Driving tour of WY, MT, ID in summer, with our dog

Hi BPN community,

Our family of four (two kids 13 and 10) and our small dog are planning to visit Wyoming, Montana and Idaho next summer in late July/early August. We expect to spend about 10-12 days total. We'd like some advice on the best way to approach this trip. We're open to camping if towing a rented pop up camper makes sense. Concerns with this are how easy it is to find campgrounds, whether the dog is welcome, and whether the crowds will make this difficult and not relaxing. Other options include glamping (where?) and finding motels or hotels or airbnbs along the way, or really figure out our trip ahead of time and book lodging in advance. If anyone has done this kind of a trip recently and could share an itinerary or lessons learned, we would be grateful! We'd love to understand what is a reasonable amount of driving to take on each day or few days, how long we should allow for places like Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone and other sights, etc. We would like to do some fishing, horseback riding, river rafting and hiking. Would also appreciate tips from anyone who has done this with a dog...does having a dog prevent any of these activities or severely limit access to the parks? Thank you so much for your insights! Laura

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We drove from NY to CA this past summer with our 4 yr old and two small dogs. We stayed in Yellowstone (one night near the geyser and one night in the north of the park then one night in town - all pet friendly cabins) and had no trouble booking accommodation with our pets. There are a lot of good tips for visiting national parks with dogs on their websites. Yellowstone has a video to watch about pet safety in the park as there are a lot of risks. Feel free to reach out directly with specific questions. 

Fun! We did a very similar 10-day trip last August with our 4-year-old. We didn't have a dog with us and we didn't camp, so I'm not sure how relevant this will be, but I thought our itinerary really worked out well in terms of having just enough time in each place. 

We flew from SFO to Jackson and then rented a car for our whole trip. We spent four nights in Grand Teton, four nights in Yellowstone (which is a very short drive from Grand Teton), made a quick diversion down to eastern Idaho to catch the eclipse, then drove to Helena, MT for a night just to take a break from the driving. From there, we went up to Glacier National Park for four nights and then flew home out of Kalispell's airport. The driving in Montana was the most tiring, as it is such an enormous, sparsely-populated state. That said, if you're not planning to go all the way to Glacier (which is right on the Canadian border), it might not be so long. I was also surprised by how much time we spent driving in Yellowstone, as the highlights are very spread out throughout the (enormous) park. I was glad we opted to fly to and from, as trying to drive to any of those places from California would have eaten up several days of the trip. 

We booked our lodging in National Parks hotels, but you usually have to do that about a year in advance (especially in super-popular parks like Yellowstone), so you would probably need to look at hotels in nearby towns if you end up opting for hotels rather than camping. Or you could try Airbnb; I have a friend who rented an amazing house in Montana at a very good price for a Yellowstone trip last summer. No matter what, I would recommend trying to book something in advance as these places are very, very crowded in the summertime. 

Overall, we really liked Grand Teton and the nearby town of Jackson. The Rockefeller wilderness area that was recently added to the National Park was definitely a highlight. Yellowstone was amazing in some ways, but overwhelmingly crowded at times. Glacier was stunning, but again, a long way from everything. Since our kid is so young we didn't do a lot of the activities you're interested in, but we did hike almost every day. Don't forget your bear spray! 

Have a wonderful trip! 

It was some years ago we did this, on a +/- National Parks circle tour that hit the Golden Spike in Utah, Tetons, Yellowstone, and Craters of the Moon in Idaho. We camped most nights with motels at a few spots to do laundry and regroup.  We did this in a prius with a car top carrier for the camping gear at the peak of summer with two kids.

For us it worked well to make reservations in advance for Yellowstone and Tetons where campgrounds fill up way in advance.  After that we were able to play it by ear and find spots at BLM or Forest Service campgrounds as we went (those might not have been weekend nights though) - they were were nothing fancy but worked fine for a quick overnight on the road.  We stayed multiple nights at the parks we were most interested in.  Craters of the Moon seemed off the beaten path so it may not fill far ahead but I think it is worth the drive - it's an unusual spot. I recommend calling the visitor center to see how far in advance you need to reserve.

For us this allowed a good mix of certainty that the spots we wanted most were booked ahead, with the ability to alter the trip as we went for the other nights.  We didn't make any of the motel reservations in advance (I think we stayed in motels in Winnamucca, Salt Lake City, Boise, and Klamath Falls).  I think we did our trip in about 10 days, but it might have been two weeks.

Hi! We did a similar trip last summer in a rented RV. It was great. We left our dog behind, sadly, b/c we were spending a lot of time in National Parks & going into Canada. Most National Parks won't allow dogs on trails, so if you are looking to hike, you can't bring your dog with you. Ours would not have been OK left alone for several hours.

All the National Parks are busy in the summer & you would need reservations way in advance if you want to stay in the parks. We spent 4 days exploring Tetons & loved that. Lodging around Jackson Hole is really overpriced, but the national park was beautiful. If you can camp in Tetons that is ideal in my opinion - cheaper & closer. We only had 2 days in Yellowstone but it was so crowded there that it was enough for us. We had 4 days in Glacier & I feel like we could have stayed for weeks. We loved Glacier. We stayed at West Glacier KOA & it was great. Next time I want to spend a night or two in East Glacier also. 

The RV was perfect for us b/c it is pretty important to get to the destinations in the Nat'l Park early to find parking. We could drive to our destination early & park and make breakfast while our teens were snoozing.

We only stayed one night in Idaho - Heise Hot Springs & that place was great! It's on the Snake River & they have hot pools, cool pools & water slides. 

I hope you have a blast! 

We did a similar trip last August with our 2 kids (13 and 11).

We drove to a small motel in Nevada the first night just for a stopping place. The next day we drove to Twin Falls, Idaho because I wanted to see Shoshone Falls, which was beautiful (although not a long stop). We stayed at a pet friendly motel with a pool for the kids to swim in, Blue Lakes Inn. We really liked it for the price. The following day we left early to drive to a KOA on the snake river just South of Jackson Hole. We camped there for 2 nights right on the river, which was lovely. We picked this spot because the boys wanted to river raft and the girls wanted horseback riding. A river raft company picks up at the KOA and there is a ranch across the highway with horseback riding. We all had wonderful experiences. It also has cabins if you don't want to camp, but they aren't right on the river and are close together. It is pet friendly.

From there we drove to Yellowstone to meet family. We stayed near the lake for 2 nights and near old faithful for one night in rustic cabins. We loved staying in the park, getting to see everything before it is crowded. We LOVED yellowstone. I could easily have spent more time there. Just expect crowds and rest at midday. We often found lovely uncrowded picnic spots while the popular attractions were packed. I was glad that we switched to Old Faithful cabins for a night because it was so peaceful walking among the geysers in the evening and early morning. Hardly anyone hikes there, so a morning hike to waterfall is often solitary. The thermal areas are busiest.

Then we drove back down to Grand Teton National Park to stay in tent cabins. The park is beautiful. We enjoyed the ferry ride across to a waterfall hike. This park might be difficult with dogs because it has so many long hikes that dogs couldn't go on. As long as your dog can stay at your hotel or cabin for a long time, it could work.

After that, we drove to Oregon to view the eclipse at my brother's house. Our highlights were the horseback ride, rafting, the bison, and the unique features and many waterfalls of Yellowstone. We have previously been to Glacier, and it was amazing. I am not sure you can do all 3 national parks thoroughly in 10-12 days. Maybe a separate trip?

Email me if you have any questions.