It’s a big country. Come along as we explore some of the most well-known, and maybe not so well-known, places in our vast Western states: Alaska’s Kenai Fjords; Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons; the Grand Canyon; Joshua Tree and Zion national parks; Hoover Dam; Arizona’s Antelope Canyon; Idaho’s Shoshone Falls. Some you certainly have heard of, others not. But what they all have in common is the capacity to astonish, especially if you’re seeing them for the first time. Included is information on how to get there from Bellingham or Seattle, and other valuable travel tidbits. Happy trails.

Yellowstone & Grand Tetons

Established in 1872, Yellowstone National Park is the United States’ first national park. Primarily located in Wyoming, Yellowstone also stretches into Montana and Idaho. The John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway connects Yellowstone with Grand Tetons National Park to the south. Both parks encompass lush valleys with clear lakes and meandering rivers. The Teton Range, whose highest peak, Grand Teton, reaches 13,770 feet, is a popular ski destination in Grand Teton National Park. For outdoor enthusiasts the parks are a paradise with more than 200 miles of hiking trails, backcountry camping, float trips, bird watching, fishing, and wildlife viewing.

A large “supervolcano” is located beneath the surface of Yellowstone National Park. This is why there are so many geysers located in this unique area — about 500. The supervolcano is also how the hot springs remain, well, hot. The magma and steam beneath the surface rises and heat the ground beneath the pools. The temperature is so great, the water within the pools (despite being melted snow) remains warm. These hot springs are much too hot to swim in. Please consult the National Parks Service website for permitted swimming areas.

To experience the majesty of the landscape and some of Grand Teton’s essential sights, drive the 42 scenic-mile loop. Important stops along the route include the J.P. Cunningham Cabin — one of the few remaining homesteading cabins in the area, scenic viewpoints at Schwabacher’s Landing and Oxbow Bend, and Jenny Lake. No matter what, wake up early one morning to watch sunrise illuminate the snow-capped peaks of the Tetons.

If you venture out to Yellowstone you’re bound to stumble across a herd of buffalo. These animals have roamed the region since prehistoric times. In the late 19th century, only 23 buffalo remained in the park. Thanks to concentrated conservation efforts, the buffalo population has risen back up to more than 5,500 today, considered the world’s oldest free-roaming herd.

The two popular parks are truly special, unlike few others in the world. We’ve gathered some of the best tips and tricks below to help you plan your Yellowstone/Grand Tetons trip.

Getting There

Fly From Seattle into Jackson Hole Airport, Jackson, Wyo. (flight time with connections: 9.5 hours)
Drive 15 hours

Fees Or Permits

$35 per vehicle for a seven-day pass (If you want to go to both Yellowstone and Grand Teton, you will need to purchase passes for both.)
Annual pass: $70

What To Do

Horseback Riding
Yellowstone National Park

Courtesy / Sherrie & Ron White

Backcountry Skiing
There are a few short tracks, but skiing is permitted on all unplowed roads and trails in Yellowstone. In the Grand Tetons, pro backcountry skiers should take their shot at the renowned Corbet’s Couloir run.

Jenny Lake Boating

Places To Eat

Grant Village Lake House Restaurant
Yellowstone National Park

Peaks Restaurant
Moran, Wyo.

Moose, Wyo.

What To See

Old Faithful
Located in Yellowstone National Park’s Upper Geyser Basin in the southwest section of the park.

Mammoth Hot Springs
Located just south of the North Entrance near Gardiner.

Tourists visiting Palette Spring Terrace at Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park

John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway
Teton County, Wyo.

Where To Stay

Jenny Lake Lodge
Moose, Wyo.

Roosevelt Lodge & Cabins
Gardiner, Mont.

Colter Bay Cabins
Colter Bay Village, Wyo.

Old Faithful Inn
Yellowstone National Park, Wyo.


Early April
Cycle Only Days
Note: The West Entrance to Yellowstone National Park will open exclusively to non-motorized travel in early April. There is no set date as it depends on weather conditions. Pedestrians and cyclists may enter through this gate before it is open to road traffic.

April 13–14, 20–21, 27–28
Grouse Strut

May 19
High Noon Chili Cook-Off

May 24–28
Old West Days

Fun Fact

Yellowstone was once referred to as Wonderland, based on Lewis Carroll’s book “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” An 1885 pamphlet even featured Alice herself, saying “Tell me, is this not Wonderland?” The cause for this was due to the natural scenery, volcanic activity, and wildlife not found anywhere else in the United States.

To continue reading our Western State Landmarks Feature, click here!

"The two popular parks are truly special, unlike few others in the world."