Kureiff - Did you go to school at MSU in Bzn? That's where I went but had a less glamorous job at the food service.

Starrs - If you leave around noon you'll have time for either route on 191 or 287 with at least one stop and photo ops along the way. Check out Lewis & Clark Caverns as per Kureiff, Virginia City, or Quake Lake on 287. On 191, Bozeman is a nice town for a stop or Big Sky. Finally, if you haven't spent time in West Yellowstone on prior trips, the Grizzly Discovery Center is great and right before the park entrance so it can be a quick stop (could easily see it in an hour or could spend longer if you go through all the indoor exhibits)..
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Aug 17th, 2015, 11:21 AM
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NorCal, no, I grew up 60 miles from Bozeman and ended up going to college out of state. But I have a sister who currently works at MSU.
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