National Park Tips

I shared in a blog post a while back our summer plans this year involve National Parks in lieu of our typical summer favorite, a beach somewhere warm.  I work on Walt Disney World vacations all day long and know all the ins and outs for an amazing vacation like the back of my hand.  {By the way, if you have plans of Walt Disney World in your future, please reach out to us at mixandmatchtravelagency@yahoo.com.  We'd love to help you!}  But a trip out west is not something I'm dealing with everyday.  So, I'd love your help!  

We already have our lodging squared away but our destinations are the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, and Glacier National Park.  We're working on filling our days with our must sees/must dos at each location.

I WOULD LOVE YOUR HELP!
If you've visited any of those three locations, please share any tips/tricks you have!  

*Did you do a private tour you'd recommend?

*Did you have a favorite meal at a restaurant we can't skip?

*Did you horseback ride with a company that had THE most gorgeous views?

ANYTHING you loved or would recommend, I would absolutely be giddy if you shared with me.  And I'm sure some of you would love reading those comments full of helpful tips and tricks as well.

Thanks so much, friends!  I really appreciate your help!

XO

31 comments

Jenna said...

Grand Tetons is my absolute favorite! Taggart lake trail is beautiful and I think easy enough for kids. Glacier is beautiful too. If you can make it to the north part of the park you have to get a huckleberry bear claw from the Polebridge Mercantile. Paddleboard or kayak on lake McDonald. The parks have been crazy since Covid so make sure you start out early and lots of things require reservations.

Elspeth Mizner said...

I haven’t been but I can’t wait to see everyone’s responses!
www.elspethsdaybyday.com

Unknown said...

My family visited Arizona for Spring Break and while on our trip to the Grand Canyon, we learned that 4th and 5th graders get their families into all National Parks for free. Typically it is just 4th graders but because of covid closing everything last year, they are allowing 5th graders this year. The voucher expires at the end of August. Here is the link to the voucher for 5th graders.... https://www.nps.gov/kids/upload/5th-Grade-Voucher.pdf

Jodee said...

National Park trips are some of our favorite vacations! Yellowstone is so many different landscapes-its amazing! We loved Yellowstone Lake, artist point, grand prismatic springs and Old Faithful. Grand Tetons is breathtaking! One of our favorite things there was Jenny Lake and hiking to Inspiration Point. May be a difficult hike for little ones though. You can ride a boat across the lake or hike around it. Stunning views everywhere you turn! If you haven’t been to Rocky Mountain I would definitely add that to your list of parks to see in the future. I don’t have any tips for Glacier- we are heading there this summer.

Laura said...

When you go to Yellowstone, plan to spend at least half a day in nearby Cody, Wyoming.

Sheaffer {Pinterest Told Me To} said...

You know I'm no help here, but I hope you get some excellent tips!

Annie M - said...

We stayed outside of West Yellowstone in a Cabin with 2 other families. We of course did Old Faith, some hiking, and drove thru some of the parks. We rented ATV off road vehicles and went up the mountains like that. We rented them in Island Park Idaho. Our kids thought it was awesome we were kept crossing over between 3 states - MT, ID and WY. We white water rafted in Big Sky, MT. We did a zip line park in West Yellowstone.

Lori said...

You HAVE to go to Bar J Chuckwagon. I believe they are retiring the show after this season.
https://www.barjchuckwagon.com/
We went without our kids (amazing!) but went to those same places.

Dornan's is right at the edge of Grand Tetons, right before Jackson Hole. They have a pizza restaurant, general store, ice cream and coffee shop. It's awesome and incredible views!
https://dornans.com/

Downtown Jackson Hole is really really adorable.
White Water Rafting in Jackson Hole is awesome. THere are a few outfitters that are all good.

Yellowstone is just awesome. If you're staying in the park, it's sort of like the Road to Hana in Maui. YOu drive and park and hike, explore, drive, park, explore. It's just so so so beautiful and fun and you will honestly love it more than Disney!! I promise, you will!

We are actually going to Sedona and the Grand Canyon next week, with our kids!

Ilena said...

We went to Yellowstone over 5 years ago, but our favorite activity was a dinner tour on Jenny Lake. You get a great view of the Tetons on the lake and then you stop and have a 5 course “picnic”. The food was delicious and the views were amazing! The falls area in Yellowstone were a favorite as well.

Rachel Embery said...

We were there last summer. Definately do the waterfall hike at Jenny Lake. That’s where we spotted a mama bear and her Cubs! Figs in Jackson was our absolute favorite dinner the whole time, get reservations for sure. The key is.....GET UP EARLY! We got up both days super early, like we were on the road by 7, to avoid crowds in Yellowstone. We stayed in Jackson. That helped so very much! Hit the popular things first. Also, plan to leave Yellowstone/Tetons by 1-2. Otherwise you’ll be stuck in the super long line of traffic! Kids would like to tube. We rated at a place in Jackson right on the river and was able to tube the river, so fun! It’s gorgeous up there. I honestly prefer the Tetons to Yellowstone. I’d do one day in Yellowstone and the rest in the Tetons! Oh, and when we skied Jackson this winter and I tore my ACL, my son and I took a day just to go to the Tetons. We saw yet another mama bear and Cubs!!!! Enjoy!

Therese said...

Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons has been my family's favorite trip! The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone is breathtaking! We took a ranger led hike there and it was great. I highly recommend the Jr. Ranger program for kids. Especially at Yellowstone, the park rangers are so awesome and good about engaging kids appropriately. At Grand Tetons, we loved visiting the John D. Rockefeller preserve and hiking to Phelps Lake. Sticking your feed into a glacier lake is something else!

We stayed in West Yellowstone which gave easy access to the park. We also loved breakfast at the Old Faithful Lodge. If your kids like the movie Planes, it's based on that.

For the Grand Tetons, we stayed in Jackson Hole at the Wort Hotel. As another commenter said, downtown Jackson Hole is adorable. It was a nice town to walk around and explore in the evenings.

We also drove the Beartooth Highway from the NW entrance in Cooke City back into Billings. That was an experience! Oh, the Roosevelt Arch at the Gardiner Entrance is also a must see.

Lastly (and I apologize for how disorganized this all is b/c this was not the order we did everything), if you have time I recommend the visiting the Museum of the Rockies at Montana St. University in Bozeman. The dinosaur fossils and exhibits are the best in the country!

Melissa Titensor said...

In Jackson Hole the town square is fun. The Bunneary is a great breakfast spot. Bar J Wrangler Chuckwagon is good food and entertainment for one evening. You can also do a rafting tour down the snake river right outside of Jackson. You can take the gondola to the top.of the ski resort in Jackson. At Grand Teton Jenny Lake is a fun hike and Colter Bay is a fun stop. In Yellowstone, Old Faithful - get ice cream while you wait, swim in fire hole, Mammoth you can see the Bison and Elk up close. ATV's or horses through Yellowstone are fun. Your boys can fish in Yellowstone or in Grand Teton. You will have such a fun trip. It is a beautiful place to be.

Mix and Match Mama said...

I bet you get so many great suggestions today!!

Alwaysmore said...

Get the national park passports! Such a fun and engaging way for your kids to keep track of the national parks you have been to! Jackson Hole is super cute town! Bar J is a restaurant and is a fun family place to eat at! There is white water rafting in Gardner, Montana that is very fun or you can raft down the snake river in Yellowstone!

Nancy said...

Best spot in Yellowstone is Artist Point. It is my most favorite spot. I feel like God just painted with a paint brush the landscape. It is beautiful. We did a cowboy cookout at Yellowstone. You can ride in a wagon or take a horseback ride out to a cookout where they have steaks and all the fixins. It's on Trip Advisor as Old West Dinner Cookout. It was one of our best meals of the trip. If you are going to Jackson Hole then the Jackson Hole Playhouse is a must see. They have dinner with the actors serving as your waitress. They breakout in song between courses. The 2021 show is Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Again another great meal and show. Glacier we rented a house for the week so we didn't eat out a lot. I wasn't thrilled with the idea of an Old West trip either but now I'm addicted. We did Arches in Utah to the Grand Canyon last year and this year we are headed to Yosemite.

Carolyn said...

We loved white water rafting on the Snack River in Jackson Hole (I can't remember the rafting company but there are several in the area). Snake River Brewing Company is a great family friendly restaurant too! Make sure to walk around the square and town of Jackson. Certain evenings they have a 'showdown' with cowboys etc, really fun for kids! Make sure to eat lots of huckleberry ice cream too1

Unknown said...

If you are going to West Yellowstone, the grizzly and wolf discovery zone is awesome! You can get up close to grizzly bears and wolves and there is a giant IMAX right across the street with a great video of yellowstone.

Hollie M said...

Hi Erika!
We have done all but on two trips - Grand Tetons and Yellowstone and then Glacier and Banff. I loved both these trips so much, I’ll try to hit the high points.
Yellowstone - I know you said you have your lodging set, but there is a restaurant called Sheffield’s just south of Yellowstone on your way to GTNP. We stayed at the cabins there and the food was really good (not a lot to choose from in the area). Yellowstone - see grand prismatic pool, upper and lower Falls, bubbling mud, and old faithful. Wildlife too of course.
Grand Tetons - eat at Jenny lake lodge, GT brewing company, go moose spotting, see barn on Mormon row, tram to Jackson hole ( paraglide down for any adventurers!)
West glacier - lake Macdonald, eat at the lodge at whitefish lake. East glacier - Virginia falls hike (sungrift trailhead), beaver pond loop trail, going to the sun road, swiftcurrent lake boat tour ( boat over, hike back). Two sisters cafe. Restaurant at the hotel we stayed at - great bear lodge.
We went in June - bring all kinds of clothing! Watch for bears and have an incredible time!

Unknown said...

Download the GyPSy Guide for Grand Teton and Yellowstone. It is a GPS guided narrated tour talks to you while you drive. Yellowstone is very driving heavy and the guide is immensely helpful. We followed a lot of the guide's suggestions for side roads and back loops and saw some really amazing things with far less crowds that way. There are other GyPSy Guides for all the national parks.

Taylor said...

Just sent you a crazy long email with details that were scattered, but the Tetons, Yellowstone, and GNP are some of my favs. We typically do those parks every other year. We will visit again this summer. Our last trip was in 2019 when we toured the Rockies from Colorado all the way to Jasper NP in Canada. This included the Tetons, Yellowstone, GNP in the US and Canada, Banff, and Jasper. God's mighty work on full display!
#1 Must Do: Wildlife Watching with Evan Stout https://yellowstonewildlifeguidecompany.com/

Alexa said...

You will have so much fun! We did all three on a big road trip. We were there in July several years ago, but Glacier still had tons of snow! Several of the hiking trails weren’t even open yet for the season because there was too much snow! We usually just ask the rangers what we should see when we get to a National park and always have a great time. So the fact that you are researching beforehand, you will definitely find some cool stuff. Go on some hikes even if they are short! Grand Tetons are beautiful and definitely check out Jackson Hole. National parks and small town visits are always our favorite vacations! Are you getting a National Park pass? I would definitely recommend it if you don’t have one already. It will cover your entry fees to all those parks and then you can use it throughout the entire year.

Tanya said...

I can't wait to see all the details. I'm starting to plan (a little late I know) a family trip to that area for this summer. How long are y'all planning to stay?

jo said...

We went 4 years ago on an RV trip from Iowa. So many neat experiences for us and our 5 kids, then aged 7-19. One of our very favorite experiences was the horseback ride with Swift Creek outfitters in the Grand Tetons. We ended up taking a shorter ride than we had first anticipated because there had been a lot of rain and some of the trails were inaccessible but still had a wonderful experience. The horses were well trained and well cared for. We have taken other horse rides in different locations and this rated right up at the top for all of us at different ages and different riding experience levels. Highly recommend!

Peter & Whitney Mallory said...

The Corral restaurant in Gardiner, Montana has the absolute best bison and elk burgers. Great lunch spot after or before exploring the Mammoth section of the park. https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g45184-d8520074-Reviews-The_Corral-Gardiner_Montana.html

In Jackson Hole, drive up to the elk refuge for beautiful sunset views and to take a break from crowds. Elk aren’t really around as much in the summer, but the sunset view is worth it.

Anna said...

We did this trip last August and it was our all-time favorite!

I agree with a lot of comments above recommending spending more time in Tetons than Yellowstone. Less people, more wildlife/scenery and well worth it. We did the Jenny Lake hike and loved that.

When you go to Yellowstone and make your way to the north entrance of the park, there is an adorable little town called Gardiner, MT. Great shops and restaurants! We said many times that we'd love to go back and just stay there.

My top recommendations are to white water raft in Gardiner and do the Snake River float tour (through Barker Ewing). You won't be disappointed and those were the highlights of our trip.

Have fun! Can't wait to follow the trip!

Liz said...

Gardiner Montana is a cute town. There is a rafting place called Wild West Rafting. They have an overnight trip where you sleep in teepees. It is my kids favorite vacation memory. Really a cool time.

Unknown said...

Yellowstone is gorgeous! Definitely see Old Faithful. One thing we did was take a small cooler with drinks and food and stopped each day for a picnic. Once you are in the park, to my best recollection, there are no stores, no quick marts, no food other than what you bring yourself.

Ashley Quintana said...

We did this same trip a few years ago! Since you've already gotten several good suggestions for Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons, I'll focus on Glacier. It is just beautiful and was our favorite! These were some of our highlights:

-Take a Red Bus Tour on the Going to the Sun Road – the drivers give so much interesting information; Logan Pass is at the top with beautiful views and lots of hikes
-Lake McDonald – it is one of the iconic views in Glacier and the Lake McDonald lodge is a beautiful, historic lodge
-Trail of the Cedars - easy, flat, walk along a boardwalk to see the gorge
-Scenic Boat Tour at Two Medicine Lake- the hike on this tour to Twin Falls is easy and the falls are beautiful. We did a guided tour hike.
-Running Eagle Falls (also known as Trick Falls) - easy flat hike to the falls

Restaurants:
Montana Coffee Traders – Columbia Falls – delicious breakfasts.
Huckleberry Patch – Hungry Horse – BEST Huckleberry pie! (If not here, be sure you have some huckleberry pie somewhere. They have huckleberry everything!)

Have fun!!

Bren said...

When my kids each graduated, we let them choose where we'd head in the summer (within reason). :) In 2015 our son wanted to head west, out to Yellowstone (we're in the midwest) and it's just spectacular. Bring layers of clothes and plan to bring snacks, lunches to go as you can get so far in that you'll want to have food ready for wherever you're at. We stayed in West Yellowstone and loved it. Early mornings led to some of our best times to see wildlife. Old Faithful and Mammoth Springs were a couple of our faves. It got super busy, so again, early times seemed to be our best times to hit things.

Jodi said...

Glacier is amazing, we go every 3-5 years! The Avalanche lake hike is a must do. But it is busy, if you plan to hike it arrive early as there is limited parking there. The highline trail at Logan pass is super cool, you don't have to hike the entire trail but doing a few miles of it gives a nice overlook. Hidden lake overlook at Logan pass is a must do as well. Best pizza is at Moose's in Kalispell!

www.caligirlonthemove.com said...

Here are my blog posts from the summer of 2019- a lot of what we did has been echoed in the comments here. Yellowstone is beautiful but Grand Teton NP is my all time favorite.
Bear tooth pass is an awesome drive into Yellowstone (you'll see it in my pictures) and the Rockefeller Preserve is a must do hike for families. Pro tip- wake up early!

https://caligirlonthemove.com/2019/09/10/summer-road-trip-2019-part-2/

https://caligirlonthemove.com/2019/09/24/summer-road-trip-2019-part-3/