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11 Stops You Must Make on an Epic Western Road Trip
A vast, scenic landscape provides a timeless backdrop for the western United States. Mountains rise against the big blue sky, geysers and hot springs rise from the earth, and wildlife abounds. Appreciative residents all live in manageable but exciting towns and cities. In the heart of the West you’ll find Yellowstone National Park, one of the highlights of the US National Park System. An ideal way to experience everything the region has to offer is to take a road trip through the states of Utah, Montana, Wyoming and Idaho that showcase Yellowstone and offer the opportunity to explore more of what the West has to offer. Gateway to your journey: The easily accessible capital of Utah, Salt Lake City.
One stop: Salt Lake City, Utah
When you arrive in Salt Lake City, notice two things: first, it’s a big, busy city of almost 200,000 residents, but it’s set against the stunning landscape of the Wasatch Mountains and their world-class ski and snowboard resorts; Second, the Salt Lake City International Airport is just 12 kilometers from the city center. Begin your journey in the historic and spiritual heart of Salt Lake City, Temple Square. This is the place where the city was founded in 1847. Nearby you’ll find a variety of eateries and bars, and you can shop at City Creek Center, which has over 100 stores and restaurants.
Spend a few days exploring the city or start your trip to Yellowstone early. To do so, head north on Interstate 15 toward your next stop.
Two: Ogden, Utah
In 1869, workers completed the Transcontinental Railroad, making Ogden a transportation hub. To get a sense of Ogden’s importance in that era, make 25th Street your first stop. The historic neighborhood features shops, galleries, locally owned restaurants and Union Station, the site of the Utah State Railroad Museum.
Other attractions in and around the city cater to the adventurous. Take a scenic drive to the upper Ogden Valley for a hike or visit the Solomon Center, where you can skydive, rock climb and even surf – all indoors.
When you’re done exploring Ogden, get back on Interstate 15 and drive north.
Stop Three: Brigham City, Utah
Where the Bear River flows into the Great Salt Lake is the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, just a 27-kilometer drive from Brigham City with 32,000-plus-hectares of marsh, open water, upland, and alkali mudflats. The refuge is home to the largest colony of white-faced ibis in North America and many other migratory birds along the continent’s Pacific and Central Flyways. For a leisurely view of the wildlife, take a kilometer self-guided auto tour.
Returning to Brigham City, visit the Golden Spike National Historic Site, where the Transcontinental Railroad was completed, before continuing northeast around Box Elder Peak along US Highway 89/91.
Stop four: Logan, Utah
If you’re a 19-kilometerer, make Logan Canyon the centerpiece of your time. Camp here or just take a day trip to go hiking, mountain biking or horseback riding. The canyon’s terrain is varied, so beginners and experts can find challenges to match their skill level. Or try your hand at fly fishing on the Logan River. During the winter months, ski the 335 hectares at Beaver Mountain Ski Resort or snowmobile on nearby trails.
If you’re not an outdoors person, visit in July or August to take in the Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theater season. After you experience Logan, head north on Highway 89.
Stop Five: Bear Lake, Utah
Bear Lake stretches across the Utah border and into southern Idaho, offering plenty of opportunities to explore and play on its gorgeous blue waters. Stand-up paddle boarding and jet ski riding are popular pastimes here, as is fishing. The lake is famous for four species of fish – the Bonneville cisco, the Bonneville whitefish, the Bear Lake whitefish and the Bear Lake sculpin – found nowhere else in the world. If you don’t want to catch trophy fish here, walk the trails in the local mountains. From the top, you will have a panoramic view of the lake.
To learn more about how pioneers of the western and Pacific region of the United States paddleboarded the trails through this region, visit the National Oregon/California Trail Center in nearby Montpelier, Idaho. Take a simulated wagon ride, then thank modern technology for your car as you drive north on Highway 89.
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