The Northern Rockies Travel Guide is a resource for those planning a road trip in the region.
It is especially useful for road trips running from Mount Rushmore, South Dakota to Yellowstone National Park,
Wyoming, and adjoining areas. All the popular attractions
are included, such as Mount Rushmore, the Black Hills of South Dakota, Badlands National Park,
Yellowstone National Park, and Grand Teton National Park. Many less famous destinations are also included.
Details include descriptions, links to many references, travel itineraries, and suggested visit times.
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Northern Rockies - Wyoming Destinations
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Yellowstone National Park
The world's first national park, Yellowstone National Park has more geysers and other geothermal wonders than any other site in the world. The park is also noted for abundant wildlife and the spectacular waterfalls in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River. The most famous feature, Old Faithful Geyser, is in the Upper Geyser Basin in the southwest part of the park. The Upper and Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River are near Canyon Village. The Mammoth Hot Springs campground sits on the edge of a meadow abundant with wildlife. Elk often walk through the campground. Campsites and lodging are very hard to obtain during the prime summer season, and reservations are strongly advised. A good alternative is the Flagg Resort on the Rockefeller Parkway near the parks's south entrance. The resort has lodging and camping in a quiet and scenic setting. (Look for the nice hike along Polecat Creek.) Visit time: at least three days and two nights.
Wildlife: Watch for stopped cars along the road. There will often be herds of grazing animals in the rolling meadowlands. Elk, bison, and pronghorn are commonplace. Moose are not as common. Also, bears are somewhat less likely. The rangers try to keep them away from the congested areas.
Photography: Some of the best opportunities are around Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. There are trails to get close to the major falls (Tower, Upper, and Lower). Early in the day it's kind of shadowy and tough for shots. In the geyser basins, look closely at the hot pools and paint pots. They are colorful to begin with but they often have very colorful runoffs. These make excellent photos.
Geysers: There are a number of larger or more unusual geysers than Old Faithful, which erupt at less frequent intervals. Some are very spectacular. The visitor center may have a posted schedule. It would be worth your while to plan your visits in the geyser areas accordingly.
Grand Teton National Park
The companion park to Yellowstone, Grand Teton National Park is less well-known but equally spectacular in a different way. The panorama of the Teton Range from Jackson Hole is one of the greatest in the world. Grand Teton is far less congested than Yellowstone, and campsites are usually available in the larger campgrounds. There is lodging available at Colter Bay (inexpensive tent-style) and Jackson Lake Lodge (expensive) right on the shores of Jackson Lake, a beautiful scenic area and the park's center of activity. The less expensive motel-style Signal Mountain Lodge is a few miles south and also right on the lake. Reservations are advised for lodging. Visit time: at least two days.
Wildlife: Viewing is excellent everywhere in the park. The Snake River is especially outstanding. You will see exotic birds as well as large animals. A wildlife-viewing raft trip is highly worthwhile. Get the earliest morning trip you can schedule. Have your telephoto lens ready and fast film. For the best wildlife viewing, be prepared to drive the park road at daybreak.
Photography: Try for the famous landscape shots at sunrise. (It has to be exactly at sunrise.) The two most famous overlooks are the Snake River Overlook (made famous by Ansel Adams), mid-way between Moose and Moran junctions, and the Oxbow Bend, between Moran and Jackson Lake junctions. (The probability of seeing early a.m. wildlife in the Oxbow area is extremely high.)
Park Highlight: Take the boat shuttle from the Jenny Lake Visitor Center to the Cascade Canyon trail. This is the park's finest trail. The first 1/4 mile is sharply uphill adjacent to the cascading stream. You then reach spectacular Hidden Falls, about 200' high. Another 1/4 mile uphill brings you to Inspiration Point, a fabulous view of Jackson Hole. You now enter the main canyon. The trail levels off and passes between mountains that rise thousands of feet on each side. If it's moist enough, it is possible to see thousand-foot snowmelt waterfalls.
Devils Tower National Monument
Devils Tower is a nearly vertical monolith which rises 1,267 feet above the meandering Belle Fourche River.
The nation's first national monument, Devils Tower was also made famous in the movie
"Close Encounters of the Third Kind" as the location where the aliens landed. The monolith is very popular
with rock climbers. Ordinary travelers will find this out-of-the-way stop to be very peaceful and quiet
with a pleasant campground. Directions: Leave I-90 onto US-14 between Sundance and Moorcroft.
Midway, take WY-24 north to Devils Tower. There is lodging is Sundance. Visit time: a few hours to overnight stop.
The Beartooth Highway (US-212) is considered one of America's most spectacular alpine byways, offering rugged mountains, icy glaciers, and alpine meadows full of wildflowers as well as abundant wildlife. The highway holds the distinction of being the longest stretch of road running though alpine tundra in the world. Camping and hiking are available along the highway. Access is from the northeast corner of Yellowstone National Park. Visit time: at least a couple hours to drive through.
Bighorn National Forest
Most travelers en route from the Black Hills to Yellowstone just pass through, but the Bighorn Mountain also offer spectacular scenery and recreation opportunities, and with far less congestion than the area' many popular destinations. No region in Wyoming is provided with a more diverse landscape, from lush grasslands to alpine meadows, from crystal-clear lakes to glacial carved valleys, from rolling hills to sheer mountain walls. Besides numerous campgrounds and picnic areas, seven lodges are available. There are 1,500 miles of trail and access to the Cloud Peak Wilderness Area. All three highways through the mountains - US-14, US-14a, and US-16 - are scenic byways. Visit time: an hour to drive through, could spend a day or more.
The southern gateway to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, Jackson is a major supply point and center of activity for area visitors. The town features shopping, arts and culture, museums,special events, upscale restaurants and lodging and more. The National Elk Refuge just north of town is the winter home to a herd of 7,500 elk. The Jackson Hole Mountain Resort offers skiing in the winter and access to the high country during the summer via the aerial tramway. Visit time: a few hours.
The old west town of Dubois is the southeast gateway to the Yellowstone area. The boardwalked town is a center for outdoor activities and local arts and culture. Outstanding fishing is available in the area. Hiking access and pack trips available to Gannett Peak, Wyoming's highest, and the Fitzpatrick Wilderness where there are 44 glaciers. Visit time: drive through, or one or more days.
Cody is the eastern gateway to Yellowstone National Park. It is home to the Buffalo Bill Historic Center, a complex of four museums. There are several other museums and attractions in Cody. The famous Cody Nite Rodeo runs every night during the summer. Trail Town features a group of historic building with exhibits reassembled on the original Cody townsite. Whitewater rafting trips can be booked in Cody. The Chief Joseph Scenic Highway (WY-296) starts 15 miles north of town, off of WY-120. Visit time: a few hours to an overnight stay.
The town of Thermopolis offers visitors a travel break at Hot Springs State Park, the world's largest mineral hot springs. The renowned Wyoming Dinosaur Center and Dig Sites is also located here, as well as other museums. Hunting, Fishing, and pack trips are available in the area. Float trips and fishing trips are offered on the Wind River, through 2,000 foot deep Wind River Canyon. Visit time: a few hours, or an overnight stay.
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