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aprildon6 Dec 28th, 2004 12:45 PM

Itinterary help needed for Glacier, Teton & Yellowstone trip
hi. i'm planning a trip for this summer/labor day to Grand Teton NP, Yellowstone NP and Glaicer NP.
I have a few questions.

1. What is the best order to see these parks in?
2. What are the best airports to fly into and out of on america west? we need an airport that has rental cars or a nearby town with rental cars. we also need to shop for food and supplies, so a local walmart or other reasonably-priced store would be great to have close to the airport/rental car pick-up place.
3. Is this a good plan: Glacier - 4 nights, Yellowstone - 5 nights, Grand Tetons - 4 nights
4. Are there any points of interest worth stopping at that are on the way during any of the drives between airport and parks?
5. is there anything else i should be aware of?

i am an avid hiker who likes challenging day hikes. i like any hike that rewards me with a spectacular view!

my last trip was to Grand Canyon NP, Moab, Bryce Canyon and Zion NP and I hiked til my little feet almost fell off.

thanks so much for any help you can give me! i really appreciate your time!


Jayne1973 Dec 28th, 2004 12:58 PM

For questions about hikes or other park information, try this chat page -- it's frequented by people who work in the park, live nearby, or simply love it.

maj Dec 28th, 2004 01:40 PM

Are you planning on flying in and out of the same airport? It is pretty much of a day's drive from Glacier to Yellowstone. It is an excellent trip you have planned. We did it a few years ago and loved it, but ended up at Mt. Rushmore and paid a drop off charge for the car so we wouldn't have to retrace our steps. Maybe you could somehow do a loop going into Yellowstone from Glacier at the north entrance (Gardiner) and out the east or northeast (Beartooth Hwy) entrance (or vice versus depending on your airport choice). Just something to think about while you're planning.

bob_brown Dec 29th, 2004 12:07 PM

I have two thoughts. First check the distance and driving time from Glacier to Yellowstone. You may not want to spend the essentially dead time in driving between the two places.

Second, if you do want to visit both parks, I suggest doing Glacier first because it essentially shuts down after Labor Day. Lodging starts closing, ranger led hikes drop off the schedule, and staffing, already thin, just about disappears as the summer people head out.

Waterton, because it is private enterprise, has a little more going on and the motels stay open later into the fall.

Yellowstone is one of those parks than can occupy an infinite amount of time or draw little more than a snort. Some take the attitude of "seen one geyser, seen them all", and "seen one buffalo, seen them all". Argh.

I personally can spend days wandering the geyser basins and looking at the falls, the lake, the wildlife, the remnants of those huge volcanic explosions that made Yellowstone what it is.

And a few miles to the south, youhave the towering escarpment of the Tetons.
My first visit to Yellowstone lasted way too little time.

When I finally returned as an adult, we stayed for 6 days in the area before going on to Hell's Canyon and back east through Glacier. I would not trade anything for that trip, but in years past we have returned several times.
The last time we had one purpose: see Great Fountain Geyser erupt. Of course we hung around for several days more!

By the time you factor in the Beartooth, Yellowstone, and the Tetons, you can easily spend 9 days there alone.

So weigh your alternatives and plot your route and time carefully.

aprildon6 Dec 30th, 2004 07:01 AM

thanks jayne, maj and bob_brown for your replies. i appreciate it. i will definitely check out the site you sent, jayne, when choosing hikes and for other park questions.

as far as the airport situation goes, where we fly into/out of will depend on what makes sense as far as the itinerary. if we do glacier first, is there and airport that would be better to fly into? also, if we do grand teton last, what is the best airport to fly home from?

based on your comments, bob_brown, i will try to plan for at least 6 nights in yellowstone and 4 nights in both glacier and grand teton NPs. does that sound smart?

also, we will probably tent camp for most if not all of the trip. has anyone camped at any of these 3 parks? is so, do you have any words of wisdom or recommendations?

thanks again!

HowardR Dec 30th, 2004 08:17 AM

If you save the Teton for the last (which is a great way to end the trip), then you definitely want to depart from Jackson Airport. It's right there!
To help in your Teton and Yellowstone planning, I strongly recommend Frommer's handy pocket guide to the two parks.

HowardR Dec 30th, 2004 08:18 AM

PS: That's actually the Jackson Hole Airport.

bob_brown Dec 30th, 2004 12:16 PM

In years past I have camped in all those parks. In Yellowstone, some of the campgrounds have quite a few RVs in them. There are some that can be reserved. From the ones I have driven through, the one at Madison Junction seems the best.

If there is still a campground at Lewis Lake, I would be wary. We pulled in there once and found it half empty while everything else was full. Why?
The campground was on the lee shore of Lewis Lake and mosquitoes were carniverous.

Around the Tetons, Jenny Lake is usually full, and full of hikers. We were there once and beer sodden climbers serenaded us all night with various yowlings and yodelings.

Some of the more remote camping areas in the Tetons do not fill, like Gros Ventre. Colter Bay is an ok place, but well north of the center of action.

In Glacier, you need to check the individual sites. Some of them are restricted to hardside camping -- no tents -- because of bears.
The one near Lake McDonald at the west end on the north side is not bad if you get there early enough to find a good spot.

Farther north there are some remote places. Interesting camping, but removed from the main part of the park. I guess it depends on what you want.

As for Yellowstone, look at the Xanterra website and find out which campgrounds have reservable places.
If you cannot reserve, you will want to arrive early to have any kind of a selection of sites.

The campground at Grant Village is huge, and not to my liking because of the large number of vehicles in a tight area.

maj Dec 30th, 2004 12:35 PM

We flew into Kalispell (rental cars at the airport) which is an actual town with grocery and walmart type stores on the road to Glacier (the West Entrance is only about a half hour drive if I remember right--there is another poster here, John?, who lives up there and can give you more precise info if you decide to go that route). Jackson is a small town with many amenities at the entrance to the Tetons (as mentioned above) and the airport, although small, has rental car agencies if you want to drop off your car there.

edares Jan 5th, 2005 07:37 AM

Hi -

We are planning a similar trip early next summer -- we will have 11 days total, counting the better part of a day each way for air travel from New Orleans. We are flying into Bozeman Will spend our first night in Gardiner and try to do most oft he north loop area of Yellowstone, working our way down to Teton National Park. Will spend 2 nights there at Signal Lodge, and then return to Yellowstone with 3 nights at 3 Bear Lodge in W. Yellowstone. We will leave early for the day-long drive to West Glacier and are staying at the Apgar Village cabins in Glacier. We are considering moving over to one night in St. Mary, which will put us a little closer for the drive back to Bozeman.

Haven't done any of this before, but have read the postings and travel books. Many say it is too much in too little time, but seems doable. We are not big hikers, so much of our park experiences will be short walks from our car.

Best of luck with your trip.

utahtea Jan 5th, 2005 08:06 AM

I have camped at all three parks. I've never been in September, but I hear the weather can get pretty cold this time of the year. Go prepared.

Madison is my favorite campground in Yellowstone. The last time we were there, there were tent only loops. That said, we have stayed at Mammoth and Bridge Bay. Bridge Bay is closer to the showers in the park. All the campgrounds I've seen have sites really close together. The large campgrounds will take reservations and if you decide to move to one of the smaller campgrounds, I suggest getting up VERY early to move.

We've stayed at Colter Bay in the Tetons. It's a large campground but some of the sites have more room than others.

At Glacier we have camped at Aspar on the west side and St. Mary Campground on the east side. I prefer the west side to the east side. St. Mary campground didn't have much in the way of trees, mostly bushes. Aspar is more forested. I would be careful about other smaller high elevation campgrounds being so late in the year, I would think it would be colder at night.


KMK Jan 5th, 2005 08:49 AM

You've already gotten a ton of great information - I only have a few tidbits to add.

If you want a great, challenging day hike in the Tetons, do Table Mountain. You hike in from the Idaho side & summit directly across from Grand Teton for a spectacular view. It's not technically hard at all, just a very strenuous hike, but the altitude is up there, so bring plenty of water & appropriate clothing. You will see marmots, too, unfortunately I think people are feeding them so they run right out on the trail near the top. I believe this hike is actually mostly in the national forest, but eventually goes back into the national park.

Also, if you want to stay a night or two on the Idaho side, the condos associated with Grand Targhee ski resort are luxurious & dirt cheap outside of ski season. Call the resort for details.

If you like great Mexican, the best Mexican restaurant ever (IMHO) is in Driggs, ID, and darn it I can't remember the name! - it's not the fast-food type one with the order counter, but a sit-down one in a house with some outside dining as well. Terrific!

Also, near JH, Nora's Fish Creek Inn has the best breakfasts! Loved the Huevos Rancheros!

In Glacier, the Ptarmigan tunnel is neat, and would be open when you are there (unless there are bears!) and you will definitely have great views & see goats on the Highline (I think that's it) trail.

I haven't had the chance to do so myself, but if you aren't camping, you might take advantage of the ambience of staying in some of the old park lodges....

HowardR Jan 5th, 2005 09:04 AM

I, too, recommend Nora's Fish Creek Inn--for dinner as well as breakfast. Good food at reasonable prices. It's in the town of Wilson, a few miles from Jackson.
As for September weather, you're likely to get beautiful days and cool/cold nights. There is even a chance of snow. We had snow in Jackson on the 10th, which delayed our departure by 5 hours.

Photodog Jan 5th, 2005 04:03 PM

A couple of other things to consider. Some of the car rental places limit you to 850 miles without a per mile charge. That will not get you from Glacier to Yellowstone and allow much mileage for sightseeing.
You can make reservations at a couple of the campgrounds in Glacier through As Bob Brown mentioned Xanterra handles reservations at most of the larger campgrounds in Yellowstone. The park service run campgrounds - Slough Ck and Tower Jct to mention a couple fill early. If you want Slough Ck you will have to be there when someone pulls out of their site. Jenny Lake in the Tetons is the same way. I know of no reservations for any of the campgrounds in the Tetons.
There is an excellent shuttle service available in Glacier and into Waterton Lakes. Don't know of any in the other two parks mentioned.

Diz01 Jan 6th, 2005 05:51 AM

We were in Yellowstone and Grand Teton in early September this year.As others have said the weather does deteriorate quite rapidly. We were hiking in T-shirts and shorts one day - next day it snowed - a lot.

For day hikes with great views in Yellowstone we really enjoyed these: Mount Washburn, Bunsen Peak; Canyon South Rim. There are lots of others (and we spent 10 days hiking) but we felt the best hiking was in the north of the park (and definitely for peaks with views) but there are good ones in the south too. You could spend your entire vacation in this park alone.

In GT we felt there was about 4-5 days of day hiking - we did 3 of which the best was Cascade Canyon. But start early as the trail can get crowded.

aprildon6 Jan 31st, 2005 11:23 AM

i need some more help, if you don't mind. i am looking into the airfare/car rental situation. if we fly into kalispell and rent a car and drop if off at jackson hole, we are limited to 100 miles/day by all the rental agencies. i am wondering if it is stupid to fly into and our of jackson hole, and start out by driving from jackson hole to glacier and then to yellowstone and grand teton and back to jackson hole. this way we get unlimited mileage and they offer the minivan we want to rent. any advice? also, i was wondering about renting an RV in jackson hole and doing the same route. right now, the cost of car rental and camping is about $1000. i would imagine an RV would be much more expensive than 1K for 2 weeks. i couldn't find any info on RVs around jackson hole online. any advice?

thanks for the help. i'm at that stage where i am having trouble nailing down anything.

:) april

utahtea Jan 31st, 2005 11:54 AM

Cruise America is a well know RV rental dealer and they have a rental location in Jackson, Wyoming.

A motorhome for two weeks is going to run between $1,500 and $2,000. You can plug in your dates and get an estimate. The RV will be to large to drive over the "Going to the Sun" highway in Glacier.

On the rental car, you have to decide is the extra $$ for the one way rental worth having to drive back the 540 miles which will kill one day of your vacation. If you have plenty of vacation time and want to save money, then I would start and end in Jackson.

Also, if Jackson has the mini-van you want, then why not start there and end at Glacier?


aprildon6 Jan 31st, 2005 01:58 PM

hello utahtea,
thanks so much for your help. i really want to thank you for all the advice you gave me for my last trip, which was the the southwest - grand canyon, moab, bryce and zion. here's my trip site, if you want to check it out:

as far as going starting at grand teton and ending at glacier, everyone who responded seemed to think that grand teton would be a better ending. also, i was thinking that it might be better to get the longer drive out of the way first. we are planning on 4 nights in glacier, 6 nights in yellowstone and 4 nights in grand teton, so i think we can spend a day on the road. we really enjoyed being on the road during our other trip.

looks like the RV is out of our price range. we like camping though, so no biggie.

:) thanks again! you're awesome!

dadof3 Jan 31st, 2005 04:24 PM

We've hiked in these parks, and one of our favorites was Iceberg Trail from Many Glacier in Glacier. It's about 5 miles one way, not a lot of elevation, and worth every step. The wow factor at the end of Iceberg Trail was up there with Alaska.

I've started documenting our trips. Here was the most recent from summer 2004:

utahtea Jan 31st, 2005 09:17 PM


WOW, that's some trip report! Such detail and great pictures to boot!

I think I would want to do Glacier first too. We also like driving so I know you will enjoy that part too. If you can find the time, drive the Beartooth Highway 212 either on the way to or from Glacier.

Can't wait to see that trip report!


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