The Best Road Trip Stops in Wyoming

The West’s open spaces may be vast, but some of its richest treasures are concentrated in the northwest corner of Wyoming, home to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. Both are located within a day’s drive of Jackson, the gateway for this 340-mile road trip featuring ops to ogle toothy summits, bizarre hot springs, geysers (more than anyplace else on the planet), bison, grizzly bears, and wolves.

Highlights
120 W Broadway, Jackson, WY 83001, USA
Jackson’s cool kids kick back at Hatch, a stylish newcomer to the cocktail scene (it opened in December 2014). Sure, it serves Tex-Mex tacos and snacks, even chicken in an unctuous pumpkin-seed mole. But you don’t come here for the food: The draw is the central location (one block off the town square) and the sunny outdoor deck, which serves up primo people-watching to accompany your bracing “Hatcharita.” You may overhear details about the latest real estate deal, or a young professional’s quest to find a guy who’ll prioritize her over skiing/climbing/fishing—chatter that reveals plenty about the Jackson Hole way of life.
Alta, WY 83414, USA
The pointy Tetons offer plenty of eye candy, but when you pair them with kaleidoscopic wildflowers, the scenery rating soars off the charts. That’s what you’ll find in Death Canyon—which sounds menacing but actually serves up some of the park’s finest wildflower displays. Take Moose-Wilson Road to the Death Canyon Trailhead and hike west. One mile later, you get your first “ahhh!” moment as you overlook the sapphire waters of Phelps Lake. Continuing upward, the canyon’s granite walls become steeper and closer, and you may see climbers carrying heavy packs full of the hardware required to scale these thousand-foot cliffs. Purple monkshood, crimson paintbrush, and pearly-white columbine fill the meadows just beyond the ranger cabin (4 miles from the trailhead). If you can push on all the way to Fox Creek Pass (9 miles one way), you’ll wade through waist-high wildflowers in an alpine basin offering views of the Tetons’ knifelike summits.
12170 Dornans Rd, Moose, WY 83012, USA
With views this splendid, you’d expect the food at Dornan’s to be underwhelming, since the panoramas alone might seem like plenty of value for your money. But, surprise! The sourdough pancakes are fluffy, the lunchtime buffalo burgers are perfectly charred, and the dinners (offered whenever Dornan’s isn’t hosting a private party) feature the house specialty since 1948: Beef stew cooked cowboy-style, in a Dutch oven suspended over an open fire. All tables are parked outside, on a lawn offering unobstructed panoramas of the Grand Teton and its neighbors.
Jenny Lake Road
Handmade quilts top pine beds in the 37 cabins of this 1920 lodge in Grand Teton National Park. Horseback rides, cycling excursions, and epic views of the Teton Range are all part of the experience; lucky travelers might spot elk, bald eagles, and osprey. A hearty breakfast spread and a decadent five-course dinner (mushroom tarts, grilled haloumi cheese, cumin-dusted lamb) are also included in the price. For an additional cost, guests can raft 10 miles down the Snake River or take a multiday wildlife photo workshop.
1 Grand Loop Road
No one stays at Old Faithful Inn for the amenities: With no Wi-Fi, air conditioning, or TVs in the rooms—some don’t even have private bathrooms—all you can do is watch bison graze unperturbed by the busloads of tourists pulling up, or the namesake geyser spout. The lack of luxury doesn’t seem to deter the crowds, though, who come to sleep under the roof of the original log-and-stone building, which was completed in 1904, and launched the iconic architectural style known as National Park Service rustic, or Parkitecture. Though an east wing was added in 1914, and a west wing in 1927, the lodge remains much as tourists saw it a century ago, with its soaring, open lobby surrounding an enormous four-sided, 86-foot stone fireplace. The pre-existing Crow’s Nest that leads to the roof terrace is off-limits now, but two mezzanine-level interior balconies are coveted seating areas for unwinding with nightly piano performances. While the two wings have better views of Old Faithful and the geyser basin, you can’t beat the Old House for its historic charm.
Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190, USA
Most Yellowstone springs are so hot or noxious that soaking in them could kill you, but the Boiling River is a delightful exception. This fiery hot spring enters the Gardiner River two miles north of Mammoth Hot Springs, where the cooler water tempers the spring’s temperature to a just-right 104 degrees F. It’s a half-mile walk from the parking area to the soaking zone, where people have stacked river stones into little dams that help concentrate the steamy spring water into soaking pools. They’re understandably popular, so if you want solitude, arrive at sunrise (Boiling River is closed from dusk till dawn) and listen to the river’s current as you melt into the mist.
North Rim Drive
After a $90 million expansion that unveiled five new lodges and raised the facility’s total number of rooms to 590, Canyon Lodge & Cabins, in Canyon Village near the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River, has more accommodations than any other hotel in the park. The new LEED-certified structures were modularly built with sustainability in mind, incorporating countertops constructed of recycled glass and fly ash (a by-product of coal burning) and trim made with beetle-damaged wood from blue-colored pine bark, which would have otherwise gone to waste. The new lodges also feature two bedroom suites (king/queen) that include a sitting room with sofa bed; some have walk-out patios and decks. Budget-minded visitors who don’t want to sacrifice canyon views opt for the nearby cabins, which are modest yet comfortable. There’s also a $6 million refresh of the lodge’s food service on tap, with new cafés and restaurants offering updated menus and Mad Men–era Mission 66-inspired design.
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