In one sense, due to our proximity, the Travel Plan for our road trip to Yellowstone National Park could not have been simpler – get in the car and drive.
At just under 600 miles from our home in central Colorado, our ultimate destination in the park – the Old Faithful Inn – could have been reached in a single day. However, that would not have allowed time for a leisurely daytime viewing of the Grand Tetons.
The decision to layover in Jackson, Wyoming the night before our entry into the parks led to a search for additional diversions along the way. One alternate route north, described as “Drive 10: Greys River” in Scenic Driving Wyoming, provides the chance to see a quiet corner of the Bridger-Teton National Forest by taking a detour west of, and parallel to, US 189 leading directly to Jackson. For most of the 96 miles on county and forest service roads this is an unpaved route, making additional driving time a factor beyond that added by distance alone.
Arriving at the turnoff just south of La Barge with plenty of time for the drive, it was an easy decision to take the plunge.
When we learned after our return home that our guide book had been published in 1997, it made the still relevant detail it contains that much more impressive. Not only was their prediction regarding the roughest section of road correct, the book accurately informed us that we were traveling too early in the spring for the road to be passable for the entire distance to the town of Alpine – where we could rejoin a major route. This may also be a commentary on how slowly things change in the state of Wyoming, but that’s not to take anything away from the original work.
We had a wonderful afternoon despite the need to double back, and a mid-evening arrival in Jackson after dinner on the road was perfectly comfortable.
The backcountry route through the Bridger-Teton forest was closed due to a maintenance decision – the quantity of snow there could easily have been plowed. However, our route into the south entrance of Yellowstone Park had been opened only a few days before our arrival, and might have remained closed in the event of a late spring snowstorm. This was another factor in our decision to overnight in Jackson – the possibility that we would need to take a circuitous detour to the west entrance of the park if the weather had not cooperated.
The Grand Teton photos on the Front Page are some of the benefits of allowing ample driving time, combined with the opportunity to tour the first of the thermal features we encountered at the West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake and an arrival time at the Old Faithful Inn which left us with plenty of daylight. The return trip three days later was direct, efficient, and done in a day. We had already seen the sights far from home, and upon reaching familiar territory we were content to finish our drive in the dark.
(A discussion of the general strategy we use to increase our opportunities to travel can be found at The Travel Chronicle Travel Plan page.)
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