Tribune Print Share Text

America for the people

Big Sky to Yellowstone and Grand Teton

Created date

September 24th, 2013
The Grand Tetons

In Big Sky Country, the moniker fits. But as Montana’s skies open for pastel sunsets, ominous storms, and star-sprinkled nights, the earth below provides equal wonderment. A clockwise circuit of Bozeman and Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks proves a memorable adventure celebrating the beauty of America.

Scenic gateway

Bozeman, Mont., is an excellent gateway to the national parks and a historical and scenic destination in its own right. Set at the foothills of four mountain ranges, including the Bridger and Gallatin, hiking trails and fishing spots are plentiful. The pleasant 2.5-mile Grotto Falls trail along Hyalite Creek is a gradual ascent that is both wheelchair-accessible and pet-friendly.

Start a day in downtown Bozeman with breakfast at the Cateye Café, a feline-inspired establishment with unforgettable banana bread French toast, and then tour the Museum of the Rockies, which boasts a large collection of dinosaur fossils.

Wild Yellowstone

Three of Yellowstone’s entrances lie within Montana. The Roosevelt Arch in Gardiner is a majestic doorway inscribed with a phrase from the legislation that created the park in 1872: “For the benefit and enjoyment of the people.” A one-week pass is $25 per car and includes travel through Grand Teton.

Upon entrance to Yellowstone, the terrain becomes mountainous, sloping to reveal the Gardner River and wildlife below. Mammoth Hot Springs, one of Yellowstone’s many geothermal features, is just five miles from the Roosevelt entrance. The Albright Visitor Center and Museum provides a good touch point—if you can keep your curiosity from wandering to the nearby elk or the cascading limestone terraces created by the springs.

From Mammoth, continue past new and old tree growth, bison and elk, to Canyon Village. Take a short, but steep hike down to view the Upper and Lower Falls in Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon.

Keep your camera, zoom lens, and binoculars handy at all times, as the Hayden Valley route passes the Yellowstone River and plentiful wildlife.

Jagged beauty

Continue southward for the first glimpse of the jagged edges of the snow-tipped Teton Range as you head to Jackson Hole, Wyo. Meander under iconic antler arches at Jackson’s downtown park with a cone of huckleberry ice cream from Moo’s Gourmet Ice Cream.

The next day, pack a lunch and get an early start for Jenny Lake. A shuttle boat ($12 round trip) from the visitor center will take you to the trail head for the popular, two-mile round-trip hike to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point. If you’re feeling fit, continue into Cascade Canyon, where a clearing and creek are a picturesque foreground for the Tetons and a playground for moose.

Leaving Grand Teton, head northwest toward Bozeman for a stop at Old Faithful, which contributes to Yellowstone’s containing about half the world’s hydrothermal features. Wind your way through the Upper Geyser Basin on a walking tour of the ethereal landscape of colorful hot springs. Immersed in America’s natural beauty, one can almost forget all the world isn’t like this. But big skies are for dreaming.

Budget travel tips:

• Eat: Pack lunches and snacks. Picnic spots abound.

• Stay: Super 8 offers affordable locations in Bozeman, Mont., and Jackson, Wyo., with discounts for booking ahead.

Safety tips:

• Pack rain gear and layers of clothing. Weather changes often in the parks.

• Use safety precautions and know what to do if you encounter wildlife.

• When mapping your route, build in time for stops.

• Best time to go: June through September/October .

More information:



Grand Teton: