Wyoming is home to two U.S. National Parks, Yellowstone and Grand Teton. Since both are relatively close to one another and not too far from my home in Salt Lake City, I recently took a weekend and visited both of these serene destinations.
Loving Our National Parks
As an outdoor enthusiast and someone who enjoys the natural beauty of the world, I am a huge proponent of our National Parks. The U.S. is truly lucky to have such beautiful lands and the protection of these places and the establishment of the National Parks is something we should all be grateful for. One of my family ties and something I am proud of is my connection to Stewart Udall, my grandfather’s cousin and Secretary of the Interior from 1961 to 1969 during which he administered the National Parks system among many other important duties. Besides visiting the parks themselves, I highly recommend the documentary series by Ken Burns, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea. It will help you truly grasp the history in establishing and the beauty of our National Parks.
Visiting our National Parks and Monuments is high on my list of places people should visit. I am lucky to live in a state with five national parks in it. Earlier this year I revisited Arches National Park in Southern Utah. There are twelve national parks within a 7-8 hour drive of Salt Lake City, something no other large metropolitan area in the country can compete with. Not only are the parks easily accessible, they are for the most part affordable. An annual pass to our national parks and federal recreational areas can be a great bargain, too. At $80 for a regular annual pass, it will grant you and anyone accompanying you in your vehicle access to a park. Not only that, but the pass can be shared between any two people. It can easily pay for itself and then some if you plan to visit more than a few parks during the year. Seniors can purchase a lifetime pass for only $10 and members of the military can get an annual pass for free. See here for more details.
Grand Teton National Park
Located near Jackson Hole, Wyoming, which is also known for its skiing and other recreational activities, is the picturesque Grand Teton National Park. Established as a National Park in 1929, this 480 square mile park features beautiful scenery and wildlife. The Teton Range is the youngest mountain range in the Rocky Mountains, forming less than 9 million years ago. Displacement of the tectonic plates along a fault line created the towering landscape and glaciers carved its unique features. The appearance of these majestic mountains are still a work in progress as glaciation, erosion, and seismic activity continue to shape its geologic presentation.
The large and pristine lakes of the park include Jackson Lake, Jenny Lake, and Leigh Lake among others. The Snake River runs through the Teton Valley and is popular for fishing. Wildlife is abundant in the area and wide variety of species from Elk to Eagles call this area home.
You can visit the Tetons any time of year but many places are closed or hard to access in the winter months. Autumn is a beautiful time to visit and see some fall colors on the trees. It is also a little less crowded than the summer season. It is very photogenic and has been attracting artists and photographers for many years.
Yellowstone National Park
Not far from the Grand Teton’s is Yellowstone. Since being established as a National Park in 1872, Yellowstone has been attracting visitors in growing numbers. Nearly four million people visit the park each year, making it one of the most popular in the country. It spans over 3,400 square miles in northwestern Wyoming and extends just barely into the borders of Montana and Idaho.
The park has a wide variety of flora, fauna, and geologic features. Yellowstone is home to over 10,000 geothermal features including many geysers. The Old Faithful geyser is arguably the most famous in the world.
The abundance of wildlife draws many people looking to see species in their natural habitats. These include over 60 mammal species including bears, elk, bison, and more. It is quite common for humans to come in close contact with these animals and sometimes too close. A zoom lens or binoculars is recommended to get close to the animals without actually doing so. Visitors are advised to keep their distance and not to harass or otherwise provoke animals. Bear spray is recommended for anyone planning to hike away from the more developed areas.
Other notable spots include the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, where the Yellowstone River flows through the 1,000 foot deep canyon. The upper and lower falls are beautiful and there are several vantage points to view it from.
As with Grand Teton, Yellowstone sees most visitors during the summer season. You can expect large crowds during this time so it is advised to plan ahead for accommodations or camping.
A visit to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons should be on everyone’s list. Combining both parks in one visit is easy to do. Take your time and explore the tranquil surroundings of this beautiful section of the world, it is being preserved for everyone’s benefit.
Click here to how you can support the National Park system.