Moon Montana & Wyoming: With Yellowstone, Grand Teton & Glacier National Parks

Road Trips, Outdoor Adventures, Wildlife Viewing


By Carter G. Walker

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Moon Montana & Wyoming guides you to the best of the old west, revealing the untold adventures that await under the vast country sky. Inside you'll find:
  • Strategic, flexible itineraries for visiting both states, including Yellowstone, Glacier, and Grand Teton National Parks, curated for outdoor adventurers, history buffs, and more
  • The best road trips in Montana and Wyoming, from a 14-day Greater Yellowstone loop to a 7-day Glacier road trip
  • Must-see highlights and outdoor adventures: Hit the road to see the stunning scenery of the national parks, and stop in towns where the Old West is alive and well. Spot wildlife like wolves, elk, moose, bison, and black bears, go whitewater rafting or kayaking, or drive the famed Going-to-the-Sun Road. Hike to roaring waterfalls, breathtaking vistas, and secluded lakes. Learn about the region's important Native American history, discover authentic cowboy culture, or sample the best of western cuisine in Jackson Hole
  • Honest advice from former wilderness guide and longtime Montana local Carter G. Walker on where to stay, where to eat, and how to get around
  • Full-color photos and detailed maps throughout
  • Background information on the landscape, wildlife, history, and local culture
With Moon Montana & Wyoming's practical advice and local insight, you can plan your trip your way.

Focusing on the national parks? Try Moon Glacier National Park or Moon Yellowstone & Grand Teton.

About Moon Travel Guides: Moon was founded in 1973 to empower independent, active, and conscious travel. We prioritize local businesses, outdoor recreation, and traveling strategically and sustainably. Moon Travel Guides are written by local, expert authors with great stories to tell—and they can't wait to share their favorite places with you.

For more inspiration, follow @moonguides on social media.


A cowboy at the Miles City Bucking Horse Sale

relics of Montana’s agricultural heritage

DISCOVER Montana & Wyoming


Planning Your Trip


The 14-Day Greater Yellowstone Loop


Seven-Day Glacier Road Trip



Cowboys, Hot Springs, and Wide-Open Spaces



fall in Wyoming.

The dramatic landscapes of Montana and Wyoming—from soaring mountains and narrow valleys to sweeping plains—were carved over eons by water, wind, fire, and ice. The culture was also shaped by conflict: between those who were from here and those who were not; those who valued the land itself and those who sought its riches, which today include open space, recreational opportunities, and plain old natural beauty. Although their distinct histories—both natural and cultural—are evident everywhere, not just tucked away in dusty museums, these states continue to redefine themselves. Wyoming’s Tetons thrust skyward at the rate of an inch or so each year. Montana’s blue-ribbon trout streams, tumbling and falling, etch themselves ever deeper into green and gold valleys. The populations are perpetually shifting too, bringing new ideas, new conflicts, new residents, and an evolving culture.

Montana is as vast as the big sky that blankets it, rich with natural resources—fertile soil, rivers, coal, gold, forests, wind—and overflowing with beauty. From Glacier National Park to the Little Bighorn, its sites are enchanting, and sometimes haunting. Its communities are diverse too, with pioneer traditions embraced by new generations of transplants in cities like Whitefish, where ski bums and artists mingle with fifth-generation ranchers. Then there are tiny towns like Loma, at the confluence of the Milk and Marias Rivers, where the headline is still that Lewis and Clark camped just south of town in 1805. Montana’s cities make us aware of the constant and exponential growth in the American West, while little dots on the map like Loma give us hope for its almost magical timelessness.

skiing in Montana’s Snowbowl

fresh flowers at a farmers market

Yellowstone’s Grand Prismatic Spring

Embodied by the bucking bronco on its license plates, Wyoming is a child’s cowboy fantasy come to life, with rodeos aplenty and dude ranches where even city slickers can try their hand at riding and roping. But what strikes people most about Wyoming is its authenticity. The harsh climate and isolation that make Wyoming the least populated state in the union result in an uncommon grace in its residents. It’s expressed not just in the weathered creases on their faces but in the way they do business and welcome visitors. There is glitz here too, in places like Jackson Hole and Cody, but it doesn’t distract from the essence of Wyoming. Those towns are but a flash of silver, the shiny buckle on a well-worn belt.

Separated by history, culture, and sometimes even politics, Montana and Wyoming are still agreeable neighbors, bound together by the forces of nature that make them so captivating.

Mormon Row in Grand Teton National Park

cutthroat trout, the state fish of Wyoming.

grizzly bear in Glacier National Park


1 Spot Wildlife in Yellowstone National Park: Yellowstone is a wonderland of wildlife. Visit Lamar Valley for the chance to see bears, bison, and bighorn sheep. This is also the best place to look for wolves.

2 Hike in Glacier National Park: Glacier is a hiker’s paradise. Head to the west side of the park to explore its beloved trails.

3 Go on an Adventure in Grand Teton National Park: With the towering Tetons a near constant backdrop, the land here lends itself to superb outdoor recreation.

4 Visit a Dude Ranch: From rustic to luxe, there are dude ranches across the West where guests can saddle up and ride for their supper—or just ride to their heart’s content.

5 Go Skiing: Skiing in Montana and Wyoming is a win-win: phenomenal terrain without the lines of big-name places. Hit up a ski resort like Whitefish Mountain Resort or Maverick Mountain, or stay in a true ski town, like Jackson Hole.

6 Take to the River: Kayak or canoe on Oxbow Bend in Grand Teton, go white-water rafting on the Snake River, or try fishing at the Big Hole River.

7 Scenic Drives: The journey is the main event on Going-to-the-Sun Road (pictured), Chief Joseph Scenic Highway, and Cloud Peak Skyway.

8 Learn about Indigenous Cultures: With seven reservations scattered across Montana, and one in Wyoming, you can go to powwows, visit museums, and learn about Indigenous traditions.

9 Soak in the Hot Springs: From resort-style pools and thermally heated rivers to entire towns built on hot springs, this region offers infinite ways to take a dip.

10 See the Glaciers—While You Still Can: Head to Glacier National Park’s sublime Many Glacier and Grinnell Glacier (pictured) before they’re gone.

Planning Your Trip

Where to Go
Billings and the Big Open

Beyond Billings, the state’s largest and most industrial city, much of eastern Montana is made up of small but tightly knit communities separated by vast swaths of wide-open country. It’s also where four of the state’s seven Indian reservations can be found. The landscapes are varied and dramatic—from the rimrocks in Billings and the rolling hills around the Little Bighorn Battlefield to the badlands of Makoshika State Park outside Glendive.

Great Falls and the Rocky Mountain Front

The vast plains erupt into soaring peaks along the Rocky Mountain Front. The Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex is one of the most spectacular and isolated mountainous areas in the Lower 48. Tiny towns like Choteau and Fort Benton offer a charming sense of community, along with fascinating sites like dinosaur mecca Egg Mountain and lovely historic hotels. Straddling the division between mountains and plains, Great Falls boasts two of the state’s best museums: the C. M. Russell Museum and Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Interpretive Center.

Jagged peaks soar skyward from this Wyoming basin.

Glacier National Park

Known as the “Crown of the Continent,” Glacier National Park embodies the Montana you’ve always imagined: rugged mountains piercing the sky, crystalline lakes and plunging waterfalls, abundant wildlife, gravity-defying roads, and miles upon miles of trails. For now, the park still lays claim to 25 glaciers.

Missoula and Western Montana

Western Montana shows off with lush green mountain ranges and towering forests. In the far north, Whitefish is the ultimate mountain town, a skier’s paradise. Just south, glittering Flathead Lake is Montana’s Riviera, with sprawling mansions and luxurious lodges at water’s edge. The tiny hamlet of Bigfork serves up a surprisingly fine selection of both culture and cuisine, not to mention recreation. The scenic National Bison Range in Moiese can be visited en route to Missoula, a cultural hub and home of the University of Montana, with great restaurants and better bars. In the southwest corner of the state, the Bitterroot Valley combines a rich history with world-class fly-fishing.

Butte, Helena, and Southwest Montana

This corner of the state wears its history like a badge of honor in mining towns like Bannack, Virginia City, and Nevada City. Some of the other towns that survived the unforgiving boom-and-bust cycles include charming Victorian Philipsburg and Butte, and Helena, the venerable state capital. Then there is the sweeping Big Hole Valley, with picturesque ranches and rivers to fish, and the Big Hole National Battlefield, one of the most haunting battle sites in the state.

Bozeman and the Gateway to Yellowstone

The communities surrounding Yellowstone offer a diverse range of experiences. From skiing, fishing, and an abundance of outdoor adventures in the booming college town of Bozeman to the art and culinary scenes just over the pass in Livingston, the area’s culture is as rich as its landscape. Big Sky and Red Lodge offer year-round resorts with ample skiable terrain and some terrific places to stay.

Yellowstone National Park

This magnificent park is constantly in motion; nothing here is static. See abundant wildlife, including bison, elk, bears, and wolves; marvel at geothermal features like Old Faithful; and stay in historic lodges like the Old Faithful Inn and rambling Lake Yellowstone Hotel. Perimeter communities, including West Yellowstone, Gardiner, and remote Cooke City, should not be missed.

Castle Geyser in the Upper Geyser Basin of Yellowstone National Park

Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton packs a punch, particularly when it comes to mountain splendor. Twelve peaks in the Teton Range soar above 12,000 feet (3,600 m). While there are only 100 miles (161 km) of roads in the park, there are twice as many miles of trails, leaving hikers endless options for adventure. Favorite landmarks include picturesque Jenny Lake, vast Jackson Lake, drive-to-the-summit Signal Mountain, and serene Oxbow Bend.

Jackson Hole, Cody, and the Wind Rivers

Wyoming’s northwest corner is far more than a gateway to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. Jackson Hole is a destination in and of itself, with glitzy galleries and boutiques, gourmet eateries, luxe accommodations, and a sensational art scene in immediate proximity to world-class ski resorts and white-water rafting. The National Museum of Wildlife Art and the National Elk Refuge are major draws for animal enthusiasts. In Cody the cowboy is still king, and the sun rises and sets on the Buffalo Bill Center of the West and its five museums. Farther south, outdoors enthusiasts will find hot springs and mountain meccas.

Sheridan and Northeast Wyoming

Where the prairies meet the mountains, cowboy culture comes alive. This is where you’ll find dude ranches and Sheridan, one of the most charming and authentic Western towns in the state. The spectacular Cloud Peak Skyway Scenic Byway climbs into the mountains toward the pictograph-rich Medicine Lodge State Archeological Site and more mysterious Medicine Wheel National Historic Landmark. The isolated and enigmatic Devils Tower National Monument draws climbers, geologists, and Native Americans who consider it a sacred site.

Southern Wyoming

Southern Wyoming contains everything from sweeping deserts, sand dunes, and wild mustang herds to lush river valleys and green mountains. The southwestern corner is noted for fabulous recreational opportunities along the Green River and in the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area. And the southern part of the state is also home to three of Wyoming’s largest cities: capital Cheyenne, synonymous with its legendary Frontier Days rodeo; college town Laramie; and onetime frontier town Casper.

High and Low Seasons

Summer is the easiest, and by far the busiest, time to travel the roads, both front- and backcountry, in Montana and Wyoming. Thoughtful planning and advance reservations, particularly for hotels and campgrounds, are essential. Hotel rooms are particularly hard to find during local events such as Frontier Days in Cheyenne or the Fourth of July celebration in Livingston. It’s especially important to plan well in advance—a year is not too early—for trips into the national parks and hot tourist destinations like Bozeman, Whitefish, and Jackson Hole.

Rates for accommodations are generally lower and rooms more available when snow is on the ground, except around ski areas, but winter road travel can be challenging because of the inevitable storms and possible closures.

The shoulder seasons can be a delightful time to travel in both states. The national parks are slightly less crowded in autumn, but keep in mind that winter comes very early at high elevations. There are also little-known ways to enjoy the parks by bicycle in the spring, before they open to cars. Opening and closing times for the parks can vary by year (weather and federal budget too), so make sure to check with the parks before travel.

Don’t try to see too much in too short a time; this cannot be overstated. Consider that the drive from Montana’s eastern border to its western border is 550 miles (890 km), about the same distance as from New York City to Charlotte, North Carolina. Don’t spend so much time on the road that you miss the small details—idyllic hikes, roadside burger joints, the locals who give small towns their true character—that make Montana and Wyoming what they are.

The 14-Day Greater Yellowstone Loop

With Yellowstone National Park at its heart, this generous two-week itinerary starts and ends in Bozeman, Montana, never exceeding 200 miles (320 km) of travel in a single day. See and experience this breathtaking region without getting stuck behind the wheel, unless you find yourself in a bison jam.

Day 1

Start your trip in Bozeman, equal parts college town and mountain town. Fit in a trip to the Museum of the Rockies to see where dinosaur guru Jack Horner did much of his work. Throw in a hike up the M or on the Drinking Horse Mountain Trail, just northeast of town, and end with a shopping stroll on historic Main Street. Enjoy a game of pool, a local brew, and an excellent meal at the popular Montana Ale Works. After a pre-bed ice-cream cone from the Genuine Ice Cream Co., bed down for the night at The Lark, a hip, artistically driven hotel.


Day 2
Bozeman to Red Lodge
174 MILES (280 KM), 2.5 HOURS

Start your morning with a quick jaunt up Peet’s Hill, then walk a few blocks for breakfast at the old-school Western Café or the new-school Little Star Diner. Head east toward Red Lodge, a much smaller but equally historic ski town. Along the way, stop in Livingston to peruse art galleries, or fish or raft the Yellowstone. Continue on to Big Timber, a tight community with Norwegian heritage, for a late lunch at The Grand Hotel. Arrive in Red Lodge in time for a quick outdoor meal at the Red Box Car and a downy bed at the historic Pollard Hotel.

Day 3
Red Lodge

After a leisurely breakfast, stroll by the shops up and down Broadway, and check out the critters at the Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary. Later, grab some picnic supplies at Café Regis and head out on a scenic hike in the Beartooths, perhaps the Basin Lakes Trail #61. Back in town, refuel on simple but delicious Mexican fare at Más Taco or settle in for a fabulous Italian meal at Piccola Cucina at Ox Pasture, known for locally raised ingredients and visiting chefs from Italy.

Day 4
Red Lodge to Cody
114 MILES (184 KM), 2 HOURS

Experience two of the most breathtaking drives in the region. Pack a picnic lunch and head up and over the Beartooth Scenic Highway (US 212). Be sure to make plenty of stops along the way. Look for mountain goats at the summit. Consider an alpine hike: The Clay Butte Fire Lookout Tower, only 1 mile (1.6 km) from the highway, puts you above 11,000 feet (3,353 m); the 8-mile (12.9-km) scenic loop around Beartooth Lake offers level terrain with spectacular scenery. Stop in Cooke City if you need a shot of civilization (or espresso), or continue to the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway (Hwy. 296) south to Cody. Arrive in time for Texas-style barbecue at Fat Racks BBQ and a cozy room at the Chamberlin Inn.

Day 5

After breakfast, head out on the hour-long Cody Trolley Tour, which can include tickets to the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. Spend most of the day exploring its five museums. Before dinner at the celebrated Irma Hotel, grab a cocktail and step outside to watch the Cody Gunfighters. After dinner, head over to the Cody Nite Rodeo for a two-hour action-packed show with local cowboys and cowgirls.

The horses and cowboys have to be equally athletic at the Cody Stampede Rodeo.

Day 6
Cody to Tower Junction
111 MILES (179 KM), 3 HOURS

On your way out of town, stop by Old Trail Town. Then head farther west on the Buffalo Bill Scenic Byway toward the east entrance of Yellowstone National Park. Stop for a bite at Buffalo Bill Cody’s historic Pahaska Tepee resort. Once inside the park, check out the phenomenal Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and the wildlife-rich Hayden Valley on your way to Tower Junction and the classic Roosevelt Lodge Cabins. Arrive in time to ride horseback (or travel by covered wagon) to the Old West Dinner Cookout. Then retire to your rustic cabin under the stars.

Day 7
Tower Junction to Paradise Valley
59 MILES (95 KM), 1.5 HOURS

Early birds will delight in a sunrise drive through the famed Lamar Valley for amazing opportunities to spot wildlife, including wolves and bears, depending on the season. Consider a hike up to Trout Lake or maybe meander along the trout waters of Slough Creek. Don’t go without bear spray! Turn around and head north to Mammoth and the Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces, where you can amble around the colorful geothermal features. For lunch, try the bison burger or elk sliders at the Mammoth Hotel Dining Room, just below the geothermal terraces. On your way out of the park, perhaps you’ll want to soak in the Boiling River between Mammoth and Gardiner, or just wait until you arrive at Chico Hot Springs Resort to enjoy the naturally heated waters. After a gourmet dinner in the Chico dining room, settle in for the night and listen for Percy, the resident ghost.

Lower Falls, Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone’s Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces

Day 8
Paradise Valley to Lake, Wyoming
91 MILES (147 KM), 3 HOURS

Backtrack through the park’s northern entrance. River rats should take a morning raft trip on the Yellowstone River through Yankee Jim Canyon. Inside the park, head to


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On Sale
Nov 29, 2022
Page Count
656 pages
Moon Travel

Carter G. Walker

About the Author

From the time she was eight years old, Carter G. Walker made annual family trips to a Wyoming dude ranch, where she fell in love with purple mountain majesties and all things equine. After she graduated early from Colgate University in Hamilton, New York, with an English literature degree, Carter landed, sight unseen, in Bozeman, Montana, and made the West her home.
In two decades as a Westerner, Carter has stoked the flames of her love affair by balancing her intellectual need to tell stories with her physical yearning to explore wild places. She has worked as a wilderness guide in Montana and Wyoming; as a naturalist guide in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks; as a wildland and structure firefighter and EMT; and as a publisher, editor, and freelance writer. She teaches writing at Montana State University and writes both fiction and creative nonfiction, and travels the backroads and little-known parts of the West as fodder for magazine features and food for her soul.
Carter lives with her two adventuresome daughters, Sissel and Siri-wild things, both of them, and road warriors-in Bozeman, Montana.

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