May 22, 2017

Yellowstone National Park or Glacier National Park: Which park should I visit?

Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park, Montana, Copyright Montana Vacation Blog 2013

While visiting Yellowstone National Park last summer, we met some people who were visiting Yellowstone National park and the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.  They had never seen Glacier National Park, which is located near Montana Vacation Blog, and asked us if it would be worth a visit.

While I would of course recommend everyone visit both Yellowstone and Glacier (and Grand Teton, too), I realize that time and money often forces us to make a choice.  So here are the biggest differences I think that there are between the two National Parks:

GLACIER NATIONAL PARK:

  1. Is mostly famous for its mountains.  If you want to see quick elevation gain, resulting in glaciers and jagged glacial peaks, you should visit Glacier.
  2. Has a lot of hiking trails.  A great majority of Glacier is only accessible via an often long hike, so Glacier is a great choice if you don’t mind a trek.
  3. Has many beautiful waterfalls and lakes, but is lacking the geysers that you will see in Yellowstone.
  4. Has wildlife such as bears, moose, deer, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, etc., but I find that a lot of said wildlife is more difficult to see than in Yellowstone.  The only animals you will probably be guaranteed to see is a mountain goat, deer, squirrels, etc., in Glacier National Park.  If you want to see a lot of wildlife, I would recommend Yellowstone.  I have visited Glacier National Park hundreds of time in my life (as I grew up right next to it), and have only seen a moose or a bear a few times.  I have seen bighorn sheep, but they are mostly seen at dusk (in my opinion).
  5. Less amenities than Yellowstone (see below).
Sunny day at Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park during winter from Apgar

Sunny day at Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park during winter from Apgar

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK:

  1. Has mountains, and is high in elevation, but you do not see the quick elevation gain that creates the rugged mountains you see in Glacier National Park.  Yellowstone also does not have the glaciers that Glacier National Park does.
  2. Has a lot of hiking trails, but most of the sites are accessible right from the road, and you do not need to walk a whole lot if you choose not to.
  3. Has the spectacular geysers.  Also has several huge, beautiful waterfalls.
  4. Has wildlife such as bears, wolves, buffalo, etc.  If you want to see said wildlife, I would suggest visiting Yellowstone.  Most of this wildlife will be visible from the road, especially buffalo.  You are pretty much guaranteed to see a buffalo with a drive through Yellowstone.
  5. Has many more amenities, including gift shops and places to stay inside the park.

 

Geysers near Yellowstone Lake in Yellowstone National Park

Geysers near Yellowstone Lake in Yellowstone National Park

Lone buffalo in Yellowstone National Park

Lone buffalo in Yellowstone National Park

Honestly, if you can only pick one, I would recommend seeing Yellowstone National Park, and doing a drive over the Beartooth Highway.  No matter what you choose, you cannot go wrong.  All national parks are incredible, and are worth a visit!

And, just for fun, here are a few photographs from Grand Teton National Park just south of Yellowstone National Park, in Wyoming:

Moose taking a dip inside Grand Teton National Park

Moose taking a dip inside Grand Teton National Park

View of the Tetons in Grand Teton National Park

 

Warmest wishes from Big Sky Country,

Alex Neill

Montana Vacation Blog

www.montanavacationblog.com

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