Thank you so much for checking this out! You're going to hear some weird stories, some cool stories, and like always we'll try and bestow upon you some of the knowledge and tricks we've picked up on our adventures. You'll also be seeing a list of all the gear we used, what we liked, didn't love, and what we ALWAYS have in our camp quiver.
We planned on hitting up the trifecta of national parks. Glacier National Park, Yellowstone, and a strong finish in Grand Teton National Park in a 7 day road trip. Keep in mind this can EASLY be a 14 day trip and we plan on going back to all these parks for further exploration. Any of these parks alone can be a full 7 day trip.
We've said it once, and well say it a thousand more times... PERSPECTIVE. Life is all about perspective, you'll see after we share a couple of our experiences how important it is and how it can change.
Glacier National Park
After landing in Kalispell, MT and picking up our rental car we made the rational decision to get the grocery shopping done before grabbing a bite to eat and setting off to the mountains. There are many different ways to camp, some like RVs, some don't even care for sleeping pads. Dan and I strive for a happy medium. Most of our meals on the trip were dehydrated meals, which might have a bad reputation but are absolutely delicious (and super safe to always have on hand). We brought most of the dehydrated meals on the flight so our shopping consisted of the essentials... alcohol and snacks, obviously. You'll see in a bit what we find is worth the weight and what we do when we need a lighter option.
Pro tip: Do your shopping OUTSIDE of the parks. More options & much cheaper. Check out our gear list below to see how we keep our claws cold
It really is hard to put into words the sheer beauty of this land. There are few people that have captured the true grandeur of these parks in photographs - Ansel Adams being one of the best historically. As one of our biggest inspirations we try to see the world through his eyes... but hey we’re only human.
Being the ultimate site enthusiast that I am we snagged a site ASAP at Avalanche campground. Not our top pick but in NO WAY disappointing. There are a lot of sites to choose from but this park is so big location does matter so do yourself a favor a do some research on where you want to spend the most time, we personally loved the Many Glacier area of the park . We tried to choose a campground as central as possible but beggars can't be choosers. It takes about 2 hours to drive all of Logan Pass, which we HIGHLY recommend doing at least once (we did at least 4 times). Like I said the park is huge so prepare for a lot of driving but I promise you the views are out of control. We did a quick hike that first afternoon to Hidden Lake on the West side of the Logan Pass Visitor Center. Big thumbs up, not a super long hike but we saw our first grizzly bear (at a distance), plenty of goats, and marmots.
Pro tip: *ONLY IF CAMPING* Get a flight that comes in early OR stay your first night in a hotel/airbnb. Most of the campsites in busy national parks are first come, first serve. Even when its off peak they can fill up quick, I mean 8am quick. Unless you have reserved a site which usually has to be done around 6 months to a year in advance. Nothing makes my heart sink more than "LOT FULL"
The next morning was our hike to Grinnell Lake which held the most outstanding blue glacier water. We found a secluded spot and polished off a couple well deserved beers. We rely on the AllTrails app and good old research to track down what hikes we’re interested in doing and how long it would take us. Never underestimate the power of a tangible tail map that you can pick up at any ranger station/general store.
The following day we woke up to catch sunrise at a lookout over Saint Mary Lake and then set out a little further than yesterday to the famous Many Glacier Hotel and did a 13.9 mile hike to Cracker Lake. The hike was intense but I promise it was so incredibly worth it. Sediments from the Siyeh Glacier turn these waters an opaque turquoise that is so unique its almost hard to believe even when seeing it with your own eyes, so yeah, it’s that good. Again the hike was rewarded with some cold glacier claws.
Pro tip: Always have bear spray on you, this is bear country people and its their land, not ours. This is also something that you cannot bring on a plane.
Pro tip 2: Do some research on great spots for sunrise because not every spot is a sunrise spot, ya know?
After 3 full days in Glacier, we packed up on that fourth morning and started to make our way to Yellowstone National Park. It was a rainy morning, but let us start by telling you guys that even inclement weather in places like Glacier just adds to the beauty. The atmosphere is breath-taking, so a gloomy morning was all the more welcome. On our way out of the park we stopped off at the rocky shore of Lake McDonald where the misty air soaked the rocks and mountains transforming their colors into deep maroons and brilliant greens. Have I mentioned my adoration of rocks yet?
The drive to Yellowstone from Glacier is about 7 hours. If you want to get in as many stop in a short amount of time, I hope you like driving, we definitely do. BUT we decided after 3 nights of camping we could use a shower and a recharge for us & our gear so we got an AirBNB for the night about half way to Yellowstone (which is kind of the middle of no where, no offense) and let me just say it was an interesting experience. Our AirBNB looked like a cement prison from the outside and our host, who was overall amazing host, gave us an interesting greeting with what looked like blue paint all over his face. If we're being honest we were a little put off, HOWEVER, never judge a book by its cover or blue face paint because we actually had a wonderful night. The cement prison was actually extremely cozy and comfortable on the inside with a cute little deck around the side. We were camping for the rest of our trip so we wanted to give ourselves a goodnights sleep for Yellowstone the next day and it gave us a chance to pick up on supplies and recharge our gear. Up at around 3am we coasted the rest of the way. We took The longer scenic route through Beartooth highway. At almost 11,000 feet about sea level the views are worth the extra time.
Pro tip: Always keep in mind the time of year you're visiting high altitude National Parks. Most highways like Beartooth close due to the excessive snowfall and volatile winters. Dan and I visited in September, which is off peak, but right at the cusp of the turning weather. Keep yourself updated by calling the parks, they always have reliable info.
Yellowstone National Park
Known for its wild life and thermal pools, Yellowstone has been on our list for a long time. Gotta admit that looking back we wish we stayed longer as you can spend a lifetime exploring everything this park has to offer.
The Geysers and overall corrosive landscape of Yellowstone is what drew me in and Dan was in his glory with the copious amounts of bison and elk. Located on top of a geologically active super volcano I can go on forever about how interesting and intense the landscape is but I’ll just let the photos do the talking for me.
Pro Tip: Old Faithful is incredible with its 9 geyser basins teeming with explosive 400° columns of water, but don't be afraid to shop around at the other geysers that are just as impressive - and less crowded. . Also you can check the timing of when certain geysers go off; some are every 2-3 minutes but others - like old faithful - erupt every 90 minutes.
Grand Teton National Park
The last 3 days were spent wandering around the base of the Teton Mountain range. Throughout our 3 days we drove, hiked, and immersed ourselves in the grandeur around us. Remember my bit on atmosphere? Well, we experienced some serious weather and loved every minute of it.
On one of the first days here we found ourselves on a dirt road and before we knew it we were sandwiched in the middle of a bison herd. Never forget these are WILD ANIMALS and bison being notoriously aggressive you never want to get too close. We stayed put in the car until they drifted into the pastures hugging the road. This was our personal nirvana being surrounded by these incredible animals. Being able to observe them fight and play and watch over each other was absolutely one of the best moments of our life.
Pro tip: Take the road less traveled - but make sure its open first... and make sure you have 4 wheel drive.
Dan and I were also fortunate enough to camp at a campground outside of the park known only by locals. Out of respect we won't be disclosing the location but check out the pro tip for finding gems like these. Our campsite had an almost eye level view to Grand Teton herself. What Dan and I didn't know is that after returning to our site the first night we were greeted with another car in our campsite - weird right? After investigating we learned it was a couple living out of their car exploring the country and just needed a site to stay the night. They were peculiar but after such an amazing day how could we not share? Believe it or not the same thing happened the next night, however this experience was completely different. This time a traveler piloting a Mercedes Sprinter parked at our spot, wtf right? However, we got to talking with this guy who happened to be very similar to Dan and I and we shared our stories over a campfire. And because we didn't mind sharing our site he prepared us an absolutely delicious dinner out of the custom kitchen he built in his van.
Pro tip: Don't be afraid to reach out to local photographers or travel guides for unknown spots. Instagram and Facebook are great resources to reach out to fellow people in the area that know the scoop on the land.
On our hike through Jenny Lake we took a small detour to Hidden Falls. This is where we met a super cool guy named Garett. Garett and his canine companion, Charlie were also traveling the country via van and they even happened to be from the same town in San Diego as my mom - wow. You meet so many amazing people from so many walks of life while traveling. We wound up keeping in touch and hooking back up with him and his girlfriend months later as they passed through NY. We'll be doing a blog in the future on the shoot we did with them in our hometown Hudson Valley area. It's dope.
The last day was so special not just because it was our last full day but it was also the 1 year anniversary of my father passing away. It was a strange and funny thing to find out Garetts pup shared the same name as my dad, Charlie.
It was an absolute privilege to celebrate his life, with Dan, in a place bursting with so much of just that. Life.
Life has its ups and downs, but my lesson is perspective and even the weird moments are funny in retrospect.
Thank you so much for reading and check out below some more tips on traveling and the gear we used and how we used it. We hope you enjoyed our stories and inspire you to never stop exploring. Be it Montana’s backcountry or your own backyard.
Feel like a deer in head lights when it comes to traveling? If you have any question involving travel tips, trails, gear or anything in between drop us a message below.
We'd love to help! Feel free to also leave some feedback, we’d love to hear about what you want to read and what you think of our blog.