Road Trip Advice - Wyoming, Montana, Canadian Rockies


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Trad climber
Westminster, CA
Topic Author's Original Post - Jul 13, 2017 - 12:28pm PT
HI All, My son and I will be heading out on a 17/18 day road trip (mid August to early September) out of So Cal up to Wyoming, Montana and hopefully Banff and Jasper area. Will be cruising in my rigged up Toyota Tacoma hitting the Tetons, Winds, Yellowstone, Glacier and the Canadian Rockies. He is 17 and not too much into climbing so we will mostly be hiking, fishing, white water rafting, camping. I am sure it will be crowded. I have the following questions that could really help in my planning (I need to start!!!)

•Any places to sleep in the truck near these areas if campgrounds are full? Ideally, would like to avoid mass amounts of humans.

•What are some must see/do’s out here? I would like to climb in the Tetons or Winds at least one day while my son Fishes, hikes, etc. Or, what are some mellow classic scrambles in these areas I could take him up? May need to find a partner for one of the classics if possible.

•White Water rafting on the Snake sounds awesome as does the Flathead Rivers? Recommend some outfitters?

•Fishing – I am totally not a fisherman but my son loves to. Be worth getting a guide or are there some spots you all could recommend… I understand the secrecy of secret spots. 

•I know the eclipse will be going on in this area so it will be crowded but have to capitalize on this time off before he starts his senior year.

I appreciate your feedback in advance

Mike Esparza

My son Warren next to the road trip mobile - Alabama Hills Memorial We...
My son Warren next to the road trip mobile - Alabama Hills Memorial Weekend 2017
Credit: Esparza

Road trip Rig...  1996 Toyota Tacoma 4x4
Road trip Rig... 1996 Toyota Tacoma 4x4
Credit: Esparza
Jon Beck

Trad climber
Jul 13, 2017 - 12:33pm PT
If I was headed to the Tetons I would get my Alpine club membership current and stay at the climbers ranch, gotta be some interesting places and people around there.

Social climber
Jul 13, 2017 - 12:34pm PT
If you can't catch trout in the Wind River Range, you are not trying. The end of August start of September is low mosquito season. I think you will have to backpack or be packed in tho. I got to get back there myself, but it won't be this year.

EDIT: AND it's close to the Tetons. You are right there

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Jul 13, 2017 - 12:51pm PT
You say one day of climbing in the Tetons or Winds. Sratch the Winds, the approaches are too long.
I agree with staying at the AAC Cimber's Ranch where partners will be easy to find. You don't have to be an AAC member but there are discounts for members. The setting at the Ranch is magnificent.
There are a number of great one day multi pitch rock climbs....some recommendations....
5.6/7 SW Ridge of Symmetry Spire, South Ridge of Nez Perce
5.8,with harder variations possible, Irene's Arete and Guide's Wall
5.9+ The Snaz and the Open Book
5.10c Caveat Emptor
You can climb the Grand easily in one day car to car if you are reasonably fit and acclimated.

Trad climber
Jul 13, 2017 - 02:34pm PT
I'm not a fisherman either but Black Joe Lake in the Winds might present an opportunity for you. About a 5 mile approach up Big Sandy with minor elevation gain. From a camp there he could fish while you hike over and do the scramble up the N Ridge of Haystack. Haven't done it but my understanding is you downclimb the route, so not hard (5.3 or less). Camp above Black Joe Lake puts you near the base of the route. Same would be true for Clear Lake/Deep Lake. There are closer fishing options but they don't include the summit of Haystack.

You could probably take him up the East Face of Teewinot in the Tetons. It normally does not require a rope but you might want one for a short section of descent. You could short rope it. Views are outstanding.

Lots of fishing opportunities in Montana. Someone will probably chime in with info for you.

You're covering a lot of ground there, but very nice ground. Campgrounds may not be so full come September.

mike m

Trad climber
black hills
Jul 13, 2017 - 03:00pm PT
Can also summit Haystack from between clear lake and deep lake via the grassy goat trail. Hit Freemont Canyon and East Rosebud Canyon in the Beartooths. The Beartooths and Cooke City have some of the best remote mountain terrain in the lower 48.

Always wanted to hit up Hamilton but never made it there. Some big chunks of rock in there.
Brian in SLC

Social climber
Salt Lake City, UT
Jul 13, 2017 - 03:07pm PT
Hmmm. I'd de-scope some of the trip and focus on a couple of areas. Too much travel and not enough dwell time for that distance IMHO.

Here's a gig:

Doable as a private trip too. Fishing is amazing. So is the scenery. Yeah, the Flathead and that area is awesome. Shhhh....(Hopefully the vigilantes won't find me and string me up...).

There's a gob of options for floating the daily on the Snake. Crowded for sure.

There's some really great 3rd and 4th class scrambles in the Tetons if you can't find a partner. Teewinot is a great gig if you've got the legs/lungs for it.

Concur with J Do about the Windys. Unless its your destination, too long for a short trip. Not that the fishing isn't great.

You can sleep at your vehicle just about any place on Forest Service or BLM land.

Eclipse any where near the "path" will be a madhouse. Especially marquee locations. I'd stay very away from Jackson and the Tetons during that time. Unless you want crowds with your couple minutes of darkness.

Firehole in Jellystone. Madison in the park then in Montana (Ennis) but I'd recommend a guide if you've never been. Henry's Fork (Mike Lawson for a guide) in Idaho.

Banff and Jasper are amazing but I'd either go there straightaway and make that the trip, maybe see Glacier too, or, hit the Tetons, Jellystone, and SW Montana. Both will have a lot of travel without a lot of time.

Bighole and the Beaverhead out of Dillon can be good but by August the Beav can be swampy. Heavily guided. Tim Tollet at Frontier Anglers knows the water. Ruby can be fun.

East Fork, West Fork and upper Bitterroot can be fun fishing (I grew up on the south side of Missoula with the Bitterroot and Blackfoot rivers close by).

Folks raft and fish Yankee Jim on the Yellowstone. That's just north of Gardner by the north entrance to the park.


Trad climber
Westminster, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 13, 2017 - 03:20pm PT
Dang, what a great start. I really appreciate all the info. I will need to sit down with a map and see what is realistic with the given time frame. Either way will be bad ass experiencing something new for both of us.


Rockies Obscure

Trad climber
Jul 14, 2017 - 10:01am PT
Hi Mike!
First off, LA is the coolest city on the planet!
My two picked a good year to visit Canada parks, as we are having our 150th celebration, so getting into Banff/Jasper is free(but still get a rearview mirror tag from the Park Gates). If your here in September you likely wont have any problem finding camping. August you will have a problem. There is no overflow tenting(that i am aware of) near Lake Louise but there is in Jasper(called Snaring Overflow-15min north of town). There is overflow for hard-sided campers however in various places in Banff.
(Parks Canada really needs to adjust this in Banff for tents). Avoid sleeping in your vehicle in the Parks.
Being an ex-Jasper resident, I prefer Jasper over Banff:)

Southern Montana has awesome bouldering and since you would likely be coming up from Yellowstone way you will run right across it.
To combo yous sons fishing interest and your climbing at same time- can i suggest stopping here:
I have tented here a few times while climbing nearby and the mellow river is a few yards away. Its bare-bones campground but is affordable and has showers. Also the owner has a random collection of 1960s Bill Graham concert posters for sale in the store for sale!
The climbing from Hamilton is 15minutes away and is either bouldering or gear routes.
Butte has loads of climbing around, few guidebooks worth.
Downtown Butte is old and historical, worth walking around for a few hours. There is a convenient KOA near downtown Butte or free camping up the Delmoe Lake Road east of town a half hour.(bouldering and gear routes all up this road)
If your son loves fly fishing he should watch "A River Runs Through It"!(takes place in Montana).

Now if you want to fish/raft the Flathead, you will need to take the #90 as opposed to the #15 to Canada...and waaay more to see and enjoy although the other road is pretty too.
Missoula is a wonderful city and also has a KOA in the city behind the REI actually! Then take the #93 north to head to Glacier area.
St.Ignatius has a pretty old church in this tiny town to see. There is a buffalo preserve just west of here you drive through, good side trip. The whole Hwy #93 valley has pretty views.
The town of Polson has a museum you must go to , its classic!...

Now either take #93 north still or east side of Flathead Lake on #35 which is quieter but i find the lake views from #93 better, however the town of Bigfork is quaint and has a big water culture.(mini tourist town)
Then I would go to Kalispell way, bit of climbing nearby.
There is a KOA 15min north of town toward Whitefish.
Whitefish is a great little tourist town...nice sandy town beach, luge at the ski hill, great restaurants etc.

Head on #2 east to Glacier.
Fun stop that has been there for decades:

All along this road there are places to buy huckleberry jam, and anything from huckleberries, etc odd touristy stops.
Best place to get a raft/fishing guide on the Flathead is near the town of West Glacier, such as this place....

When my son was 10, he and i did the Middle Flathead River on one of those 2-man blow up was very crazy and we flipped it on the last rapid/mini-waterfall! Watch the movie River Wild with Kevin Bacon, parts of it where filmed along this river.
There are too many places to check out in Glacier Park for me to list(no good climbing, but loads of good scrambling).

If you want some specific info for Canada, feel free to ask.

Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Jul 14, 2017 - 10:30am PT
the AAC Tetons Climbers' Ranch ranks among the highest justifications for the existence of that organization (IMHO)

Credit: Ed Hartouni

probably want to avoid the eclipse crowds and show up afterwards... unless you like that sort of social scene.

the hiking along the Ice Fields Highway is spectacular...

Athabasca Glacier viewed on a rest-day hike above the campgrounds, Aug...
Athabasca Glacier viewed on a rest-day hike above the campgrounds, August 1993.
Credit: Ed Hartouni

If I were putting together the itinerary I'd focus on hiking rather than climbing, and scope out sort of longish overnights off of the various roads.

When driving across country I usually note (on a paper map) the locations of campgrounds along the path as options for sleeping on the sometimes long stretches between objectives.


Social climber
Jul 14, 2017 - 10:36am PT
Hello Mike and Warren,

To add to Rockies Obscure's wonderful advice, I'll mention 'Glacier Guides Montana Raft': (also near West Glacier)

I'll try to PM you on ST (if it works) to fill you in on my bias for GGMR.

Also, look at the Mountain Project web:
to find Partners who may climb/fish/hike (or offer current local advice about climbing/fishing/hiking).

Greg Lee

Trad climber
Missoula, Mt
Jul 15, 2017 - 12:55pm PT
on your way from Yellowstone to glacier - just pass Whitehall on I-90 take the next exit (Pipestone). Go West on the Delmoe Lake rode 3 1/2 miles. At the intersection (with bathroom) is good (free) camping. Or take another spot. Go up there during the week (weekend is ATVs). Spire Rock climbing is 1/2 mile down the road from the bathroom. Fishing before Whitehall or Delmoe Lake. Mountain biking is good on the Cont Divide Trail.

Trad climber
Jul 15, 2017 - 05:48pm PT
If you got the $$ I'd spring for a day of guided fishing for your son(or both of you) on the Snake in JH or S.Fork Snake on the other side. The S.Fork is the better of the two IMO. Even if you are not fishing the boat ride makes for a great day of wildlife viewing on world class water.

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
Jul 15, 2017 - 06:01pm PT
East of Butte in the forest, easy camping and the bouldering is world class...

Social climber
Jul 16, 2017 - 10:33pm PT
hey there say, esparza... wow, thanks for sharing...

i had missed this one... neat stuff...

neat, pic, too, ed...

extra note:

wow, folks, THANKS FOR sharing all those links for him...

good stuff...

Jul 17, 2017 - 06:48am PT
Atlantic Lake in the S. Wind Rivers, and the stream that runs out of it, is a good place to catch fish, a bit off the beaten path.
Nick Danger

Ice climber
Arvada, CO
Jul 17, 2017 - 07:48am PT
I am not going to try to add to the many wonderful suggestions already made. I just wanted to weigh in on just how totally awesome doing this road trip with your son is going to be. I will wager that this will be one of the true highlights in both of your lives. I am actually jealous as hell, as my son is now beyond the age where he would rather spend time doing something like this with me than with his friends. I am happy he has grown up to be a responsible adult and hangs out with a good crowd, but I still envy you this wonderful dad/son road trip.

Trad climber
Kalispell, Montana
Jul 17, 2017 - 08:08am PT
Lots of good stuff upthread. X-out the House of Mystery/Vortex tip though, near Glacier. That place is strictly tour-moronic. You would never catch a local going there, ever.

Drive up to Polebridge instead. Go swimming at Bowman Lake then hit Friday nite Pizza night at The Northern Lights Saloon.


Mountain climber
Jul 17, 2017 - 08:12am PT
You should make the drive across Glacier National Park on Going to the Sun Road, great views on that one.

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Jul 17, 2017 - 08:22am PT
Yep....the two most scenic drives on your trip will be the Going to the Sun highway and the spectacular 168 mi.from Banff to Jasper.
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