The National Parks Road Tour
The route from Jackson, Wyoming, to Glacier National Park, Montana packs in five national parks and plenty of watering holes.
Outside's long reads email newsletter features our strongest writing, most ambitious reporting, and award-winning storytelling about the outdoors. Sign up today.
See the country’s most iconic wildlife and mountains at five stunning national parks along this 600-mile route.
Packing List: Binoculars, Stetson, beer mug
Start your adventure north of town with a seven-mile run around Jenny Lake in the shadow of the jagged Tetons. Once in Yellowstone National Park, drive north past Yellowstone Lake and into Hayden Valley, prime viewing territory for buffalo, elk, and grizzly. Before leaving the park, stop for a 100-degree soak in the Gardner River, two miles north of Mammoth Hot Springs, then make for an oatmeal stout at 406 Brewing Company in downtown Bozeman.
Break up the drive to Missoula by camping among the Missouri River’s braids at Missouri Headwaters State Park. Once you’re in town, stop and kayak or surf at Brennan’s Wave at the downtown Missoula Whitewater Park, grab a gin and tonic at Montgomery Distillery, then scarf down a Flathead cherry pie at Biga Pizza.
In Whitefish, hike, run, or mountain-bike the 26-mile Whitefish Trail past alpine lakes and pine forests. Buy bear spray, then bisect Glacier National Park on Highway 2 until you reach the Walton Ranger Station. It’s a tough 16.8-mile hike to Lake Isabel, but once there you’re just about guaranteed solitude to take in the jagged cirque towering over the lake.
Detour: Western Montana is home to 15 of our favorite craft breweries, including the recently opened Lolo Peak Brewing Company, ten miles southwest of Missoula, where you can get a Buffalo Trout golden ale and a locally sourced burger. Take a few extra days and see if you can hit them all.