Driving from Yellowstone
Directions from Catherine
Western and northwestern Montana offer numerous places of interest and lovely scenery. Here we suggest a few of our favorite driving routes from Yellowstone to Glacier National Park.
From West Yellowstone northwards to Bozeman & beyond:
Three lovely routes are available to visitors departing from the town of West Yellowstone:
One option is to drive into Yellowstone National Park and exit into Gardner at the Park's north entrance, then proceeding through the lovely Peaceful Valley to Livingston and Butte via US 90.
Another option is to drive from West Yellowstone to Bozeman route 191 to US 287 to or stay on the narrow, curving, and lovely route 191 as it winds northwards along the Gallatin River toward Bozeman, where you can visit Norris Hot Spring or the Bozeman Hot Springs and Montana State University. By the way, MSU used to be known as the Cow College and (in my day, Ha!) you had to learn how to do the shuffle. The Dinosaur Museum of the Rockies is a wonderful place, a must see for many. Also interesting is the Montana Agriculture Experiment Station.
Another option, if you chose highways 191 to 287, you drive along Hebgen Lake, ultimately leading to highway 41, then US 90 into Butte. Hegben Lake is where an earthquake occurred in 1959 and caused half a mountain to slide into the canyon, creating a giant dam and Hegben Lake. Now on to Ennis, then historic Virginia City, which became the second territorial capital. You can visit a reconstructed ghost town. This is known as rock hound country Alder Gulch was rich in gold. La Hood Park and the Lewis and Clark Caverns are en route and you can see the beautiful Lime Stone Caverns. Colorful stalactites, stalagmites, clusterites, and flowerstone will take two hours to tour. Lewis and Clark State Park now offers camping.
Alternatively, you can enter Yellowstone's west entrance and drive towards the town of Gardiner, which adjoins the Park's north entrance.
Northwards from Gardner to Livingston MT: Route 89 North from Gardner parallels the Yellowstone River and the Gallatin Mountains, with a journey through the exquisitely beautiful Peaceful Valley. Splendid vistas abound and travelers might be tempted to spend time at the Chico Hot Springs.
Choices between Livingston and Bozeman MT along U.S. 90 west:
Option via U.S. 12 to Helena (Highways 15, 287, and 89): This route takes you into Helena, the capital of Montana, followed by lovely terrain and grand ranches. Highlights include Augusta, Choteau, and the Blackfoot Nation's town of Browning with a gallery of native-produced fine art, Museum of the Plains Indian, a casino, and more. U.S. Highway 2 westwards from Browning leads to East Glacier and its historic lodge, continues around the southerly portion of Glacier National Park, and finally leads to West Glacier, western entrance to Glacier National Park, and 2 miles farther - to The San Suz Ed RV Park and Bed & Breakfast.
Option from Bozeman to Butte via U.S. 90: Several driving-route options occur in Butte, but lingering has merit. Years ago, Butte was known as the Richest Hill on Earth due to its mines of gold, silver, copper, and zinc. Some mines were deep, others were open pit. The School of Mines museum sits on 33 acres, and you can see where the open pit mine was. Look up on the mountain and see the Lady of the Rockies. Visit or call the Butte Chamber of Commerce for more info.
Options beyond Butte on U.S. 90: Back on US # 90 and jog via 441 to Fairmont Hot Springs. In my time it was called Gregson Hot Springs and it was not as large as it is now but Oh! We had a lot of fun. Now you can swim indoors and or outdoors.
Picking up Highway 1, you journey to Anaconda and will see the worlds largest smelter stack still standing. This was the smelter city. A must see is the Washoe Theater On to Silver Lake and Georgetown Lake and fish. Continue highway 1 to Philipsburg (Oh Yes! the Candy Factory) and the Sapphire mines and the beautiful Pintler Scenic Route to Drummond and back on US # 90 to Missoula.
Option from Butte along US 90: Proceed to Deer Lodge, which Indians called the Peaceful Valley. Visit Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site, which is situated near U.S. 90 and turning onto U.S. 12 (at Garrison Junction) could take you to Helena and that route northwards to the Blackfoot Nation's Browning, MT and to Glacier National Park. Alternatively, after traveling a while on US12, you could turn onto MT 141 at Avon, proceed to MT 200 then to MT 83, which will lead along the Swan Range all the way to Bigfork. En route, some folks might to visit the Trail Creek Winery at Seeley Lake Montana.
Another option from Garrison Junction (US 90 and US 12) is to travel westerly along US 90 and arrive in Missoula.
Option from Butte: Take U.S. 15 towards Boulder, MT, and the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Heritage Route. If you like Hot Springs and want to soak, Boulder MT is a fine place. On to Helena our State Capital and tour the city. Stop and see the Gates of the Mountains and Canyon Ferry Lake (good fishing)
Option from Helena: For the more adventurous, U.S. 15 to MT route 279, which leads to highway 200, which can be taken easterly or westerly. For instance, if you go west on 200, you come to Lincoln, MT and can see the largest grizzly bear ever found in MT (hit by a vehicle). Continuing on this route leads through the Seeley Swan on US 83, then to the picturesque town of Bigfork at the northeastern portion of Flathead Lake. When you depart this quaint town (visit in a smaller vehicle), take 206 North to US Hwy 2 just east of Columbia Falls. A right turn onto US Hwy 2 will take you through Columbia Heights, through the Badrock Canyon, then into Hungry Horse passing by Martin City and Coram. The San Suz Ed is a few miles ahead between mile marker 150-151, then 2.5 miles to West Glacier and Glacier National Park.
Option from Butte via Missoula on US 90, then north to Glacier:
Missoula is home to the University of Montana and has fine amenities, including www.goodfoodstore.com, which is akin to Whole Foods but with a Montana flavor. Parking there isn't for recreational vehicles, though pickups and campervans do well in the parking lot.
From Missoula, head west on US 90 to US 93 northwards. The Saint Ignatius Mission is close to the highway. Take an hour, learn some history, and and stretch your legs. After leaving the Mission, you'll have a fine view of the Mission Mountain Range east of the highway, and before long you'll have a chance to visit the National Bison Range. Or you can take a another day and drive back and see this.
Continuing north on US 93 to Polson: At the south end of Flathead Lake, a route choice is available. You can drive along the east side of Flathead Lake and pass through Bigfork, or you can drive along the west side of Flathead Lake and pass through Kalispell, which offers a wide range of larger stores including all big box stores.
From Polson to east side of Flathead Lake: Kerr Dam is off the main highway, and then you can take the East shore of Flathead Lake on Highway 35 and pass through the cherry and apple orchards and on to Bigfork. Continue past the Creston Fish Hatchery and on to the junction with Highway 206 which will bring you to US Highway 2, the main road from there to Glacier National Park and The San Suz Ed. Beginning there on highway 2 take a right, first you drive through Columbia Heights then you pass through Badrock Canyon with the Flathead River running though, then onto Hungry Horse and Martin City, then Coram. Four more miles you are at The San Suz Ed RV Park. From there, 2.5 more miles to West Glacier and Glacier National Park.
From Polson via west side of Flathead Lake: Kerr Dam and then the western shore via Highway 93 and this will take you through Big Arm, Dayton, Lakeside, and on to Kalispell . Eventually, proceed through town and turn onto US Hwy 2 headed east. Stores abound in Kalispell and - as you are leaving on US 2 - you will want to get into the inside (left) lane as you will soon be turning left to go toward the Highway 40 and US 2 junction a few miles after the Kalispell airport. Turn right (following US 2) to Columbia Falls, a town which has 2 supermarkets, and pass through Columbia Heights, then through Bad Rock Canyon by the Flathead River, then on to Hungry Horse, Martin City and Coram. Four more miles and you arrive at the San Suz Ed RV Park, just 2 miles from West Glacier and Glacier National Park.
Kalispell shopping, then on to Glacier: If you stayed on 93, you will pass through Kalispell, which offers Costco, Lowes, Home Depot, Wal-Mart, Target and more. Driving options abound. You can either turn Left (north) out of Costco onto highway 93 and turn right (east) on Reserve Drive and come to US 2. OR you can stay on 93 on towards Whitefish and when you come to US # 40 take a right and on to US 2 again and on thru Columbia Falls, then Columbia Heights thru the brief but significant Bad Rock Canyon and on to Hungry Horse, Martin City, and Coram. Four more miles and you are at The San Suz Ed (between Highway 2 mile markers 150 and 151), then 2.5 more miles to West Glacier and the west entrance to Glacier National Park.