Road trip from Montana to Arizona through the Rocky Mountains
- + 11
United States4 days / October 2021
Highs & Lows
Sitting in the hot springs during a snowstorm.
Lots of places were closed due to lack fo staffing.
We set off for our road trip from Montana to Arizona with a car packed full of supplies. We entered the park visa West Yellowstone which had a really helpful tourist information centre where we picked up a map. Only a few minutes into the park was a lone bison walking along the road, plenty of Canadian geese and a bald eagle. The highlight of our visit was watching a pack of 8 wolves take turns feeding from a carcass, playing like dogs and resting in the grass. Luckily we had some binoculars which made the experience all the more enjoyable. We of course drove by the geysers and old faithful but didn't stop to watch it go off as the weather was turning. We luckily made it over the mountain pass and camped just outside of Yellowstone for the night.
Next stop on our trip was the Grand Teton National Park. We took a beautiful scenic drive by Jenny Lake and saw a fox hunting for its breakfast. We had ours at the Bunnery Cafe in Jackson which is well worth a stop. They make their own flour and bread on site as well as a huge selection of pastries and pies! We bought some for the road and carried on driving. The most scenic parts of this section of the drive were following the river out of Jackson though the canyon and then once in Colorado the road we were on turned into a dirt road and took us by Irish canyon, spectacular desert scenery with red rocks. We were lucky enough to see 2 Moose! We ended up camping near Craig, Colorado. And the following day drove from Craig to Ouray, one of the main stops on our drive.
We stayed one night in Ouray at the start of our drive on the Million Dollar Highway. The Riverside Resort let us check in early so we could drip our bags and walk into town along the river. We spent the afternoon relaxing in the hot springs pools as a snowstorm came in. It was magical to sit there surrounded by mountains and snow! Afterwards, we had a look around the cute gift shops, went to the Full Tult Saloon to grab a cocktail during happy hour and had dinner at the Outlaw Restaurant. The food here is a bit pricey but amazing! And we had a western cowboy pianist who played while we ate.
The following day we hiked the perimeter trail (about 6 miles of moderate hiking). It takes you around the outised of Ouray to see all the main points of attraction. You start near the visitors centre, then climb up to Cascade Falls. Be careful when walking along the cliff as rocks often fall from above without warning! We almost got hit by some. After the falls you head up into the mountains and are rewarded by a fantastic view at the highest point. It was a blue bird day with fresh snowfall, and what a view it was! We even got to see some bear tracks. From here you go on to see Box Canyon and another waterfall before heading back down into town. After our hike, we jumped in the car to drive over the mountain pass.
After the hike in Ouray we spent the rest of the day driving to Hermosa with many stops along the way. Right out of Ouray is the Switzerland of America Lookout Point so we took our obligatory photo and carried onto Bear Creek Falls. It's just a small pull off that you could easily miss but it's worth stopping, the falls we impressive with the snow melt off. We then drove the stretch to Silverton, and were ooing and awing the whole way. The road switches back and forth gaining and loosing elevation over the mountain pass at an incredible rate. As the passenger I was sometimes able to see right down in the canyon below and there was no rail guard! Silverton was a cute town with the old colorful Western shop fronts on mainstreet. Due to things being closed we didn't stop for long. From Silverton you climb up to Molas Pass, which was in my opinion the most beautiful viewpoint on the drive. We clambered through the snow to get a photo with the beautiful blue lake glistening amongst the snowy mountains. From here we drove to Hermosa and stayed in an air bnb for the night before making it to see our family at out final destination in San Tan Valley, Arizona.
Q & A
What would you have changed?
We would have liked more time in Yellowstone National Park.
How was the food?
Outlaw Restaurant in Ouray
What tips would you give a friend?
Going on a road trip to see family is a great way to see things instead of taking a flight. Take binoculars if you're going through Yellowstone, download a good playlist on Spotify as the service can be patchy and plenty of snacks!
Lots of layers to stay warm and blankets for the car in case you have to stop for the night or to wait for the weather to pass.
Make sure to check the weather before driving as the roads often get closed. We were lucky to pass through but some people after us had to turn around.
Booked via Airbnb and booking.com for the best rates