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Giant Seltzer Bottle?
Travel to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming just to see Old Faithful and you'll surely be disappointed.
There's nothing wrong with the famous geyser that shoots 204-degree water 130 feet in the air on a famously predictable schedule. It's just that there are so many other must-see sights within Yellowstone and its grand old neighbor, Grand Teton.
Here are the ups and downs of a trip to the two parks: Most summertime visitors to Yellowstone look down at bubbling pools of boiling water, while Grand Teton entices tourists to gaze up at glacial mountains.
A great way to appreciate the view in Grand Teton is a float ride on the Snake River. Think of it as rafting for those who don't crave the thrills of white water.
As your guide does the work of navigating the raft on a two-hour float, enjoy mountain views, sightings of bald eagles and herons, and glimpses of some high-priced vacation homes. Definitely call ahead to reserve a spot with one of the many tour outfitters in the area, and if your guide claims "it's my first trip," don't believe it -- he probably avoids the gym by rowing two or three trips a day.
Arrive at the Jenny Lake Visitor Center before 10 a.m. or after 3 p.m. to snag a parking spot. A quick boat ride across the lake --with a possible view of moose along the shore -- will bring you to the start of the half-mile trail to Hidden Falls. Buy a roundtrip ticket for the ride or stretch out with a 2.5-mile hike back along the lakeshore.
There are all manner of accommodations in the area, from basic campsites to chain motels in nearby towns to the $600-a-night luxury of Jenny Lake Lodge (breakfast and five-course dinner included, of course).
Signal Lake Lodge represents a pleasant middle ground with lakeside rooms, a choice of two restaurants and friendly staff at a convenient location. The dining room may try a little too hard to project elegance at dinner (salmon in phyllo with cream cheese), but definitely try the oatmeal at breakfast.
And don't be surprised to see deer munching the foliage just outside your door in the morning.
Heading north from Grand Teton toward Yellowstone? It's worth a stop at Jackson Lake Lodge. It's hardly intimate, but the Mural Room offers a buffet with a spectacular view until 9:30 a.m. on weekdays. The Pioneer Grill, with its soda-fountain decor and family-friendly prices, is another good option.
The main roads in Yellowstone form a figure-eight, and spending one day on each loop will cover at least the main attractions while passing through widely varied terrain.
If you've seen one geyser, you have definitely not seen them all. They come in all shapes and sizes and, most strikingly, a rainbow of colors that vary with the minerals in the water.
Hundreds of people line up to see Old Faithful erupt like a giant seltzer bottle every 92 minutes, but it's easy to escape the crowds. Simply follow the boardwalk loop to inspect dozens of bubbling pools and rock sediment formations.
Numerous other geyser collections appear throughout the park. The prize for most colors goes to the aptly named "Artists Paintpots," where small pools of rust, blue and gold are a guaranteed draw for cameras.
Nearby Norris Geyser Basin is the hottest basin in Yellowstone, with stark terrain. Tempted to jump in? Most of the steaming pots are much too hot, but Firehole Canyon offers one of only two places to swim in warm Yellowstone water.
A few miles from the famous stone arch at the northern entrance lies Marathon Hot Springs, which seeps down steep travertine slopes. Along the eastern side of the park, the many lookouts of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone present an entirely different scene.
This split in the rocks is a mere dent compared to Arizona's Grand Canyon, but the rapidly flowing bright green water of the Yellowstone River framed by steep cliffs is impressive in its own right.
Yellowstone also boasts varied accommodations, including the grand Old Faithful Lodge and the Lake Lodge.
The town of Jackson lies just south of Grand Teton. Known for celebrity sightings and nearby winter skiing at Jackson Hole, the wooden sidewalks in town are well-trod by summer tourists.
Looking for a quiet time for dinner? Try 6 p.m., when most visitors head through the elk-antler arches of the town square to check out the nightly re-enactment of an Old West shootout.
Of course, other meals are available, such as at the Jackson Hole Jewish Community, possibly the only, if not one of the few, temples to offer an "Oneg on Ice," featuring skating and hot cocoa after Shabbat services, led by Rabbi Andy Feig.
Western-themed arts-and-crafts galleries are plentiful, along with the obligatory T-shirt shops.
Restaurant choices abound. From the casual Bunnery (best for fresh-baked goods at breakfast) to the Gun Barrel -- if you're game for tasting some of the wildlife you've seen crossing the road.
Head 10 miles west to Wilson and enjoy fresh local trout prepared at least six different ways at Nora's Fishcreek Inn.
Just down the road is the Stagecoach bar, where strangers are welcome for the Sunday dance. It's a great place to try out your new cowboy boots before riding out of town.
For more information, log on to: www.wyomingtourism.org.