Yellowstone without the crowds

SHORTLY after the turn of the 20th century, President Roosevelt spoke about Yellowstone National Park, “as a beautiful natural playground…for all those who have the love of adventure.” The good news is that through the years many of us adventure lovers have taken his words to heart — more than three million people visit the park annually. The bad news? More than three million people visit the park annually.

But this is our first national park we’re talking about — renowned for its sprawling landscapes, bountiful wildlife, and geothermal activity — so it makes sense that so many people come to visit each year. The park’s “must-see” attractions like Old Faithful, the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, and Mammoth Hot Springs are all spectacular. You just might need to throw some elbows to get a good view. Fortunately, there are still places to experience the enchantment of Yellowstone away from the crowds.

Take a step off the boardwalks, beyond Old Faithful, and you may find yourself someplace extraordinary, and extraordinarily without people, like Cascade Lake. Not too far from Yellowstone’s “Canyon,” the Cascade Lake Trail is easily accessible on a day hike and will bring you, if not completely away from the crowds, to a place where you don’t have to create your own elbow space. Take your tackle and fishing permit and you’ll likely have some luck with the trout there.

Want to see the park by paddle? A day of kayaking on Yellowstone Lake, one of the park’s more intimate experiences will also afford you up-close views of steamy geysers, bubbling mud pots, and hot springs seldom seen by most visitors.

Yellowstone

Colonnade Falls. Photo: Yellowstone National Park

Or, you could drive south-west to the Bechler area, one of the least visited regions of Yellowstone, and explore “Cascade Corner,” named for the abundance of waterfalls in the region. Cave Falls, located on the Falls River and within easy road access, is an awesome display, especially from within the cave beneath the falls. Be aware — you may get wet! While in this region, be sure to visit Colonnade Falls and Dunanda Falls as well, and bring your hiking boots (getting to these sites is a bit more strenuous, but well worth the effort).

So, don’t let the park’s overwhelming popularity discourage you. The adventure lover in all of us can still experience the quiet wilderness of Yellowstone National Park in its finest form. You just have to know where to look.

This piece originally appeared at O.A.R.S and is republished here with permission.

Travel Wyoming: A Deeper Look Into Jackson Hole

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We watched mesmerized and shivering, just off the side of an empty two-lane road as three moose grazed lazily alongside a herd a hundred or so bison. Lateral ribbons of grey hovered above us, extending fingerlike and sparsely woven toward the horizon. The wind whipped, sharp; a terse reminder that our current, naive understanding of cold would soon change. This, after all, was Wyoming and it was October. Short of the wind and the occasional mischievous raven, the land was silent.

Two months earlier, where we stood in Grand Teton National Park, a thousand tourists at any given time, dusk ‘til dawn, gathered under the summer sun, not only to observe wildlife but to take in the famed Grand Teton Mountain range that to me, thanks to the ominous wintery death clouds, existed only in theory.

While it was a thrill to enjoy the park’s resident moose and thunderous herds of bison and elk in relative solitude given the offseason, the idea of leaving without an actual glimpse of the craggy pinnacles felt akin to going to a movie theater only to experience the popcorn … Or at least that is what I thought until I ventured into the upscale neighboring town of Jackson Hole.

House Near Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Near Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Located minutes from Grand Teton National Park and a two-hour drive from Yellowstone, Jackson Hole is often and inaccurately considered simply a tourist-trap gateway town to the National Parks or an exclusive second home destination for the world’s wealthiest and most famous. With an eclectic culinary scene and thriving art galleries and museums, a culturally immersive stay in Jackson Hole will enrich any nature lover’s experience of the National Parks far beyond the observation of snowy peaks, waterfalls, and gurgling geysers.

At Gather Restaurant and Bar, located just off Jackson Hole Town Square, you will find one of the most inventive menus and dining experiences in Wyoming. Gather’s menu, unlike any other, is entirely influenced and designed around the tastes and preferences of the clientele. While it is always open to the public, Gather also features a private Chef’s Table. Booked more than two months in advance, this unique experience allows guests to experience Jackson Hole’s finest kitchen staff unhinged as they work to create a beautifully plated, locally sourced and spectacular meal.

Chef in Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Chef in Jackson Hole, Wyoming

While the chef’s table is where Gather shines, where Gather becomes truly unique and interactive, however, is at its Tuesday Tastings. Each Tuesday at 12pm, owner Graeme Swain joins a table of 12 individuals who are invited to taste three newly created dishes. Each dish is prepared from scratch and presented by the chef to the room family-style. Guests are given sheets to rate each dish based on presentation, creativity, flavor and value. After voting on each for each dish, as customers sip wine waiting for the next course, Swain leads a lively culinary-driven dialogue about why each dish worked and how each dish might be improved. Upon completion, the chef joins the table to discuss the dish’s critiques in what is an enormously fulfilling and insightful dining experience. The successes and failures of the Tuesday Tastings are what ultimately shape Gather’s ever–evolving menu making it one of Jackson Hole’s premiere dining spots.

food-closeup-jackson-hole-wyoming-DSC_0261

While Gather is the most unique, Jackson Hole’s downtown is booming with outstanding restaurant options. For other upscale trendy dining options, The Rose also features a strong regionally influenced menu and an outstanding chef’s table, this chef’s table is in the restaurant’s kitchen where guests watch the chef craft each course. The Kitchen is also not to be missed. For more casual dining, try Café Genevieve, Local, and Snake River Brewing are all outstanding options. For lighter fare and amazing coffee, Persephone with its baked goods and clean menu is hard to beat.

Jackson Hole’s culinary scene is indeed a lively one and is perfectly coupled with an ever-evolving arts community. Jackson Hole has long been a destination for artists of all kinds. The town square is lined with galleries from local and internationally known artists. Jackson Hole’s striking Public Art adds splashes of color and creativity to every turn through town from the information center to the library.

Jackson Hole’s creative hub is, without a doubt, the at The Center for the Arts. This 78,000 square foot campus houses 19 local, national and international artistic non-profits ranging from the visionary filmmakers of Jackson Hole Wild to theater and music groups to the public art office. The Center’s theater also regularly features intimate events and performances from international musical superstars like Ben Folds, readings from world-renowned authors like David Sedaris.

The National Museum of Wildlife Art, Wyoming

The National Museum of Wildlife Art, Wyoming

If the weather at Grand Teton National Park is keeping you from experiencing the great outdoors, one can experience said wilderness instead by way of The National Museum of Wildlife Art. This 50,000-square—foot building, designed after the Slains Castle in Scotland overlooks the National Elk Refuge and houses fourteen galleries with pieces from over five hundred artists.

The Elk of Jackson Hole, Wyoming

The Elk of Jackson Hole

The museum’s collection is centered on the big game wildlife paintings of German-born Carl Rungius and the entire collection features art from 2,500 B.C. to contemporary works from some of the world’s most famous artists. The subject matter ranges from explorer art to Romanticism; from realism to modernism. The Wildlife Art museum includes work from such artists as John James Audubon, Frederic Remington, Picasso, Rodin, Rembrandt, O’Keefe and Andy Warhol. The museum also includes a theater which regularly hosts documentary screenings and speaker series featuring explorers and adventurers from all over the world. A gift to see the natural world as seen through the eyes of the world’s greatest artists.

My last day in Jackson Hole, I set out once again into the park with Jackson Hole EcoTour Adventures, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Tetons. My guide picks me up from the Rusty Parrot Lodge just before sunrise and as we make our way into the park, there is still a low fog; this time blocking even any grazing wildlife from view. As we cut deeper into the park, though, slowly sunlight begins to cut through the fog. Slowly the mountains reveal themselves washed in a pink alpenglow. Again, moose, bison, horses and even a grizzly bear roam the foreground. Once again, we had the park to ourselves. It had grown colder since I had arrived. Winter was approaching. I think back to those ropey clouds and how they’d frustrated me my first day in Wyoming. I think about how I’d thought there was so little else to see and experience Jackson Hole… Full and inspired, I couldn’t help but think how badly I had been wrong.

All photos © Matt Payne.

The post Travel Wyoming: A Deeper Look Into Jackson Hole appeared first on Vagabondish.

map: Partying in Cheyenne


[Flickr/Debora Drower]

The largest city in the country’s least populous state, by default Cheyenne is the epicenter of getting down in Wyoming. And while the options are limited, the possibilities for having some good old-fashioned American Fun are limitless. You might satisfy two vices at once at liquor store and strip club Al’s Green Door, down some Rocky Mountain oysters at Albany Restaurant or see Hollywood’s latest regurgitation at the historic Lincoln $ Saver Theater. Let nature be your alibi: as Cheyenne is one of the windiest cities in the USA, you can always blame your hammered stumbling on a rogue gust.

Zachary Feldman