Mountain-West Road Trip

Highlights of a four-day drive starting in Boise, Idaho and including stops in Missoula, Montana; Glacier National Park; Bozeman, Montana; Yellowstone National Park; Teton National Park; and Jackson, Wyoming.

Day One: Boise to Missoula

Much Appreciated Meal

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by oldscratch on July 20, 2009

After a long day of driving from Boise to Missoula we were ready for a good meal, so felt very fortunate to find a restaurant that was not only open, but one that included great food, great wine, and great service as well. Located in the elegant lobby of a landmark hotel building, Red Bird specializes in seasonal and locally-sourced food, and the menu included Bison, Missoula-raised lamb, and wines from the pacific northwest.

We sat at the bar and ordered from the bar menu a very good duck and pear pate and an Ahi tuna Panzanella salad with two terrific glasses of rosé . We ended the meal with dessert and a very helpful conversation with the bartender who recommended a scenic rout between Missoula and Glacier National park for our drive the next day.
Red Bird
111 N. Higgins Suite 100
Missoula, Montana, 59802
(406) 549-2906

Basic Hotel, Good Location

Member Rating 2 out of 5 by oldscratch on August 19, 2009

There's not a whole lot to say about the Red Lion Inn in Missoula except that it's your basic chain hotel with the expected furnishings and that it's distinguished by a great location. It's actually close to downtown Missoula that you can walk to a bar or restaurant (like the highly recommended Red Bird) then not have to worry about driving home. After a long day of driving, this also provided a great opportunity to stretch our legs.
Red Lion Inn Missoula
700 W Broadway
Missoula, Montana, 59802

Day Two: Missoula to Glacier National Park

Make Sure to Go at the Right Time

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by oldscratch on July 27, 2009

Unfortunately I'm probably not real qualified to write about Glacier National Park and the Going-to-the-Sun Road because so little of it was open when we visited. (In the middle of June we were only able to take the road just past Lake McDonald to Avalanche Creek. That said, I do have some tips.

* There are indeed glaciers in the park. (I had assumed there were no glaciers in the contiguous United States and the park had been named after how it had been formed. I even tried to convince my wife of this, but she's smarter about these things than me.)

* Somewhat paradoxically, the best time to see the glaciers are late in the summer because this is the time when the roads are open and the snow is melted (otherwise you'd just be looking at snow cover and not the glaciers themselves.)

* Not surprisingly, the glaciers are fast disappearing, so you should plan to go soon.

* The other really notable feature of the park were the colorful river stones that looked just like Fruity Pebbles. These same stones were also perfect for skipping.

People go to the park, of course, for the scenery, so I'll let the attached photos tell the rest of the story.

Glacier National Park, Montana, 59936
(406) 888-7800

Cozy and Well-Maintained

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by oldscratch on July 23, 2009

After our visit to Glacier National Park was a bit of a wash (the main attraction, the Going-to-the-Sun Road, was still mostly closed), we were at least happy to return that afternoon to the comfort of our cabin at the Silverwolf, a meticulously maintained little resort of "designer log chalets for two". We drove to the grocery store in nearby Hungry Horse and bought some bratwurst and charcoal, and then enjoyed a leisurely barbecue on the resort grounds during what was just about the longest day of year.

The cabin was a great place to spend the night as it came equipped with a both a fireplace and a log bed, and again, I can't say enough how well maintained both the cabin and the grounds were. One thing to note, this is truly adult lodging—kids were not seen and we were by far the youngest couple.
Silverwolf Log Chalet Resort
160 Gladys Glen Rd
West Glacier, Montana, 59936
(406) 387-4448

Day Three: Glacier National Park to Bozeman

Driving North to South Through Montana

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by oldscratch on August 11, 2009

On the third day of our trip we took the long, but beautiful drive from Glacier National Park to Bozeman and as a result, I can confirm two things: first, Montana really does possess a wide-open, have-to-see-it-to-believe-it beauty and second, the locals drive really fast. Unfortunately, what I can't confirm is the route we took because we decided to skip the itinerary Google plotted out for us and instead stuck to the scenic roads as indicated on the fold-out map we borrowed from my father. This was a good choice--we encountered breathtaking green fields and sky that stretched on for so many miles that as you scanned from left to right you'd see blue sky, a thunderstorm, another expanse of blue sky, and then even more weather.

Fun, Inexpensive Place to Stay

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by oldscratch on July 30, 2009

While it's not the most adult or sophisticated place we've ever stayed, the C'Mon Inn in Bozeman was new, well-maintained, well-priced, and possessed a lot of character. Details include walls full of stuffed wildlife, a central atrium with several waterfalls, five hot tubs and two pools, a large stone fireplace in the lobby, and the overall feel of a massive log cabin.

This would be a great hotel if you were traveling with kids and is a great embarkation point for Yellowstone National Park. And while located along the highway, it's also a short drive to charming downtown Bozeman.
C'mon Inn
6139 E Valley Center Rd
Bozeman, Montana, 59718
(866) 782-2717

Day Four: Bozeman to Teton Village

It's Very Important That You Eat Here

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by oldscratch on July 10, 2009

A great spot to stop for lunch when you're approaching Yellowstone National Park from the north is Mark's In & Out Beef Burgers in Livingston. The sight of a gleaming white, classic 50's hamburger stand caught our eye, and I'm very glad it did. As you can see from the menu, the prices are comparable with fast-food burger chains, but the quality is far superior. While accessible to all, this a burger that the most foodiest-of-foodies will also enjoy. I had a two-patty supercheese that I still think about on occasion. It wasn't just that the lettuce, tomato, and bun perfectly complimented the patties and cheese— it was that the whole burger felt so lovingly prepared. Really, it was joy to hold and almost a shame to eat. I cried when I was done.

If you do go, make sure it's between March and October. Mark's In & Out proudly claims to follow the baseball season and is only open from spring training to the World Series.
Marks In and Out Drive In
801 West Park Street
Livingston, Montana, 59047

Too Big for One Day

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by oldscratch on August 5, 2009

Despite driving on one of the longest day of the year, we soon realized that there was no way we were going to start the day in Bozeman and see all the Yellowstone attractions and still make it through Grand Teton National Park and to Teton Village for dinner. So what follows are a few highlights restricted to just a few hours and slightly hurried drive along the Western edge of the park.

* The drive from Livingston, Montana on highway 89 to the North Entrance of the park was itself really spectacular and included supernaturally green, rolling hills and, of course, miles of big sky.

* The North Entrance is a really evocative structure and instantly takes you back to the park's early days in the 30's and 40's.

* Mammoth Hot Springs made for some some spectacular photographs of what the French call nature morte. See, in particular the photo attached to this review.

* Driving along the road we saw a number of bison and later read that we were probably too close for comfort as several people are injured by bison every year. (We never did figure out the difference between a bison and a buffalo, though.)

* Fountain Paint Pot was a great place to see gurgling, steaming mud bubbling out of the ground.

* Old Faithful is fairly impressive, but be prepared to wait around, both for the Geyser and traffic. It's worth noting that Yellowstone is filled with less famous geysers, some of which were if not more impressive than at least more colorful, so I wouldn't feel awful about skipping this one.
Yellowstone National Park
Headwaters of the Yellowstone River
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, 82190
(307) 344-7381

Made for Photos

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by oldscratch on August 11, 2009

There's a lot to say about Grand Teton National Park, mostly about beautiful lakes at the base of breathtaking mountains and the spectacular log Chapel of the Transfiguration, but instead I'm just going to just let a few of my better photos do the talking.
Grand Teton National Park
Po Drawer 170
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, 83012
(307) 739-3300

An Almost Perfect Hotel

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by oldscratch on July 9, 2009

We stayed the night in the Hotel Terra after a long day of driving, so it could be that I would have been happy staying anywhere, but nonetheless the Hotel Terra stands out as one of my favorite hotel experiences. The hotel is modern, clean and very well maintained and I found the stylish furniture, fixtures, and decor to be very relaxing. (See attached photos.)

Other highlights include:

* Great Service: We called the front desk after 11 PM to report a problem with the bathtub and a friendly repairman arrived shortly thereafter and immediately fixed the problem.
* Great Restaurant: We arrived just before closing, but the staff at the in-house restaurant Il Villaggio Osteria encouraged us to take our time and enjoy a great meal.
* Eco-Friendly: The hotel is LEED certified, and all the small efforts to be environmentally-conscious feel smart rather than spartan.

A couple of tips if you do stay there.

* Our room had a nice balcony, but the affect was diminished a little because we were on the second floor. If you're going to get a room with a balcony, ask for a higher floor.
* There's not much going on in the town of Teton Village, so it would be a good idea to try to eat in the hotel restaurant.
* I imagine the prices are quite expensive during winter ski season, so summer is definitely a good time to check it out.
Hotel Terra
3335 West Village Drive
Teton Village, Wyoming, 83025
(307) 739-4000

Day Five: Teton Village to Boise

Worth a Quick Stop

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by oldscratch on August 4, 2009

We were ready to get through the last day of our drive as quickly as possible, but no so quickly that we couldn't take an hour to detour a few miles and pay a visit to the charming Idaho Potato museum in Blackfoot. If you also make this detour, be sure to bring your camera so that you too can pose with the giant, sour-cream-and-butter-topped potato located out front and take a snapshot of the world's largest Pringle inside.

Other museum highlights include a "potatoe" signed by Dan Qualye, a potato tuxedo made out of burlap bags, the world's largest collection of potato mashers, and a illustration of Marilyn Monroe cavorting in a potato field.

And if you're visiting from outside Idaho be sure to take advantage of their generous "Taters to Out-of-Staters" program. Each paid adult admission entitles you to a free box of dehydrated hash browns to take with you.
Idaho Potato Museum
130 NW Main St
Blackfoot, Idaho
(208) 785-2517

Other Stuff

Great Mid-Century Road Signs

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by oldscratch on July 7, 2009

One very pleasant surprise during our four-day road trip were the variety of eye-catching motel, bar, store, and movie theater signs we encountered along the way. At first, we were just happy to see these occasional reminders of another ear of car-tripping—one we witnessed from the very back seat of a station wagon and often without seat belts. By the end, however, spotting these signs and capturing them on film had become an obsession. Attached are some of our favorites, particularly the ones aimed at enticing our worn out, station-wagon driving parents to end their long day on the road with a drink.

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