A Yellowstone Trip

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Wind Cave near Logan, UT is one of the best hikes in Cache Valley.

A Yellowstone Trip

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Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area is a 91-mile long reservoir with stunning desert-red cliffs towering above.

A Yellowstone Trip

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Yellowstone, America's first national park, covers over 2 million acres and has numerous iconic landmarks.

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National Parks Road Trip Itinerary: Utah to Yellowstone & Grand Teton

Oh boy, it's cowboy country! In this national parks road trip itinerary we’ll take you from Salt Lake City up to a few of the most iconic national parks, but not without passing through a myriad of smaller, more quaint, less-traveled towns that Utah, Wyoming, and Idaho have to offer.
Prepared By:

Tobey Schmidt

Adventurer & Photographer

Utah to Yellowstone & Grand Teton Itinerary

Start / End

Salt Lake City, Utah

States Covered
Total Distance

940 (1,500 KM)

Suggested Days

At least 8 – 14days

Suggested Seasons

Summer, Fall, Late Spring

#ThisIsMyRoute

Overview

What’s great about this national parks road trip is that it’s accessible and adjustable for all kinds of groups including first-timers to the US, families with children and grandparents, honeymooners, photographers, campers, van-lifers, and more. Our route has you flying in and out of Salt Lake International Airport. Rather than hitting the road right away, we recommend spending your first few days exploring Salt Lake City. Most people will be flying in from a lower elevation than SLC, and driving into Wyoming will take you even higher, so acclimating your body first will prevent sickness, which no one wants on road trips!

Preparation

This route is intended for a summer, fall or late spring season road trip. While most of the destinations on our itinerary are very popular winter ski destinations (Park City, Utah literally hosted the 2002 Winter Olympics), the roads between these places are not always open and can be dangerous with snow cover. It’d be best if you have about 10 to 12 days for this trip, but it could probably be done in eight days if you didn’t mind driving a bit every day.

Itinerary

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH

If you don’t know a lot about Salt Lake City, you might at least know these two facts: it’s known for being the city with nine ski resorts within an hour’s drive, and for being the world headquarters of the Mormon religion.

Save the skiing for winter, but don’t miss visiting Temple Square, whether you’re religious or not. It’s a 35-acre area in the heart of downtown with plenty of historical buildings, food, sights to see and activities. Right beside Temple Square, you can visit City Creek Center, Salt Lake’s unique shopping center.

Best family activity:

VISIT THE NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM OF UTAH

Best place to take the kids:

OGDEN ADVENTURE PARK

Must-do hike to see the wildflowers:

HIKE IN ALBION BASIN

Most popular mountain biking trail:

WASATCH CREST TRAIL
CACHE VALLEY

1.25 HOURS – 81 MILES/130 KM

About 80 miles (130 kilometers) north of SLC you’ll head into Cache Valley, which is home to the metropolitan area of Logan, Utah.

We recommend spending a day and night here, as there’s a lot to see and do.

Probably the most epically scenic drive is through Logan Canyon—September and October are perfect months to see the fall leaves changing colors.

About an hour outside of Logan, and on your way, we recommend stopping to explore Bear Lake—often called the “Caribbean of the Rockies” because of its turquoise water and sandy beaches.

Best activity at Bear Lake:

JET SKIING OR WATER TRAMPOLINES

Best spot for history:

 AMERICAN WEST HERITAGE CENTER

What to do in the evening:

GO SEE A SHOW

Best hike:

WIND CAVES IN LOGAN CANYON
STAR VALLEY

2.25 HOURS – 119 MILES/191 KM

On your way up through Idaho and into Wyoming, you’ll be passing through some authentically western, undiscovered small towns that are all worthy of a visit. The first is Montepelier, Idaho, which is just 35 minutes from Bear Lake. For a classic American breakfast and your “cup of joe”, we suggest starting your driving day off at Ranch Hand Trail Stop in Montepelier. Biscuits and gravy for $3? Count me in. Next you’ll head into Wyoming and drive through Afton, Thayne and Alpine. We suggest spending a night in Alpine before heading into the busyness of Jackson and the national parks.

Best place to stay in Alpine, WY: 

FLYING SADDLE RESORT

Must-do hike in Afton, WY: 

INTERMITTENT SPRING

Best place for sweets in Afton, WY:

STAR VALLEY CHOCOLATES

Most western activity in Thayne, WY:

VISIT & TOUR HADERLIE FARMS

 

GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK

1.75 HOURS – 84 MILES/135 KM

We said this was a national parks road trip, right? Well, park #1: The famous, jagged mountain peaks of the Grand Tetons are one of the reasons the park attracts so many visitors, putting it on the list for the top ten most visited national parks. We recommend that you first do a scenic drive through the park to take in the views and get acquainted with the area. 

Fishing and hiking are among the best activities here. If you want something more casual, wildlife viewing is a good option as animals are ubiquitous in the park, such as black bears, bison, moose, elk and more—just do not approach them. Ever!

Most scenic drive:

JENNY LAKE SCENIC DRIVE

Best place to view wildlife:

OXBOW BEND

Most adventurous activity:

CANOE TO YOUR CAMPSITE AT LEIGH LAKE

Best place to stay:

THE CABINS AT TOGWOTEE MOUNTAIN LODGE
YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK

2 HOURS – 73 MILES/173 KM

Watching Old Faithful Geyser erupt in Yellowstone National Park? Time to check that one off your bucket list! Old Faithful erupts about 17 times a day and it’s one of six geysers that park rangers currently predict, out of nearly 500 geysers in the park. You’ve come all this way, so stay a few days. 

Yellowstone covers a lot of acreage, so it’s best to spend a night or two in the park. Other than sight-seeing, we recommend going horseback riding—you are in cowboy country after all.

Out-of-the-ordinary activity:

SOAK IN NATURAL HOT SPRINGS

A must-do in cowboy country:

GO HORSEBACK RIDING

Activity for the whole family: 

DRIVE THE GRAND LOOP

Best fishing hole:

FIREHOLE RIVER
PINEDALE, WYOMING

3.25 HOURS – 160 MILES/257 KM

It’s time to head down to one of those small, undiscovered Wyoming’s towns we told you about. In Sublette County, bordered by three incredible mountain ranges, you’ll find the town of Pinedale, which the locals call “the real Wyoming.” 

With a population of under 2,000 people it’ll be a nice change of pace from the traffic in the parks. Pinedale really does have it all: incredible mountain views from town, glacially-fed lakes, great fishing in the rivers, and an awesome brewery. What more do you need?

Best place to get a drink:

WIND RIVER BREWING COMPANY

Best spot for photos:

PHOTOGRAPHER’S POINT

Most popular destination:

CIRQUE OF THE TOWERS (BACKPACKING TRIP)

Casual activity in town:

DISK GOLFING
FLAMING GORGE

2.5 HOURS – 163 MILES/262 KM

You’ll be heading back toward the desert, but the trip is not over yet. On the border of Wyoming and Utah is Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, a 91-mile long reservoir with stunning desert-red cliffs towering above. 

Between boating and water sports, hiking, and rafting, Flaming Gorge Country is stacked with fun things to do.

For the adrenaline seekers:

RAFT THE GREEN RIVER

Best place to stay:

THE PRIVATE LAKE CABINS AT RED CANYON LODGE

Best hike for the whole family:

MOONSHINE ARCH

Most laid-back activity on the water:

BOAT CAMPING ON THE RESERVOIR
Best place for photographs:
 GOOSENECKS STATE PARK
Well-known rafting outfitters:
OARS RAFTING GUIDES
Best activity for all ages:
EDGE OF THE CEDARS STATE PARK
Most classic spot to grab a bite to eat:
SHAKE SHACK IN MONTICELLO
VERNAL

1.25 HOURS – 52 MILES/84 KM

Not far from Flaming Gorge Country is Vernal, Utah, the gateway to Dinosaur National Monument. Vernal is known as one of the best places in America to see fossils, and you can’t leave the western US without looking at fossils and petroglyphs! 

There are tons of other things to do in Vernal, in addition to visiting Dinosaur National Monument.

Best family hike:

DESERT VOICES TRAIL

Best spot to bike:

YAMPA BENCH ROAD
PARK CITY, UTAH

3 HOURS – 161 MILES/259 KM

Like we said, Park City held the 2002 Winter Olympics, so they’re kind of a big dea. To this day, the Utah Olympic Park is used as a training facility, and they allow visitors to join the fun as well. So, if you’ve never ridden a bobsled at 70mph (112kph) or been extreme tubing at speeds of 50mph (80kph) then Park City is the place for you! 

When it’s not snowing, Park City is a great place for mountain biking, ziplining, golfing, hot air ballooning, and more.

Must-do year-round activity:

BOBSLED AT UTAH OLYMPIC PARK

Don’t want to miss:

FLYING ACE ALL-STARS FREESTYLE SHOW

Most unique adventure: 

HOT AIR BALLOONING

Activity everyone will enjoy:

FOOD TOURS PARK CITY
Salt Lake City is just a 45-minute drive from Park City. Take some time in SLC to unwind after a packed trip, or catch your flight home and start planning when you’ll return for your winter ski trip! Cheers!    

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