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Yellowstone is a dream destination for many people. But getting there can be just as much fun as being there. In this post, I share fun road trips to Yellowstone. 

You’ll find what to do and where to stay on the way to Yellowstone. And if you need more help planning your Yellowstone vacation, make sure to check out my itineraries and guidebooks or get in touch for personal help on planning a trip to Yellowstone.

You can also join my Facebook group: Yellowstone, Glacier, and Montana Trip Planning

road trips to Yellowstone car  on highway with mountains

Choose Your Road Trip to Yellowstone

In the sections below I include a map and itinerary for each drive to Yellowstone.

Click on the link to go directly to that road trip.

Road Trip Yellowstone!

old faithful geyser

Denver to Yellowstone Road Trip

road trip to grand teton national park

Day 1: Denver to Jackson 

Do: Today is mostly driving to Yellowstone area.

Stay: There are many hotels in Jackson to choose from, along with RV parks and campgrounds. Contact me for specific recommendations for your Montana Wyoming road trip.

Day 2: Jackson, Wyoming (Jackson Hole)

antler arch in Jackson Wyoming

Do: First thing, take a hike up Snow King mountain for awe-inspiring views of the Jackson Hole valley. Explore the town square and make sure you take a picture under the iconic antler arches.

Thrill seekers will like the adventure course or Cowboy Coaster at Snow King. Other places we love include, the National Museum for Wildlife Art and other art galleries, Vertical Harvest, white water rafting, and bike riding town trails. Don’t miss the Bar J or Bar T 5 chuckwagon dinner.

Eat: There are a lot of good places to eat: Persephone Bakery,  Nora’s Fish Creek Inn, San Juan Restaurant. Liberty Burgers, and the Snake River Grill are a few favorites.

Stay: There are many hotels in Jackson to choose from, along with RV parks and campgrounds.

I used to live in Jackson and have a ton of ideas for things to do in Jackson Hole. 

Day 3: Grand Teton National Park 

Do: Visit Mormon Row at sunrise and spend the morning driving the 42-mile scenic loop drive. Stop at Schwabacher Landing, Snake River Overlook, and Oxbow Bend. Take the boat across Jenny Lake and hike to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point.

Eat: We always stop at Dornan’s in Moose. The food and drinks are good and the view is one of the best in the world. 

Stay: Either stay in one of the hotels in Jackson again or at the Jackson Lake Lodge or in Colter Bay to be closer to Yellowstone for the next day.

Day 4: Yellowstone National Park

Do: Explore the Old Faithful area including, Firehole Canyon Drive, Old Faithful, Kepler Cascades, West Thumb (if time allows), Midway Geyser Basin, Fountain Paint Pots

Eat: Bring a picnic lunch and snacks to eat on the road or grab lunch at the Grill at Old Faithful. Dinner in West Yellowstone.

Stay: There are many hotels in West Yellowstone to choose from, along with RV parks and campgrounds.

For more on what to do and where to stay in Yellowstone, grab my three-day Yellowstone itinerary. It provides specific details about what to see at each stop and how long it will take you.

Day 5: Yellowstone National Park

Canyons in Yellowstone National Park

Do: Explore the Norris Geyser Basin and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

Eat: Bring a picnic lunch and snacks to eat on the road or grab lunch at the Canyon Grill. Dinner in West Yellowstone.

Stay: There are many hotels in West Yellowstone to choose from, along with RV parks and campgrounds.

For more on what to do and where to stay in Yellowstone, grab my three-day Yellowstone itinerary. It provides specific details about what to see at each stop and how long it will take you.

Day 6: Yellowstone National Park

Do: Explore the northwest section of the park including, Artists Paintpots, Mammoth Hot Springs, Fort Yellowstone (at Mammoth), Boiling River, and Roosevelt Arch.

Eat: Bring a picnic lunch and snacks to eat on the road or grab lunch at the Mammoth Grill. Dinner in Gardiner.

Stay: There are many hotels in Gardiner to choose from, along with RV parks and campgrounds.

For more on what to do and where to stay in Yellowstone, grab my three-day Yellowstone itinerary. It provides specific details about what to see at each stop and how long it will take you.

Day 7: Outdoor Adventures and Hot Springs

Do: If you want to add a little adventure to your trip, start the day with a combination of horseback riding and rafting. Wild West Whitewater Rafting and Flying Pig Whitewater both offer a “Paddle and Saddle” package.

Stop at Yellowstone Hot Springs or Chico Hot Springs for a relaxing soak. Or take an early morning wildlife tour into the Lamar Valley.

Eat: Grab some grub in Gardiner.

Stay: There are many hotels in Gardiner to choose from, along with RV parks and campgrounds.


Minneapolis to Yellowstone Road Trip

This Yellowstone road trip starts in Minneapolis, but can be used if you are starting from Chicago, Milwaukee, Indianapolis, or other parts of northern middle America. 

There are at least two routes- a shorter, northern route, and a longer (by a couple hours) southern route. This Yellowstone road trip planner covers the northern route through North Dakota. If you prefer the southern route, scroll down to the Mt Rushmore to Yellowstone route. 

Day 1 : Bismarck, North Dakota

Do: Driving will take a big chunk of your day. Bismarck is a stop on the Lewis and Clark Trail (see all the Lewis and Clark Trail in Montana) and you can see a 55-foot full-scale replica keelboat like the one used by Lewis and Clark at Keelboat Park. Plus, there are trails and walking paths to stretch your legs. The Thunderbird sculpture created by United Tribes Technical College students is another draw to the park.

Eat: Keeping with the Lewis and Clark theme, the Pirogue Grill is tasty. The Lewis and Clark Riverboat has daily cruises (May-Sept) on the Missouri River, including a dinner cruise. 

Stay: There are plenty of hotels in Bismarck, ND. We like the Holiday Inn Express Bismarck. Or camp at Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park.

Day 2 : Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park, Theodore Roosevelt National Park and Glendive

Minneapolis to Yellowstone road trip

Do: On your way out of town, stop at Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park to see the replica Mandan On-A-Slant Indian Village and reconstructed military buildings including the Custer House.

The next stop is Theodore Roosevelt National Park (South Unit). Take the gorgeous 36-mile Scenic Drive, stopping often in designated pullouts to soak in the view. There are several short trails – Ridgeline Nature Trail (0.6 mile), Coal Vein Trail (0.8 mile), Wind Canyon Trail (0.4 mile), and Buck Hill (0.1 mile).

Then mosey on over to Glendive for the night.

Eat: In Medora (adjacent to Theodore Roosevelt National Park), there are pizza places, coffee shops, burger joints, etc. In Glendive, Bloom Coffeehouse and Eatery is my favorite for breakfast or lunch. Los Amigos serves yummy Mexican food. 

Stay: Spend the night at a hotel in Glendive, MT or camp at Makoshika State Park. 

Day 3: Makoshika State Park and Glendive, Montana

jumping on natural bridge at Makoshika State Park Montana

Do: Spend the morning at Makoshika State Park. There are several shorter trails (Paramount Trail, Diane Gabriel Trail, Natural Bridge Trail, Twin Sister Trail) and viewpoints as you drive through the park.

Stop at Hell Creek Music for guitars, comic books, an escape room, and a huge T-rex skeleton. There is also a Creationist dinosaur museum in Glendive. 

Eat: Spend the night at a hotel in Glendive, MT or camp at Makoshika State Park.

Stay: Bloom Coffeehouse and Eatery is my favorite for breakfast or lunch. Los Amigos serves yummy Mexican food. 

Day 4: Terry Badlands, Miles City, and Billings, Montana

Do: In Terry, head out into the Terry Badlands Wilderness Study Area to take in some of the most spectacular and uncrowded scenery in Montana. You’ll find colorful, banded cliffs overlooking rolling prairie. Geologic features include sandstone bridges, spires, table tops, and buttes divided by many deep gullies all formed by thousands of years of wind and water erosion. 

I recommend driving/biking/walking the Calypso Trail. Find visitation information on the BLM website.

Stop for lunch at lunch at the Montana Bar in Miles City for real Western atmosphere. It’s family friendly before 8 pm.

There are so many fun things to do in Billings and great places to eat. Get a hands on history lesson at the Western Heritage Center or enjoy modern western art at the Yellowstone Art Museum. Catch a show at the Alberta Bair Theater.

Eat: Lunch at the Montana Bar in Miles City and Last Chance Pub and Cider Mill or Commons 1882 in Billings for dinner.

Stay:  We like the Northern Hotel, the Dude Rancher Lodge, or some of the many other hotels in Billings.

Day 5: Billings, Red Lodge, and the Beartooth Highway

beartooth highway

Do: Start the day with a visit to Four Dances Natural Area and Pictograph State Park then point the car toward Red Lodge, Montana. 

There is a lot to do in and around Red Lodge, but I suggest stocking up at the Montana Candy Emporium, an old-fashioned candy shop, and take a quick walk downtown. 

Then drive the highly scenic Beartooth Highway stopping at overlooks to take in the incredible alpine views. If you want to stretch your legs, the trail along Island Lake, near the top of Beartooth Pass, is relatively flat and drop-dead gorgeous.

Eat: Try The Sassy Biscuit Co. for breakfast, picnic along the way for lunch, and dinner at the Log Cabin Cafe in Silver Gate.

Stay: Spend the night at my favorite vacation rentals, The Lamar Cabin or the Silver Falls Cabin (they are adjacent to each other and across the street from the Log Cabin Cafe.

Day 6: Yellowstone National Park

Do: Get out early and spend the morning on a wildlife watching tour in the Lamar Valley. We like Yellowstone Wolf Tracker. In the afternoon, hike one of the trails near Cooke City or in the northeast section of Yellowstone.

Eat: Breakfast will be included in your wildlife watching tour, lunch and dinner at the Log Cabin Cafe, one of the restaurants in Cooke City, or whip up something in your vacation rental.

Stay: Spend the night at my favorite vacation rentals, The Lamar Cabin or the Silver Falls Cabin (they are adjacent to each other and across the street from the Log Cabin Cafe.

Day 7: Yellowstone National Park

Mammoth Hot Springs Yellowstone

Do: Explore the northwest section of the park including: Mammoth Hot Springs, Fort Yellowstone (at Mammoth), and Artists Paintpots. Drive on to West Yellowstone.

Eat: Bring a picnic lunch and snacks to eat on the road or grab lunch at the Mammoth Grill. Dinner in West Yellowstone.

Stay: There are many hotels in West Yellowstone to choose from, along with RV parks and campgrounds.

For more on what to do and where to stay in Yellowstone, grab my three-day Yellowstone itinerary. It provides specific details about what to see at each stop and how long it will take you.

Day 8: Yellowstone National Park

Do: Explore the Norris Geyser Basin and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

Eat: Bring a picnic lunch and snacks to eat on the road or grab lunch at the Canyon Grill. Dinner in West Yellowstone.

Stay: There are many hotels in West Yellowstone to choose from, along with RV parks and campgrounds.

For more on what to do and where to stay in Yellowstone, grab my three-day Yellowstone itinerary. It provides specific details about what to see at each stop and how long it will take you.

Day 9: Yellowstone National Park

Do: Explore the Old Faithful area including, Firehole Canyon Drive, Old Faithful, Kepler Cascades, West Thumb (if time allows), Midway Geyser Basin, Fountain Paint Pots

Eat: Bring a picnic lunch and snacks to eat on the road or grab lunch at the Grill at Old Faithful. Dinner in West Yellowstone.

Stay: There are many hotels in West Yellowstone to choose from, along with RV parks and campgrounds. Or drive to Grand Teton National Park or Jackson, Wyoming.

For more on what to do and where to stay in Yellowstone, grab my three-day Yellowstone trip itinerary. It provides specific details about what to see at each stop and how long it will take you.

Continuing the Minneapolis to Yellowstone Road Trip

If you want to continue the road trip and visit Grand Teton National Park, see the first itinerary on the page for what to do, see, eat, and where to stay.


Mount Rushmore to Yellowstone Road Trip

mount rushmore to yellowstone road trip

Day 1: Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Do: Spend the day exploring Mount Rushmore. Walk the Presidential Trail (0.06 miles), visit the Sculptor’s Studio, complete the Junior Ranger program, attend a ranger talk, and eat ice cream.

In the afternoon, stop by the Crazy Horse Memorial – a mountain-size carving of an American Indian hero. Considering the U.S. Presidents were carved into mountains held sacred by local indigenous people, it’s nice to counterbalance a visit to Rushmore with one to Crazy Horse, which is meant to protect and preserve the culture, tradition and living heritage of the North American Indians.

Eat: Picnic or lunch at the cafe at Mount Rushmore. Dinner in Custer or at your campsite.

Stay: There are plenty of hotels in Custer, SD or camp at one of the many campgrounds along Highways 385 and 16.

family trip to mt rushmore

Day 2: Jewel Cave National Monument and Devils Tower National Monument

Do: Start the day with a hike and a cave tour at Jewel Cave National Monument. Cave tours often fill up, so make an advanced tour reservation by contacting Black Hills Vacations or calling (605) 717-7629. Advanced reservations are only available for Scenic Tours and can be made up to 72 hours before your arrival date, or up to 90 days in advance.

Next head to Devils Tower National Monument. Whether you are with kids or not, your will find many reasons to love Devils Tower. Circumambulate the Tower on the paved path, sit in the shade, or wander on the other trails.

Eat: You’ll find fast food, diners, and a grocery stores in Newcastle, Upton, and Moorcroft, Wyoming.

Stay: Camp at Devil’s Tower or stay an hour west in one of the hotels in Gillette, Wyoming.

Day 2: Cody, Wyoming

Do: Point your rig toward Cody, stopping at Meadowlark Lake in the Bighorn National Forest for a picnic or swim. 

In Cody, don’t miss the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, the nightly shootout in front of the Irma Hotel (not Sundays), chuckwagon dinners, horseback riding, and hiking. 

Eat: There are lots of restaurants in Cody. I particularly like Juniper for small plates and cocktails.

Stay: If you like historic, try the Irma Hotel. Otherwise, choose from one of the other hotels in Cody, Wyoming or camp nearby. 

Day 3: Cody, Wyoming

Do: Do all the things you didn’t get to yesterday evening – horseback ride, hike, explore the town.

Eat: There are lots of restaurants in Cody. I particularly like Juniper for small plates and cocktails.

Stay: If you like historic, try the Irma Hotel. Otherwise, choose from one of the other hotels in Cody, Wyoming or camp nearby.

Day 4: Yellowstone National Park

Storm point beach

Do: Drive into Yellowstone and when you get to the lake, take an easy stroll to Storm Point, drop in on the Fishing Bridge Visitor Center, wander out to the Natural Bridge, and walk among the hot springs and fumaroles at West Thumb Geyser Basin

Eat: Pick up food in Cody. Some food is available at the General Store in Fishing Bridge, the General Store at Lake, and in the Lake Hotel.

Stay: Spend the night at the Lake Hotel or in the Old Faithful Area. You can also use Cody as a basecamp, but it means a lot of driving everyday.

For more on what to do and where to stay in Yellowstone, grab my Yellowstone trip itinerary. It provides specific details about what to see at each stop and how long it will take you.

Day 5: Yellowstone National Park

Old faithful erupting

Do: Explore the Old Faithful area including, Kepler Cascades, Old Faithful, Midway Geyser Basin, and Fountain Paint Pots.

Eat: Bring a picnic lunch and snacks to eat on the road or grab lunch at the Grill at Old Faithful. Dinner in West Yellowstone.

Stay: There are many hotels in West Yellowstone to choose from, along with RV parks and campgrounds. Or drive to Grand Teton National Park or Jackson, Wyoming.

For more on what to do and where to stay in Yellowstone, grab my Yellowstone trip itinerary. It provides specific details about what to see at each stop and how long it will take you.

Day 6: Yellowstone National Park

Do: Explore the Norris Geyser Basin and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

Eat: Bring a picnic lunch and snacks to eat on the road or grab lunch at the Canyon Grill. Dinner in West Yellowstone.

Stay: There are many hotels in West Yellowstone to choose from, along with RV parks and campgrounds.

For more on what to do and where to stay in Yellowstone, grab my Yellowstone trip itinerary. It provides specific details about what to see at each stop and how long it will take you.

Day 6: Yellowstone National Park

Mammoth Hot Springs Trail in Yellowstone National Park

Do: Explore the north end of the park, including Mammoth Hot Spring and the Northern Range.

Eat: Bring a lunch from West Yellowstone or eat at the grill in Mammoth. There are a handful of restaurants in Gardiner, as well.

Stay: Either stay at one of the many hotels in West Yellowstone, if you plan to head down to Grand Teton National Park or up to Glacier National Park. Otherwise spend the night in Gardiner, Montana.

Continuing the Road Trip from Mount Rushmore to Yellowstone

If you are looking to get another National Park visit in on this trip, you can check out one of the other itineraries on this page. 

From West Yellowstone, it is about it is about a 6.25-hour drive to West Glacier at the west entrance to Glacier National Park.

To get from West Yellowstone to the Jackson Lake Lodge in Grand Teton National Park, it takes about 2.5 hours (going through Yellowstone). From West Yellowstone to Jackson, Wyoming is 2.5 hours (going through Island Park, west of Yellowstone). 

You could also spend a couple nights in Gardiner, Montana and raft, ride horses, soak in hot springs, fly fish, or just relax


Seattle to Glacier National Park to Yellowstone Road Trip

seattle to yellowstone road trip

(coming soon! If you want an itinerary right now, sign up for my vacation coaching plan and I will design a custom trip for you.)


Glacier National Park to Yellowstone Road Trip

Glacier to Yellowstone Road Trip

See all the details for a road trip through Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone National Park, and Glacier National Park on my other site. It’s the first itinerary of three Montana road trips.


Grand Canyon to Yellowstone Road Trip

road trip from Grand Canyon to Yellowstone

(coming soon! If you want an itinerary right now, sign up for my vacation coaching plan and I will design a custom trip for you.)

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