Post Summary: The Best Rocky Mountain Road Trip Route And Detailed Day-By-Day Itinerary.
Road tripppp! The windows down, tune blasting, and miles of adventure on your wheels.
Chances are, you’ve heard of the Pacific Coast road trip, the ultimate southwest road trip, or even just an incredible weekend trip down the 101 on an Oregon Coast itinerary.
But what if you can’t make it all the way out west? Is there an epic road trip adventure that’s a little more inland?
YES. The Rocky Mountains.
This massive mountain range stretches more than 3,000 miles from New Mexico all the way north to the most north part of British Columbia, Canada!
If you’re craving a good road trip, this post is exactly what you’re looking for.
Packed out with 6-7 national park visits (you heard that right!), mountain vistas, alpine lakes, and abundant wildlife, this Rocky Mountain road trip is nothing short of iconic.
In this post, we’re breaking down each day of your adventure, and what you can do to make the most of those epic miles on the road.
We’re also sharing some tips on extending your trip into Canada for even more attractions and beauty!
Let’s get started!
The Ultimate Rocky Mountain Road Trip Itinerary
This post was sponsored by B&H Photo/Video. All opinions and ideas are completely our own. Scroll down to the bottom of this post for camera gear and equipment suggestions for the road!
Rocky Mountain Road Trip Map
So what exactly does a Rocky Mountain Road trip cover? Well, the Rockies is a mountain range that spans from its southern tip of New Mexico all the way north to Western British Columbia in Canada.
In this post, we’re sharing a one-way route between Denver, Colorado all the way up to Jasper, Alberta.
We wanted to create a route that toured the most popular national parks and iconic locations in the Rocky Mountains and experience it all in the span of one epic road trip!
Here’s an overview of the national parks we will cover in this route:
Before You Start Your Trip, You Should Be Packing…
A Rocky Mountain road trip can be perfectly catered to anything from a luxury trip to even a dirtbagging one. Lucky for you, we’ve got blog posts for both kinds of adventures.
We’ve listed some of our most popular posts below to help equip you for the type of trip you want to have!
- How To Find Free Camping Spots In The USA
- Easy Camping Meals To Make On The Road
- How To Sleep In Your Car Comfortably
- How To Go Camping In The Rain
Exploring In Comfort:
- Want To Try A Luxury Airbnb? Use This Code For $40 Off Your First Booking!
- Road Trip Essentials For A Fun and Comfortable Ride
- 101 Road Trip Questions To Pass The Time
- Rent a luxury RV For Your Road Trip With Outdoorsy (It’s like Airbnb but for Recreation Vehicles!)
Rocky Mountain Day By Day Itinerary
Day 1: Fly Into Denver, then Drive to Boulder, Colorado
While you can certainly stay in Denver, we actually recommend starting your Rocky Mountain road trip adventure in Boulder, Colorado.
Here, there are endless opportunities for hiking and exploring, and even more options for unique restaurants and shopping.
Things To Do Around Boulder:
- Trading Post Trail at Red Rocks Park
- Boulder Creek Path (easily accessible bike and walking trail in town)
- Bear Peak vis Mesa Trailhead
- Chautauqua Park
Can’t wait to get to the mountains? You can drive right to Estes Park from Denver, Colorado to get your road trip adventures started right away!
The drive from downtown Denver to Estes Park, CO is around 1 hour and 30 minutes.
Day 2-3: Explore Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park is located in North Central Colorado and is full of amazing hikes, wildlife viewing opportunities, and gorgeous mountain views.
If you want to stay in the park, Estes Park is a great place to find hotels, cabins and other accommodations.
If you dare, you can stay in the Stanley Hotel, which was the inspiration for Stephen King’s book The Shining. Eek!
Spooky cribs aside, this park has a little bit of everything. From lush valleys to unforgiving tundra, you can really cater your Rocky Mountain road trip to exactly your outdoor preferences!
Some highlights of the Rocky Mountain National Park include:
- Drive The Trail Ridge Road and experience the Colorado Tundra.
- Hike To Bear Lake, and extend your trail to include Dream Lake and Emerald Lake, too.
- Take a leisurely walk around Sprague Lake trail – accessible for all!
- Grab some backcountry camping permits and explore deeper in the mountains.
- Spend some time in Moraine Park and spot some wildlife in the morning and evening by the river.
- Spot Saint Malo’s Chapel On The Rock.
- Hike to Sky Pond Lake Trail.
Looking to escape the crowds? The western side of the park is much less visited and has the majority of moose sightings!
Ask around at the Kawuneeche Visitor Center to inquire about recent wildlife spottings.
Day 3: Drive To Jackson, Wyoming (~8 Hour Drive)
Now is the time to head over to your next destination in the Rockies! There are a few driving options to take, and it all depends on what you want to see along the way.
Below we’ve included two options to get from Colorado to Wyoming. The choice is up to you!
Most Scenic Route: (8-10 hours) – Have lots of time to spare? Drive through the Rocky Mountain tundra (aka Trail Ridge Road) and stop at the Alpine Visitors Center for incredible views and short hikes. Just make sure to bring a jacket because it’s COLD!
After a quick bout on I-80 in Wyoming, drive north on Highway 287 from Rawlins. This route will give you a grand welcome of the Tetons and allow you to drive down the 40 miles mountain range on Highway 191 on your way to Jackson, Wyoming.
Most Direct Route: (7-8 hours) – Assuming you are coming from Estes Park, you’ll exit east of the park and drive North to Wyoming.
Stop for lunch in Laramie, Wyoming and continue on I-80 west. Grab some dinner in Rock Springs, Wyoming and continue north on Highway 191. You’ll enter Jackson on the south end.
Rocky Mountain Road Trip Tips:
Long road trips call for lots of entertainment. Here are some things to consider when having these long stints in the car:
- Switch drivers every 2-3 hours.
- Stop for meals. Skipping meals can cause fatigue and hangry passengers and drivers.
- Download some good podcasts for the road. Our current favorites are Crime Junkie, Here To Make Friends, and Reply All.
- Read through our 101 Road Trip Questions list and get to know your group better!
Day 4-5: Explore Grand Teton National Park
The Grand Teton National Park has one of the most magnificent mountain range views in the United States! The highest peak is the Grand Teton, sitting at 13,770 feet tall and it’s part of a fault-block range spanning 40 miles long.
The best part? You can drive parallel to this amazing range in its entirety from north to south. Just make sure to keep your eyes on the road!
Whether camping or staying in one of Jackson’s many beautiful resorts, there’s something for everyone here. Camp at the iconic Jenny Lake Campground for tons of nearby outdoor activities and lake access.
Open year-round, the Grand Tetons have something new each season. It’s definitely worth a return trip to see it in all its phases! Curious what it’s like in winter? Read about things to do in Grand Teton National Park during winter!
Spring and summer bring lush meadows and amazing alpine lake hikes. Fall and winter and definitely cooler in temperature, and provide some amazing colors and wildlife sightings in the National Elk Refuge near Jackson, WY.
Must-Do Hikes In Grand Teton National Park:
- Taggart and Bradley Lake
- String Lake Loop Hike
- Leigh Lake Loop
- Cascade Canyon Trail
Best Viewpoints In Grand Teton National Park:
- Schwabacher’s Landing
- Mormon Row
- Blacktail Ponds Overlook
- Glacier View Turnout
- Snake River Overlook
- Oxbow Bend
Day 6-7: Explore Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone was the first national park in the United States, established on March 1st, 1872. It’s also widely accepted as the first national park in the world.
While the vast majority of the park is located in Wyoming (96%), there are a few sections in Montana (3%), and Idaho (1%), but the main attractions are located in Wyoming.
Yellowstone is known for its unique geothermal activity, with some of the biggest attractions being geysers like Old Faithful, The Grand Prismatic and The Upper Geyser Basin.
If you’re looking to spot some wildlife on your Rocky Mountain road trip, you’ve come to the right place.
Yellowstone is regarded as one of the United States’ most protected wildlife areas, with bison, elk, grizzly bears, and wolves (among so many other species!) roaming wild in the park.
In order to see animals at their most active times, visit the park during sunrise or sunset. Make sure to bring a zoom lens and spot them from far away too! We like to use our Canon 100-400mm f/4.5 lens for maximum versatility.
Most Iconic Attractions In Yellowstone National Park:
- Old Faithful Geyser
- Grand Prismatic Overlook
- Mount Washburn
- Lamar Valley (wildlife viewing0
- Mammoth Hot Springs
- Canyon Village Waterfall Overlooks
Day 7: Drive To Kalispell, Montana (West) OR East Glacier Village (East) (~8 Hour Drive)
Now is the time to leave beautiful Wyoming and head over to the wild mountains of Montana!
Glacier Westbound Highlights:
- Stop at Flathead Lake for a dip in the water and a quick meal.
- Westbound stopping points include Kalispell, Whitefish, Apgar, and Glacier West campgrounds.
Glacier Eastbound Highlights:
- Driving through Montana’s capital city, Helena.
- Take the scenic route through MacDonald Pass for stunning viewpoints of Helena.
- Eastbound stops include East Glacier Village, St. Mary Lake, and Many Glacier Area.
Tired and broke on the road? Don’t try to send it in one day if you aren’t completely awake. Not only is it unsafe for you, but dangerous for everyone else on the road as well!
Read our guide to finding free camping in the USA for some last-minute shut-eye to keep you alert on your journey.
Day 8-9: Explore Glacier National Park
There are endless stunning mountain views, crystal clear lakes, and tons of hikes in Glacier National Park to keep you busy!
To make the most of your Rocky Mountain Road trip, we suggest timing your visit to arrive in Glacier National Park during the summer months, ideally late June to late August.
Summer is when the iconic Going-To-The-Sun Road is open, which is a 50-mile drive that connects East and West Glacier. Along the way, you can discover beautiful trails, alpine lakes, and hidden waterfalls!
Most Photogenic Places In Glacier National Park:
- Lake McDonald
- Many Glacier Area
- Going-To-The-Sun Road (~50 miles of gorgeous mountain vistas)
- Iceberg Lake Trail
- Grinnell Glacier
- Bowman Lake
- Hidden Lake Overlook
- Highline Trail (Advanced Hikers)
- St Mary Falls / Sun Point
Stay at nearby hotels in Kalispell, Montana for easy access to Glacier National Park.
NOT READY TO GO HOME?
Consider Extending Your Rocky Mountain Road Trip To Include These Other Amazing National Parks!
Don’t want your Rocky Mountain road trip to end? It doesn’t have to! Consider driving north to see more of the Canadian side of this amazing and beautiful range.
There are technically five Canadian Rocky Mountain National Parks, but for the brevity of this trip, we’re going to cover the most popular ones – Banff and Jasper.
Have a lot more time? Here’s the complete list on Parks in the Canadian Rockies. Each one has its own unique features and landscape, and would definitely be worth a return trip to see them all.
- Waterton-Glacier National Park
- Kootenay National Park
- Banff National Park
- Yoho National Park
- Jasper National Park
Day 10: Drive From Kalispell to Banff, Alberta
Kalispell, Montana to Banff will bring you through the Canadian border, through little ski towns and into hot springs of British Columbia.
You’ll drive north on the west side of the Rockies, and finally, make your way into the mountains to Banff. Don’t forget your passport!
Things To See Between Kalispell and Banff:
- Ram Creek Hot Springs
- Fairmont Hot Springs
- Kootenay National Park
Do you have bear spray? Ditch it! You can’t bring it across the US-Canada border so unfortunately, you’ll have to leave it behind. Try donating it to a local Forest Ranger Station to let the volunteers and staff use them when maintaining the trails.
Day 11-12: Explore Banff National Park
Banff National Park is one of the most visited and popular parks in the entire country (Canada), and for good reason too! With gorgeous mountains, abundant wildlife, and lots of outdoor activities, there’s a little something for everyone.
Here are some of our favorite things to do in Banff during the summer:
East End of Rundle Hike: This 3.6-mile out-and-back trail will have your legs burning and heart pumping!
With nearly 3000 feet of elevation gain in such a short distance, you’ll receive stunning views of the Bow Valley below in little time. Bring lots of water and snacks, and prepare for beautiful views!
Moraine and Lake Louise Area: Moraine and Lake Louise are hands down the two most popular lakes in the area.
Known for their incredible views and easy access, the shores can fill up fast with tourists, cameras, and boats. Don’t let that deter you though – they are popular for good reason. Simply come early in the morning or late in the day to enjoy it with fewer people!
Day 13: Drive To Jasper National Park
While the trip from Banff to Jasper is only around 3 hours, you’re going to want to allocate a whole day to get between the two parks.
We say this because the stretch between Banff and Jasper is known to be one of the most beautiful and scenic highways in the entire world.
Often called the Icefields Parkway, this road (Highway 93) will have you pulling over for photos of glaciers, waterfalls, mountain vistas and more! Below, we’ve included some stops to consider on your drive between parks:
Most Photogenic Locations On The Icefields Parkway:
- Bow Lake
- Crowfoot Glacier
- Peyto Lake
- Mistaya Canyon
- Weeping Wall
- Parker Ridge Canyon
- Athabasca Falls
- Sunwapta Falls
- Wilcox Pass Trail
- Columbia Icefield
- Glacier Skywalk
- Valley of Five Lakes Hike
Read More: The Perfect One Week Itinerary In Jasper National Park (Tips on the Icefields Parkway Drive!)
Day 14: Explore Jasper National Park
Jasper National Park is the largest and most northern Canadian Rockies National Park. It boasts wilderness hot springs, alpine lakes, multi-day backpacking trips, and lots of opportunity for wildlife sightings!
Here, you’ll find fewer crowds than in Banff but still the same amount of adventure and outdoor activities to do. Here are a few suggestions for your time in Jasper:
10 Easy Jasper National Parks Hikes: We’ve compiled a list of the most accessible and easy hikes to do with the whole family! Check them out to start planning your time in Jasper, and don’t forget the bug spray!
Love landscape and wildlife photography? We’re breaking down the most photogenic places in Jasper National Park! We’re sharing the best times to visit, exact locations, and more!
Day 15: Drive to Edmonton, Alberta (4-Hour Drive) And Fly Home!
Finished with your epic Rocky Mountain road trip? Don’t forget to share it with us!
Send us an email with a few photos from your trip and some stories to share. We want to hear from you and possibly feature your story on our social channels!
Rocky Mountain Road Trip Example Itinerary
Looking for a rocky mountain road trip route? Click here to see an overview of the main cities to visit, as well as highway suggestions along your route.
Taking Pictures? Consider These Photography Tips For Your Rocky Mountain Road Trip
If you’re going to visit this many national parks, chances are you’re going to document this epic adventure!
Traveling with camera gear can bring some challenges and extra considerations. Here are some of our favorite tips and tricks to keep your gear safe and sound on the road!
Get Travelers Insurance. Sure, this may seem a little bit overkill, but we can’t chat about gear safety without letting you know of this option. Try chatting with your personal insurance company to see if they do temporary trips, or try
Flying with your gear? First of all, we DO NOT suggest checking (aka putting it in your luggage) your expensive equipment. There are too many variables that go along with leaving it out of your sight, so we recommend packing your gear in your carry-on. Our go-to plane bags are these ones from WANDRD!
Going on a scenic flight? Read our aerial photography tips and ways to capture the best photos in this post on the B&H Explora Blog! (Coming soon!)
Protect your gear on the go. In between locations, it’s important to keep your gear secure and safe en route. We like to use our WANDRD PRVKE bag, which has cubes and customizable partitions to fit all our gear.
Read this post about traveling with camera gear! We’re sharing all our specific product recommendations and tips on traveling with your cameras.
What was your favorite part of this Rocky Mountain Road Trip route? Any parks that you’re most excited to see? Follow us on Instagram at @themandagies and tag us in your adventures with #themandagies so we can see them!
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