Rocky Mountains

Find the Best Food In Montana Yellowstone Country

Our friends at Food Travelist have compiled a diverse selection of eateries in the Yellowstone region, from lodges, ranches, and resorts to craft breweries, ice cream parlors, and ideal spots for a tasty lunch. Their post celebrates the best of the region (including local delicacies, like huckleberry ice cream, and perfectly seasoned and prepared game) and we are glad to share it with you! For the nights you are not planning to indulge in s'mores around the campfire, consider these venues...and let us know what you think!

Timeless Land

Suzanne Cottrell writes about a chance stop at Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve in Idaho, "We’d never heard of it. Well, it was on our way, we had time, and we enjoyed family adventures—so why not stop?" The impulse adventure led to wonder, adventure, and discovery. Click here to read more!

Sledding on Sand and Stargazing: Visiting Great Sand Dunes National Park

Over in the Rocky Mountains region, we are happy to present Courtney Johnson's take on Colorado's Great Sand Dunes National Park.

"When you approach the tallest sand dunes in North America at Great Sand Dunes National Park, you almost feel like you are on the set of Star Wars. From a distance, they appear much smaller than they are—the tallest point on the dunes is approximately 13,604 feet (4,146m) above sea level. When we got our closeup look from the visitor center in July, my four-year-old daughter Emma's mouth dropped open."

Click here to read the full guide!

A Primer for Planning Your Adventure to Glacier National Park

As we head into National Parks Week, we're pleased to present our primer on Glacier National Park. There's plenty to say about Glacier National Park, one of the most popular and scenic national parks — it is defined by glacial lakes, alpine valleys, vast green meadows and striking mountain tableaus. Based on our experiences with Glacier National Park thus far, we’ve synthesized our ideas, thoughts and suggestions to get you started in planning a Glacier adventure. Consider it a primer, as there is an abundance of information out there.

On Yellowstone National Park's 145th Birthday

We're pleased to celebrate the 145th birthday of Yellowstone National Park, America's first national park. 

Chris Umpierre spots an injured bison staying strong for its calf, and a host of wildlife that fills him with wonder. Peter W. Fong recalls a summer as a curator at the Madison Museum and a host of fascinating visitors. Read both, and revisit Wendy Johnson's "Two Days in Yellowstone." While on a cross country, she pauses for a quick tour. To read each piece, click on the author's name above.

Banner image: The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Thomas Moran, Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Have you noticed the state and national park sites featured in HBO's Westworld?

We’ve been enjoying HBO’s newest prestige show, Westworld, based on a 1973 screenplay and film written and directed by Michael Crichton; part of our affinity for the show is that its landscape is familiar territory, with many scenes are set on state and national park land. The original film starred Yul Brynner and James Brolin; the HBO series includes Ed Harris, Thandie Newton, Evan Rachel Wood, Anthony Hopkins and James Marsden.

The story presents an engineered amusement park inhabited by robots with intersecting and recurrent storylines. The concept brings up several interesting questions...can the human condition be replicated or changed? Is there such a thing as self-determination or free will? We don't want to spoil it, so will simply say that plot wise, the robots transcend the parameters of their design.

Several NPS units and state parks serve as locations for filming, including Canyonlands National Park and Dead Horse Point State Park, both in Utah, and the Paramount Ranch, located within the Santa Monica National Recreation Area.

 Santa Monica National Recreation Area, courtesy of HBO.

Santa Monica National Recreation Area, courtesy of HBO.

 Santa Monica National Recreation Area, courtesy of HBO.   

Santa Monica National Recreation Area, courtesy of HBO.

 

 The Paramount Ranch, part of Santa Monica National Recreation Area, photo by Amy Beth Wright.

The Paramount Ranch, part of Santa Monica National Recreation Area, photo by Amy Beth Wright.

Dead Horse Point State Park / Canyonlands National Park

 Dead Horse Point State Park, courtesy of HBO.

Dead Horse Point State Park, courtesy of HBO.

 Dead Horse Point State Park/Canyonlands National Park, courtesy of HBO.

Dead Horse Point State Park/Canyonlands National Park, courtesy of HBO.

 Dead Horse Point State Park, photo from the National Archives.

Dead Horse Point State Park, photo from the National Archives.

 Canyonlands National Park, photo by Amy Beth Wright.

Canyonlands National Park, photo by Amy Beth Wright.

 Canyonlands National Park, Courtesy of HBO

Canyonlands National Park, Courtesy of HBO

 Canyonlands National Park, Courtesy of HBO

Canyonlands National Park, Courtesy of HBO

 Canyonlands National Park, photo by Amy Beth Wright.

Canyonlands National Park, photo by Amy Beth Wright.

 Canyonlands National Park, photo by Derek Wright.

Canyonlands National Park, photo by Derek Wright.

Have you seen other national or state parks in Westworld that we might have missed?

Moving Landscapes: Jim Jones' American West

We are thrilled to share Jim Jones' uplifting photo essay exploring the light, shadows, angles, corridors, and horizons that comprise the landscape of the American West. This series was created over a two week period in Badlands, Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks in July and August.

Please click the image to proceed to the full photo essay, or click here.

Two Days at Yellowstone

 

Contributor Wendy LaCombe Johnson recently moved from New York City to Oregon, stopping for two days during her cross-country trip in Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone, designated by Congress in 1872, was the first official national park not only in the U.S. but in the world; its existence, along with Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and Sequoia National Parks, influenced the 1916 formation of the National Parks Service. The short visit while in the midst of a road trip allowed she and her husband to distill for our readers some of the select sites to be sure to visit.

 

We drove into the park from Jackson Wyoming, along the Snake River, accompanied by jaw-dropping views of the Grand Tetons. Make a point of pulling over at the Snake River Lookout to see the spot where Ansel Adams took his famous stunning 1942 photo, “The Tetons and the Snake River.” The photo was commissioned by the U.S. government to further inspire visitation to national parks.  

Entering the park through the south entrance, you are treated to more pristine views of the Tetons. This is a much less traveled road into the park, and worth the extra $20 admission to Grand Tetons National Park if you don’t have the National Parks Annual Pass.

There are two driving loops around Yellowstone, an upper and a lower. If you are driving either of the loops during the peak tourist months, as we were, be prepared for long stops and delays while bison cross the road, or tourists get out of their cars to take photos of elk grazing alongside a river.

We explored the lower loop on our first day, heading up the east side and dropping back down the west side, ending at Old Faithful. Highlights were the West Thumb Basin walk, where the boardwalk is a low-key meander alongside the expansive and lovely Yellowstone Lake, as well as the lower and upper falls, with breathtaking views. Be sure to take the 384 steps down to the lookout — well worth the climb back up. Also pause at the Artist Paint Pots, little bubbly areas where clay-like mud bloops and blops in a playful, cartoon-like fashion. As we dropped back down the west side of the lower circle, we stopped at the very popular Prismatic Spring. This is the largest hot spring in America, and a ring of rainbow around a pure blue pool of steaming water cast the spot as other-worldly and gorgeous. At Old Faithful we were surprised to see how much man-made development there was: a huge parking lot, three stores, and two inns. We appreciated the viewing area around this time-honored geyser, and there is plenty of room for the hundreds of visitors to observe from any angle. The extensive urban planning did make for an easy flow of all us gawkers. Be sure to check out the lobby of the Old Faithful Inn.

 Photo by Wendy LaCombe Johnson.

Photo by Wendy LaCombe Johnson.

The second day’s highlight of the upper loop drive was a long and lovely walk around the Mammoth Hot Springs. The drive progresses along a spectacular gorge, and the village below the Hot Springs is a nice spot to dip into the country stores to cool off and do some souvenir shopping. Any direction you choose to go along the upper loop will wind up and around a variety of calcium carbonate vents and terraces. The gurgling sounds and sulphur in the air add to the feeling of being on an entirely different planet. Be sure to look down often at the tiny outcroppings of unusual looking patterns in the earth.  We also pulled over at the Sheepeater Cliff to take a tiny and refreshing stroll along the creek.


Yellowstone is such a unique environment. We feel incredibly lucky for the two days we had to immerse in this extraordinary park. What recommendations for Yellowstone would you add?

 Photo by Wendy LaCombe Johnson.

Photo by Wendy LaCombe Johnson.

Virtually Hike With Us Through Utah's 5 National Parks

We covered a lot of ground in all five of Utah's national parks this past spring, and recorded some of the pathways and vistas that enlivened us during our visit; these virtual hikes provide some immediate context for specific trails you might be considering.   

This is a meandering and level walk out to the beginning of the Zion Narrows, is a 16 mile walk along the Left Fork of the Virgin RIver through a slot canyon; this is a great trail for wheelchair accessibility and a satisfying two mile walk.

As you descend from the Queen's Garden trail, the hoodoos begin to tower; perspective changes vastly — hence our vertical video. Pick up the Navajo Loop trail to hike out of the canyon on the other side.

At Capitol Reef National Park, this trail cuts across the Grand Wash canyon though part of the Waterpocket Fold, a stairstep rise in the earth's crust. Trailheads are located along the park's scenic drive and by the Fremont River on Highway 24. Rock formations are a size that defies the imagination, summoning our impressions of a prehistoric era.

In the Devil's Garden section of Arches, at the north end of the park, a spur of of the Landscape trail will take you to Pine Tree Arch, Tunnel Arch, and then onto Landscape Arch, which at 290 feet long is the fifth longest natural arch in the world. You can continue on for views of Navajo Arch and Partition Arch; check our Utah itinerary for some unique vantages though Partition Arch.

Also from Arches, this trail moves through what appears to be an arid desert — but it is surprisingly green, with some passages that resemble grassland.

Canyonlands National Park invites contemplation; it is literally a place to take a step back and consider the passage of time, and how the slow movement of water gradually changes earth and rock.

A unique trail at Canyonlands, to the rim of a mysterious crater, there are two theories; it caused by a meteor impact or the collapse of a salt dome. The trail takes you to two lookouts, and a half-day hike will lead you all the way around the perimeter of the Upheaval Dome.

Have you hiked these trails? What are some of your favorite trails in Utah's state or national parks?