It only takes around six and a half hours to get from Salt Lake City to Belgrade, Montana, by car. You could do the drive all in one day if you wanted to—and while that might be the quickest way to get there, it would also mean that you’d be missing out on all of the awesome destinations that are on the way. If you’re anything like us, you love a good road trip, and that’s why we made it easy for you to plan one for the drive from Utah to Montana: We put together a list of our favorite stops that you’ll pass on your trip to Belgrade.
Museums, wildlife, natural wonders, and more can all be found between Salt Lake and Belgrade. And when it comes to traveling—it’s not about going fast; it’s about going far! Don’t be in such a hurry that you skip over some of the gems that are waiting for you in Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana. Keep reading to see what we mean!
As part of the Air Force Heritage Program, the Hill Aerospace Museum is dedicated to collecting, preserving, and displaying Air Force history and other artifacts relating to aerospace. Approximately five miles south of Ogden, Utah, the museum is open Monday through Saturday from 9 am to 4:30 pm and does not charge admission. At the museum, you’ll find more than 70 aircraft and thousands of pieces of aviation memorabilia throughout its two indoor galleries and outdoor airpark.
Though relatively modest in size, the Hill Aerospace Museum is brimming with informative, interactive exhibits and friendly, knowledgeable staff members. Visitors of all ages are impressed by the massive planes on display at the museum, and guests are even permitted to enter several of the planes and sit in the pilot’s seat. In addition to free entry, the museum also offers free parking.
With a history that dates back to the 1920s, Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge has been providing resting and feeding grounds for migrating birds for nearly a century. The refuge is comprised of almost 80 thousand acres of marsh, open water, uplands, and mudflats so that thousands of birds can safely pass through—or, in some cases, nest long term—in the area. Priority species include the white-faced ibis, the American white pelican, the snowy plover, the black-necked stilt, the cinnamon teal, and the tundra swan.
During your visit to the refuge, you can take a 12-mile auto tour and explore the area’s trails on foot. Learn more about the birds that frequent the refuge, as well as the Great Salt Lake ecosystem as a whole, at the James V. Hansen Wildlife Education Center. Other activities include hunting, fishing, and photography.
The Lava Hot Springs Mineral Pools source water from natural underground springs, keeping the waters’ temperature at 100 to 112 degrees Fahrenheit. However, unlike some hot springs, these mineral pools do not contain sulfur, which means that there’s no odor accompanying the water—there are also no chemicals, and the water in the pools is diverted into the Portneuf River to keep it fresh and clean. The facility features five outdoor, gravel-bottomed pools that are open year-round, as well as dressing rooms and showers.
Admission to the hot pools is $6 and under during the weekdays and $8 and under on the weekends and holidays. You can also rent swimsuits, towels, and lockers at the facility. Visitors praise the cleanliness of the pools and their constantly high temperatures. Please note that it is not safe for children under the age of two to swim in the hot pools, but there is an indoor pool (and during the summer, an outdoor water park) that they can use instead.
The Museum of Clean is a novelty institution probably unlike any other museum that you’ve ever been to. Find out how the concept of “clean” permeates different aspects of history—and, for that matter, different aspects of life. With a variety of themed exhibits, the Museum of Clean is both enlightening and creative. At the museum, you’ll find hands-on displays, a gift shop filled with unique souvenirs and memorabilia, and, perhaps most importantly, lots of humor. An oddball attraction, the Museum of Clean is a detour to remember and one you’ll be talking about for a long time to come.
From antique vacuums and old-fashioned toilets to artwork centered on clean and an indoor playground that shows kids just how fun tidying up can be, the Museum of Clean is a fun way to spend a few hours when you stretch your legs and take a break from being in the car. Located in the heart of Pocatello, Idaho, this museum is around two and a half hours from Salt Lake City and just over four hours from Belgrade.
Hell’s Half Acre, also known as the Lava Trail System, is a lava plain that’s a little ways off of Interstate 15. Easy to access and complete with detailed signage, Hell’s Half Acre offers visitors a firsthand look at Hawaiian-type lava flows, the shortest trail through the site being around a half-mile long. You might not think that hardened lava formations would allow for much wildlife, but the area is actually home to animals like mule deer, antelope, foxes, and rabbits, as well as some predatory creatures like bobcats, coyotes, foxes, and rattlesnakes.
The extraordinary geology of the area makes Hell’s Half Acre a fascinating place to take a short walk, and the nearby Blackfoot Rest Area means that the stop is convenient, too. Part of the lava flow (the north end) was actually designated a National Natural Landmark, and the lava forms that you see before you are more than four thousand years old!
With five galleries, an interactive learning area for children, and an art classroom and workshop, the Art Museum of Eastern Idaho is a space that’s truly dedicated to its mission to champion creativity and self-expression through visual arts. The museum focuses on showcasing local and regional talent and even hosts a biennial statewide exhibition for artists in the state of Idaho. Open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm (with extended hours on Thursdays), the museum costs only $4 to see and has free admission on the first Saturday of every month.
Positioned on the Idaho Falls Greenbelt along the Snake River, the museum is a beloved cultural hub in the city, and its exhibitions are constantly changing to shed light on new artists. The gift shop features an array of items including souvenirs, jewelry, and other handmade items.
The land that is now part of Grand Teton National Park has a cultural history that can be traced back over 10 thousand years. From American Indians to dude ranchers, many people have taken advantage of the area’s abundant natural resources over the years that it’s been occupied by humans. Today, we continue to enjoy all that the Teton Range has to offer. Hiking, biking, climbing, mountaineering, boating, fishing, camping, and wildlife viewing are some of the most popular activities that visitors engage in when in the park.
Many different types of wildlife can be found throughout the park including moose, elk, bison, beavers, otters, and pronghorn. Bears, wolves, and mountain lions also reside in the Grand Teton area, but they tend to be more elusive. The park is a kaleidoscope of natural features, encompassing flood plains, mountains, lakes, marshes, forests, and glaciers. Some of the most-visited portions in and around the park are Jenny Lake, Colter Bay Swim Beach, and Jackson Lake Lodge.
Long before it was established as a national park in 1872, Yellowstone was a place where people gathered, worked, and even lived. Archeological evidence and oral history both point to humans having occupied Yellowstone for more than 11 thousand years. Spanning three states, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, Yellowstone National Park is a patchwork geological fabric of mountains, canyons, plateaus, geysers, hot springs, and much, much more. Volcanic activity beneath the park’s surface is largely responsible for its dynamic landscapes and somewhat unpredictable geologic processes.
Hiking, skiing, biking, horseback riding, fishing, boating, camping, and, of course, sightseeing are all popular activities that can be enjoyed in Yellowstone. The park boasts one of the largest concentrations of wildlife in the country, and bison, elk, mountain goats, moose, bighorn sheep, coyotes, cougars, wolves, lynx, bears, and dozens of other species roam the land.
The Museum of the Rockies is only about 20 minutes away from Belgrade, but as one of Bozeman’s top attractions, it’s certainly worth a visit. Among the most popular components of the museum is its extensive collection of dinosaur fossils, and the institution is considered one of the world’s top research and history museums. Exhibitions frequently change, so even if you’ve visited the museum before, it’s worth going again! You’ll find international, national, regional, and local displays in the exhibition rotations, as well as permanent collections, educational programs, planetarium shows, and lectures by various field experts.
The museum is open seven days a week, and most visitors stay for three to six hours. Typical hours are 8 am to 6 pm, and you can find information about the current exhibitions on the museum’s website. With so much to see and do, the museum caters to all age groups and has topics of interest for pretty much every visitor that comes through its doors. And because the museum is so close to Belgrade, if you don’t have time to fit it into your trip on your way there, you can always stop by while you’re in town or even on your way back!
The cool thing about road trips is that you never know what you might find when you’re willing to make a little detour—or several. Sure, you could fly up the highway straight to Belgrade, but that would mean sacrificing everything that we just listed. You might try to tell yourself that you can see it all another time, but you know what they say: There’s no time like the present! So, do yourself a favor and take the long way to Belgrade. You’ll thank us later.