22 Fun Stops Between Glacier and Yellowstone
If you’re family is one of the thousands who plan on road-tripping between two of our nation’s favorite national parks – Yellowstone and Glacier – you might be wondering how to get a break from the crowds. Because the parks are nothing short of spectacular, most tourist book it from one to the other and miss some amazing stops and sights along the way.
So if you’re planning on slowing down and enjoying the journey, here are some of the best kid-friendly stops between Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks.
And don’t forget – twelve federally-recognized tribal nations are in Montana, and many of these routes and stops take visitors through Indian Country. Before you head out, be sure to read about respectful travel. Also be sure to keep an eye out for guides and tours and events conducted and hosted by tribal citizens and nations.
Bozeman area kid-friendly stops
The Bozeman area offers plenty of great attractions for people heading in or out of Yellowstone. After you leave the city, keep an eye out for birds of prey along the highways – they’re always plentiful in that area.
Best kid friendly attraction: Museum of the Rockies
If you have a dinosaur loving kid, the Museum of the Rockies isn’t a suggestion – it’s a requirement. Montana was once home to triceratops and the tyrannosaurus rex, making MOTR one of the best dinosaur museums in the country. There’s also a Living History farm for any history lovers in your group.
Most unique nature stop: Lewis and Clark Caverns
Mid-way between Bozeman and Helena is the Lewis and Clark caverns, one of Montana’s favorite state parks. The cavern tour is a must, but can be difficult to do if you have new walkers, are pregnant, or have a baby in a carrier. Camping is available, and if you’re planning to camp along the way, check out our camping-road trip blog post.
Best stop for geology lovers: Missouri Headwaters
If you want to see where the longest river in the US begins, the Missouri Headwaters state park is worth a stop. Lewis and Clark stayed here in 1805. The geology in this area differs from the stunning views of Glacier and Yellowstone, but it can be fun to see the diversity the state offers. Camping is available at most Montana state parks, but reservations can fill quickly.
Best kid-friendly food: Wheat Montana
Because Wheat Montana is perfectly situated for a bathroom break between Helena and Bozeman, you’d probably end up stopping here even if I didn’t recommend it. But Wheat Montana is also a great stop for kid-friendly food and sandwiches made with local ingredients.
Helena area kid friendly stops
Helena, despite being halfway between Glacier and Yellowstone, is a bit off the radar for most tourists. The state’s capitol, however, is full of both history and hiking. Helena has plenty of camping along the Canyon Ferry Reservoir (Bureau of Reclamation land) but reservations can fill quickly.
Best kid-friendly attraction: Sculpture in the Wild
A short detour to Sculpture in the Wild in Lincoln, Montana is absolutely one of the most fun, off-the-beaten tracks you can make. Artists from around the world have built incredible sculptures into the landscape that kids of all ages can interact with and explore. There’s no better way to explore nature and art. While you’re in the area, head a few miles down the road to the famous jerky store High Country for a true taste of Montana.
Most unique nature stop: Gates of the Mountains and Prickly Pear Canyon
If you’re heading to East Glacier from Helena, you’ll head past the Gates of the Mountains, another spot on the Lewis and Clark expedition. Stunning limestone cliffs line the river and you can take a boat tour of the area. Be warned, though, the boat ride might be long for young children.
Best spot for geology lovers: Continental Divide
Twenty miles west of Helena, at the top of MacDonald pass, is the Continental Divide. Eastern and Western Montana are starkly different, with the west side being much lusher and greener. From the Cromwell Dixon campground, you can take a relatively flat, family-friendly hike along the Continental Divide Trail.
Best stop for family-fun guaranteed: Broadwater Hot Springs
A local favorite, especially in winter, Broadwater Hot Springs offers several naturally-heated soaking pools, hot tubs, a recreational pool, and even a few cold plunges. Admission can be pricey for a family (children don’t get in any cheaper). But if you’re looking to try out one of Montana’s many hot springs, Broadwater Hot Springs is one of the most family friendly.
Best spot for history lovers: Historic Helena
If you’re interested in Montana’s mining history, be sure to check out Reeder’s Alley and the historic Downtown Walking Mall. The state Capitol contains beautiful art and stained glass, and easy to walk right into. Kids and history lovers also always enjoy the Last Chance Tour Train, although younger riders might get squirmy.
Best kid-friendly food
While you’re in the walking mall, there are many kid-friendly food stops, including Big Dipper Ice Cream (the original is in Missoula). If you’re lucky enough to stop by Thursday-Saturday, Cotton Top Pastries is probably the best bakery in the state.
Missoula Area Places to Visit with Your Family
Everyone loves Missoula, and it’s easy to see why. The gorgeous mountains, the river running through the town (yes, that is where A River Runs Through It was set!), and plenty of cool restaurants make Missoula a perennial tourist favorite.
Best kid-friendly: Riverfront Park and Fishing Pond
Missoula’s Riverfront Walking Trail is perfect stop for weary travelers who need to stretch their legs. The paved walking path along the river also boasts playgrounds, a kid-only fishing pond, and surfing. Yes, surfing. In the summer, surfers love to surf Brennan’s Wave on the Clark Fork River, right by downtown Missoula.
Best stop for family fun guaranteed: Float the Clark Fork River
All summer long, you will see locals floating down the Clark Fork River in inner tubes. Tubing shuttles are available, with take-out sites right in town. Kids will love this family-friendly float.
Most unique nature stop: National Bison Range
There’s a chance you think you had your fill of bison sightings in Yellowstone, but the National Bison Range is still worth a stop. In 2020, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal nations regained control over the National Bison Range. Situated along the stunning Mission Mountains, the National Bison Range offers a beautiful drive with plenty of animals to see. The range is on the Flathead Indian Reservation,
Best views: Mission Mountains and Seeley-Swan Valley
If you’re looking for the shortest route between Glacier and Missoula, a drive along Flathead Lake will show you stunning views of the Mission Mountains. (If you plan to head to the National Bison Range you will want to take this route!)
But if you don’t mind traveling a little out of the way, or are heading from Helena or Bozeman, you might consider driving through the Seeley-Swan Valley. Holland Lake Falls is a favorite kid-friendly hike if you need to stretch your legs along the way.
Best kid-friendly food
Missoula has more good food than you can possibly need. Bridge Pizza is always a hit, and it’s right across the street from the flagship Big Dipper Ice Cream. If you need to stock up on groceries, the Good Food Store is great local option for staples and bulk goods.
Great Falls area kid friendly stops
The vast majority of tourists head to the west side of Glacier, but a lucky few head through Central Montana on their way to the eastern side of the park. The tourist stops along this route might be more modest, but you’ll avoid crowds and see a side of Montana most people miss.
Best kid-friendly attraction: Montana Dinosaur Center
In case you didn’t get enough dinosaurs at the Museum of the Rockies, be sure to stop by the Montana Dinosaur Center in Bynum. Dinosaur digs are also available, though they book up fat.
Most unique nature spot: First People’s Buffalo Jump State Park
For hundreds of years, American Indians used this mile-long sandstone cliff as a hunting site, stampeding buffalo off of its edge. No camping is available at this state park, but there is an interpretative trail, museum, and interpretative trails.
Best stop for geology lovers: Giants Springs State Park
Ever dreamed of seeing the shortest river in the world? Okay, probably you haven’t. But you can see the Roe River flow into the Missouri River at the Giant Springs State Park. This state park in Great Falls offers a chance to stretch your legs along a paved walking and check out some great bird watching.
Best stop for history lovers: Lewis and Clark Historic Trail and Interpretive Center
Right by Giant Springs is the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, where visitors can learn about the famous expedition.
Best stop for art lovers: Charlie Russell Museum
Montana’s most famous artist, Charlie Russell, was from Great Falls. This museum honors is nationally-recognized art, and helps give visitors a taste of the west.
Best kid-friendly food: Buckhorn Bar
Traveling through central Montana leaves fewer options for stops and restaurants than the west side does. If you’re looking for a good stop, kids love the burgers at the Buckhorn Bar in Augusta.
Have you road-tripped between any national parks? What are your favorite places to stop? Share below!
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