Like with children or pets or friends, you probably shouldn’t really have ‘a favourite’ travel destination. It’s a little narrow–minded perhaps?! But stuff it. Explore Wyoming, as it’s my favourite state to travel. And until you can convince me otherwise, I stand by that. Yellowstone National Park has a lot to thank for this title: I spent a couple of full days here, and it is absolutely off-the-scale mind-blowingly incredible. Yellowstone National Park is mainly in the one state so you can explore Wyoming, but it’s SO big it also spans in to Idaho and Montana. There are big ole bison just grazing by road, and beautiful elk. I was genuinely sad to leave!
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3 THINGS YOU REALLY CANNOT MISS:
UNCLE TOM’S TRAIL | is a set of very steep steps down from South Rim (at Grand Canyon, Yellowstone) to the most incredible view of Lower Yellowstone Falls. I debated the descent as you can see the falls at other points, but I insist you go: a beautiful rainbow cut through the mist; it’s totally worth the exercise.
Also check out: Lower Falls from Canyon Valley is another wow, this time accessed from the North Rim drive. Here you walk down to stand right over the roaring waterfall, with stunning views down the very ‘yellow’ valley. The colours, noise and scale of Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon are so breathtaking I couldn’t fully capture the impact with a point-and-press camera.
BOILING RIVER | is located in the Mammoth Hot Springs area near the North entrance of Yellowstone National Park. Be warned: I accidentally drove out of the park! From my bed near Fort Yellowstone I was up at 7am and at Boiling River by 8am. It’s a gorgeous little spot where scalding hot water mixes with cold river water so you can enjoy it without being cooked alive. This was an amazing way to start the day: total travel relaxation as the sun rose up over mountain.
PHELPS LAKE | is a 4 mile easy loop hike near Jackson, Wyoming in Grand Teton National Park. Phelps Lake is gorgeous, and was recommended to me as it has a ‘limited numbers’ policy enforced and is therefore quieter. I wanted to see a bear, but was then so scared – as there had been sightings – that I practically ran the walk! (Alas, still no bear).
3 THINGS WORTH A SNOOP:
GRAND PRISMATIC SPRING | is a gigantic hot spring (the largest in the US) located in Midway Geyser Basin, Yellowstone: a definite
highlight, and I could not stop taking travel pics! It’s busy though, so for a quieter – just as colourful – spot try Morning Glory pool at Upper Geyser Basin. This is 6.5 miles away and most famous for Old Faithful geyser, which has regular giant eruptions, as well as my faves Grotto and Rocket geysers (both pretty active). Lower Basin is not so great and very busy.
Also check out: lovely Yellowstone Lake at Fishing Village, where you can grab coffee and admire historic Yellowstone Lake Hotel and Cabins built in 1891. Nearby West Thumb Geyser Basin is relatively small, but the backdrop of crystal clear water makes for an incredible setting.
BRIDGER GONDOLA | I was sorry to be travelling on, and left Yellowstone via the South entrance to enjoy more stunning scenery courtesy of the Tetons. Beautiful Teton Village has a cosy hostel that is an old ski lodge, but the staff were frosty and I felt weird in the claustrophobic pitch black rooms! Don’t miss the free gondola from the village to top of Jackson Hole mountain climbing to 9,095ft, and perfectly placed Couloir Restaurant.
Also check out: Jackson itself is very cute and cowboy orientated: there are cool arches made of antlers that are shed each year on all four corners of the main square.
BEAR TOOTH CREEK HIGHWAY | I was excited to hit the road to Yellowstone from Montana, and drove via Red Lodge. This route took me along the Bear Tooth Creek Highway, which climbs to 11,000 feet: it’s a long, long drive in (Yellowstone feels like the size of an entire country) and spectacular at every turn. The sky was pretty hazy due to fires in Idaho. You’ll notice the incredible smell of pine trees, very noisy cricket-bugs, loads of chipmunks, and even more bikes (especially if you’re there post-Sturgis festival).
3 THINGS TO STEER CLEAR:
BEAR ATTACKS | I had the BEST EVER couchsurfing.com result staying with a real-life ranger called Dylan at the historic Guards House in Mammoth Hot Springs (near Fort Yellowstone). However when I arrived the poor guy had just been attacked by a bear! An ACTUAL bear! He had stitches in his head and thigh and was doped up on painkillers. (He’s OK though).
Also check out: Walk up to gorgeous but stinky Mammoth Hot Springs, which look like steps of snow. The colours and heat are amazing: lots of bacteria and thermophiles cause crazy patterns.
UPPER FALLS | the reality of Yellowstone is that if you’ve driven to one of the highlight destinations I’ve suggested you’re going to stay and explore everything in the vicinity. So this is just a note that for me Upper Falls was not as impressive as Lower Falls (if you had to be picky!) because there are lots of cracking distant viewpoints but it’s better to get up close.
ARTIST’S PAINT POTS | Norris Geyser Basin is (yet another) cool network of geysers, and also renowned for the Artist’s Paint Pots: I definitely wasn’t such a fan of the boiling mud ones. Colour please! If you’re short on time I’d give this spot a miss.
1 THING I WISH I’D DONE:
DEVILS TOWER | This eerie monolith flew under the radar of most travellers until 1977, when it starred as the alien rendezvous spot in the film Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Explore Wyoming further, and the Devils Tower which stands alone at 1,267 feet high – scientists still can’t agree how it got here. There’s also a Prairie Dog Village just inside the park gate.
AND KNOW THIS: Wyoming was the first state to give women the right to vote. The vastly male-dominated frontier state hoped to attract more women by extending them basic democratic equality. Procreation at it’s basic and best, hey. Wyoming is called ‘The Equality State’ after all.
What do you think – which is your favourite American State? Do you want to explore Wyoming too?