Vast and scenic landscapes form a timeless backdrop to the western United States. Mountains stand out against blue skies, geysers and hot springs rise out of the earth, and wildlife abounds. Grateful residents live amidst it all, in manageable but interesting towns and villages. In the heart of the western region lies Yellowstone National Park, one of the most important national parks in the US. The ideal way to experience all this region has to offer is a trip through the states of Utah, Montana, Wyoming and Idaho, which is the best way to get to know Yellowstone and discover much more of what the West has to offer. The gateway to your trip: the Utah state capital, Salt Lake City, is easily accessible.
First stop: Salt Lake City, Utah
When you arrive in Salt Lake City, notice two things: first, it’s a big, bustling city of nearly 200,000 people, but it’s close to the spectacular scenery of the Wasatch Mountains and world-class skiing and snowboarding resorts; second, Salt Lake City International Airport is just 12 miles from downtown.
The city was founded on this site in 1847. Nearby you’ll find a variety of restaurants and bars, and you can shop at City Creek Center, with over 100 shops and restaurants.
Spend a few days sightseeing or get an early start on your trip to Yellowstone. Head north on Interstate 15 to the next stop.
Two: Ogden, Utah
In 1869 the transcontinental railroad was completed, and Ogden became a transportation hub. To get an idea of Ogden’s importance at the time, stop first at 25th Street. This historic area is home to shops, galleries, local restaurants and Union Station, where the Utah Railroad Museum is located.
Other attractions in and around town are for the more adventurous. Stroll through the scenic Upper Ogden Valley or head to the Salomon Center, where you can go skydiving, rock climbing and even surfing, all indoors.
Once you’ve explored Ogden, get back on Highway 15 and continue north.
Stop 3: Brigham City, Utah
At the point where the Bear River empties into the Great Salt Lake is the Bear River Migratory Bird Sanctuary, more than 32,000 acres of wetlands, open water, mountain plains and alkaline marshes, just 27 miles from Brigham City. The sanctuary is home to the largest colony of white-fronted ibis in North America and many other birds that migrate along the Pacific and Midcontinent flyways. To see the wildlife, take a guided walk of several miles.
On the way back to Brigham City, visit Golden Spike National Historic Site, where the transcontinental railroad was completed, and then continue northeast along Box Elder Peak on US Route 89/91.
Stop 4: Logan, Utah
If you like 19 miles, make Logan Canyon the highlight of your stay in Logan. You can camp here or take a day trip on foot, mountain bike or horseback. The terrain in the canyon is varied, so beginners and experts alike will have a good time. You can also try fly fishing on the Logan River. During the winter months, you can ski at the 335-acre Beaver Mountain Ski Resort, or snowmobile on nearby trails.
If you’re not an outdoor enthusiast, come enjoy the Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theatre season in July or August. Once you’ve had your fill of Logan, head north on Highway 89.
Fifth stop: Bear Lake, Utah
Stretching along the Utah border and into southern Idaho, Bear Lake offers plenty of opportunities to explore and play in its majestic blue waters. Paddleboarding and jet skiing are popular pastimes here, as is fishing. The lake is famous for its four species of fish – Bonneville bass, Bonneville whitefish, whitefish and largemouth bass – found nowhere else in the world. If you don’t want to catch trophy fish here, you can hike the local mountain trails. From the top, you’ll have a great view of the lake.
To get a better idea of how pioneers in the western US and Pacific traveled the trails in this area, visit the nearby Oregon/California National Trail Center in Montpelier, Idaho. Take a simulated car ride, then thank modern automotive technology as you continue north on Highway 89.