Salt Lake City, the National Parks and Fossil Butte National Monument

This route will take you on some of the same routes of discovery and exploration as America’s earliest Pioneers. The route will take you from one of the United State’s biggest city to some of its smallest, with a barrel-full of beautiful scenery along the way.

#thisismyroute

Prepared by:
James

States:
Utah, Wyoming

Start/End:
Salt Lake City, Utah

Total miles:
730

Suggested days:
At least 14

Type:
scenic road trip

Recommended for: 
First-timers to the United States, honeymooners, photographers, road trippers

Suggested season: 
May-November

Overview

This trip takes you in a loop that will start and end in Salt Lake City, Utah. The trip takes you through some of the best untravelled small towns in the Mid Rocky Mountains as well as some of the more famous destinations like Jackson and Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Park.
You will travel through the outdoor Utah towns of Layton, Ogden and Logan before crossing the border into Wyoming to hit Afton, Jackson, the National Parks and the ranching town of Kemmerer, before crossing back into Utah and visiting the site of the 2002 Winter Olympics, Park City. The trip will end in Salt Lake City, and we would recommend spending a few days here to soak up the city’s culture before heading back home.

How to Prepare

We recommend at least 14 days to accomplish everything there is to do in the trip. This trip takes you through two states and you will have a lot of driving. The bigger towns are well worth the stops and can offer you many opportunities for nightlife, but the smaller towns have a western charm to them that is well worth an overnight stop and will add a uniqueness to your trip. This itinerary is full of suggestions of some of the best places to stop, especially during your longer days on the road. So plan your trip accordingly so that you can experience the places that spark your interest the most. These areas can be crowded in the summertime, and for good reason. There are multiple events and the weather is beautiful. If you want to avoid crowds we suggest traveling at the end of spring or the beginning of fall. If you can’t make that happen then we suggest visiting the smaller towns on the weekends and the National Parks and bigger towns on the weekdays. Wintertime is still beautiful in these places, however, many roads are closed and you cannot drive into some of the parks.

DAY 1: arrival in Salt Lake City, Utah

1.5 hours/87 miles

Salt Lake City is a great town, and one that we would recommend spending some time in, but not today. That will come at the end of the trip. For the start of your trip, we would recommend landing in SLC, gathering your bags and getting your car. After this head up north on the 15 to the northern suburbs of Layton and Ogden, before reaching your overnight stop in Logan. Both Layton and Ogden are full of great little restaurants and shops and we would recommend taking the time to stop for a few hours in each one. It’s a great chance to acclimate yourself to the American West before heading out onto the road. When you arrive in Logan, don’t just make it a one night stop. Stay through the next day and enjoy the Bear River Mountains.

Best Short Hike-Layton:

Adams Canyon Trail

Best place grab a quick bite-Layton:

Cafe Sabor

Best local winery-Layton:

The Hive Winery

Best short hike-Ogden:

Ogden River Parkway

Best place to take the kids-Ogden:

Ogden High Adventure

Best place for a stroll:

25th Street Historic District

DAY 2: Logan

Cache Valley, Logan Downtown

1.5 hours/65 miles

Logan, Utah is an amazing place to spend some time. From the outdoor adventures to be had to the great downtown experiences, you can have any kind of time you want in this amazing town nestled at the foot of the nearly 10,000-foot high Bear River Range. Logan’s setting is beautiful in any season. There are many places to fuel up for the day, but a breakfast in Logan wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Angie’s. It is the classic American breakfast menu, done with great food and great service all in a downtown locale. From there, pick your fancy. You can head up into White Pine Lake trail system or check out the unsurpassed Wind Caves and Crimson Trail in Logan Canyon. Or stay in town and visit the local history with a downtown tour. Stop in at the Cache Valley Visitor’s Bureau for more information about all the things to do both in-town and out.

Best scenic drive:

Logan Canyon Scenic Drive

Best place to grab a quick bite:

Jack’s Wood Fired Oven

Best place to see a wolf:

Zootah at Willow Park

Best place to get a little history:

Daughters of the Utah Pioneers

Best taco:

La Chispita Bakery

Best local brew and burger

The Beehive Grill

DAY 3: Logan to Afton, Wyoming

2 hours 18 minutes/117 miles

This is going to be a short driving day but packed with a bunch of activities along the way. The first thing you are going to need is coffee. Head to Cafe Ibis to get a healthy start to your day and in-house roasted coffee. Afterward hop in your car and get ready for some beautiful scenery. The route to Afton, takes you up Hwy 89 to Bear Lake through Logan Canyon. Logan Canyon is a National Scenic Byway and has plenty of great photo ops. About 40 miles into your drive you will hit Garden City and Bear Lake. Well worth a stop to stretch your legs, Bear Lake is known as the “Caribbean of the Rockies” for its unique turquoise-blue color, which is due to the refraction of limestone deposits suspended in the lake. A great place to stop is Bear Lake State Park. After that head to LaBeaus Drive Inn for a Raspberry Shake. You won’t regret it. After Garden City, Hwy 89 will cut through a corner of Idaho before entering Wyoming. In Wyoming you will enter the Bridger-Teton National Forest, one of the most beautiful National Forests in the US, eventually ending up in the Star Valley and Afton. Afton is a great place, and we recommend staying the night in this quintessential western town.

Best Place to stay:

Kodiak Mountain Resort

Best place for dinner:

Rocky Mountain Seafood

Best after-hours fun:

The Cowboy Bar

DAY 4: Afton to Jackson

1 hour 23 minutes/70 miles

Our recommendation for Jackson is to find a place to stay and head out on the town. There is so much to do in this western town, you will not be let down.

Best place to shop for new clothes:

Wyoming Outfitters

Best place to shop for old clothes:

Forget Me Not Thrift Store

Best place to people watch:

Jackson Town Square

Best way to eat farm to table:

Local

Best sushi in the state:

King Sushi

Best place to have a drink while sitting on a bar stool shaped like a saddle:

The Million Dollar Cowboy Bar

DAY 5: Grand Teton National Park

Grand Tetons, Yellowstone National Park

We hope that you explored all you wanted to Jackson because it’s time leave the city behind and head north for a nature-focused experience in Grand Teton National Park. You really aren’t prepared for the beauty until you actually experience these mountains up close. Today you are going to explore crystal clear lakes, flowing rivers, and great spots for photography all with the rugged Grand Tetons next to you. If you really want to enjoy Grand Teton National Park you can avoid the crowds and bike on the many trails throughout the park.  After you have been blown away by the Grand Tetons let’s head north towards Yellowstone.

DAY 6 through 9: Yellowstone National Park

You can’t come all the way to Wyoming and not spend at least three days exploring these two amazing parks, there is so much to do and see, to try to do it in one day would be depriving yourself of a truly grand experience. Once you reach the southern entrance of Yellowstone National Park don’t forget to grab a park map. In that map you will be able to see anything and everything that may spark your interest during your park journey. Remember, Yellowstone covers a huge area of land. If you want to get the best experience without a lot of driving we suggest staying one night within Yellowstone National Park.

SOME ATTRACTIONS IN YELLOWSTONE:

LAKE BUTTE OVERLOOK
FISHING BRIDGE VISITORS CENTER
YELLOWSTONE LAKE
MUD VOLCANO
SULPHUR CALDRON
VIRGINIA CASCADE
BERYL SPRING

Best place for wildlife:

The Lamar Valley

Best hike:

Storm Point Nature Trail

Best place to ride a horse:

Lodges of East Yellowstone

Best point of interest:

Lake Yellowstone Hotel

Best Iconic American Landmark:

Old Faithful

Cant’s Miss it:

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and Emerald Pool

DAY 10: Fossil Butte national monument

4.5 hours/241 miles

With Yellowstone in your rearview mirror, It’s time to take a trip into Wyoming’s pre-history. Kemmerer, Wyoming exits today on what is essentially the bed of an ancient tropical sea. Not only is the town itself a great pace to spend some time, right outside of town is the phenomenal Fossil Butte National Monument. Some of the world’s best preserved fossils are found in the flat-topped ridges of southwestern Wyoming’s cold sagebrush desert.
Fossilized fishes, insects, plants, reptiles, birds, and mammals are exceptional for their abundance, variety, and detail of preservation. After your trip through the ancient world, head back into Kemmerer for a little modern-day fun. Kemmerer is a great little town on the western plains, with a vibrant downtown and a number of parks and green spaces just aching for a picnic.

Best place to grab coffee and a quick breakfast:

Caribou Cafe

Best place to see a fossilized crocodile:

Fossil Butte Visitor’s Center

Best place for a swim and a picnic-Kemmerer:

Archie Neil Park

Best place for dinner:

The Ham’s Fork Grill

Best place for after hours fun:

Anywhere on Triangle Park

Best place for a hike through pre-Cambrian history:

Historic Quarry Trail-Fossil Butte

DAY 11: Kemmerer to Park City, utah

2 hours/112 miles

From Kemmerer you will cross back into Utah below Evanston, Wyoming and keep heading south to Park City, Utah. Park City is a fun place. That’s just the truth of it. There is so much to do in this little town, but the best thing about Park City is its dedication to the outdoor world. This was the place of the 2002 Winter Olympics after all, and the outdoor activities are extensive. But Park City has a great city-centric activity level too. In Park City it is realistic to be browsing through one of the numerous art or history museums in the morning and be lacing up your boots to hike one of the numerous trails just outside the town in the afternoon. The best place to start any time in Park City, though, is the Park City Visitor’s Center. Not only will it have all the information you need, but its also a really cool place, with some of the best coffee in town accompanied by a nice little breakfast and lunch cafe.

Best way to get up the mountain:

Park City Mountain Resort

Best way to get down the mountain:

Park City Alpine Ride

Best place to burn some calories:

Utah Olympic Park

Best way to see the town and get fed:

Park City Food Tour

Best local shopping:

Tanger Outlet

Best place to people watch:

Park City Historic Downtown

DAY 12 through 14: Salt Lake City

Temple Square

In 1847, when Mormon pioneers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley, LDS Church president Brigham Young selected a plot of the desert ground and proclaimed, “Here we will build a temple to our God.” Attracting 3 million to 5 million visitors a year, Temple Square is the most popular tourist attraction in Utah, bringing in more visitors than the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone National Park. Contained within Temple Square are the Salt Lake Temple, Salt Lake Tabernacle, Salt Lake Assembly Hall, the Seagull Monument, and two visitors’ centers. The square was designated a National Historic Landmark District in 1964. Located in the heart of downtown Salt Lake City, Temple Square has a rich history, gorgeous gardens and architecture, vivid art and culture that pulls you in, you’ll be sure to have an unforgettable experience.
34 minutes/30 miles

Get ready for some city life. But first, you need to get there. There are two ways to get to SLC from Park City, but the one we recommend is taking Hwy 224 to Hwy 190 over Guardsman Pass. Total drive time (one way) is about one hour, but you’ll probably want to take longer, to stop for photos and perhaps a picnic along the route. On top of the mountains the country opens up and you’ll have majestic views in all directions. At the pass the elevation is about 9,700 feet above sea level. However, this road is not open in the winter. Upon arrival in Salt Lake City, the first you are going to want to do is find a pace to stay. There are plenty of options, but our suggestion is to head downtown and stay at one of the
great hotels. From there, Salt Lake City is your oyster. SLC is a great town, and there are thousands of things to do here, so after getting your hotel, you should head to the Salt Lake Visitors Center in the Salt Center. The people there are friendly and eager to make your visit the best it can be..

Best place to shop:

City Creek Center

Best way to see the city:

Trolley Tours of Salt Lake

Best downtown nightlife:

Broadway District

Best cultural experience for families:

Foothill Cultural District

Best place to shop local:

The Downtown Salt Lake City Farmer’s Market

Can’t miss restaurant:

Valter’s Osteria

Best Mexican food in Utah:

The Red Iguana

Can’t miss outdoor experience:

Great Salt Lake State Park or Big Cottonwood Canyon