Driving the American West: Cody, Wyoming
It had been four years since my last trip to Jackson Hole and the Grand Tetons, an August trip that also included Yellowstone National Park and celebrated our ninth wedding anniversary. We’d vowed to come back and see the area in winter someday, and well…that day had arrived.
The only thing missing was Adam. But hey — I took photos for him.
And, y’know, for you.
To the east of Grand Teton National Park, the stunning Bridger-Teton National Forest greeted me with snow. And I mean, a lot of snow. The kind of snow where you pull into a turnout to treat yourself to a lingering gander at the scenery, and you’re instead faced with an 8-foot-high wall of hard-packed flake-age.
Yes, I managed to climb atop one of these plow-made drifts, and yes, the mountain view was gorgeous. But yes, I (unnecessarily) worried that at any minute, I’d fall into an unseen crevasse — and I got right back into the car.
By the time I’d meandered down from the highest elevation, I could easily pull over to the side of the road and peer straight across a plain at furry, prancing elk and flame-orange grasses. There may have been some hand-clapping, and perhaps some giggling.
I cruised into Grand Teton National Park at golden hour, just in time to see a silvery gleam on the Snake River and several thousand elk parade across the National Elk Refuge. I’d spend most of the next day wending my way through the 20+ miles of the park that are open in winter, often alone on the road and always amazed. I tuned into an NPR music show called UnderCurrents, and visually soaked in the pristine winter snow to an inspirational soundtrack of Native American pop, Latin jazz, African blues and Southern folk.
And I wandered just about every inch of Jackson Hole. I’d really missed it here, a mix of Old West architecture, big city money, conservative politics and liberal thought, locavore cuisine and hunting trophies, low kitsch and high art. In winter, fairy lights twinkle on arches of antlers in the main square, and you have to pick your careful way along black ice on the boardwalks. Folks seem happy to see strangers, and there’s a little more time and space for conversation than in the summer high season.
But not all of Yellowstone National Park is open in winter. The west and east entrances are closed, but my friend Ann Shepphird points out that you can enter the south entrance (just north of Jackson) via snow coaches and can stay right in the middle of the park at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge & Cabins — and beat the summer crowds. (In addition, the park is always open from the north entrance near Gardiner, Montana, as is the nearby Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel.)
So if you want to see how a dazzling, undeveloped swath of nature copes with a clear, cold, sparkling blanket of snow and ice, head on over to northwest Wyoming (or southwest Montana).
And let me know you’re going: I just might be willing to drive.
TWT Travel Binder: Wyoming
Grand Teton National Park
Bridger-Teton National Forest
National Elk Refuge
The Rusty Parrot Lodge
Trio American Bistro
Pearl Street Bagels
The Garage Restaurant
Koshu Wine Bar
Driving the American West: Boise & Southern Idaho