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  1. Default 3 Week camping trip to Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, and Glacier National Parks

    Hi all,
    My wife and I are planning a 3 week camping trip in our pop up camper beginning the last week in August (we are flexible with these dates if you have suggestions). We are driving from northern Michigan. We love day hiking (2 to 8 miles at a time), waterfalls, kayaking, and scenic drives. Can you recommend some hikes and sites not to miss in these parks (or areas close by)? Also, which campground in each park would you recommend?

  2. #2

    Default How about some out-of-the-way National Forest campgrounds?

    Hello rswenor,

    Are you aiming for strictly "on the beaten path" campgrounds outside of the National Parks, or are you willing to drift a bit off of the beaten path for campgrounds, hikes, and/or waterways not so regularly visited? Will you be bringing your 'yaks, or would you rent or do some rafting?


  3. Default

    Hi Foy,
    Thank you for responding. We have three weeks. We don't mind going off the beaten path, but first priority is the "big spots". We will be renting 'yaks' or rafting.

  4. #4

    Default Well Alrighty Then

    Hello rswenor,

    For bigger-water rafting in the immediate vicinity of Yellowstone-Teton NPs and Glacier NP, I'd think the larger outfits running the Snake near Jackson and the Flathead near Kalispell and Whitefish, MT would be your best bet. The listings look pretty much like large-scale tourist runs to me--not exactly my personal cup of tea, but certainly enjoyable.

    For kayaking, I'd be interested in the Madison River, running north out of Yellowstone, the Bitterroot, running north from Idaho to Missoula, and the Clark Fork, running right through Missoula. If kayaking is allowed within Yellowstone NP, I'd want to run the Lamar River.

    The lion's share of tourist traffic between Yellowstone-Tetons finds its way up to I-90 to Missoula, thence US 93 to Glacier, or heads up the east side on US 287/89 to Browning and East Glacier. I'm very fond of southwestern MT and nearby parts of ID, however, so leaving from the Tetons, I'd go west to Idaho Falls, then either up US 93 through Challis and Salmon into Montana, or up I-15 to Dillon, MT, thence northwest on MT 278 through Jackson and Wisdom to MT 43 and over to US 93. The former route follows the Salmon River for a long way, the latter passes through the Big Hole, the most beautiful high alpine valley in the Lower 48, in my opinion. The Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest offers a number of campgrounds near the Big Hole (along the Pioneer Mountains Scenic Parkway and south of Jackson comes to mind), and a very special place called Twin Lakes. Twin Lakes is around 20 miles off of the pavement on the far west side of the Big Hole, and the last mile or two are fairly rough, but last summer I saw a fullsize pickup with a tandem-axle travel trailer towed up there, so a high-clearance SUV or pickup with a popup should be fine. Some of the NF campgrounds along the Parkway are very nice, too, particularly between the village of Wise River and Mono Creek.

    And the whole area can be accessed from West Yellowstone, too, by passing by Quake Lake, through Ennis and Virginia City, to Twin Bridges and Dillon.

    There are innumerable dayhikes along the Salmon and in particular in the vicinity of Twin Lakes in the Big Hole, as well as along each side of the Parkway between Polaris and Wise River, MT. We did the 4-mile 1,600' elevation gain hike up to Sawtooth Lake just north of Polaris, MT last summer and it was splendid. The rustic but wholly enjoyable Elkhorn Hot Springs Resort is close to the Sawtooth Lake trailhead and one of the NF campgrounds is but a mile from the entrance to the Hot Springs.

    I'd spend an extra day or two in and around the Big Hole or along the Salmon and Bitterroot enroute from the Yellowstone-Teton region towards Glacier in a New York Minute. It's a great place to explore, and you'll have pretty much the whole region to yourselves.

    Don't overlook the Theodore Roosevelt NP in Medora, ND on the way out or back, either. The badlands topography there isn't quite as dramatic as Badlands NP in SD, but it's very nice, plus you'll have THAT place pretty much to yourselves, too.


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Camping.

    Hello and welcome to RTA!

    If you plan on camping inside the National parks, I would recommend booking in advance as soon as the booking window opens to guarantee a site. They are very popular and sell out early in peak season, you can find all the info on the Website. There are non reservable sites available if you want to remain flexible, but these can also be gone by Mid morning, so arrive early.

  6. #6


    The campgrounds in Grand Teton are not reservable - at least they weren't last August. (Not sure about campgrounds in Yellowstone or Glacier). We were there Aug 22-23. Luckily, most of the crowd has come and gone by late August. I think we arrived around 2-3 in the afternoon. Jenny Lake campground was full, but we found a nice site at Signal Mountain campground. Signal Mtn is shady. Some sites are next to Jackson Lake. Ours was a short walk to the lake. This is a number you can call before arriving at GTNP that tells you what time the campgrounds filled up the previous day --> 307-739-3603.

    Both Grand Teton and Yellowstone were quite cold at night. I think the temp dropped into the mid-30s in Grand Teton, and actually into the 20s one night at Yellowstone. Be smarter than me and bring more than a thin sweatshirt and jeans. :) I wished for a coat and gloves as we were packing up the tent early in the morning at Grand Teton.

    We did the ferry across Jenny Lake and the popular hike at GTNP up to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point. It's a beautiful (and steep) hike. The views across the lake from Inspiration Point are incredible. Be sure to drive around the park at dusk, as this is when the animals come out. We were lucky to see a mother black bear and cub, and a moose at GTNP. The drive up to the top of Signal Mountain is nice & gives a good view east across the Snake River. Also, do the outer US 89 drive around the east side of the park for good panoramic views of the mountains. One of my favorite areas was Mormon Row in the SE corner of the park -- picturesque old barns with the Tetons as a backdrop.

    As for Yellowstone, it's IMMENSE. I seriously underestimated the size of this park. But it sounds like you have a lot more time than we did there! There are the Upper and Lower Falls (which are supposed to be spectacular but we missed out on), the whole Geyser Basin area between Madison and Old Faithful, and Mammoth Hot Springs.

    I highly recommend either entering or leaving Yellowstone through the NE entrance - Lamar Valley (HUGE herds of bison graze here) into the Beartooth Highway in the Beartooth Mountains into Montana. The Beartooth Highway is one of the most beautiful drives we did. It was also the only place we saw snowpack close enough to the road that we could pull over and make snowballs. I think Charles Kuralt called it the most scenic drive in the US.

  7. Default

    Can you recommend a campground in Glacier and The Grand Tetons? We have a good sized pop up camper pulled by a Suburban. We prefer showers but don't have to have them (I know they are scarce in NPs. We are staying about a week in both.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    As was mentioned, you can't reserve sites in Teton, but as long as you are arriving fairly early in the day you shouldn't have difficulty finding a place.

    I stayed at Colter Bay on my trip there a few weeks ago, and it was a decent place. We did have a Moose and baby walking through the campground which was the big highlight. The nearby village has showers there along with a nice grocery store (with fairly reasonable prices considering that it is inside a NP), a couple of restaurants, and a marina along Jackson Lake.

    Jenny Lake is tents only, Gros Venture is quite aways away from everything else, and Lizard Creek is quiet, but doesn't really have anything for services, so I'd say Colter or Signal Mountain would be the two to shoot for. (Signal was full by 1pm when I was there in July).

    If you are thinking of going whitewater rafting, I'd highly recommend Mad River out of Jackson. There are several companies there and they all do the same section of the Snake, but I was very impressed with the service/safety of Mad River during our trip.

    I'd highly recommend the hidden falls/inspiration point hike mentioned above, and Yellowstone has lots of waterfalls, but one I really liked that's a bit out of the way is Moose Falls, which is just as you enter the park from the Tetons. Its only a short walk from the road but there was no one else there when we visited. Obviously the main attraction when it comes to waterfalls at Yellowstone is Upper/Lower Falls at the Grand Canyon.

    If you haven't made reservations yet, I liked Canyon for camping at Yellowstone, but I've heard good things about Madison too.

    I'm sorry, its been too long since I've been at Glacier to offer a good campground recommendations there.

  9. #9


    Hi there,
    My recent roadtrip included 3 days in Yellowstone followed by 4 down the road based in Jackson, Wy.

    To reiterate others, Yellowstone is huge. I camped in a solo tent in Grant Village and even waking with the dawn and being on the road by 7am, found it was still a 12 hour day to wander up and back to Mammoth Hot Springs driving round the anti-clockwise grand loop. The time comes a) in the slow speeds in the park and b) all the places to stop and mooch around to enjoy the scenery and trails.

    I'd rate Grant Village itself an average for campsites I came across, dusty plots between trees and pretty closely packed with something like 100 plots over 5 small loops. The shower block is a 5-10 minute walk from the campsite tho.

    The Upper/Lower Falls areas are lovely and the rim trails do give you the best views, particularly if you make the climb down Uncle Tom's trail. You can walk from the upper falls carpark on the North side all the way around to the brink of the lower falls.

    You could quite easily spend a slow day walking the area around Old Faithful as that's the highest concentration of volcanic photogenic stuff. The Northern section of the Upper Basin has lots of trails and geysers connecting up Old Faithful and Black Sand Basin areas.

    Two general bits of advice that worked for me:
    1. If you can, get out into the park just after dawn at first light. The combination of golden first light, misty hot springs and higher chance of seeing animals is pretty special + most of the key areas will be empty. I spent nearly an hour in West Thumb Geyser Basin with only Elk for company where I took this photo:


    2. Secondly (and from your post this doesn't sound like it will be a problem), I found that if you walk about 1/2 mile beyond the carpark in most places, the volume of people drop off dramatically, meaning it's much easier to get some nature appreciation space without a million cameras going off.

    Further South into the Tetons (the Yellowstone entrance fee covers 7 days and also includes Grand Tetons) I found you can hire Kayaks on Colter Bay Village Marina for about $15 per hour per person. I had a wonderful peaceful morning kayaking on Lake Jackson and highly recommend it. First thing, the waters were still and clear, there were deer grazing and osprey catching fish. Stay 20 metres off shore and even the mosquitos won't bother you!


    As Morgail said, the trails at/around Jenny Lake just south of Jackon Lake are great, if you're up for the loop then you can actually walk all the way around Jenny Lake without resorting to ferry. It's 8 mile walk all the way around, but right at the foot of the mountains. If you added in the Hidden Falls trail then that would easily be a whole day including breaks. When I was there I had incredible weather which made it really hard not to keep jumping in the lake and swimming my way round the coast.

    From Jackson itself I did the obligatory Snake River on inflatable kayak trip. Our trip was out first thing in the morning. By the time we were driving back up river around lunchtime, the river looked traffic jammed with rafts and kayak parties so, my guess is morning is better for space on the water.

  10. Default how strict?

    Thanks for the great info guys!
    Here is another question. I would like to camp at Many Glacier campground in GNP. The problem is, I see in publications that it has 13 sites for RVs up to 35 feet. We have a pop up pulled by a Suburban. Does anyone know how strict they are on exact length? I assume the length is a combined total of vehicle and camper and ours would be over 35 ft. (closer to 40)
    If you think it is a no go, would you recommend we camp in Apgar Campground or outside the park in Glacier Campground?

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