When it comes to family adventures, our recent hiking trip through Glacier, Yellowstone, and Grand Teton National Parks takes the cake. Picture breathtaking landscapes, unexpected wildlife encounters, and bonding family moments that will be in our memories forever. Join us on this amazing journey as we share our experiences and tips for exploring these iconic national parks.
Chapter 1: Glacier National Park - The Crown of the Continent
Before planning your adventure to Glacier, check for road closures, fees and passes
Leave No Trace Tips:
- Dispose of waste properly.
- Leave what you find.
- Be considerate of other visitors.
Our adventure began in Glacier National Park, often referred to as the "Crown of the Continent." My husband Joe, my in-laws Connie and Jerry, and I began our journey with an epic 12-mile hike from Bowman Lake to the Numa Ridge Fire Lookout. If you’re looking for a more serene and tranquil atmosphere within Glacier, Bowman is your place! It offers a unique, less crowded experience than other parts of the park. We only encountered two other hikers along the way. The absence of the usual trail chatter meant that every noise triggered our imagination. Was that distant rustling just the breeze or could it be a bear lurking in the shadows? We luckily didn’t encounter any wildlife but we were all sure that we were being watched by the curious forest dwellers hidden among the trees. Fewer hikers can make you feel more vulnerable if you do come across wildlife so my tip is to take extra precautions in bear country, such as carrying bear spray, making noise periodically to alert wildlife of your presence, and being well versed in bear safety protocols.
Once we reached the lookout, we were greeted by a friendly forest ranger who welcomed us into her home, told us a little bit about her job as Firewatch, and kindly took the time to point out the huckleberry bushes for us. For the rest of the hike our fingers and tongues sported a delightful shade of purple from all the berries we couldn’t resist sampling.
The next day we did an 11-mile hike to Iceberg Lake. The contrast between our previous hike and this one was striking. The trail to Iceberg Lake was bustling with activity which gave us a sense of safety. Connie, my adventurous mother-in-law, was sporting a T-shirt that read, "Is this heaven?" It was a quirky choice for a hike, but as we ascended towards Iceberg Lake, it felt strangely appropriate. What made it even better was that hikers descending from the top couldn't resist commenting on her shirt. They'd smile and nod, affirming, "It sure is at the top!" It became a shared recognition of the paradise that awaited us all at the summit. Once we reached the top we were met with such a mesmerizing scene that Connie found herself moved to tears by the overwhelming beauty that surrounded us. Despite the water being icy cold, we fully immersed ourselves in the lake. The beauty of the lake was not just something to behold but to be felt, experienced and remembered!
So here’s my next tip: Always bring a towel, a swimsuit, and a dose of courage. The chance to take a refreshing dip in glacial waters is an experience you won’t want to miss!
The next day we embarked on a 12-mile hike to Grinnell Glacier Viewpoint. As we set out on this hike our bodies were already feeling the strain from the previous two days but this trail had everything so it kept us going. From pristine alpine meadows, to turquoise mirror-like lakes, and waterfalls cascading down rocky slopes, it is truly a masterpiece.
As we neared the final rocky stairs that would lead us to the top, we decided to take a well deserved lunch rest. We sat there eating mangoes and rice-cakes with peanut butter when two mountain goats appeared out of thin air, their powerful presence gave us the strength to continue on to the top. We reached the shore of the lake, sculpture-like icebergs floated on the pristine glacial waters. A playful spirit overcame us, and we challenged each other to step onto one of these scattered floating icebergs. Joe extended his trekking pole to gently nudge the icy platform closer to the shore and on it he stood, laughing and daring us all to follow his steps. We each took a turn on it fully aware of its instability and mindful of the chilly water below. Having plunged into the lake the day before, we made a pact that we would sample all the lakes we encountered from this point forward. It became clear that the water here was on a whole different level of coolness compared to that of Iceberg Lake but despite the biting cold we all jumped in. Each plunge was like a badge of honor! With refreshed bodies and spirits we continued our trek back down the trail.
On our last day in Glacier we exited through Two Medicine, a less traveled area located on the southern side of the park. We concluded our adventures here with an easy-level 3.7-mile hike with stunning views of Two Medicine Lake.
Chapter 2: Yellowstone National Park - Geothermal Marvels
- Mammoth Hot Springs
- Grand Canyon of Yellowstone
- Drive to Cody
- Old Faithful Eruption every 90 min.
- Grand Prismatic Spring
- Upper Geyser Basin
- Visit Natural Bridge
- Respect wildlife, keep your hands and your snacks to yourself. Stay at a safe distance from wildlife. It varies from animal to animal. Check recommendations.
- Keep fires small and put them out completely
Avoid introducing non-native species to prevent:
- Disruption of ecosystems and native species
- Alteration of habitats
- Spread of disease.
- Economic cost and management
- Impact on recreational activities and human health
Yellowstone, the world's first national park, amazed us with its geothermal wonders. From the iconic Old Faithful geyser to the colorful Grand Prismatic Spring, we marveled at nature's geological artistry. Make sure you arrive early to beat the crowds and experience these geological wonders in peace.
What truly set Yellowstone apart was its wildlife. Bison herds roamed freely and it wasn’t uncommon to spot elk, black bears, and moose as well. One aspect of Yellowstone that was very different from our adventures in Glacier is the importance of exploring the park by car, particularly during certain seasons. The Bison rut for example, is a spectacle to witness, but it also brings with it a certain level of danger. During this time, the massive bison become more unpredictable and aggressive and can pose risks to visitors who aren’t aware of this. Traveling by car allowed us to enjoy the park’s wildlife from a safe distance while also offering a much needed rest for our weary legs from all the hiking in Glacier.
We camped at Bridge Bay Campground located near Yellowstone Lake, one of the largest, high-elevation, fresh-water lakes in North America. I highly recommend booking your site far in advance. Due to all the recent rain they had, making a fire was permitted at this site. We were advised to store our food in bear boxes and since no bear activity had been observed, our car's trunk was also an option for food storage. They have a 911 call box and you can call for any wildlife nuisance. Watch for the juvenile delinquent elk they’ve lived here for 4-5 years and they love the smell of people. Keep everything zipped up because elk like to stick their noses in your tent and take your clothes. They’ll lick everything, stomp on chairs and firewood boxes, and even eat dinner with you. This campsite provides a dishwashing sink. There are clean restrooms at this site with flushable toilets and running water, they even have mirrors. Check out the park ranger talks about wildlife at the nearby campsite amphitheaters. We learned so much about bears at the presentation we went to.
If you’re seeking a break from the rugged camping experiences within the park. I recommend considering a stay in Cody. Known as the stomping ground of the legendary Buffalo Bill Cody himself, it felt like stepping back in time. Our lodging for the evening was the historic Irma Hotel, a true relic of the Old West. As we entered the hotel, it was as if we had stepped into a time machine. The rustic décor, vintage furniture, and the charming saloon transported us to the days of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
In Cody, you can explore the rich history of the Wild West through museums, enjoy entertaining gunfight reenactments, and even catch some country music performances. It's the perfect place to unwind, reflect on your national park adventures, and immerse yourself in the authentic Western culture that defines area.
Chapter 3: Grand Teton National Park - Rugged Beauty
- Use biodegradable soap for dishes or showering
- Put solid human waste in a 6 to 8 inch deep hole, 200ft away from bodies of water.
Our visit to Grand Teton National Park was fleeting, a mere one-day stop. Teton National Park greeted us with its rugged beauty and dramatic mountain scenery. The sight of the Teton Range reflecting in the crystal-clear waters was simply breathtaking. Don't forget your camera; this park is a photographer's dream. Since our national park adventure was drawing to a close, we decided to make our last hike the longest and most ambitious of them all. We embarked on a 16-mile hike that led us to the stunning Solitude Lake. If you want to cut out a few hiking miles, make sure to take the 12-minute boat ride across Jenny Lake over to the start of the trailhead. Boats depart every 10-15 minutes so no reservation is needed, and tickets can be purchased right at the dock. Along our hike, we crossed paths with a moose and even witnessed two black bears feasting on berries off the hiking trail. Wildlife encounters were a highlight of our trip. My advice is to keep a safe distance, store food properly, and be aware of park guidelines to protect both yourself and the animals. This park truly lived up to its reputation as a wildlife wonderland.
Our family hiking trip through Glacier, Yellowstone, and Grand Teton National Parks was nothing short of epic. These parks offered us a chance to connect with nature, each other, and ourselves. If you're considering a family adventure, we highly recommend exploring these national treasures. The beauty and wonder of the great outdoors awaits you!
- Sleeping Pad
- Sleeping Pad
- Nomadix Puffer Blanket
- Camping Pillow
- Camping Chair
- Nomadix Mini Towel
- Camping Table
- Head Lamp
- Firewood (sold at campsite)
- Rope and clothes clips
- Duct Tape
- Games/ cards
- Bluetooth speaker
- Camping Stove
- Matches or lighter
- Eating Utensils
- Can Opener
- Cooking Utensils
- Coffee/ tea maker
- Cutting board
- Wash bins
- Reusable water bottles
- Nomadix Mini Towel
- Large water jugs
- Dishwashing sponge
- Biodegradable soap
- Trash bags
- Foil paper
- Food storage containers/ bags
- Lightweight towel
- Fanny Pack
- Trekking Poles
- Reusable water bottles
- Hydration pack
- Hydration Reservoir
- Water filter
- Hiking backpack
- Mosquito repellent
- Bear spray
- Sun hat
- First aid kit
- Reusable bag for trash
- Plenty of snacks
- Smartphone apps like Strava
- Hand sanitizer/ alcohol spray
- Baby wipes
- Menstrual products