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Places to Visit in Yellowstone Park, Grand Teton, Wyoming and Montana

Things to do / Travel Guide

Don't be fooled by the name of the region. While Yellowstone National Park is certainly the region's primary attraction, the Greater Yellowstone region offers up plenty of natural splendor, indoor and outdoor recreational opportunities, and exciting attractions outside of the park's boundaries. Visitors can settle in any of Yellowstone's gateway towns and venture off from there, or hop around the region discovering all of the Yellowstone area's attractions and natural charms. Starting centrally with the region's three primary attractions, and then looping around them clockwise from the northwest to southeast, the following are some of the primary places to visit in the Yellowstone region.

Places to Visit in Yellowstone National Park

The nucleus of the region, the famous Yellowstone National Park, is busting to the seams with natural wonders. There are hundreds of geysers, waterfalls, dense forests, mountains, grizzly bears, and a gorge that can compete with the Grand Canyon, all of which lie in the borders of this expansive ecosystem. It is the region's most popular attraction, and one of the most visited national parks in the United States, with features so fantastic no one believed they existed in the first few years of the area's exploration. More than 95 percent of the park is located in the northwestern corner of Wyoming, but Montana and Idaho share small slivers of the park as well. There are five entrances (West, North, Northeast, East, and South) and Yellowstone is divided into seven districts: Mammoth, Roosevelt, Canyon, and Lake Countries, the Norris area, Geyser Country, and the remote Bechler Corner. Most vacationers make a visit to Geyser Country to see the eruption of the famous Old Faithful Geyser. This is a priority of any trip, in addition to checking out the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Mammoth Hot Springs, Fishing Bridge, and Washburn Peak. Almost all the park's highlights are accessible via the Grand Loop Road, which creates a figure eight through the practically square-shaped park.

Places to Visit in Grand Teton National Park

Located in western Wyoming, just south of Yellowstone, Grand Teton National Park is home to the towering peaks of the Rocky Mountain's Teton Range, the highest of which soars at 13,770 feet. The 40 miles of this extraordinary mountain range include another eight peaks that hover over the landscape at more than 12,000 feet, making for breathtaking panoramas throughout the park. Hikers, climbers, boaters, and other outdoor enthusiasts will find Grand Teton perfect for adventurous exploration and the alpine scenery is sure to impress. Must-sees include Jenny and Leigh Lakes and the scenic Teton Park Road. On its western edges, Grand Teton merges with the Jedediah Smith Wilderness of Targhee National Forest. The park, which touches the southern border of Yellowstone, is bisected by the region's main north-south highway, U.S. Highway 26/89/191, and by the east-west U.S. Highway 26/287.

Places to Visit in Jackson Hole, Wyoming

In mountain man lingo, a "hole" is a large valley surrounded by mountain ranges, and Jackson Hole on Wyoming's western border, south of Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, most certainly fits the definition. The magnificent Teton Range lies to the west and north, really defining the region. From hiking and sight-seeing to snowboarding and sleigh rides, Jackson Hole attracts more than three million visitors each year to its diverse attractions. The town of Jackson lies near the southern end of Jackson Hole serving as the Yellowstone area's most popular tourist hub, full of shops, galleries, restaurants, boutiques, and lodging. The Bridger-Teton National Forest lies to the east of Jackson Hole, and some of the region's best ski areas, like Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, are also located in the vicinity.

Places to Visit in West Yellowstone, Montana

Most visitors to Yellowstone make one of the region's "gateway towns" a base for exploring the national parks and natural wonders of the area. Immediately west of Yellowstone National Park, a few miles from the Wyoming border and nine miles east of the Idaho border, the town of West Yellowstone is one such gateway, described as the definitive western tourist town by many of the region's travelers and reviewers. The West Entrance Gate is the most popular way to enter Yellowstone, and it is located just a couple hundred feet away from the town, so West Yellowstone, offering plenty of lodging and dining options, is certainly a convenient base for exploring the park. The surrounding attractions also make West Yellowstone a popular hub. To the north and west of the town, the Gallatin National Forest provides 1.8 million acres of snow covered peaks, forests, and renowned trout fishing. And the Caribou-Targhee National Forest is located just a few miles to the south, extending all the way to south eastern Idaho.

Places to Visit around Bozeman (not Bozman!), Montana

Visiting the north-western most area of Greater Yellowstone can make a great day trip for those who enjoy backcountry exploration and attractions a bit off the beaten track. From the town of West Yellowstone, about an hour north from the Park, Highway 191 takes travelers straight to Bozeman, Montana, a hip student's town and a hub of arts, culture, and history that makes a great base camp for a charming day or overnight trip. Ski and Snowboard enthusiasts will find Big Sky Ski Resort off of Highway 191 on the way to Bozeman. Montana's largest national forest, Beaverhead-Deer Lodge, is located in the Yellowstone region's northwestern boundaries, covering 3.3 million acres of eight of Montana's southwestern counties. Camping, trekking, and partaking in winter activities are some of the area's highlights. A bit south of the forest, visitors can sample a taste of gold in Bannack State Park, once the stomping grounds for the many prospectors that rushed to the region in the 1800s to strike it rich. Virginia City is another remnant of the gold rush, an excellently preserved and restored Old Western style ghost town full of Victorian era artifacts and architecture just 20 miles west of Yellowstone.

Places to Visit in Butte, Montana

Traveling further north from Bozeman, visitors can experience a taste of what was once one of the most notorious copper-boomtowns in the western United States – and one of the most prosperous cities in the area. From the late 1800's and up until 1920, the town of Butte, Montana was home to countless gold, silver, and copper mines. There were hundreds of saloons there and even a red-light district to entertain local miners. Today, the town pays tribute to its notorious past with a number of museums and preserved residential and commercial buildings. In addition, there is Uptown Butte's historic district which, as of 2007, is the largest National Historic Landmark District in the United States. One of the town's most popular tourist sites is literally an acid-filled pit. Berkeley Pit was opened as the largest truck-operated open pit copper mine in the United States in 1955. Once mining at the pit was complete and nearby water pumps were shut down, highly acidic and toxic metal-laced water began to fill it. Today, tourists flock to the site to see the largest pit lake in the United States, whose toxic water is a killer of migrating geese.

Places to Visit in Helena, Montana

Montana's capital city, and the northern-most destination in the Yellowstone region, was once the home of more millionaires per capita than any other city in the world. Unlike many other gold-rush era towns that boomed but then busted, Helena has managed to thrive. It has managed to evolve into a modern city while retaining its rich Old Western charms. In addition to the historic buildings and 19th century architecture, Helena boosts a booming contemporary arts and culture scene. Many visitors to the city make their way to Last Chance Gulch, the valley that produced roughly $3.5 billion in gold over a 20-year period and ushered in one of the largest gold rushes in the West.

Places to Visit in Billings, Montana

At the northeastern boundary of the region, the city of Billings, Montana provides all the amenities of a big city, serving as a lodging, dining, and shopping hub for area-residents and travelers. Founded as a railroad town in the late-1800s, today Billings is the largest city in Montana and within a 500 mile radius of its boundaries (including south-central and eastern Montana and northern Wyoming). Most of the city is located in the Yellowstone Valley, carved out of the Yellowstone River. In addition to outdoor activities in and around the area, a number of art museums and historical attractions are located in the town.

Places to Visit in Gardiner, Montana

Just outside the Northwest Entrance to Yellowstone, the tiny town of Gardiner provides the only year-round entryway to Yellowstone National Park. This little tourist town, located about three miles north of the Wyoming border, has a range of lodging and dining options, as well as recreational activities. It is also in close proximity to the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness area to the north, a popular point for hunters but one of the lesser-known wilderness areas in the region.

Places to Visit in Cooke City, Montana

Moving further east along the northern boundary of Yellowstone, Cooke City and its tiny neighbor Silver Gate act as tourism hubs much like the other gateway towns, but lack the hustle and bustle of their larger counterparts and thus exude a more authentic regional feel. The mining heritage of these small towns is evident in the log buildings and rustic architecture, making for a picturesque experience. Amphitheater Peak is located just south of Silver Gate, and the northern-most section of Shoshone National Forest begins to the south of the two towns, its 2.4 million acres of alpine and sub-alpine forests extending 180 miles from the Montana border into Wyoming, to the Wind River Mountains south of Dubois.

Places to Visit around Red Lodge, Montana

Moving further east from Yellowstone, the town of Red Lodge, Montana serves as a charming gateway for area attractions, and is a winter resort destination in its own right. This historic mountain town was founded as a coal-mining community in the 1800s. Today, it manages to maintain a small-town feel while catering to tourists attracted to its ski resorts, outdoor activities, restaurants, nightlife and excellent location. It is tucked in a steep valley at the edge of the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness and Custer National Forest, surrounded by the Beartooth Mountains, and situated at the northern end of the beautiful Beartooth Highway. With a windy drive east along Highway 212 from Red Lodge, Bighorn Canyon Recreation Area boasts 120,000 acres of outdoor recreational activities centered on the 71-mile long Bighorn Lake. The area straddles the Montana-Wyoming border.

Places to Visit in Cody, Wyoming

Near the eastern edge of the Shoshone National Forest, the town of Cody has established itself as a favorite stopping point for visitors to Yellowstone National Park. The park's East Entrance is about 60 miles west of downtown and Cody is surrounded by a surplus of spectacular sights. The Beartooth Mountains and Sunlight Basin are to the north of Cody, and the Absaroka Mountain Range and Wapati Valley to its west and south. Cody is an agricultural and tourism center; the most popular tourism hub in the region after the town of Jackson. It hosts a plethora of lodging, shopping, dining, and entertainments options, as well as some of its very own famous attractions such as the Buffalo Bill Historical Center. Heading south toward Dubois, a stop in the town of Meeteetse will give visitors a taste of the old west.

Places to Visit in Dubois, Wyoming

Embracing an authentic frontier feel, the town of Dubois, located in the southeastern reaches of the Yellowstone region, is blessed to be surrounded by spectacular scenery in all directions. The Wind River winds its way through the valley region, the Bridger-Teton National Forest sits to the west, and the Shoshone National Forest surrounds the area in practically all directions. Developed as a logging and ranching center, Dubois has become a tourism destination in recent years, and has plenty of log style lodging to accommodate its visitors and maintain its frontier feel. In the winter, the Dubois area is a favorite for snowmobilers, while in the warmer months, hikers, fishers, and wildlife-watchers flock to the vicinity. Farther east, Hot Springs State Park and the surrounding town of Thermopolis provide relief to aching feet with a soak at one of the largest hot springs in the world.

Places to Visit in Greater Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Jackson Hole in Wyoming and Bozeman, Montana

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