14 Must See Spots on Your Road Trip to Yellowstone!

Last year we took an epic road trip from Texas to Montana, and then back home! Below, I’m including 14 must see spots on your road trip to Yellowstone! This road trip adventure will take you through Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado.

Our entire road trip route!

Texas

Erwin Widmer / Shutterstock

Cadillac Ranch

We are notorious for driving through Texas as quick as we can and not making too many stops in our home state. But, if you’re looking for a quick, fun, colorful stop, then check our Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, TX. Don’t forget to bring along a can of spray paint!

Address: 13651 I-40 Frontage Road, Amarillo, TX

New Mexico

Amarillo, TX to Farmington, NM

If you’re coming in from Texas, New Mexico is a great place to stop for the night! We stayed in Farmington, NM and that was about a twelve hour drive for us from home. We typically don’t like to drive that far in one day, but we wanted to knock out a big chunk early on to have more days for exploring. And Texas is a huge state to drive through!

Aztec Ruins National Monument

The boys at Aztec Ruins

The Aztec Ruins are a fun and educational stop in Farmington, NM. We spent about an hour here, exploring the different areas of the ruins. The boys loved all of the prairie dogs!

Address: 725 Ruins Rd, Aztec, NM 87410

Shiprock

Family photo with Shiprock Peak behind us!

Shiprock is an iconic sight, rising 1,583 feet tall, about 30 minutes from Farmington! Be aware, it’s considered a sacred place to the Navajo tribe and is not open to the public. We just made a quick stop for a photo on the side of the road!

Directions from Farmington: Take US 64 west to Shiprock and make a left at the intersection with US 491. Continue 7.1 miles on US 64 and 491, and turn right (west) onto the paved Indian Service Route 13. Continue 7.6 miles on IR 13 and turn right (north) onto IR 5010, which is a dirt road. Follow IR 5010 north to Shiprock, which is about 3.5 miles away.

Arizona

Farmington, NM to Monument Valley

Monument Valley

Forest Gump Point

I have always wanted to see Monument Valley, so we made sure to add this route to our road trip itinerary! I am hoping to explore more of this area on a future trip out west. We just drove through, and stopped for a quick photo at Forest Gump Point. I typed that in on my GPS and it led us there! The landscape here was impressive and I am so happy we added this quick detour to our route!

Monument Valley is located on US Highway 163.

Utah

Monument Valley to Moab, UT

Utah is one of the coolest states we’ve ever visited! On this trip, we drove through Moab on our journey to Yellowstone. Of course, we had to stop for some hiking! There are so many amazing spots in Moab to explore. If you’re short on time, I recommend hiking up to Wilson Arch. If you have more time on your road trip, you can stay in Moab for a few days to explore the two National Parks here!

Wilson Arch

The boys under Wilson Arch

Wilson Arch is a quick, five minute hike from the side of highway 191, about 20 minutes south of Moab. It’s mostly uphill, but we were able to hike up and back down without any issues. You can find the pull out to park right alongside the highway, and even though it’s not very crowded, you’ll see other cars along the road. We like this hike because you don’t have to pay to explore here!

Arches National Park

Delicate Arch trail

Arches National Park is the site of over 2,000 natural sandstone arches. It’s one of those places that you just have to see to believe! My boys loved exploring this park and keep asking to go back. There are so many areas to explore, if you’re short on time you can even just drive through and stop at different overlooks to take in the different arches. If you have time for a hike, I recommend the three mile hike to the iconic Delicate Arch! Keep in mind, you do need a timed-entry permit to enter Arches National Park from April 1st-October 31st.

Directions to Arches: From Moab, drive north on US 191 for five miles. You will see the sign for the entrance!

Dead Horse Point State Park

The vista at Dead Horse Point

I think I prefer Dead Horse Point State Park over the Grand Canyon, it’s that scenic! You don’t need a ton of time here, we just parked and walked along the overlook trail. The views are absolutely breathtaking!

Directions to Dead Horse Point: Drive nine miles northwest of Moab on US 191 and then 23 miles southwest on Utah 313 to the end of the highway. You will see signs for Dead Horse Point along the drive!

Canyonlands National Park

Mesa Arch trail

Another amazing National Park in Moab is Canyonlands! The area called Island in the Sky is right next to Dead Horse Point State Park, so you can knock these two places out at one time! The overlooks are truly amazing. If you don’t have much time, I recommend checking out Mesa Arch!

Directions to Canyonlands: From US 191 north of Moab, UT 313 leads to Island in the Sky district. You will keep driving past Arches NP and will see signs for Canyonlands National Park.

Idaho

Moab, UT to Twin Falls, ID

Idaho has to be the most underrated state we’ve ever visited! We were blown away with the views, the waterfalls, the hiking trails, the mountains, and more! On our road trip, we decided to stay in Twin Falls for a few nights to explore the area and spend some time outside of the car. This ended up being a great choice and one of my favorite destinations of the entire trip!

Perrine Coulee Falls

Can you see the people on the trail behind the waterfall?

Did you know that you can hike behind one of the tallest waterfalls in Twin Falls? I had no clue until I began researching stops along our route. The 200 foot waterfall is quite impressive by itself, but having the opportunity to walk behind it was really special!

Directions to Perrine Coulee Falls: This waterfall is just outside of Centennial Waterfront Park. You’ll see cars parked along the street next to the falls. You won’t miss this one, it’s close to the road that leads through the park!

Shoshone Falls Park

Shoshone Falls Park

Shoshone Falls is also known as The Niagara of the West! If you’re in Twin Falls, you have to visit this park! There are several different paved trails with different views of the falls. And, you don’t need a lot of time here to experience the magic!

Shoshone Falls Park Address: 4155 Shoshone Falls Grade, Twin Falls, ID 83301. There is a $5 entrance fee per vehicle.

Upper Mesa Falls

Upper Mesa Falls

If you’re driving from Twin Falls, you should make the stop to hike around Upper Mesa Falls near the Idaho, Montana border! I really had no clue that Idaho was full of so many amazing waterfalls. This is a very short hike to a 114 feet high, 200 feet wide roaring curtain of water!

Directions to Mesa Falls: You’ll find Upper Mesa Falls in Ashton, Idaho off of Hwy 20 via Scenic Byway 47. I used the Alltrails app for directions and we had no issues finding it. There were also signs along the drive.

Montana

Twin Falls, ID to West Yellowstone, MT

Up to this point, our trip was fantastic, but then we arrived in West Yellowstone, MT and found out that Yellowstone National Park was closed. Yes, we are some of the unfortunate people that made the trip only to learn that other areas of the park had encountered historic flooding. So, we never actually got to enter Yellowstone. We were so sad, but found other things to do in the area.

Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone

The boys with our favorite bear!

We had been so excited to see wild animals in Yellowstone, so it made sense to visit the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center. Plus, it was directly across the street from our lodging. It is a fantastic facility! We loved seeing the bears and were so excited when the wolves woke up and began moving around. We spent several hours here viewing the animals, hearing their stories, and exploring the museum inside.

Address: 201 S Canyon St, West Yellowstone, MT 59758. It costs $16.50 for adults, $11.50 for kids.

Wyoming

West Yellowstone, MT to Jackson, WY

Our trip was completely redeemed once we made it to Jackson, WY! The Grand Tetons are absolutely gorgeous. And, the best part is that we got to encounter a real bear in the wild!

Grand Teton National Park

Jenny Lake

One can easily spend weeks here and not see everything that this National Park has to offer. We had the chance to spend a couple of nights here, and we were able to spend two full days hiking in the park. If I had one place to recommend, I’d suggest the Jenny Lake area! If you want to see wildlife, hike on the Phelps Lake Overlook trail, that’s where we saw the bear!

Visitor Center Address: 100 Discovery Way, Moose, WY 83012

Colorado

Jackson, WY to Colorado Springs, CO

By the time we made it to Colorado Springs for the night, before journeying back home, we were exhausted! This is such a neat destination, you can easily spend a week vacationing here alone. So, even though there are tons of activities and attractions to explore here, we opted for a quick visit to Garden of the Gods.

Garden of the Gods

Garden of the Gods

Garden of the Gods has been a favorite of mine since I was a kid! I knew I wanted to bring my boys here. They’ve actually visited this place on several different occasions, it makes for a great stop! My boys love the easy walk around the different rock formations. And the climbing is their favorite part! Plus, it’s always a good idea to get the kids tired before beginning a long trip back home! Don’t miss out on the museum inside the Visitor Center.

Address: 1805 N. 30th Street Colorado Springs, CO 80904

We spent two weeks adventuring through the desert and over mountains on this road trip! Even though we didn’t get to see the main attraction on this trip, we still had a wonderful time and made tons of memories! This road trip did involve a lot of planning, especially for the weather! It was warm in some places, but snowed in others, all within just a few days.

Road Trip Tips

  • Have a plan! Make sure to know your route and where you plan to stop and stay each night!
  • Get your vehicle checked before your road trip!
  • Make sure you have a first aid kit in your vehicle.
  • Bring plenty of snacks and drinks for the drive!
  • Create a playlist. If you have kids, have them help you!
  • Stop often for breaks.
  • Don’t try to drive too long each day unless you know you and your kiddos can handle it.
  • Prepare for the weather at each destination on your adventure!
  • Be patient, expect traffic and weather delays from time to time.
  • Don’t try to pack in too much each day!
  • Have fun!

I’m sure we missed a ton of awesome places on this road trip! We do have plans to one day return to Yellowstone, taking a different route. Be sure to check out more of my blog posts for complete travel guides and itineraries! Good luck on your next road trip, I know it’s going to be amazing!

7 Things to do Outside Yellowstone National Park

Hey there! I am finally catching up on the blog and didn’t really know how I wanted to organize & share all of our Yellowstone information. If you follow along on our travels on Facebook or Instagram, then you may know that we arrived at West Yellowstone, MT 3 hours after the National Park Service closed Yellowstone for the first time in 34 years. We were so confused because the weather in the area was absolutely beautiful and there was no indication that Yellowstone had received flooding rains. But then we saw the footage and realized the severity of the situation way north of us. We were sad to say the least, I had spent over a year planning this trip. So, we got to work making new plans while praying that the Park would open while we were still there (which it did not). We definitely made the best of the situation and had tons of fun doing and seeing things that we would not have if Yellowstone had been open. At the end of the day, Jereme and I both agreed that our boys probably had more fun on these excursions than they would have driving around in Yellowstone for 5 days. So, if you find yourself in the area and want a variety of things to do, read on for a list of family friendly ideas and our top 7 things to do outside of Yellowstone National Park!

West Yellowstone, MT

Lodging – First things first, we absolutely LOVED The Kelly Inn in West Yellowstone. The staff was so amazing and accommodating with the situation of Yellowstone being closed. They offered us some ideas on things to do in the area, which we appreciated so much! And the location was ideal, we were actually able to walk to dinner and shopping right from the hotel. It was nice to be out of the car and walking after our 20+ hour drive from Texas. Our room was so large and roomy, the free breakfast buffet was one of the best that we’ve had at a hotel, and we enjoyed the pool and hot tub during our down time. I highly recommend this lodging, which also happens to be right outside of the West entrance into Yellowstone National Park!

We got lucky, our room had a bear peeking in the window!

Dining – Our favorite restaurant in West Yellowstone was the Buffalo Bar. Our boys asked to go there every single night! We all tried buffalo for the first time and really, really loved it. The boys had buffalo nachos, I had the country fried buffalo steak and some buffalo balls (lol), and Jereme had the buffalo burger. We ended up eating there two times on the trip because we all loved the food so much! We also enjoyed Three Bears Restaurant and The Slippery Otter Pub.

Country Fried Buffalo Steak from the Buffalo Bar

Downtown – West Yellowstone is a quintessential tourist town lined with souvenir shops, restaurants, candy stores, etc. We were able to walk to all the shops from our lodging, which was really nice. The kids enjoyed getting out and exploring all of the little stores that lined the downtown area and main street. We found some great souvenirs and enjoyed chatting with the employees in the shops. Everyone was truly shocked about the Park being closed and it was always the topic of conversation!

Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center – This was such a fun activity for our first full day in West Yellowstone! My youngest son’s favorite animal is a wolf and we wanted to see wolves in Yellowstone, which we knew wasn’t a guarantee in the wild. So, we really enjoyed our experience here. What I loved most about this place is that it is a non-profit organization and the animals in the center were actually rescued and have a wonderful place to live out the rest of their days. Most of the bears were orphaned as cubs and never taught how to be wild by their mothers and were getting too close to humans/trash. It was nice to hear their stories and see them doing so well. We also enjoyed the small museum inside – it was snowing on our visit… in mid-June! So, if you don’t get your bear or wolf sighting in Yellowstone, be sure to check out this place! Our tickets were good for two days, too.

  • Website: https://grizzlyctr.givecloud.co/
  • Address: 201 S. Canyon St. West Yellowstone, MT 59758
  • Phone: (406) 646-7001
  • Hours: 9:00 am – 6:00 pm Daily
  • Rates: Adults (13+) $15, Children (5-12) $10, Seniors (62+) $14, Free under 4
Sam was our favorite bear!

Island Park, ID

UTV Riding – Island Park, ID is only about 25 minutes from West Yellowstone. When we were searching for things to do, this area kept popping up and there are several different things to do here. We chose to rent a UTV for the day with High Mountain Adventures from 8:30 am to 4:45 pm. These UTVs are street legal, so we were able to go pretty much anywhere, including the convenience store for snacks and a restaurant. Did I mention that there are also over 500 miles of trails to explore? The UTV we rented came with a GPS and the employees gave us a map and highlighted their favorite trails for us to explore! We ended up going to Big Springs and to the top of Sawtell Peak, more information about these two places below.

Big Springs – One of the first places we decided to explore on the UTV was Big Springs. It’s a natural spring that provides water to the Snake River. The whole area is beautiful and the water is crystal clear. Bring some quarters and you can buy fish food right off the bridge to feed the trout – and there are a ton! It was so fascinating to watch. No fishing is allowed here, but you can hike and walk around the springs/river. And there are several UTV trails to explore as well.

The water is so clear & there are so many trout!

Sawtell Peak – We also wanted to drive up to the top of Sawtell Peak. We may have changed our mind if we knew how cold it was going to be, remember it had snowed the day before! It was a pretty mild day in Island Park and at Big Springs, but man it was freezing when we rode up the mountain. We did bring jackets and had blankets and gloves, but despite the view, it was pretty miserable at the top. We didn’t spend a lot of time here because we were too cold, but it was a very pretty ride. I think it would be more enjoyable later in the summer!

Upper Mesa Falls – Our final adventure in Idaho was to Upper Mesa Falls. We didn’t ride the UTV here, it was too far away for that. So we headed to the falls after we returned the UTV for the day and we had about a 30 minute drive from High Mountain Adventures to Ashton, ID. This waterfall is very impressive, 114 feet tall and 200 feet wide, and I am so glad that we decided to visit! I used the AllTrails app for directions, but there are also several signs on the drive for you to follow, too. The trail is pretty short and most of it is on a boardwalk that leads you to different viewpoints. There is a $5 cash only parking fee. There’s also a small store and visitor center on site.

We could not believe the size of this waterfall!

Virginia City, MT

Ghost Town – Virginia City was such a neat place to visit and only 1.5 hours from West Yellowstone. It originally became a town from pioneers and adventurers settling there during the Gold Rush period, which also brought vigilantes and bandits to the area. It is now a very well-preserved National Historic Site that is so fun to explore. And it’s completely FREE to walk around and enter the buildings on the boardwalk. There are also several different activities that you can do as well, including a train ride to Nevada City, stagecoach rides, historic fire truck tours, and museums! Click here to learn more about visiting Virginia City!

Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park, MT

Caverns – Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park is Montana’s first state park! These caverns are a little less than 2 hours away from West Yellowstone and the scenic drive through Montana was so enjoyable! You can only visit the caves with a guided tour and they offer two options, The Paradise Tour (1.5 hours) or The Classic Tour (2 hours). Tours cost $15 per adult, $10 per child (5-14) or $5 per child under four. We did the Paradise Tour, it was recommended for kids but I wish we would’ve done the Classic Tour since it’s about 30 minutes longer inside the cave. We learned a lot about caves and had a great time, then we ate a delicious late lunch at the café on site. They served burgers, sandwiches, nuggets and it was perfect after our guided tour! Click here to learn more about visiting Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park.

As you can see, we made the best of our unfortunate circumstances at Yellowstone. I wish we could’ve visited the Park, but we still had a great time and will eventually get to YNP. Please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions that you have! And be sure to follow me on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/road_trip_queen/ – I have more videos and helpful information there.

Our faces sum up how we all felt being so close to Yellowstone, yet unable to go in the Park!

Next up, our trip to Grand Teton National Park! Be sure to check back for details and more information about our time in Wyoming.