Running south from Canada nearly to Mexico, the soaring Rocky Mountains dominate America’s West. Three iconic national parks—Glacier, Yellowstone, and Grand Teton—frame the awesome, ice-carved summits, rushing rivers, deep glacial lakes, and abundant wildlife of this great range. Explore the valleys of the Grand Tetons on foot and the peaks of Glacier by raft, seeing elk and bison up close and looking for wolves, moose, and bears. Experience Yellowstone’s unique geothermal wonders: geysers, mud pots, and rainbow-hued hot springs. As we make our way north, stop in historic towns including Jackson, Big Fork, and Whitefish, soaking up the atmosphere of the wild West on an epic adventure.
Arrive in Jackson Hole, which sits on the edge of Grand Teton National Park, and transfer to our hotel. Gather for an orientation, and get to know our group during a welcome dinner.
Begin the day with a ranger-guided hike to Taggart Lake, taking in views of towering peaks along the way. After a picnic, drive north to Yellowstone National Park—America’s first national park, established in 1872. Most of this pristine wilderness rests atop a slumbering volcano whose magma chamber is the source of the park’s rainbow-colored hot springs, steaming fumaroles, and erupting geysers. Hike the Shoshone Lake Trail this afternoon, keeping an eye out for moose and river otters. (6–8 miles hiking, 4 hours)
After breakfast, explore Midway Geyser Basin, home to the richly hued Grand Prismatic Spring—Yellowstone’s largest hot spring. Witness the spectacular eruptions of Old Faithful geyser and discover the nearby geothermal landscape of mineral pools and steaming vents. After lunch, continue to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, where the Yellowstone River tumbles over sheer cliffs, presenting one of the park’s most magnificent sights. Witness the powerful Lower Falls from Artist’s Point, then hike the trail to Sublime Point, enjoying dramatic views of the canyon. (3–5 miles hiking, 2–3 hours)
Get up and head out for a drive through southwest Montana and the scenic Gallatin River canyon. Set out on a ranger-led tour in the Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park, and discover the park’s unique limestone cavern system lined with stalactites and stalagmites. After a picnic lunch, we’ll drive to Missoula and arrive at our hotel in the late afternoon. Explore Missoula’s famous river trail system, or set out on a hike up nearby Mount Sentinel for spectacular views of the of the valley below. (4.5 hours driving)
This morning, visit one the oldest wildlife refuges in the United States: the National Bison Range, located just north of Missoula in the Flathead Valley. Spot grazing bison, elk, deer, and a variety of birds as we explore this vast refuge, established in 1908 by President Theodore Roosevelt. Make our way to the scenic town of Bigfork, situated along the shores of Flathead Lake. Go for a hike along the “wild mile” of Swan River, known for its ferocious rapids during the spring runoff. Enjoy lunch on your own at one of Bigfork’s many restaurants before we continue driving to the northern Rockies town of Whitefish—our base for exploring Glacier National Park. (1–2 miles hiking, 1 hour)
Named for the massive ice flows that carved these awe-inspiring valleys roughly 20,000 years ago, Glacier National Park is one of wildest and most magnificent of America’s national parks—encompassing some 1,800 square miles of what naturalist John Muir called “the best care-killing scenery on the continent." In Lake McDonald Valley, set off on the Trail of the Cedars to Avalanche Lake, passing through hemlock and cedar forests to arrive on the shores of a glassy, emerald-hued lake that mirrors the majestic peaks looming above. Enjoy a picnic lunch while soaking up this stunning backdrop. Later, take to the waters of the Middle Fork of the Flathead River, which forms the southern border of Glacier National Park. Paddle Class II and III rapids, keeping an eye out for bears, bald eagles, osprey, and elk. Return to Whitefish in the late afternoon and have dinner in town. (4–5 miles hiking, 2–3 hours; 15 miles rafting on Class II & III rapids, 5 hours)
Head out early to experience one of the most scenic drives in the country: Going-to-the-Sun Road, a 52-mile marvel of engineering that spans the park from east to west and crosses the Continental Divide at the 6,646-foot-high Logan Pass. As we ascend, take in sweeping views of glacier-carved lakes and cedar forests, alpine meadows and snow-dusted peaks. At Logan Pass, set off on the Highline Trail across wildflower-dotted alpine meadows framed by craggy peaks and frequented by mountain goats, marmots, and weasels. Return to Whitefish to celebrate our national parks adventure at a farewell dinner. (6–10 miles hiking, 3–5 hours)
After breakfast, transfer to Glacier Park International Airport in Kalispell for your flight home.