Getting to Montana is not difficult – but you need to determine where you’re headed. And where you’re headed, is dependent on where you’re staying. (More on that tomorrow). Charles and I decided that for this trip, we were going to stay in West Yellowstone. It’s close to the west gate to the park, and fairly central to get to everything you’d (well, we’d) like to see.
We flew from Raleigh to Bozeman, and then rented a car and drove down to West Yellowstone. You can also fly into Jackson Hole and drive from there, up through Grand Teton National Park and through Yellowstone to one of the lodges or into West Yellowstone. There are other airports in the area, so you’d need to determine which would be best for you. Additionally, you’ll want to check the season in which you’re travelling. Because both Jackson Hole and Bozeman are ski areas – the flights in and out of the areas change between summer and winter. (That also governs the price of fares – so make sure you keep it in mind!)
We flew from Raleigh to Atlanta and then from Atlanta to Bozeman. The total flight time was about 6 hours, and there was a layover in Atlanta. It was a fairly easy flight and while we left RDU really early – we got to Bozeman early enough to get groceries and make the drive to West Yellowstone with enough light to enjoy the drive.
One thing you’ll need, regardless of where you land, is a car. Things in Montana and Wyoming are FAR apart. And outside of the major cities, there is no public transportation to rely on. You’ll need a car to get around. Depending on what you plan on doing – an SUV or 4-Wheel Drive will be the best bet – it will give you plenty of road clearance – especially for some of the lesser roads that are just loose gravel. The Bozeman airport had the full complement of car rental companies, with on airport pickup and drop off. It was easy peasy – especially since we had our bags with us. Your rental agreement will be specific to the company you rent from, but it’s not recommended to take your rentals off road – although some of the roads FEEL like you’re off road! (Holy potholes!)
West Yellowstone is a small town – so there’s not a lot around for groceries. We planned accordingly, and stopped in Bozeman at an Albertson’s, and put our cold stuff in a cooler for the drive south. Charles did a fair bit of research on what was ‘on the way’ and compiled a page of notes that we had printed out and handy – as well as programmed into our GPS. If you’d like to see them – let me know. We didn’t need anything else during the week – but there were two smaller markets in town if you’d need to fill in gaps. (Our apartment had a good selection of spices and oil in it – but not every house can guarantee that – so if you have specific needs – you’ll want to plan accordingly)
It’s a gorgeous drive – so many pretty mountains in the Gallatin River Valley. We also saw some boaters and a boat club doing swift water rescue practice. (It was cold and VERY high water)
There are Pros and Cons of every area and direction you arrive from – so while I can’t tell you that our way was ‘best’ it was pretty dang awesome, and I’m sure we’ll do it this way again!
Next up – Where to stay!