State #42: Wyoming and Yellowstone National Park

Last week I flew into Jackson Hole, Wyoming for a long weekend exploring state #42 on my 50 by 50 quest to see all 50 US states by the time I turn 50 this September. My dog Selma and boyfriend Keith were along for the ride!

Flights in and out are pretty spectacular, themselves — the small airstrip is right in the midst of Grand Teton National Park, with the towering snow-covered mountain peaks surrounding the airplanes as they take off and land.

20160415_100056A 15-minute drive or so from the airport is the rustic, pretty little town of Jackson. It has loads of Western charm without being kitschy (except for the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, which was neon, mid-century Vegas kitschy in a fun way but unfortunately was closed at the time). There is plenty of upscale dining and shopping, if that’s what you’re looking for; yet the town is friendly, low-key and completely unpretentious. We stayed at the fabulously retro Antler Inn, which also had the benefit of a large, wood-burning fireplace in the room.

Around town I checked out the main square, with an arched entry at each corner made up entirely of elk antlers; some of the shops; and drinks with live music at the Silver Dollar Bar & Grill in the historic Wort Hotel. We also had some great meals including breakfasts at E. Leaven Food Company and the highlight of our food experience in Jackson, a very special dinner at the Blue Lion. This local favorite, located in a charming 1930s house, has been in business for more than 30 years. We enjoyed cocktails with a fantastic starter of Thai seafood fritters, and then fresh fish dishes prepared in classic French style.

The main draw of the area, though, was the stunning natural beauty of the mountains, lakes and rivers, national parks, and abundant wildlife such as bison, elk, moose, antelope and bear. The National Elk Refuge is at the edge of Jackson, and Grand Teton National Park sits between Jackson Hole and Yellowstone National Park.


We drove up to Yellowstone on Saturday morning for the weekend — the first visit for all of us. We arrived for the first day of National Park Week, when all national parks in the country are open free of charge.

Immediately upon entering the park, within minutes, a bison greeted us, grazing lazily right along the roadway. All that day and the next, we saw herds of bison; along with some elk and numerous birds. Early the second day at Yellowstone, we came upon several cars parked along the shoulder and a group of people with binoculars and cameras aimed at the trees across a valley.

IMG_0144It was a grizzly bear! I had hoped to see one — they were just coming out of hibernation, after all — but not too up close and personal. It was the first time I’ve ever seen a bear in the wild.

We also had an exciting wildlife spotting to bookend that one, on our way out of the park that afternoon when we spotted a pack of gray wolves some distance away.

In between the wildlife admiration we marveled at the geographic formations and diversity located within the park. Hot springs, mineral ponds of unreal colors, bubbling mud pots, mountains, lakes, canyons, waterfalls, and of course Yellowstone’s most famous attraction: Old Faithful.

It was a fantastic way to experience Wyoming, and I left wondering why it had taken me so long to get to this fantastic state. The trip to Yellowstone also allowed for a little time through Idaho and Montana, two states I have visited previously and love as well. April was definitely the off season for the area, and so some things were closed (businesses and roads through the parks), and it was still relatively cold. But the pluses outweighed these minuses: there were hardly any visitors to  Yellowstone or Grand Teton (many times we were the only ones around) and prices were lower (two-for-one meals and drinks at many area restaurants).

In early June I’m off to visit state #43, Michigan. After that I have left: Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota (trip planned over 4th of July weekend); Connecticut, Rhode Island and Maine (planning a trip with my mother for late summer), and ending up in dramatic fashion for state #50: I’ve booked an Alaskan land and cruise adventure over my birthday to round out visiting every state in the union.

Bon Voyage!


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Categories: 50 BY 50

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5 Comments on “State #42: Wyoming and Yellowstone National Park”

  1. April 25, 2016 at 6:34 pm #

    Great pictures! Glad you have a plan and looks like you are going to make all 50 states by your birthday. I’ve never been to Yellowstone, but would like to one day. This post makes me want to go in April when I do go. Just curious, was Selma allowed in Yellowstone park?


    • April 26, 2016 at 8:24 am #

      Hey there, thanks for the comment! I would actually recommend Yellowstone in May – more roads would be open (some of the south roads and sites were still closed for April, such as Yellowstone Lake) – and the weather would be warmer. However, it’s not until after Memorial Day and the summer months that the crowds really come. I think in May would still be relatively uncrowded but more open. The hotels and restaurants also within the park still weren’t open when we were there.

      And yes, you can take a dog into the park. But there are a lot of places they are not allowed. They are basically just allowed around the main visitor center areas and along the main roadways (leashed). They are not allowed on the hiking trails or boardwalks, so you can’t just take them everywhere in the park. This worked fine for my dog because she’s not much of a walker and was content to ride along most of the time, getting out here and there. But people shouldn’t expect to take a dog along walking/hiking there.


      Liked by 1 person

      • April 26, 2016 at 8:38 am #

        Thanks for the information! Tippy would love to walk/hike, but would be okay with riding along too, I think. I personally hate that dogs aren’t allowed everywhere, but also understand that they don’t want them to disturb the wildlife by barking or digging, etc and a lot of dog owners are irresponsible. Glad to see they are allowed in parts of it though. If/when I go, I’ll try to go in May. Goin in May sounds wonderful. I don’t want to go when there are so many people you “can’t stir them with a stick.” I don’t think you could enjoy the sites if you were worried about all of the people.


        • April 26, 2016 at 8:59 am #

          Absolutely – we saw videos of the summertime months, dozens of cars parked anywhere there are wildlife sightings, hundreds of people jostling for photos; same at Old Faithful, etc. I’ve heard it can take more than an hour on a summer weekend just to get into the park.
          As far as dogs – yes it’s partly because this is a true wildlife area, dogs are not normal wildlife there and just their scents, markings etc could interfere with the nature balance there. Plus as you say not all dog owners are responsible, and it’s for their safety too (can you imagine someone’s pet getting mauled by a bear or bison??)


          • April 26, 2016 at 9:05 am #

            I hadn’t really thought about dogs scents and markings interfering with the balance of things. I’m sure our human scents interfere to a certain extent too. As I learned in science classes long ago, you can’t really observe or test anything without changing the thing you are observing at least a little. (I know that is not the exact way it was worded, but you get the jest, I’m sure.)


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