Have you ever wondered what it would be like to embark on a classic American adventure through the rugged beauty of Montana with your loved ones?
Montana, with its expansive skies, towering mountains, and serene lakes, beckons families to explore its untamed wilderness and charming towns. As I lay out this 10-day itinerary, you’ll get a glimpse of experiences that await you and your family.
From the tranquil shores of Whitefish Lake to the majestic peaks of Glacier National Park and the geothermal wonders of Yellowstone, this journey is meticulously designed to showcase the best of Big Sky Country.
Along the way, you’ll find cozy lodges and thrilling outdoor activities that cater to both the young and the young at heart. If you’re keen on discovering why Montana is the perfect backdrop for a family road trip, you’re in the right place.
- Related article: Montana Travel Adventures
So, are you ready to hit the road and create stories that will be told for generations? Let’s dive into the details that make a Montana family vacation itinerary an unforgettable experience.
7 Key Takeaways on Montana Family Vacation Itinerary
- Whitefish serves as an excellent starting point for a Montana adventure, offering a mix of outdoor activities and small-town charm.
- For a comfortable stay, book early at The Lodge at Whitefish Lake or Whitefish Mountain Resort, considering the amenities and seasonal activities that matter most to your family.
- Dedicate two days to Glacier National Park, driving the Going-to-the-Sun Road, and hiking in the park area. Utilize park services like shuttles and visitor centers to enhance your experience.
- Whether camping under the stars or staying in the Glacier Park Lodge, book accommodations in advance to enjoy the park’s natural beauty and outdoor activities.
- In Bozeman, experience a combination of cultural attractions like the Museum of the Rockies and outdoor excursions such as the Bozeman Hot Springs, ensuring a rich and diverse day for the family.
- Choose from eco-friendly hotels like Element Bozeman or the family-friendly Bozeman Hot Springs Campground, each offering unique experiences and convenient access to the town’s main attractions.
- Spend two days in Yellowstone, witnessing geothermal features like Old Faithful and Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces, wildlife watching, and enjoying scenic drives and hikes.
Day 1: Whitefish
Whitefish offers an ideal start for travelers landing at Glacier Park International Airport, serving as a gateway to Glacier National Park.
Nestled in the Rocky Mountains, Whitefish is a charming resort town renowned for its stunning lake views, particularly at Whitefish Lake.
Whitefish Lake, a top destination, invites boating, swimming, water-skiing, and fishing against a backdrop of beautiful mountain vistas.
Families can enjoy the amenities of Whitefish Lake State Park, perfect for camping and beachside fun, making it an ideal spot for outdoor activities amidst breathtaking scenery.
Where to Stay In Whitefish
When it comes to accommodation options in Whitefish, you’re in for a treat. From cozy lodges to lakefront luxury, this charming mountain town has it all. Two places that caught my eye are The Lodge at Whitefish Lake and Whitefish Mountain Resort.
The Lodge at Whitefish Lake:
- Offers a variety of accommodations to suit families of all sizes.
- You can choose from luxury homes, condominiums, or their cozy lodges.
- The lake views are simply breathtaking, and the amenities are top-notch.
Whitefish Mountain Resort:
- From hotel-style to townhomes, you’ll find a wide array of units to choose from.
- Many of them offer ski-in/ski-out access, making them a fantastic option for winter adventures.
- If you’re into skiing and snowboarding, this is your dream come true.
During my stay in Whitefish, I opted for The Lodge at Whitefish Lake. The lake views from my condo were awe-inspiring, and my kids loved the heated pool. If you’re more inclined towards a ski-centric vacation, Whitefish Mountain Resort is the place to be.
So, go ahead and book your slice of Whitefish paradise. The only tough decision you’ll have to make is whether you want to wake up to the sound of lapping lake waves or the swoosh of fresh powder.
Days 2 and 3: Glacier National Park
Day 2 and 3 at Glacier National Park would be an absolute must for any outdoor enthusiast.
With so much to see and do here, I would need a solid 2 days to fully explore this stunning park. From hiking to camping, ranger-led programs, and boating, the list of activities is endless.
One of the must-see attractions is the scenic drive along Going-to-the-Sun Road, a breathtaking 50-mile stretch that connects the park’s east and west sides. The views along this drive are unmatched.
Exploring Lake McDonald, the largest lake in the park, would also be a priority. The pristine waters and mountainous backdrop provide the perfect setting for a peaceful afternoon.
Another must-do would be the 2-mile hike to Avalanche Lake, accessed from the Trail of the Cedars. The hike offers an up-close view of one of the park’s most beautiful alpine lakes.
For wildlife enthusiasts, Logan Pass provides excellent wildlife viewing opportunities. It is the highest elevation reachable by car in the park and is home to mountain goats, bighorn sheep, and the occasional grizzly bear.
Glacier National Park offers a wide range of outdoor activities and breathtaking lake views that would make a 2-day exploration an absolute necessity.
Where to Stay In Glacier National Park
For an authentic Glacier NP experience, camping is a fantastic option. With 13 front country campgrounds, you can pitch a tent, park an RV, or even sleep in your vehicle. It’s a great way to immerse yourself in the park’s natural beauty.
But if you’re looking for a cozier stay, Glacier Park Lodge is a top pick. Situated at the southeast corner of the park, this historic lodge offers a range of accommodation options. During my visit, I found the lodge to be a welcome respite after a day of hiking and exploring.
Glacier Park Lodge Accommodation Options:
- Main Lodge Family – Main lodge family rooms have at least three beds with garden or mountain views.
- Tippet Cottage – A quaint and cozy stand-alone cottage, the Tippet Cottage features a private bedroom with a double bed, living room, and full kitchen.
- Golf House – The Golf House has two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a full kitchen and sleeps up to eight people.
Whether you choose to camp under the stars or opt for the comforts of a lodge, both options offer unique ways to experience the wonders of Glacier National Park.
Day 4: Bozeman
Bozeman, a small city with a big personality, has been considered a “dream town” by many. The Museum of the Rockies is a must-visit, showcasing a world-class collection of dinosaur fossils and captivating exhibits.
After that, head to the Montana Grizzly Encounter for a chance to see grizzly bears up close at this Grizzly Bear Rescue & Education Sanctuary.
The juxtaposition of ancient history and wildlife encounters makes Bozeman a truly unique and unforgettable destination.
Where to Stay In Bozeman
Looking for a place to rest your head in Bozeman? You’ve got a range of accommodation options, from trendy hotels to family-friendly campgrounds. Here are a couple of fantastic options to consider:
- Element Bozeman – This pet-friendly hotel is a popular choice for families. It’s just a block away from Main Street, so you’re within walking distance of all the action—restaurants, art galleries, and shops.
- Bozeman Hot Springs Campground – Now, this is a unique one. An award-winning hot springs campground, it offers a chance for the whole family to relax. While you unwind in the pool or splash park, the kids can try their hand at gold panning.
These are just a couple of the many options Bozeman has to offer. Whether you prefer the convenience of a hotel or the rustic charm of a campground, you’ll find a place that suits your family’s needs.
Days 5 and 6: Yellowstone National Park
As I ventured into Yellowstone National Park for days 5 and 6, I was immediately struck by the stunning beauty and vastness of the park. With five entrance stations, ten visitor centers, and eight developed areas housing lodges, restaurants, and stores, there was no shortage of places to explore.
Popular destinations you should check out:
- Grand Canyon – The view of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone from Artist’s Point is a popular destination.
- Mammoth Hot Springs – Explore the Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces.
- Old Faithful – Watching Old Faithful Geyser erupt is a Yellowstone National Park tradition.
Throughout my time in Yellowstone, I also had the opportunity to engage in a variety of outdoor activities, from hiking and wildlife viewing to photography and simply soaking in the natural beauty of this incredible national park.
Where to Stay In Yellowstone National Park
When it comes to staying overnight in Yellowstone National Park, you’ve got options. With 9 lodges, 12 campgrounds, and hundreds of backcountry campsites, there’s something for everyone. Plus, there are 52 picnic areas dotted throughout the park for a cozy outdoor meal.
When entering the park, you can choose from three different entrances in Montana: the West Entrance in West Yellowstone, the North Entrance Road through Gardiner, or the Northeast Entrance via Cooke City.
As for accommodation options, you’ll find everything from modern hotel rooms and rustic cabins to RV and tent campsites, as well as primitive backcountry campsites.
One fantastic option is the Old Faithful Inn, a rustic lodge that boasts hotel-style accommodations and holds the title of the largest log structure in the world, built with local logs and stone.
With so many options, you’re sure to find the perfect spot to rest your head after a day of exploring this incredible park.
Day 7: Big Sky
As I made my way to Big Sky, nestled in the Rocky Mountains of southern Montana, I couldn’t help but be in awe of its proximity to Yellowstone National Park. Known for the ski and downhill mountain bike trails of Big Sky Resort, this community is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts.
Skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, sno-go biking, mountain biking, dog sledding, and sleigh rides are just a few of the popular activities to enjoy in this winter wonderland. And for the more adventurous souls, experiencing the Lone Peak Tram opening on December 19, 2023, is a must.
The ride takes you to the top of Lone Mountain, providing challenging and dynamic terrain, a stunning viewpoint, and a spectacular ride.
In Big Sky, you never run out of things to do, whether it’s taking in the breathtaking scenery, embarking on outdoor adventures, or simply reveling in the crisp cold weather. It’s all about embracing the great outdoors and living life to the fullest.
Where to Stay In Big Sky
Big Sky, Montana—a name that conjures up images of endless vistas, soaring mountains, and boundless adventures. Today, you’ll find yourself amidst this grandeur, where the sky’s the limit and the possibilities are as vast as the landscape.
When it comes to lodging in Big Sky, there’s more than just the Big Sky Resort. You can also stay at the Lone Mountain Ranch, which is conveniently located next door to the resort.
At the dude ranch, you have the option to choose from 24 newly renovated luxury cabins, including 1, 2, 5, and 6-bedroom cabins.
For a unique and immersive experience in Big Sky, consider staying at one of these dude ranches for a taste of the Old West with modern comforts.
Day 8: Missoula
Welcome to Missoula, the cultural hub of Montana! On this day, we’re stepping away from the wilderness and diving into a vibrant city scene. Get ready for a day packed with art, history, and the laid-back charm that makes Missoula so special.
Missoula is a city that effortlessly blends urban amenities with a mountain town vibe. You’ll find a little something for everyone here, from art enthusiasts to outdoor adventurers.
The Garden City of Missoula, Montana, is a haven of dense trees and lush green landscapes, making it a fantastic option for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.
As the state’s second-largest county, Missoula is renowned as the hub of five valleys, surrounded by numerous parks, trails, and rivers, offering endless opportunities for exploration and adventure.
For families with kids, Missoula boasts popular destinations such as:
- Splash Montana – Splash Montana is a kid-friendly water park where you can plunge waterslides or float along the lazy river.
- Carousel for Missoula – Carousel for Missoula is a volunteer-built, hand-carved carousel.
- Dragon Hollow Playground – Dragon Hollow is a magical playland adjacent to A Carousel for Missoula.
The city’s abundance of natural beauty and family-friendly attractions make it an ideal destination for those seeking an immersive and unforgettable vacation experience.
Where to Stay In Missoula
Missoula, the cultural hub of Montana, is a city that seamlessly blends arts, culture, and outdoor adventure.
When you stay in downtown Missoula, you’re not just close to the action; you’re in the middle of it.
Imagine strolling through the vibrant arts district, sampling local cuisine, and browsing unique boutiques—all within walking distance of your hotel.
- Holiday Inn Missoula Downtown – This centrally located hotel is a top choice for families. It offers comfortable accommodations and easy access to the city’s best spots. During my stay, I loved how I could walk to the Missoula Art Museum and then grab a bite at one of the many trendy eateries nearby.
- The Resort at Paws Up – If you’re looking for a more secluded and nature-focused stay, this family resort just outside Missoula is an excellent option. My kids adored the on-site activities, from horseback riding to fly fishing.
Whether you prefer the buzz of the city or the tranquility of nature, Missoula has the perfect accommodations for your stay. Consider your priorities and choose the option that best suits your preferences for an unforgettable experience in Missoula.
Day 9: Kalispell
On Day 9, I found myself in Kalispell, the largest city in northwest Montana and a gateway to the stunning Glacier National Park. Exploring Flathead Lake and Wild Horse Island was a major highlight of my visit.
As the largest natural freshwater lake in the western United States, Flathead Lake offers a wide range of outdoor activities.
From sailing and power boating to waterskiing and swimming, there’s no shortage of water fun. For those who prefer land-based activities, fishing, picnicking, and camping with breathtaking lake views are also popular options.
But the real gem of the area is Wild Horse Island, home to a herd of wild horses. A visit to this unique island is a must for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts alike.
As I hiked and explored the island’s natural beauty, I couldn’t help but marvel at the sight of these majestic creatures roaming freely.
Kalispell and its surrounding areas truly offer an unparalleled outdoor experience that is not to be missed.
Where to Stay In Kalispell
When staying in downtown Kalispell, you’ll find yourself just steps away from an array of shops, restaurants, and local attractions. The area is home to a variety of charming inns, bed and breakfasts, and hotels, offering something for every traveler’s taste and budget.
One standout option is The Kalispell Grand Hotel, situated in the heart of historic downtown Kalispell. Surrounded by some of the best and most unique dining, this hotel provides an easy walk to outstanding museums, including the Conrad Mansion.
It’s the perfect choice for those looking to immerse themselves in the vibrant culture and history of this charming Montana town.
With its central location and proximity to local hotspots, The Kalispell Grand Hotel is a prime base for exploring all that downtown Kalispell has to offer.
Day 10: Departure
Today is a free day, with no set plans or itineraries to follow. Before heading back to the airport, you have the freedom to go anywhere nearby.
If you’re in the mood for some souvenir shopping, Downtown Kalispell and the nearby city of Whitefish are great options to explore.
If you still have time and want to soak in more of the natural beauty, consider revisiting Glacier National Park for one last awe-inspiring experience.
Pack some snacks, take breaks, and make the most out of your final day in this captivating destination. The day is yours to seize and savor.
10-Day Montana Family Road Trip Final Thoughts
As I conclude my 10-day family road trip itinerary in Montana, I can’t help but feel a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment. From Whitefish to Kalispell and back again, this round-trip adventure has been filled with memories and breathtaking experiences.
The carefully planned trip route allowed for plenty of time to explore the stunning natural beauty of Montana, while still leaving room for spontaneous pit stops and snack breaks.
The outdoor activities, from hiking and wildlife viewing to water sports on Flathead Lake, provided endless entertainment for the whole family.
The state’s diverse landscapes and charming small towns provided the perfect backdrop for perfect family vacations in Montana. And with a mix of short and long drives, the itinerary allowed for a balance of adventure and relaxation.
As I look back on our time in Montana, I am reminded of the joy that comes from spending quality time with loved ones in a beautiful and serene setting.
This trip has solidified Montana’s place in my heart, and I am already eager to plan our next family adventure in this captivating state.
Montana Family Road Trip: 10-Day Itinerary FAQs
1. What Do People Do on Vacation in Montana?
On a vacation in Montana, people explore national parks, enjoy scenic drives, and engage in outdoor activities like hiking, camping, and wildlife viewing.
2. What Do I Need to Know Before Going to Montana?
Before going to Montana, be aware of the diverse weather conditions, prepare for outdoor adventures, and check for any seasonal road closures or park regulations.
3. Is Montana a Good Road Trip?
Yes, Montana is an excellent road trip destination, offering vast landscapes, stunning national parks, charming towns, and diverse outdoor activities along scenic highways.
4. How Long Does It Take to Travel Through Montana?
The time it takes to travel through Montana depends on your starting and ending points, the specific route you take, and how many stops or detours you make.
But a 10-day trip is ideal to go through the best spots in Montana.
Uncover more must-visit spots in Montana in the articles below:
- Montana’s Honeymoon Paradise
- Romantic Getaway in Montana’s Ranches
- Independent Travel in Big Sky Country
- Explore Montana Vacation Packages