As someone who absolutely loves visiting new countries, I have to say that 2020 kind of forced me to experience somewhere new in the wonderful US of A and I couldn’t be happier about it. We take a trip every October for our anniversary and even amid all the craziness in the world we still managed to go somewhere. Obviously.
When our original anniversary trip to the Azores islands didn’t work out (they changed our flights by like 2 days) we decided to plan something epic in our own amazing country. I instantly started looking up Montana/Wyoming and it didn’t take much for me to convince Jordan we should go here.
Although we are diehard Southwest fans unfortunately our favorite airline doesn’t fly to Montana. We took a chance on a budget airline that we’ve never flown before (Allegiant) because they are the only airline with a nonstop flight from Nashville to Bozeman. Oh and the $59 price per way didn’t hurt either! The flight was actually surprisingly great (we even got to drink mimosas) and we are so happy we gave them a chance!
We don’t like to sit still for long, both at home and on vacation so we knew we would be driving all over the place on this trip. We flew into Bozeman, grabbed our rental car and hit the road for a four hour drive to our first stop: Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
It only took about thirty minutes of driving before we stopped on the side of the road and Jordan pulled out the camera. We were instantly in awe of Montana’s beauty. I think my jaw dropped 76545 times on that drive down to Wyoming.
Right before we made it to Jackson Hole we stopped to stretch our legs and grab a midday cup of coffee. As we walked to the backyard seating area of the coffee shop we saw a family of moose hanging out next to the river. I couldn’t believe it! Check out my MT/WY story highlights on Instagram to get a glimpse!
When it comes to lodging everything in Jackson Hole was pretty pricey for what you get. There’s not a ton of luxurious or trendy boutique hotels. Most places have that old motel/lodge feel so it took us some time to finally decide on somewhere to stay. We definitely wanted to be able to walk into town for dinner, drinks, shopping, etc. so we ended up settling on staying two nights at Mountain Modern Motel. It had been recently remodeled and was in the perfect location. I think we paid $180 per night. We aren’t usually big on spending tons of money on lodging when we travel because (especially on a trip like this) you’re barely ever in the room!
The first day we decided to do what we do best: go wine tasting. I can’t recommend Jackson Hole Winery enough. The views, the vibe and the wine are all top notch. You can bring your own snacks so we packed a little cheese and charcuterie board and landed the best seat in the house!
Making downtown Jackson Hole our home base for a few days meant we had very easy access to Grand Teton National Park (30-45min) and then Yellowstone wasn’t too far either (about 2 hours). We didn’t have a ton of time (5 days/4 nights) and we wanted to see and do a lot. I’m going to share some highlights from each of the parks that you definitely do not want to miss!
Grand Teton National Park
1.T.A Molton Barn
Wanna talk about true love? I woke up while it was still pitch black outside to make sure Jordan could get to this spot for a sunrise photo. There were about ten others who did the same. I honestly felt like I was at a photography meetup! The temp was a brisk 30 degrees that early in the day so I mostly stayed in the Jeep with the seat warmers on. HA!
2. Wild Buffalo on the Side of the Road
At one point while driving we noticed on our Google Maps that there was traffic up ahead and once we reached the place where all the cars were stopped we realized it was because everyone was pulling over to get a glimpse of the field full of wild buffalo. Naturally we hopped out so Jordan could get photos of some creatures we never get to see in real life!
3. Oxbow Bend
With the mountains reflecting on the water, surrounded by stunning fall foliage Oxbow Bend made for an absolutely incredible place to stop and take a photo!
4. Hiking to Delta Lake
I was 100% not overly excited to do this hike but Jordan insisted we make it happen. It was 9 miles roundtrip, mainly uphill with two boulder fields to climb over. I had about two mental breakdowns and may have shed a few tears but once you make it to the end it’s totally worth it! (You can get a true glimpse of this wild adventure on my Instagram story highlight.) You have to go off trail to get to Delta Lake and I highly suggest downloading the All Trails app so you know exactly where to go! I’ve heard of people getting lost and adding 2-3 miles onto their hike. Yikes! The view at the end was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.
Yellowstone National Park
1. Grand Prismatic Spring
This unbelievable spot is the largest hot spring in the United States and the third largest in the world. The bright colors and warm steam make it a must-see spot in Yellowstone. We were overwhelmed at the unique beauty of this hot spring.
2. Old Faithful
I mean, did you even go to Yellowstone if you don’t take a picture at Old Faithful?! I have to say this geyser was a little less impressive than I expected but as an American it’s one of those things you have to check off your bucketlist! I am glad we saw it erupt!
3. The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone
Oh. My. Gosh. I have recently realized I’m a little iffy when it comes to heights and this spot honestly made me a little tingly (not in a good way). This vast area of beautiful land truly cannot be described in words or photos. You really do have to see it for yourself to understand.
After a few days in Jackson Hole we checked out of city life and headed to stay one night on a real working ranch called Heart Six Guest Ranch. This was honestly the part of the trip I was most excited about because I mean, how often do you get to do something like this?! If we would have had more time we definitely would have stayed here longer. But we did manage to do a 2 hour horseback ride, cruise the dusty streets to catch some amazing views, eat ranch food and watch 100 horses stampede from the stables to the pasture. It was amazing and the entire staff here was so kind to us. I highly recommend visiting this ranch!
Once we left the ranch we headed back up to Montana, stopping along the way at some places in Yellowstone that we didn’t have time to get to in the beginning of the trip. When we drove out of the park we started heading toward our last stop, a little town called Livingston, MT. Along the way we found the coolest ranch entrance and I had to get a photo outside of it in order to really feel like I was on the set of the Yellowstone TV show. (Just call me Beth Dutton!)
After plenty of driving and exploring we were more than ready for a nice cold beer! About 25 minutes before arriving in Livingston we stopped for a drink at a famously ancient and authentic bar called Old Saloon. This place was everything we hoped it would be, and then some. When you walk in you have to pass through those swinging wooden doors that you only see in western films. The bartender was about sixty years old, slightly intoxicated and wearing a cowboy hat. Most people were locals with a few tourists mixed in and everyone we talked to was extremely nice and welcoming.
Side note: The one thing about Jackson Hole we were kind of disappointed about was the lack of friendliness from the locals. We didn’t get a super welcoming vibe from most of them and we were kind of bummed about that. Coming from a tourist town ourselves, we understand the importance of tourism and kind of hoped for more kindness from the locals. We did, however have a phenomenal experience at a restaurant called The Local. The bartender was incredible and so was the food and wine! Montana, however was full of friendly individuals that we could have talked to all day! It was interesting that we could notice a difference between the two.
Once we made it up to Livingston we realized the eclectic charm in this small town was exactly what we hoped it would be. The only problem was that it was still pretty shut down due to COVID. We were super surprised. Most restaurants closed by 8 or 9 and there were only a couple bars open. The good news is that we found the coolest bar called The Office which happened to be attached to a grocery store. Half the place consisted of slot machines and other casino type games. I guess that is a thing in Montana bars?! So weird! We stayed at the historic Murray Hotel that night and it was excellent! It ended up being the most comfortable bed of the whole trip.
We got up the next morning and began making our way back to Bozeman, which was only a 45 minute drive from Livingston. Our flight didn’t leave until 2pm so we had time to find one last breakfast spot before heading home. I honestly pride myself in my ability to find great Airbnbs and also great brunch spots. It’s truly a gift. Just ask my husband!
We ended up at a farm to table restaurant called Feed Cafe and ate what happened to be the most delicious breakfast sandwich we have ever had in our entire lives. I was definitely patting myself on the back for this amazing find!
With a little time left after breakfast we explored downtown Bozeman trying to find somewhere to get a mimosa or two before heading to the airport. Some super nice coffee shop employees told us about Krystal, their favorite dive bar next door. Naturally, Jordan got super excited so we headed straight there because he loooves a good dive. I wish we had gotten a picture of this place because it truly was one of a kind. If you end up in Bozeman, go have a drink there! The bartender was awesome and we kind of wanted to change our flight so we could hang out longer.
If I had one regret from this trip it would be not spending enough time in Montana. We could only be gone for a certain number of days because October is my busy season for work but I would have loved two more days in Bozeman and the surrounding area. But the good news about Montana is that we can go back for $59 each way on Allegiant! I’m already trying to convince Jordan and some of our friends to go back in January so we can experience it in the snow! (I’m talking to you, Patrick and Kelsey!)
As silly as it sounds I kind of fell even more in love with America on this trip. I will always have a passion for visiting new countries but I’m so glad I experienced this breathtaking place close to home. Every single thing we did on this trip comes highly recommended from both of us. I encourage you to get out and see the west. You won’t truly understand the beauty until you see it for yourself.
Thanks so much for reading and please let me know if you have any questions at all about planning this trip. I can’t tell you how much I love helping people see amazing places. It’s one of my favorite things! Our next big trip is heading back to our favorite beach spot, Tulum in December. Once life goes back to normal we’ll figure out what our tenth country together will be. Hopefully that happens soon. Stay tuned!
I can’t thank my uber talented husband enough for all of the amazing photos he took on this trip! Learn more about him and what he does here. 🙂