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Between The Parks

Two-Day Road Trips Across Big Sky Country

The allure of Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks doesn’t end at their gates. The grand landscapes, flora and fauna, and rich histories that define these places extend outward, across Montana's vibrant small towns and colorful communities. In celebration of the National Park Service’s 100th Anniversary, savvy travelers will hit the highways, scenic byways and country roads that link together the world’s first national park and the Crown of the Continent. Here are four two-day road trips that explore the lesser-traveled spaces between Montana’s best-known places.


1. Ghost Towns & Fall Colors

Ten years before Congress established Yellowstone as a National Park, prospectors struck gold in southwest Montana, triggering one of the largest migrations West in American history. Today, these boom-to-bust pioneer towns come alive every fall during haunted ghost walks and living history tours. Linking them together are Big Sky Country’s scenic byways – roads that traverse mountain valleys turned golden and amber by the crisp autumn air.

    Virginia and Nevada Cities
    Bannack State Park
    Pioneer Mountains Scenic Byway
    Granite Ghost Town State Park
    Pintler Memorial Scenic Highway
    Garnet Ghost Town
    Seeley-Swan Valley


2. Powder Highways

Intrepid travelers have long since visited Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks in the winter, when a blanket of snow transforms the quiet landscape into a snowy sanctuary. Just outside the parks lie two different powder havens – Montana’s premier ski resorts – Big Sky and Whitefish. And hidden in between are Big Sky Country’s under-the-radar, mom-and-pop ski areas offering up deep days on the cheap. For uncrowded slopes, lift tickets under $50 and skiing like it used to be, take a trip along Montana’s Powder Highways.

    Big Sky Resort
    Bridger Bowl
    Maverick Mountain
    Lost Trail Powder Mountain
    Montana Snowbowl
    Blacktail Mountain Ski Area
    Whitefish Mountain Resort


3. The National Park Highway: U.S. Route 89

Nicknamed the National Park Highway, U.S. 89 links together seven of the West’s most iconic national parks and 15 other national monuments and attractions. Lush with greenery, springtime travelers can follow U.S. 89 as it winds north from Paradise Valley to the Rocky Mountain Front, encountering a myriad of legendary characters – from Calamity Jane and The Corps of Discovery to swimming mermaids and dinosaur skeletons – along the way.

    King's Hill Scenic Byway
    Sluice Boxes State Park
    Giant Springs State Park
    Great Falls
    Sip 'N Dip Mermaid Bar and Tiki Lounge
    First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park
    Old Trail Museum
    Two Medicine Dinosaur Center
    Lodgepole Gallery & Tipi Village


4. Small Town Summer Festivals

Much more than truck stops and fast-food joints, the most popular pit stops between Montana’s National Parks are its lively small towns. These vibrant communities are host to eclectic festivals and offbeat events throughout the summer. Cheer on bronc riders in the Livingston rodeo grandstands, watch daredevils perform hair-raising stunts at Butte’s Evel Knievel Days, and sip a cold pint along the Clark Fork River at Missoula’s Brewfest. These are Montana’s detour-worthy adventures along the most popular route between the parks.

Livingston Roundup Rodeo & Yellowstone Boat Float 

Bozeman Gallatin Whitewater Festival, Sweet Pea Festival, & Downtown Art Walks 

Three Forks Rockin' The Rivers Music Festival 

Butte Montana Folk Festival & Evel Knievel Days

Missoula Garden City Brewfest, River City Roots Fest 

Big Fork Whitewater Festival & Crown Guitar Festival and Workshop

Lakeside Montana Dragon Boat Festival 

Whitefish Festival Amadeus


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