Stellar national parks showcase America the Beautiful
Northwest Wyoming is blessed with two of our country’s grandest wilderness reserves. Indeed, the exquisite scenery in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks is right out of a picture postcard. With opportunities for sightseeing as well as outdoor activities like hiking, canoeing, horseback riding and climbing, there is never a dull moment in these Rocky Mountain sanctuaries.
Yellowstone National Park
Home of the world’s largest collection of geysers, Yellowstone National Park is located atop an active volcano surrounded by forests and extends into parts of Idaho and Montana. Tourists from all over the world come to enjoy outdoor recreation and marvel at the natural wonders in America’s first national park, established in 1872.
Because Yellowstone is so large, visiting just one area may take an entire day. Planning beforehand is important.
The Grant Village and West Thumb area features the park’s largest lake, Yellowstone Lake. Visitors can’t swim in the lake, however, due to its cold temperatures. The Red Mountains run just west of Heart Lake, providing a great place for hiking. The area also offers smaller lakes, creeks, streams, and lodgepole pine forests.
Old Faithful, located between West Thumb and Madison, is Yellowstone’s most iconic geyser and erupts every 80-90 minutes. Part of the Upper Geyser Basin, the vicinity offers many other thermal springs to explore as well as waterfalls, rivers and lakes. Nearby visitor centers give approximate times the major geysers will erupt so you can plan accordingly. The Old Faithful Visitor Education Center contains exhibits on hydrothermal features and volcanic geology.
The Madison area is one of the smaller parts of the park but still offers some interesting nature spots. A one-mile roundtrip trail in the Artists Paintpots area contains two large mudpots, hot springs and a forest. Madison is also a great place for hiking and picnicking. Also consider a boardwalk tour of Terrace Springs.
Norris Geyser Basin is home to Yellowstone’s hottest and oldest geyser, located in the Norris area of the park. The area features Steamboat Geyser, the tallest geyser in the world; Roaring Mountain with steam vents; Gibbon River; and Virginia Cascades. The Museum of the National Park Ranger shows An American Legacy, a 25-minute movie about the National Park Service.
The Mammoth area highlights Mammoth Hot Springs, where visitors can see Travertine sedimentary rock formations. The North Entrance Road runs around the Gardner River and Gardner River Canyon allowing for optimal wildlife and scenery viewing. Stop along the 45th Parallel Bridge, halfway between the Equator and North Pole. The Albright Visitor Center and Museum at Mammoth Hot Springs is in an old U.S. Cavalry building. The museum features an art gallery with photography and paintings as well as Yellowstone historical memorabilia. Mt. Everts and Bunsen Peak are other destination points in the area.
In the Tower-Roosevelt area, the Petrified Tree is an ancient redwood. The largest concentration of petrified trees in the world may be found in Specimen Ridge. The area also offers Tower Fall, a 132-foot drop of Tower Creek, and calcite springs along the Yellowstone River.
Canyon Village area is home of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, the upper and lower falls of the Yellowstone, the Yellowstone River and Mt. Washburn. Hayden Valley is one of the best places in the park to view wildlife, including grizzly bears, bison, elk, coyotes and many species of birds.
The park offers many types of lodging, from cabins and campgrounds to hotels like the historic Old Faithful Inn. Concessioner-led activities and tours are also available.
Grand Teton National Park
The Snake River winds down from southern Yellowstone National Park to Grand Teton National Park. Including Jackson Hole and the jagged Teton Range, the park spans 485 square miles.
The Moose District in the southern part of the park includes Taggart, Bradley and Phelps lakes as well as Death Canyon. Trails winding around the lakes provide viewing points for wildlife, including beavers, eagles, otters and moose. Visit the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center for ranger-led activities and hikes, informational displays about the park and a 24-minute movie, Grand Teton National Park: Life on the Edge.
Jenny Lake District offers some of the most iconic scenes in the park, including Cascade Canyon, Hidden Falls, Inspiration Point and Paintbrush Canyon. The Jenny Lake Visitor Center offers exhibits on geology and ecology, an animated geology film, and original paintings and photographs by park photographer and artist Harrison Crandall. South Jenny Lake provides a boat ride over to Cascade Canyon.
In the northern part of the park lies the Colter Bay District with a variety of trails and scenic drives. Visit the Colter Bay Visitor Center for exhibits or stop by the Flagg Ranch Information Station for an overview of the park. The area offers Jackson Lake and Grand View Point, great places for wildlife watching, fishing and hiking. Float, canoe or take a raft trip on the Snake River or climb its nearby rocky areas. Colter Bay offers campgrounds for tents and RVs. The park also offers other campgrounds, plus lodges and cabins.
With gorgeous scenery, watchable wildlife and a variety of recreational activities, Yellowstone and Grand Teton offer groups the ultimate in natural beauty and wilderness adventure. They’re exactly what national parks should look like.