Day 1 - Salt Lake City to Brigham City, 90 miles:
The first day begins with a short journey along I-15 then west over a causeway to Antelope Island State Park
, one of the best places to experience the stark landscapes of the Great Salt Lake. The island is also home to a herd of bison, and has a selection of beaches, viewpoints and trails. The night is spent in Brigham City, 30 miles further north along the interstate.
Day 2 - Brigham City to West Yellowstone, 310 miles: Golden Spike National Historic Site
is another fascinating, photogenic location near the Great Salt Lake; a short section of preserved railway, and extensive old railroad grades, surrounded by empty desert lands. From here, the long drive north is along I-15 to Idaho Falls then US 20 to West Yellowstone, through land that gradually becomes forested and mountainous.
Day 3 - West Yellowstone to Gardiner, 60 miles:
The entrance to Yellowstone National Park
is less than half a mile from West Yellowstone, and the first day in the park looks at locations in the northwest
, including Monument Geyser Basin
, Norris Geyser Basin, Artist Paint Pots
and Mammoth Terraces. Gardiner in Montana lies just beyond the historic gate at the park's north entrance, and offers a good selection of hotels and restaurants.
Day 4 - Gardiner to Cooke City, 65 miles:
The road across the north
of Yellowstone passes several trailheads
, such as Blacktail Deer Creek
and Wraith Falls
, before arriving in the Tower area, centered on a 132 foot waterfall in a deep gorge. A variety of other paths
start nearby - one of the best is Yellowstone River Picnic Area Trail
which follows the rim of the Yellowstone River canyon - before the highway heads off to the best location for wildlife in the park, the Lamar Valley. The northwest entrance is not far beyond, shortly followed by the rustic town of Cooke City.
Day 5 - Cooke City to Old Faithful, 120 miles:
The third day in Yellowstone National Park is based around the Canyon and Lake
areas; highlight of the former is the amazingly colorful Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River, which may be viewed from many overlooks on the north and south rims. The road south passes the Mud Volcano thermal area then follows along the northwest edge of Yellowstone Lake to another junction, from where Old Faithful is a half hour journey west. As ever there are many trails
to choose from, along the canyon and to viewpoints by the lake.
Day 6 - Old Faithful, 30 miles:
A whole day can easily be taken up in the Old Faithful
area, since the thermal features are so numerous and varied. Sites are divided into the Upper
Geyser Basins, and may be toured by many trails
, long and short.
Day 7 - Old Faithful to Jackson Lake, 70 miles: West Thumb Geyser Basin
is a compact but fascinating collection of hot pools right beside Yellowstone Lake, en route to the south entrance of the park. The road continues south into Grand Teton National Park
, soon passing many viewpoints of Jackson Lake and the spectacular mountains to the west. Suggested hikes in the north section of the park are Emma Matilda Lake
Day 8 - Jackson Lake to Jackson, 40 miles:
All of day 8 is spent in Grand Teton National Park
, where the best scenery, and trails, are found along the Teton Park Road
, starting just south of Jackson Lake Lodge. Popular locations include Leigh Lake, Taggart & Bradley Lakes
and Inspiration Point
, on the far side of Jenny Lake.
Day 9 - Jackson to Green River, 240 miles:
Although the surroundings remain scenic, there are few specific points of interest along US 89 south of Jackson, but one place worth a stop is Afton
, site of an unusual periodic spring. From here the route is south then east, past Fossil Butte National Monument
, which contains several important fossil sites. The day is completed by driving further east to Green River.
Day 10 - Green River to Vernal, 120 miles:
Hwy 530 crosses empty, high desert lands and runs down the west side of Flaming Gorge Reservoir
, whose warm, welcoming waters and clean beaches may be reached by many short side roads. Other places of interest nearby are Sheep Creek Canyon and Flaming Gorge Dam. Vernal provides a good choice of places to stay, half an hour's drive south.
Day 11 - Dinosaur National Monument, 160 miles: Dinosaur National Monument
spans the Utah/Colorado stateline a little way east of Vernal. The main section is the Dinosaur Quarry
area, from where a short road leads to other viewpoints and trailheads, but it is well worth the longer drive to visit the more remote Harpers Corner
, surrounded by deep canyons and distant mountains.
Day 12 - Vernal to Salt Lake City, 180 miles:
US 40 leads most of the way back to Salt Lake City, through hilly, forested terrain at the foot of the Uintah Mountains. There are several parks and reservoirs along the way, such as Wasatch Mountain State Park
, before the journey is completed by a short section of Interstate 80.