Yellowstone National Park, Utah and Idaho

This trip will take you through four states and two national parks and one superb national monument. You travel along the Rocky Mountains and down into the high plains in this classic western road trip.

#thisismyroute

Prepared by:
James

States: 
Utah, Idaho, Colorado, Wyoming

Start/End: 
Salt Lake City, Utah

Total miles:
2,000

Suggested days: 
At least 14

Type: 
scenic road trip

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

Suggested season: 
Spring through Fall

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 and the National Parks before crossing into Montana and the park border-town of West Yellowstone. From there you will head south through the Idaho towns of Rexburg and Pocatello before heading back into Salt Lake City. We would recommend spending a few days here to soak up the city’s culture before heading back home.

How to Prepare

We recommend approximately 14 days for this trip in order to experience each town and activity without feeling too rushed. You have a lot of miles to cover, so we suggest spending a couple of days in the Black Hills and a couple of days in and around Yellowstone National Park. 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 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, Monuments 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, before reaching your overnight stop in Ogden. 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 Layton before spending the night in Ogden. 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 place to stay in Ogden:

The Alaska Inn

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 through 6: Grand Teton 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 7 through 9: Yellowstone National PArk

Wake up early and if you didn’t have time the day before then try to hit the Buffalo Bill Museum of the West before you leave. Hop on the Buffalo Bill Scenic Byway that connects Cody to Yellowstone National Park. One of the most beautiful drives in America you will experience the rushing Shoshone River, amazing rock formations and the mountains views. If you want to get out and stretch your legs there are multiple spots along the highway. Once you reach the eastern 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

Can’t Miss it:

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and Emerald Pool

DAY 10: West Yellowstone, Montana to Rexburg, Idaho

3 hours/150 miles

From the splendor of Yellowstone National Park to the wild and woolly border town of West Yellowstone, day 9 is going to be all about man-made adventure. At almost 7,000 feet above sea level and almost exactly halfway between the equator and the North Pole, West Yellowstone is a great place to get some civilization after your sabbatical in the wilderness. Located in Gallatin County, Montana, West Yellowstone is a great place to stay and experience many of the great museums, historical centers, an Imax and, of course, zipplines! From here its off into Idaho and the town of Rexburg. This town of nearly 26,000 has plenty of things to see and do but there are two not-to-be-missed experiences that you should make time for. The first is the BYU-Idaho Campus and the magnificent Rexburg Idaho Temple located right near by. The second is Yellowstone Bear World, a phenomenal wildlife attraction, this park is essentially a drive through North American wildlife in their natural habitats including rocky mountain elk, bison, white-tail deer, rocky mountain goats, moose, and of course, American black bear, grizzly bear and gray wolves. 

Best place to grab coffee and breakfast:

RUNNING BEAR PANCAKE HOUSE

Best store-ever:

Eagle’s Store

Best place to learn about wolves

Grizzly And Wolf Discovery Center

Best place to grab a bite:

Canyon Street Grill

Best place to stay:

Stage Coach Inn

Best attraction:

Yellowstone Aerial Adventure

DAY 11: rexburg to Pocatello

1 hour 15 minutes/78 miles

The drive from Rexburg to Pocatello will be fairly short, but this will give you a full day to explore the surrounding area, including Craters Of The Moon National Monument and Preserve. Craters of the Moon formed during eight major eruptive periods between 15,000 and 2000 years ago. Lava erupted from the Great Rift, a series of deep cracks that start near the visitor center and stretch 52 miles to the southeast. During this time the Craters of the Moon lava field grew to cover 618 square miles. Our recommendation would be to head to Pocatello and get settled for the day, gather a picnic together, then head out to Craters of the Moon. The best place to start your adventure is at the Robert Limbert Visitor Center. The center will be able to provide you with maps and information, as well as an exquisite exhibit center and bookstore.
After Craters of the Moon, head back to Pocatello and get ready for a great night. There are a number of different things to do in Pocatello, but we would recommend heading right to the heart, Old Town Pocatello. From specialty shops to fine dining, Old Town Pocatello is a magnet for people looking for a unique experience.

Great breakfast:

Frontier Pies

Best Coffee on the go:

June’s Place

Best Hike:

Wilderness Trail

Can’t miss it:

Exploring the caves

Best place to catch the sunset:

The Sunset Cone

Best place to get some dinner:

Uncle Jim’s Family Dining

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.
2 hours 34 minutes/165 miles

Get ready for some city life. But first, you need to get there. The route to Salt Lake City from Pocatello will take you straight through the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. Its a beautiful area and definitely worth a stop. 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