Julie United States 118 Comments

Grand Teton, Yellowstone, and Glacier National Parks are three of the top parks to visit in the United States. With 10 days, you can visit all of them on an epic road trip.

Start in Grand Teton, where the lakes and the jagged mountain range create a hiker’s and photographer’s paradise. Journey north to Yellowstone, a national park that is situated on top of the world’s largest supervolcano. The land literally hisses, steams, and bubbles while bison and elk roam the grasslands. Your road trip ends in Glacier National Park, one of the USA’s most beautiful national parks.

About this Itinerary

We have done this road trip several times. The first time was way back in 2001, before we had kids. Tim and I did a condensed version of this itinerary, cramming Grand Teton, Yellowstone, and Glacier into a 7-day road trip, with a quick detour through Idaho, for a total of 10 days.

In August 2019, Kara and I went on a “girl’s trip,” doing an almost identical itinerary to the one that we have listed here. Kara and I had a total of 11 days so we were able to add in Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada. At the end of this article, I’ll let you know how to do the same thing. It’s worth it if you have an extra day to spare.

Most recently, we spent one week in Jackson, Wyoming to hike the trails in Grand Teton National Park. On one of these days, we day tripped to Yellowstone. 

This itinerary is a one-way, point-to-point road trip. It can be done in the order outlined here or in reverse order. 

If you plan on flying in and out of the end points then we suggest looking at the flight cost plus rental car cost for following this itinerary in the order presented here and comparing that to the cost for following this itinerary in the reverse direction. Lodging availability could also be a factor in deciding which direction to travel.

If you will be driving back to your starting point then plan on adding on an extra day and hundreds of miles of driving to this itinerary.

Important Update for 2021: There are road construction projects in both Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks which will impact travel. In Yellowstone, Grand Loop Road is closed between Tower-Roosevelt and Canyon Junction. I wrote this itinerary so that you can still visit almost everything in Yellowstone without being impacted by this road closure. In Glacier, there are minor construction projects along Going-to-the-Sun Road and a major road construction project in Many Glacier. In Glacier National Park, the roads are open but major delays are to be expected. As of March 2021, the road into Many Glacier is projected to close on 9/17/21.

Lamar Valley Grand Teton Yellowstone and Glacier

Lamar Valley, Yellowstone

Best Time for This Road Trip

Due to snowfall and the road closures that come with it, there is a narrow window of time to do this road trip.

Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park is only open during the summer months (typically late June/early July through mid-October).

In Yellowstone, many roads close between mid-October and early November with re-openings occurring in stages between mid-April through mid-May.

Dates are very similar for Grand Teton. Teton Park Road is closed from November through mid-May.

At the end of this article, I give the links to each national park so you can get updates on park conditions and road closures.

Therefore, the best time for this road trip is from early July through mid-October, when all of the roads in each park will be open. This is also the busiest time to visit the national parks, so make your hotel or campsite reservations many months in advance and be prepared for big crowds. You still can visit these parks at other times of the year, but your activities are limited and getting around is a lot more difficult. 

If you don’t have to travel during the summer months, the end of September into October would be an awesome time to visit. Crowds will be lower and you could see some fall colors.

 


Teton Yellowstone PDFGet a Digital Download of this Itinerary

Do you want a printer friendly version of this itinerary? How about an eBook version of this itinerary that can be downloaded onto your computer or mobile device?

Our Grand Teton, Yellowstone, and Glacier National Parks itinerary eBook includes this full itinerary, with detailed daily schedules, insider tips, and travel planning resources. It is a 16-page version of this post that you can download to take with you or print at home.

Click here to purchase the eBook on Etsy.com.


 

Day 1

Arrive in Jackson, Wyoming

On the Road: 15 to 280 miles (30 minutes to 5 hours) depending upon the airport

There are three main airports near Jackson, Wyoming.

The closest airport is Jackson Hole Airport, which is located in the park. In fact, Jackson Hole Airport is the only commercial airport located within a national park. Flying into here will save you some driving today.

Idaho Falls Regional Airport is 94 miles away and is a 2-hour drive from Jackson. Salt Lake City International Airport is 280 miles away and it is almost a 5-hour drive to get to Jackson.

What We Did: We flew into Salt Lake City and drove up to Jackson, Wyoming in the afternoon. We picked Salt Lake City not only because we had a direct flight but also because flight costs were lower.

Spend the remainder of the day in Jackson. This is a cool little town, filled with great restaurants, art galleries, and boutique shops. You can even go to the rodeo. Don’t miss the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar and the Mangelsen Images of Nature Gallery.

For dinner, the Gun Barrel Steak & Game House is a popular spot. Our favorite restaurant in Jackson is Local Restaurant & Bar. Miazga’s has a wide range of food. Persephone’s Bakery is an awesome breakfast/brunch spot in town. Other great restaurants include Bin22, Liberty Burger, and Blue Lion.

Jackson Wyoming Grand Teton Yellowstone and Glacier

Where to Stay

Here are ideas of where to stay in and around Grand Teton National Park. You will stay here for two nights.

Inside the Park: There are numerous lodges and campgrounds available inside of the park. Click here to learn more about your options.

Jackson: From Jackson, it takes just 15 minutes to drive to Moose (the southern end of Grand Teton National Park) and 30 minutes to drive to Jenny Lake. With a large number of accommodations and restaurants, this is a great place to base yourself for visiting the park.

This is where we have stayed both times that we visited Grand Teton National Park.

Wyoming Inn at Jackson Hole. This is one of the highest rated hotels in Jackson. It is not located in the city center, so you will have to drive to the town square and park your car if you want to visit the heart of Jackson. But we loved the spacious room, excellent Wi-Fi, and comfy beds.

The Lodge at Jackson Hole. This hotel is located next door to the Wyoming Inn, mentioned above. We stayed here on our most recent visit. We had a great stay…the room was clean, very quiet, and comfortable. We liked the Wyoming Inn a little bit better but we wouldn’t hesitate to stay here again, especially since prices are a little lower. To get into the heart of Jackson, it is a short drive or a 20-minute walk.

Cowboy Village Resort. On our first visit to Grand Teton National Park, this is where Tim and I stayed. Western-style cabins come equipped with a private bathroom and a kitchenette.

The Wort Hotel. If you want an upscale experience in the city center of Jackson, the Wort Hotel gets rave reviews.

Teton Village at Jackson Hole: Ski resort by winter, outdoor playground by summer, this resort offers hotels and restaurants, plus gondolas, chair lifts, and a cable car that will whisk you up to Rendezvous Peak for stunning views over the Tetons. If you like the idea of staying in a resort town just outside of the park, this is a great place to consider.


Day 2

Grand Teton National Park

On the Road: 42 miles on the scenic loop plus extra driving time and distance depending on where you are staying

This is the first of two days in Grand Teton. Today, you will visit the most popular sites.

I recommend getting an early start. Not only will you get to tour the park crowd free, at least for a little bit, but you also get to see the park at sunrise.

Visit Mormon Row at sunrise and then spend the morning driving the 42-mile scenic loop drive. Schwabacher Landing, the Snake River Overlook, and Oxbow Bend are beautiful places to visit, and photograph, in the morning hours.

Grand Teton Itinerary

Grand Teton

As you head south, towards Jenny Lake, consider taking the detour up Signal Mountain for stunning views over the park.

The park gets extremely crowded midday. Rather than joining the crowds, I recommend leaving the park for a few hours. I know that sounds crazy but it actually works quite well. You can either ride the Aerial Tram to Rendezvous Peak at Teton Village or have lunch in Jackson. Read our one day Grand Teton itinerary for full details on how to do this.

Spend the afternoon in and around Jenny Lake. One of the most popular things to do in Grand Teton is to take the boat across Jenny Lake and hike up to Inspiration Point. Nearby, the walk around Leigh Lake is an easy, very pretty stroll. The hike out to Taggart Lake is longer but it’s also a very nice hike.

Inspiration Point Grand Teton Yellowstone and Glacier

For suggestions on how to plan your time today, read our post One Perfect Day in Grand Teton National Park. 

Tonight, sleep in Grand Teton National Park, Jackson, or Teton Village.


Day 3

Grand Teton & Yellowstone

On the Road: 140 miles, 3.5 hours

Today, spend the morning in Grand Teton and the afternoon in Yellowstone.

Grand Teton

Here are several ideas on how to spend the morning in Grand Teton:

  • Rent a canoe and spend an hour or two paddling around Jenny Lake. Kara and I did this at 7:30 am and we had the lake to ourselves. It was wonderful!
  • Visit the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve and Visitor Center and hike to Phelps Lake.
  • Take your pick from longer hikes in the park. Cascade Canyon, Lake Solitude, and Static Peak Divide are great hikes. These range from 10 to 15 miles, so they will take up most of the day, but if you are big into hiking, it would be worth it. You’ll have less time in Yellowstone so you will have to adjust this itinerary.

Canoe Jenny Lake

Midday, start the drive to Yellowstone. Along the way, you can make a quick visit to Jackson Lake, since you will drive right past it before exiting Grand Teton National Park. At Colter Bay Village, there is a gas station and restaurants, a great place to refuel your car and your own batteries before continuing on to Yellowstone.

At Colter Bay, you also have the option to walk the Lakeshore Trail. This flat, easy trail is 2 miles long, takes about 45-minutes, and offers decent views of Jackson Lake.

Yellowstone

Head north into Yellowstone National Park. It’s a relatively short drive. From Colter Bay, it is less than 20 miles to the South Entrance of Yellowstone National Park (about a 30-minute drive).

Spend the afternoon at the Midway Geyser Basin. It is here that you will see the Grand Prismatic Spring, the most colorful hot spring in the park. At Midway Geyser Basin, you can get right up to it, while walking on raised boardwalk trails.

Yellowstone Hot Spring

 

Just a few miles away is the Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook. This is a jaw-dropping view of the hot spring and a must-do on a trip to Yellowstone.

Yellowstone Itinerary

From here, you have the option to hike to Fairy Falls, one of the tallest waterfalls in Yellowstone.

Where to Stay

Ideally, stay in the park. This will minimize how much driving you will do. However, reservations for the park lodges need to be made months in advance (as much as 6 to 12 months in advance!).

PRO TRAVEL TIP: Consider staying in two different locations while you visit Yellowstone. Yellowstone is enormous so it can save you time, and driving, by staying in two separate locations. However, if you get lucky enough to get a room or a campsite at Canyon Village (a relatively central location within Yellowstone), you can spend every night here.

If you stay within the park, the Old Faithful Inn is the most convenient place to stay tonight.

If you are not lucky enough to get a room at the Old Faithful Inn, you should be able to get a room at a hotel in West Yellowstone. This is where we stayed and we booked our trip last minute. Kara and I stayed at the Kelly Inn and ate dinner at Café Madriz, a great tapas restaurant.

PRO TRAVEL TIP:  For recommended hotels and locations, both inside and outside of Yellowstone National Park, read our article Where to Stay in Yellowstone.  

Old Faithful Inn Grand Teton Yellowstone and Glacier

Old Faithful Inn

Important Update for 2021: There are planned road closures on Grand Loop Road between Tower-Roosevelt and Canyon Junction. This section of road will be completely closed until May 2022. Get the full details on the national park service website. I have made some changes to this original itinerary because of this road closure.


Day 4

Hot Springs, Old Faithful & Hayden Valley

On the road: 75 miles, 2 hours (if you stay at Old Faithful or Canyon Village); if you stay in West Yellowstone, add 40 miles and 1.75 hours onto this driving estimate for a total of 115 miles, 3.75 hours

Geyser Basins

If you look at Yellowstone on a map, you will see that the roads make two loops through the park. Today, you will see the sights along the southern loop. This is the area of Yellowstone with the highest concentration of geysers and hot springs, including the famous Old Faithful geyser.

Starting near Midway Geyser Basin, you will hop from geyser basin to geyser basin. Visit Fountain Paint Pot Trail and Biscuit Basin first thing in the morning.

Thermal Pool Grand Teton Yellowstone and Glacier

Old Faithful and Upper Geyser Basin

The highlight of the day is the visit to Old Faithful, the world’s most famous geyser.

There are three different ways to view an eruption of Old Faithful: take a seat on the boardwalk that surrounds the geyser, hike to Observation Point for a bird’s eye view, or grab a seat at the viewing deck at the Old Faithful Inn.

Old Faithful erupts roughly every ninety minutes, so there’s a good chance that you could catch two eruptions while you are here.

Old Faithful Grand Teton Yellowstone and Glacier

After the first eruption, spend some time exploring the Upper Geyser Basin and Geyser Hill. Within one square mile, there are over 150 geothermal features here, making this one of the best spots in the park to see geysers, hot springs, and thermal pools. It takes about 2 hours to thoroughly explore this area. Get full details on what to see and do at Upper Geyser Basin in our Guide to the Geyser Basins.

Morning Glory Grand Teton Yellowstone and Glacier

Morning Glory Pool

A visit to Old Faithful, combined with Upper Geyser Basin, typically lasts three hours.

Near the Old Faithful Inn, you will also find restrooms, gift shops, a convenience store, and restaurants, so this is the perfect place to grab lunch.

West Thumb Geyser Basin & Hayden Valley

Once you are finished at Old Faithful, continue your drive counter-clockwise around the lower loop. Make a quick stop at West Thumb Geyser Basin and then continue onto Hayden Valley. Keep your fingers crossed that the bison are hanging out along the road side (the first day Kara and I did this, we only saw two bison next to the road…the main herd were tiny specks way off in the distance).

West Thumb Geyser Basin Grand Teton Yellowstone and Glacier

West Thumb Geyser Basin

 Bison

Hayden Valley

If the bison are hanging out along the road, expect big traffic jams here. It can take 30 to 60 minutes to drive through the valley in this situation.

Stay Safe: Do not get out of your car to get a closer view of the bison. These animals look slow but they can move fast and have been known to charge at people. Pull into a turnout and view the bison from your car. Not only are you staying safe but you are also not blocking traffic. If you have an SUV with a sunroof, pop your head out of the sunroof and enjoy the view.

Where to Stay

In the park: Canyon Village is the best location to stay within the park.

Outside of the park: West Yellowstone

For more information about Yellowstone National Park, click here to read our Guide to Yellowstone National Park. Get important travel planning tips, sample itineraries, advice on when to go, where to stay, and more.


Day 5

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone & Norris Geyser Basin

On the Road: 38 miles, 90 minutes if you stay at Canyon Village; 90 miles, 3 hours if you start in West Yellowstone and end in Gardiner

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

Spend the morning at Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. The Yellowstone River carved out this canyon. Stretching along each side of the river are scenic overlooks and hiking trails. You can either walk the rim trail or drive to each overlook.

I recommend starting on the North Rim. If you get here in the morning, before 9 am, traffic should be light enough that you can drive to each overlook. Visit Brink of the Lower Falls, where you can get up close to Lower Falls. Of the overlooks on the North Rim, Lookout Point and Inspiration Point were our favorites.


For more details on visiting the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, don’t miss our best things to do in Yellowstone post.


On the South Rim, the highlights are Artist Point (one of the most iconic views in all of Yellowstone) and Uncle Tom’s Trail.

Artist Point

Artist Point

A visit to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone will take all morning.

Norris Geyser Basin

From the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, it is a short drive to Norris Geyser Basin. Similar to Upper Geyser Basin, this is another large collection of geothermal features.

Norris Geyser Basin

Norris Geyser Basin

PRO TRAVEL TIP: If you are staying at Grand Canyon Village, you can take a midday break at your lodge or campsite. Go back out at 3:00 or 4:00 pm, when crowds start to quiet down. It is possible to do this if you are also staying outside of the park but you will do a lot more driving.

Artist Paintpots

Just south of Norris Geyser Basin is Artists Paintpots, a small area that contains several hot springs and mud pots. This is a great place to visit in the afternoon. On this 1 mile loop, you get to see more bubbling mud pots and hot springs. We loved the view from the upper boardwalk.

If you still have free time this afternoon, consider driving back to Hayden Valley to see the bison. 

Where to Stay

In the Park: Canyon Village is the best place to stay in the park, Mammoth is also a good option. 

Outside of the park: Gardiner, Montana

Gardiner, Montana is located just outside of Yellowstone, north of Mammoth. This is a cute little town with a small assortment of restaurants and hotels. To get into the park, it’s a bit of drive. I know, because we did this a lot. We spent three nights in Gardiner.

We stayed at the Yellowstone Gateway Inn and I highly recommend it. We had a one-bedroom apartment with a full kitchen. It was clean, it was quiet, and we loved having the space and the ability to cook our own food. There is a grocery store within walking distance of the hotel. Yes, it feels like a long drive to get into the park, but since we booked our trip so late, we were lucky to get this.

Gardiner Montana

Gardiner, Montana


Day 6

Mammoth, Tower Fall, and Lamar Valley

On the road: 105 miles, 3 hours if you start at Canyon Village and end at Mammoth; 66 miles, 2 hours if you stay in Mammoth both nights; 80 miles, 3 hours if you stay in Gardiner both nights

Spend the morning at Mammoth Hot Springs.

Mammoth Hot Springs

Midday, if you have a 4×4, you have the option to take the scenic detour on Blacktail Plateau Drive. This 7-mile, one-way dirt road heads parallel along the Grand Loop Road between Mammoth and Tower. If you get lucky, you can spot bison, elk, and bear. It’s a fun, enjoyable ride with beautiful scenery.

End the day at Lamar Valley. This is the best spot to view wildlife in Yellowstone. Elk, bison, pronghorn deer, bear, coyotes, and wolves can all make appearances. The best time for wildlife viewing is in the morning and evening, so time your visit for the end of the day.

Lamar Valley Yellowstone

Where to Stay

In the park: Mammoth is the best place to stay in the park. Tomorrow, you will head north out of Yellowstone. If you stay in Mammoth, you will eliminate an hour of the drive and you will avoid the road closures on Grand Loop Road. It means reserving another hotel room or campsite but it is worth the time savings.

Outside of the park: Gardiner, MT


Day 7

Drive to Glacier National Park

On the road: 394 miles, 6.5 hours from Gardiner, MT to Many Glacier

This is the biggest driving day of the trip. It takes almost six and a half hours to drive from Gardiner, MT to Many Glacier. If you are staying in Canyon Village in Yellowstone, add another hour onto this drive.

There are several regions in Glacier National Park. On this itinerary you will visit two of them: Many Glacier and the heart of the park around Going-to-the-Sun Road. In order to maximize your time in the park, you will stay in both areas.

It’s worth staying in Many Glacier. This is a beautiful, sometimes overlooked region of the park that many people skip on a quick visit to Glacier.

Important Update for 2021: There are numerous road construction projects in and outside of the park. The road to Many Glacier will be open, but due to a major construction project, expect delays of up to 40 minutes. The road to Many Glacier will close on 9/17/21. There is also road construction near St. Mary and along Going-to-the-Sun Road, which could cause minor delays. Visit the NPS website for full details.

On this itinerary, you will visit Many Glacier first. By ending near West Glacier and Going-to-the-Sun Road, you will be much closer to the airports near Kalispell.

Below is a map of the drive. The first half is fast, since you are mainly on highways. The second half is more scenic and feels much more remote, now that you are on smaller, country roads.

There are gas stations all along the route, although they become sparse once you get north of Helena. Before entering Glacier National Park, refill your tank in Babb.

Optional Detour: Butte, Montana

If you don’t mind a little extra driving, you can add on a quick visit to Butte, Montana. Tour the World Museum of Mining and/or take the bus trip up to see Our Lady of the Rockies. Grab a pork chop sandwich at Pork Chop John’s before hitting the road again.

Butte Mining Town

Many Glacier

Most likely you will arrive to Many Glacier in the mid-afternoon. You can either relax in the lobby of the Many Glacier Hotel or go on a short hike. Apikuni Falls is a 2-mile hike to a waterfall and it is located a short drive from Many Glacier Hotel.

Many Glacier

Many Glacier Hotel

Where to Stay

In the park: Many Glacier Hotel or the Swiftcurrent Motor Lodge

Outside of the park: St. Mary Village. This lodge is located next to the St. Mary Entrance of Glacier National Park. To get to Many Glacier, it is a 30-minute drive. If you stay here, expect big delays driving into the park because of road construction.


Day 8

Many Glacier

On the road: 0 to 5 miles, if you stay in Many Glacier

Many Glacier is one of Glacier National Park’s best spots for hiking. Since these hikes all come in at around 10 miles, you will only have the time for one. Grinnell Glacier and Iceberg Lake are the most popular hikes, but there are literally ten more hikes to choose from.

Glacier National Park Itinerary

Hiking to Grinnell Glacier

Kara and I hiked Grinnell Glacier and it was amazing. This hike has it all…alpine scenery, waterfalls, emerald green lakes, wildflowers, and of course, a glacier. On this hike we spotted moose, mountain goats, and a black bear with her cub. The wildlife sightings and the gorgeous scenery made this one of our favorite experiences in Glacier National Park.

If you are not a big hiker, ride the boat across Swiftcurrent and Josephine Lakes. You have the chance to spot moose right from the boat.

Where to Stay

Same accommodation as last night (Many Glacier Hotel, Swiftcurrent Motor Inn, or St. Mary Village)


Day 9

Going-to-the-Sun Road

On the road: 70 miles, 2.5 hours from Many Glacier to West Glacier

This just might be the moment you have been anticipating this entire trip…the scenic drive along Going-to-the-Sun Road.

For the best experience, you need to get a very early start today. Ideally, time your visit so you arrive at Logan Pass by 7:45 am. I know it is early, but if you want a parking space, that’s the latest I recommend getting here. During our visit, we got one of the last parking spaces right at 7:45 am (so getting here even earlier is better).

To get from Many Glacier to Logan Pass, it is a one-hour drive. Extra time for photos along the way can add 15 to 30 minutes. Ideally, plan on leaving Many Glacier by 6:15 am.

PRO TRAVEL TIP: If you will be visiting the park between May 28 and September 6, you will need a timed entry ticket to drive Going-to-the-Sun Road. Learn more here.

From Many Glacier, you will exit the park and re-enter at St. Mary. As you drive to Logan Pass, there are numerous turn outs where you can stop and enjoy the view. One of the highlights is the view of Wild Goose Island at Wild Goose Island Lookout.

Wild Goose Island

Logan Pass

Now that you are at Logan Pass, you have several options on how to spend your morning. The most popular thing to do here is the short hike to Hidden Lake Overlook. This hike is 3-miles long and takes about an hour and a half.

Hidden Lake Glacier

If you are looking to add on an epic day hike, consider the Highline Trail. This is an 11.6-mile point-to-point hike. The trail literally clings to the cliffs above Going-to-the-Sun Road and you will be treated to some of the best views of this part of the hike. This is our favorite hike in Glacier.

Highline Trail

Hiking Glacier NP

Going-to-the-Sun Road

From Logan Pass, continue the drive towards West Glacier. In my opinion, this stretch of Going-to-the-Sun Road, from Logan Pass to the Loop, is the most spectacular. Traffic usually crawls here, but that’s OK, it just gives you more time to enjoy the views. There are turn outs where you can safely get out of your car to enjoy the view and take photos.

Avalanche Lake

As you continue the drive to West Glacier, you will pass the trailhead for the Trail of the Cedars and Avalanche Lake. Combining these two trails is one of the most popular hikes to do in the park. 

The Trail of the Cedars is a 1-mile boardwalk and gravel trail that winds its way through a thick forest of cedars.

Trail of the Cedars

The hike to Avalanche Lake starts at the Trail of the Cedars. This hike is 4.5 miles round trip and is more strenuous.

Avalanche Lake

Finally, before you exit the park, you will pass Lake McDonald.

Where to Stay

This is a full day of sightseeing, especially if you added the Highline Trail. To minimize your driving today, stay near Lake McDonald or in West Glacier. If you have an early flight tomorrow, stay closer to Glacier Park International Airport, either in Whitefish or Kalispell.

In the park: Lake McDonald Lodge or the Village Inn at Apgar Village

Outside of the park: In West Glacier, we stayed at the Great Northern Resort. This place is wonderful. We had an enormous room with two beds, air conditioning, and great Wi-Fi.

In Whitefish, we stayed at the Best Western Rocky Mountain Lodge and also had a great experience. From here it was a short drive to Glacier Park International Airport.

For more information about Glacier National Park, read our Guide to Glacier National Park. Get important travel planning tips, sample itineraries, advice on when to go, where to stay, and more.


Day 10

Fly Home

Fly home from Glacier Park International Airport or continue your road trip.


How to Modify this Itinerary

With Less Time

If you want to visit Grand Teton, Yellowstone, and Glacier National Parks but don’t have a full 10 days, what should you eliminate?

To make this a 9-day itinerary, remove one day from Yellowstone. If you don’t mind early starts to your days, and making them a little bit busier, you can still see everything we have listed in two and a half action packed days in Yellowstone. Ideally, stay in the park to minimize your driving.

To make this an 8-day itinerary, drive directly to Yellowstone on day 3 of this itinerary. This eliminates a half day from Grand Teton and a half day from Yellowstone. Now, you only have two days in Yellowstone so you will have to skip several of Yellowstone’s top sights.

To make this a 7-day itinerary, take one day from Glacier. Now that you only have one day in Glacier, I recommend spending it on Going-to-the-Sun Road, the best experience if this is your first time in the park.

Sample 7 Day Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Jackson
Day 2: Grand Teton
Day 3: Drive directly to Yellowstone, visit the Grand Prismatic Spring and Old Faithful/Midway Geyser Basin
Day 4: Yellowstone: Grand Canyon and Lamar Valley
Day 5: Drive to Glacier
Day 6: Glacier
Day 7: Fly home

With More Time

If you have one or more days to add to this itinerary (lucky you!), here is what we recommend.

Waterton Lakes National Park, Canada

Waterton Lakes National Park sits just across the border from Glacier National Park in the United States. With beautiful lakes, jagged mountains, thrilling hiking trails, and a small town to explore, this is a smaller, laid-back version of Glacier National Park.

Waterton Lakes

One day is really all you need to see this park. Go hiking or biking or take a boat tour of Waterton Lake.

Visit Waterton Lakes from Many Glacier. For the best experience, consider staying one night in Waterton, although you can also visit Waterton Lakes on a day trip from Many Glacier.

Add More Time to the Parks

With more time, add your extra days to any of these three parks. If you like hiking, more time in Grand Teton and Glacier would be great.

Planning Your Trip

Hotel/Campsite Reservations

Here is where I recommend you stay. For a trip in the summer, make your reservations far in advance (6 to 12 months before your trip to get a room at any of the national park lodges).

Day 1 & 2 (Grand Teton): Jackson, Wyoming
Day 3 (Yellowstone): Old Faithful Inn (1st choice); Canyon Village (2nd choice); West Yellowstone (3rd choice)
Day 4 (Yellowstone): Canyon Village (1st choice); Old Faithful Inn (2nd choice); West Yellowstone (3rd choice)
Day 5 (Yellowstone): Canyon Village (1st choice); Mammoth (2nd choice); Gardiner MT (3rd choice)
Day 6 (Yellowstone): Mammoth (1st choice); Gardiner MT (second choice)
Day 7 (Drive to Glacier): Many Glacier Hotel (1st choice); Swiftcurrent Motor Inn (2nd choice); St. Mary Village (3rd choice)
Day 8 (Glacier): Many Glacier Hotel (1st choice); Swiftcurrent Motor Inn (2nd choice); St. Mary Village (3rd choice)
Day 9 (Glacier): Stay in West Glacier or Whitefish

National Park Fees

Here are the fees to enter each park. When you pay the entrance fee, it is valid for 7 days.

Grand Teton NP: $35
Yellowstone NP: $35
Glacier NP: $35

Grand Total: $105

America the Beautiful Pass

If you have plans to visit Grand Teton, Yellowstone, and Glacier National Parks, it is worth it to purchase the America the Beautiful Pass. This annual park pass costs $80 and is valid for one year. Not only will you save money on park fees for this trip but you will also get free admission to any other national park or federal recreation sites that you visit within 365 days of purchasing this pass.

Purchase your pass at the first national park that you visit (in this case, at Grand Teton) or you can get it online.

Click here to learn more. 

Important Links for Grand Teton, Yellowstone, and Glacier

Here are the links to each national park website. Check park conditions and road closures as you are planning your trip and again just before you go.

 


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Comments 118

  1. Hi Julie,
    Is this doable in one day?
    Day3-Starting from Jackson-Grand Teton-West thumb-Hayden valley-Gardiner? I will follow your itinerary for first 2 days. It will be a drive thru with brief stops.
    I have two nights booking in Gardiner. Is it possible to accommodate Bear tooth pass (turn around halfway)?
    I would appreciate your opinion.
    Thanks!

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      Author

      Yes, your day 3 itinerary works great. You might even be able to visit Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone after Hayden Valley, if you are doing well on time. With the road closure, you will have to take Highway 89 to get to Gardiner.

      It is possible to drive Beartooth Pass from Gardiner. It will be about a 5 hour round trip drive, but you will also go through Lamar Valley. You could do this in the afternoon of your 2nd day in Yellowstone. In the morning, I recommend Old Faithful and Grand Prismatic Spring, but it will be a big driving day. Cheers, Julie

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      Author

      I’m unfortunately hearing a lot of that lately. If you can’t get a rental car, you could look into car sharing. There are apps/programs where people will rent their car. I have no experience with it but I know it exists. The only issue would be getting the car back to your starting point. Otherwise, you could look into flying in and out of a different airport where the rental car stock might be better. Salt Lake City is an option as a starting point. Good luck! Cheers, Julie

  2. Hi, Thank you for this very helpful itinerary and information.
    My husband and I just started looking into a trip to the 3 parks for this September and sadly realized we may be too late in planning as many lodges seemed to be full already or not opening at full capacity yet due to the pandemic. In addition the road closures in Yellowstone and Glacier have added to our possible postponing of our trip to September of 2022. Any thoughts? Should we allow things to fully recover and reopen and give ourselves more time and options for a 2022 trip or keep trying to plan for this fall. We are very disappointed that we wouldn’t go this fall but as first time visitors we want it to be a great experience and are willing to wait.

    1. Post
      Author

      Yes, I think you should wait, if you don’t have your trip planned yet. These three national parks are going to be extremely crowded this summer and early fall. This is an awesome road trip and it would be worth postponing it. The road closure in Yellowstone is supposed to last until sometime in 2022. That road closure is not a major deal, because you can still see and do almost everything, just with some extra driving. But planning now would allow you to get lodging in the parks.

      I think that most of the US national parks are going to set visitation records this year. People want to travel and be outside, and those who would be traveling internationally will still be in the US. I have a hunch that the US national parks will be less crowded in 2022 than 2021, as long as people around the world can get vaccinated and international travel starts to return to normal in early 2022. Cheers, Julie

  3. Hi Julie, thank you for the detailed itinerary! I plan to follow your itinerary to do my Master’s degree graduation trip! How exciting!
    However, when I search for rental cars, I can not find any in Idaho Fall’s airport or Jackson Hole’s airport. Also not sure if we can return the car back to Glacier International Airport.
    Any rental car companies suggestions?
    Thank you so much!

    1. Post
      Author

      Congratulations on your Masters Degree! Other places to check would be Salt Lake City or Bozeman. If you can’t take the rental car point to point, Bozeman is a good option, since it is located between Yellowstone and Glacier. When we did this, we started in SLC and ended at Glacier (this was August 2019). The rental car situation is terrible this year throughout the USA so I hope you can find a place with cars. Cheers, Julie

  4. Hey there! thanks so much for sharing this itinerary. We will be doing this in reverse since will do in mid September and have to do Glacier first before the road closes. I am a little confused on how to do it in reverse though. Will the entire day be reversed since it’s all based on driving? So for Day 1 being last day, would we have to do jenny lake in the AM and Mormon row in the afternoon?

    1. Post
      Author

      Some days will be reversed (the days when you are driving between two hotels) and some days won’t change much. On day 1, arrive at Glacier and stay on the west side of the park. On your day 2 (which is day 9 of this itinerary and one of the most challenging days to reverse the order), I recommend going right to Logan Pass, if you want to hike the Highline Trail. Do the hike, backtrack to see Avalanche Lake, then drive back across Going to the Sun Road, see St. Mary Falls and Wild Goose Island, and then get settled into your lodging on the east side of the park. On day 3 (originally day 8), hike in Many Glacier. On day 4, drive to Yellowstone. And then keep following and adjusting the itinerary accordingly. For day 8 (originally day 2), you will do this day exactly how it is written, since it starts and ends in Jackson. Cheers, Julie

      1. I cannot thank you enough for responding to me and helping me! I was very overwhelmed trying to reverse this without understanding the layout of the parks. . THANK YOU!!

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          Author
  5. Thanks for this, very helpful information!! I am considering to do this in late August but I have a quick question, how difficult is the road ? I live in a big city and do not drive much in zig zag mountains roads so wondering how is it? Thanks!

    1. Post
      Author

      Throughout this itinerary, the roads are very easy to drive. The only road that could be challenging is Going to the Sun Road in Glacier NP, since it is windy and narrow in spots. But don’t let that discourage you…it is a beautiful drive…one of the best in the USA. Cheers, Julie

  6. Hi Julie,

    I am looking into visiting Grand Teton, Yellowstone, and Glacier but only visiting Going to the Sun road. Is there anyway to do a day trip to Waterton Lakes without having to drive a ridiclous amount of miles, or does it make more sense to just visit many glacier and do it from there? Thanks, Rishi

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      Author

      To get to Waterton Lakes, the best way to do it is to drive from the east side of Glacier National Park, so staying in Many Glacier or St. Mary is best. If you stay on the west side of Glacier, you will have to cut across the park and drive north to Canada and it would be a very long drive. Cheers, Julie

  7. Hello, Thank you for this detailed itinerary. This is helping me a lot to plan my July trip to Teton, Yellowstone and Glacier. I was wondering if you have suggestions for grab and go Breakfast and lunch. Do OF snow lodge serve to-go lunch? Are there any deli on the way to Mammoth?

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      Author

      There is a general store that is located almost right next to the Old Faithful Lodge where you can get grab and go food. They sell drinks, sandwiches, and all kinds of snack food. On the way to Mammoth, there isn’t any food on the way, unless you drive into West Yellowstone or Canyon Village, but you will be going well out of your way. What we do is purchase a small cooler at the start of the trip (from a local grocery store) and fill this each morning with food, rather than stopping or detouring for lunch. If you are staying at OF Lodge or in this area, you will probably find enough to eat at the General Store. Cheers, Julie

  8. This looks amazing, we may also do this trip this summer. Any suggestions for lakes to go on a boat and do some fishing? My husband is turning 50 and loives the national parks, but also loves fishing! Any suggestions would be appreciated.

    Thank you!

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      Author
  9. Hello! Thank you so much for all of this helpful information. We are planning to make this trip in late July/early August of this year with our 4 adult children. We will be flying into Salt Lake City and making the drive on the evening we land (Friday, July 30). We are looking for a fairly inexpensive place to stay for our first night since we will be getting in late and will be out the door early the next morning. I am just trying to figure out the best location to stay on our first night before heading out to Grand Teton the following morning. I see availability in Victor, Jackson and Moran. Would Jackson be the best starting point? Thanks for any advice you can give!

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      Author

      Hello Kristen. Thanks for writing in. A lot of people stay in Victor because it is cheaper. We like Jackson for multi-night stays because we like the vibe and the restaurants. Moran is more centrally located…it will be a longer time to get here but you will do a little less driving the first day in Grand Teton. If you plan to stay 2 nights, as it is written in this itinerary, a second night would work well, too. It just depends if you want to spend a little bit of time in Jackson. So, you can’t go wrong with any of them…I guess it would also depend on how nice the accommodations are in each place. Cheers, Julie

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