The beauty of national parks hits hard in Montana, since the state is home to 8 national parks and monuments, not to mention the other wide-reaching miles of public lands at play. But when you think of Montana national parks, the two biggies come to mind: Glacier and Yellowstone. When you pit the greats against each other, which will come out on top? Here’s the rundown on each of these national parks to help you decide which you should visit this year.
Glacier National Park may not be the first national park, but it is undoubtedly one of the best. With views that demand all of the cliche descriptors like “stunning” and “jaw-dropping,” you’ll find wildflowers, wildlife, and wilderness waiting.
The famed Going-to-the-Sun Road is certainly a highlight of the park – though there are many other hidden corners to explore. Constructed in the 1930s, this road winds its way up the mountains and over Logan Pass, offering big views guaranteed to induce squeals and photo pit stops along the way.
With wildlife from grizzly bears to the park’s notorious big-horn sheep and mountain goats, you never know what you’ll spot as you climb in elevation within the park. Hikers should have bear spray handy, and for good reason. With over 700 miles of trails, Glacier is a hiker’s paradise.
Due to high visitation and congestion along the popular Going-to-the-Sun Road, reservations and a ticket (on top of the entry fee or annual pass) will now be required for day use entry between May 28 and September 6, 2021, between the hours of 6 am and 5 pm. The park’s plans to require a reserved ticket for day-use entry into the park has made waves with some, but there isn’t really cause for concern. If you’re an early riser, or you have a booking on a red bus tour, a boat tour, a pack trip, or a guided hike, your reservation confirmation for that activity will get you in.
Yellowstone is the country’s first national park, and it doesn’t take that honor lightly. Here are just a few of the surprises waiting.
If you’ve ever heard of Old Faithful (and who hasn’t?) or spotted Grand Prismatic’s stunning colors on a print, you probably know that Yellowstone has its fair share of active geology going on underfoot. Smell the sulfur in the air, see the colors under the boardwalk, and spot the geysers as they erupt. It’s a unique type of magic at Yellowstone.
Yellowstone is for the birds—and the bison, antelope, elk, bears, and wolves, of course, among others. This is the place to drive around, grab a spotting scope, and see what you can see of the wildlife variety.
Though Yellowstone doesn’t require reservations for entry like Glacier is this year, crowds at popular spots like Old Faithful, Grand Prismatic, and Mammoth Hot Springs are still common. But there’s plenty of room off the beaten path to explore, especially when you visit in spring, winter, and fall.
Yellowstone’s scenic drives loop through the park, giving you a different view on the way out as on the way back. With more options for routes, the park’s crowds have the opportunity to disperse a bit, too, though traffic jams for wildlife crossings are common in summer. And if you have the time to take a hike less traveled trail, you may feel like you have the whole wilderness to yourself—except for the wildlife, of course.
If you have to pick just one park, the final call comes down to you. But there’s really no reason to choose: when you’re in Montana, it makes sense to connect the dots and road trip from one national park to the other. And at either end of your journey, you’ll have Highline Adventures properties to help you rest up and get ready to explore the wilderness. For more on how to plan the ultimate Montana getaway, follow along with our blog.