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National Parks in Montana and Wyoming

Every summer, living in Arizona, we head north to cooler climes. My husband has always loved Montana and I had never been so we planned a 10 day vacation to visit Glacier National Park and Yellowstone.

We flew into Missoula, MT, although there is an airport in Kalispell which is closer to Whitefish and Glacier National Park. We spent a night at the Courtyard Marriott in Missoula and ate a good dinner at The Depot restaurant on their fabulous outdoor patio. Friends of ours had traded for a decent timeshare through RCI at the  Meadow Lake Resort just outside of Whitefish, MT and we stayed with them for 5 days.

Glacier National Park has an East and West entrance and during the summer there is a pass that you can take within the park which will lead you from one side to the other. This winter had so much snow that the pass was still closed at the end of June so we only saw the sites closest to the West entrance. Plan a trip to this park after July 1 to be assured of the park being totally open.

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Whitefish and Columbia Falls have some excellent restaurants. Check out The Three Forks, Ciao Mambo, and Garry’s Roadhouse.

The drive from Whitefish to Yellowstone would have taken 9 hours so we opted to drive as far as Helena, MT. We stayed at a very nice, new Marriott Residence Inn and used a free hotel certificate from renewing our Visa card. I really like these new Residence Inns–very contemporary but still comfortable.

On our way to Yellowstone we stopped in Livingston for lunch. It was easy to find a place to eat–we just stopped at the restaurant with the long line up in front. Mark’s In and Out Beefburgers is an original 50’s drive-in–super reasonable and very good.

Yellowstone Park is amazing to me. I had no idea what to expect and was shocked at the hydrothermal features of the park–hot springs, geysers, mudpots and funaroles.

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The landscape varies throughout the park so you definitely need at least 2-3 days to see the highlights.

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We had the thrill of seeing bison, elk, and deer.

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We stayed at what I think is the best accommodations in the park, the Lake Yellowstone Hotel. Built in 1891, the hotel has been completely restored to its 1920s grandeur. Rooms were spacious and pleasant. The food was excellent in the dining room and surprisingly not overpriced. We had two excellent dinners in the hotel dining room and really enjoyed both experiences. Be sure to make dinner reservations when you book your room as the restaurant fills up quickly.

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If you can, reserve a room with a view of the lake.

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The Grand Tetons were next on our journey and an easy drive from Yellowstone. Here we saw a moose and our first black bear playing with her cub. We spent the day touring through the park and took some time to canoe around Jenny Lake.

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We stayed in Jackson Hole, WY due to the proximity to the Grand Teton National Park. Check out the Rustic Inn and book a cabin in the back of the property by the river. The cabins are gorgeous and very private. We stayed in Jackson over July 4th and were lucky to catch the Rodeo and watch the big fireworks display. This is truly a western town with bars that have saddles as their stools and archways to the park made from deer antlers.

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We had such a great trip that we already have plans to head back to Montana next summer. Since we will be driving next year from Arizona up north, I think a quick stop into Yellowstone and Jackson Hole are in order.

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