Awe-Inspiring Views


First Peoples Buffalo Jump National Historic Landmark has a mile-long cliff and one of the largest buffalo jumps in North America.

Slow Down in Montana


Whether you have a paddleboard, innertube, or a beach chair and a good book, Lake Elmo is the perfect spot to have a relaxing afternoon on the water near Billings.

View Ancient Records


Pictograph Caves State Park has three different caves with hundreds of cave paintings, some of which are over 2,000 years old!

From Geysers to Glaciers: Road Tripping through Montana State Parks

Learn more about Native American culture and explore historical landmarks as you venture through Montana State Parks. This route will take you off the beaten path and into the footprints of American legends. Bring a fishing pole, your hiking boots, and a pair of binoculars to see what you can discover in the Treasure State!
Prepared By:

Sydney Rasmussen

Adventure & Storyteller

Road Tripping through

Montana State Parks


Yellowstone National Park/

Missoula, Montana

States Covered
Total Distance

749 miles / 1205 km

Suggested Days


Suggested Seasons

Late Spring through Early Fall



Link together the National Park hotspots of Yellowstone and Glacier by embarking on a one-of-a-kind road trip through some of Montana’s treasured State Parks. This route will take you through some hidden gems of the Treasure State and offer you a break from the summer crowds while still giving you a chance to explore stunning landscapes and historical sites.


Although this trip is designed for summer travel, you can still venture out in late spring or early fall. Just remember it stays colder for longer up north, so be prepared for potential snow in the shoulder seasons! You can either fly into Billings and out of Missoula or add this trip to your American West road tripping by starting in Yellowstone National Park and ending in Glacier National Park. Either way, there is plenty of beauty to see in big sky country!


Billings, MT and Lake Elmo State Park

Three women paddle boarding at Lake Elmo State Park

Billings, Montana

2 HOURS 49 MINUTES (174 MI / 260 KM)

If you’re traveling from Yellowstone National Park, head north through Gardiner and the scenic Paradise Valley. Alternatively, you can start your trip by flying into Billings.

When you arrive in Billings, take a moment to settle in and stop by one of the many delicious restaurants. If you’re looking for a fun spot to fuel up, try The Burger Dive for quirky vibes, juicy burgers and more!

Lake Elmo State Park

13 MINUTES (4 MI / 6 KM)

After filling up, make your way to Lake Elmo State Park. Whether you have a paddleboard, innertube, or a beach chair and a good book, Lake Elmo is the perfect spot to have a relaxing afternoon on the water. Stroll along the 1.4-mile trail around the reservoir and bring a fishing rod for some evening casts. Plan to bring a dinner picnic to enjoy by the lake or head into town to try another one of Billings’ restaurants. Lake Elmo is a day-use-only park, but Billings has several hotels and RV parks for you to rest your head.

Pictograph Caves to Great Falls, MT

Family walking through Pictograph Caves State Park

Pictograph Caves State Park

20 MINUTES (9 MI / 14 KM)

Spend your next two days diving into the indigenous history of Montana. First, step way back in time and head 20 minutes south to Pictograph Caves State Park. Here you will follow the ¾ mile interpretive trail to three different caves with hundreds of cave paintings, some of which are over 2,000 years old! Bring binoculars to get a closer look at the many pictographs and spot some of the native birds in the area. Plan to spend at least an hour exploring the caves and exhibits in the Visitor’s Center.

Great Falls, Montana

3 HOURS 49 MINUTES (226 MI / 363 KM)

After a morning of experiencing the ancient art gallery, you’ll take a scenic drive north to Great Falls and the First Peoples’ Buffalo Jump State Park. To fully enjoy the park, we recommend hanging out in Great Falls for the evening and starting your next exploration the following morning. Grab a slice at MacKenzie River Pizza and enjoy an evening stroll along the Missouri River that runs through town. There are a variety of campgrounds, RV parks, and hotels to stay for the night in Great Falls.

First Peoples Buffalo Jump to Missoula, MT

Family looking at exhibits at First Peoples' Buffalo Jump State Park

First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park
21 MINUTES (15 MI / 24 KM)

After fueling up on breakfast, drive 20 minutes west to First Peoples Buffalo Jump National Historic Landmark. Take a hike along the mile-long cliff to one of the largest buffalo jumps in North America. Learn about the indigenous community that resided in this area along the interpretive trail and through the extensive indoor and outdoor exhibits. Stay for storytelling and to try your hand at playing traditional games on the outdoor fields. With so much to see and learn here, plan to spend around two hours in this one-of-a-kind park. 

Missoula, Montana
2 HOURS 42 MINUTES (161 MI / 259 KM)

Continue west through the Rocky Mountains to Missoula to reach the last destination of this Montana road trip. Missoula is known for its great food and culture, so enjoy the evening exploring downtown shops and restaurants. This vibrant city has fun activities throughout the summer for you to join in on. Missoula also has many hotel options, or you can head toward Lolo to find quieter camping and RV options.

Travelers’ Rest to Your Next Adventure

Two people biking through Travelers' Rest State Park
Travelers’ Rest State Park

21 MINUTES (11 MI / 17 KM)

There isn’t a better place to end this great Montana trek than Travelers’ Rest State Park. Located at the junction of Lolo Creek and the Bitterroot Valley, Travelers’ Rest has been a camping and rendezvous destination for centuries. Native Tribes such as the Nez Pierce, Salish, and Pend d’Orielle used this area as a campsite and continue to share cultural history and stories through programming at the park today. The Lewis and Clark Expedition also saw this serene area as a place to rest during their trip to and from the Pacific Coast. There have been artifacts uncovered that indicate the party stayed here on their famous voyage. Explore the Visitor’s Center to see Corps of Discovery replicas, Salish sculptures, and other artifacts. Spend the day learning about this historical destination, or as the name suggests, enjoy leisurely walking along Lolo Creek, picnicking in the shade, observing the many native birds, and getting some R&R. 


From here, the choice is yours! Glacier National Park is a drive due north. Missoula also has an airport to fly out of if you want to end your travels here. Or, you can follow the path of the Corps of Discovery and keep heading west to the Pacific Coast! Whichever way you choose, it’s sure to be an adventure.


Hidden Gems & Road Trip Tips

Sign up for our newsletter and get exclusive road trip ideas and travel tips to help you plan your next American adventure!

Find out the location of the hidden gem pictured below in our next newsletter!


Thank you for signing up for the "Best Kept Road Trip Secrets" newsletter coming to your inbox soon!

Pin It on Pinterest

Share Your Adventure