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    Salt Lake City to Yellowstone: what to see and where to stop along the way

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    Lluis Enric Mayans

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    If you have decided to include the splendid Yellowstone National Park in your on the road itinerary you will find yourself faced with the "problem" of how to reach the park, and it is very likely, especially if you are doing a West Coast on the road, that you are to have to cover the distance between Salt Lake City e Yellowstone. The city of the Great Salt Lake is the first major city near the park (the only one actually) and represents a perfect stop for those who, coming from Las Vegas, have visited the parks of Utah (basically, the itinerary outlined in our ebook ).

    In addition, it is a very interesting city to visit (see our article on what to see in Salt Lake City), both for the many points of interest related to Mormon history, and for the beautiful surroundings, which include natural wonders such as Antelope Island State Park, an island populated by bison with splendid views over the salt lake, e Bonneville Salt Flats, an unlikely saline plain whose bright white surface stretches as far as the eye can see until it merges with the horizon.

    However, the capital city of the Mormons is not exactly a stone's throw from Yellowstone: although in fact it is the closest large city to the park, the distance to be covered is about 5 hours, which is not exactly a walk. The question to ask is: are there any interesting stops where to stop to embellish the travel day? What to see between Salt Lake City and Yellowstone? Here are a number of attractions along the way designed to make the most of this itinerary.


    • Distance to Salt Lake City and Yellowstone: Which Entrance to Choose?
    • What to see between Salt Lake City and Yellowstone
      • Hill Aerospace Museum
      • Pocatello
      • Idaho Falls
      • Yellowstone Bear World
      • Frostop Drive In
      • Mesa Falls
      • West Yellowstone
    • Where to sleep between Salt Lake City and West Yellowstone
    • Da Jackson a Salt Lake City (visitando Grand Teton)
    • For a wide-ranging itinerary

    Distance to Salt Lake City and Yellowstone: Which Entrance to Choose?

    The pastures of Montana near West Yellowstone

    First of all, a clarification is needed: Yellowstone has 5 entrances and obviously the route to take depends on which one you choose, luckily the one closest to the main attractions is also the one less distant from Salt Lake City, I'm talking about West Entrance (West Entrance), located in West Yellowstone, just under a 5-hour drive from the Mormon capital (516km in total).

    Another valid alternative can be the South Entrance, near the Grand Teton, which, even if it requires 1 hour of travel more, can be an interesting solution for those who want to stop a day in Grand Teton before visiting Yellowstone. My advice is in any case to opt for the western entrance thus following my Yellowstone itinerary and visiting Grand Teton afterwards, descending back to Salt Lake City (in the last part of this article you will also find a recommended itinerary for this return leg).

    The path is feasible in 1 day but nothing prevents you, if you prefer, from planning a stop at one of the attractions listed below (we'll talk about this too). Obviously to do this itinerary you will need a car and, if you haven't done it yet, I suggest you read my guide on how to rent a car in the USA.

    What to see between Salt Lake City and Yellowstone

    Mesa Falls Scenic Byway

    The path it leads da Salt Lake City a West Yellowstone it crosses northern Utah and eastern Idaho to only eventually cross over into Montana, the state where our destination town is located. The itinerary that awaits you crosses the north side of the so-called Salt Lake Valley, on which the Wasatch Mountains rise, and as you continue north the barren landscape becomes more and more green. The most beautiful views of this itinerary are offered by Mesa Falls Scenic Byway, a scenic road that goes into the lush Targhee National Forest to reach up to 2 spectacular viewpoints on 2 spectacular waterfalls.

    Here are all the points of interest that you will find along the way, listed from South to North.

    Hill Aerospace Museum


    Distance: 30 minutes

    Half an hour's drive from the city you will already find the first reason to stop at least an hour. Near Hill Air Force Base is an aviation museum with a remarkable collection of warplanes. This is a very interesting stage, in my opinion it is also worthwhile for those who are not a lover of the genre.


    Old Town
    Fort Hall Replica
    Museum of Clean
    Distance: 2 and a half hours

    Main Street still has a certain frontier town atmosphere. Here the attractions to consider for a stopover are above all 2:

    • The Musem of Clean: Those looking for an unusual attraction can pop into this museum entirely dedicated to cleaning, where the funniest part is the advertisements.
    • Fort Hall Replica: Reproduction of the historic Hudson's Bay Fort, which at the time played an important role for migrants moving along the Oregon Trail.

    Idaho Falls

    Potato Museum
    Distance: 3 hours

    It is the largest city you will find in the area (but don't expect a metropolis, we are talking about 60000 inhabitants); here you can take a pleasant walk along the Snake River Greenbelt, a green space created thanks to the construction of a hydroelectric project. Though small, the man-made Idaho Falls harmonize well with their surroundings and the Mormon temple in the background. On the other hand, those looking for something bizarre can also find bread for their teeth here: there isIdaho Potato Museum & Potato Station Cafe, a museum entirely dedicated to the potato!

    Yellowstone Bear World

    Distance: 3 and a half hours

    A safari park with bears, deer, bison and many other animals. The interesting thing is that you can cross it directly with your car, while the local fauna roams freely around you. There are also some upgrades not included in the standard ticket, such as the possibility of feeding bear cubs (bottle feeding) or a guided excursion with the curator for a closer contact with the animals.

    Frostop Drive In

    Distance: 3 hours and 45

    This is the place where I recommend you stop for a snack. In this diner, like a real one Drive In, you can also order and eat directly in your car, but if you are not in a hurry there is no reason not to enter this quaint place that remembers the family-run fast food of Route 66 from afar. As you will notice from the large sign outside here they produce root beer (I can't swallow it but if you want to try it ...), but the burgers are great too!

    Mesa Falls

    Lower Mesa Falls
    Distance: 4 hours

    The short detour from the main road (US 20) is the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway, panoramic route that allows you to admire 2 splendid waterfalls, the Upper Mesa Falls and Lower Mesa Falls, certainly the main attractions of this itinerary before arriving in Yellowstone. The former are clearly visible from the lookout Grandview Overlook, which can be easily reached by car (here the point to be entered on Google Maps); the latter instead require you to walk a short path that starts near the visitor center and leads to a platform directly behind the falls. For more information here is my article on how to visit Mesa Falls.

    West Yellowstone

    Distance: about 1 hour

    Our destination, the town just outside the park, to use as a base for visiting Yellowstone. For advice on what to do in the town check out my guide to West Yellowstone.

    Where to sleep between Salt Lake City and West Yellowstone

    The itinerary, as already mentioned, is feasible in 1 day, obviously giving up various attractions along the way; however, since it is quite long (about 5 hours without stopping), the hypothesis of stopping one night to sleep along the way is not totally to be discarded, especially if you want to dedicate some time to the attractions described above. In this case, here are the towns where to look for accommodation:

    • Pocatello (2 hours from Salt Lake City) -> all available accommodations
    • Idaho Falls (3 ore da Salt Lake City) -> all available accommodations

    To find accommodation in the city of departure and in the city of destination, I would like to point out our advice at these 2 links:

    • Advice on where to sleep in Salt Lake City
    • Tips on where to sleep in West Yellowstone

    Da Jackson a Salt Lake City (visitando Grand Teton)

    Henry-Chester Country Store

    If you follow my Yellowstone itinerary, you will find yourself returning not from West Yellowstone but from Jackson, in this case some tips on what awaits you on the route may be useful. between the heart of Jackson Hole and Salt Lake City. Usually google maps does this route by default, however, if you want to be sure to follow it, remember to turn right just before Etna (a small town of just over 100 inhabitants) in Creamery Road, then turning left into 114 South (which runs along the border between Wyoming and Idaho) and right into US 34 (if you don't want to do a lot of calculations, put this address in the navigator).

    For the first half about the itinerary will allow you to cross a beautiful rural area, full of pastures, fields that stretch as far as the eye can see and some towns with a number of inhabitants under 100. Along this itinerary you will cross the Blackfoot Reservoir, a beautiful lake on whose shores are the remains of one of those historic villages that make you imagine a life of other times. As you stop, you will notice, as well as a peddler of meat, the old shop of Henry (Henry-Chester Country Store), opened by a Dutch pioneer in 1884.

    Blackfoot Reservoir
    Porters Pub
    Villages in Idaho
    Landscapes in Idaho
    Villages in Idaho

    Shortly after you will pass the insignificant city of Soda Springs, it is the first large urban settlement of a certain importance after having crossed pastures and remote villages; stop for lunch at Porters Pub, it will seem like a pub like many others but the burgers are really high quality and the lady who served us is very friendly. From Soda Springs onwards the landscape will tend to become more barren and perhaps a little less interesting, until you find the Wasatch Mountains, which frame the Salt Lake City skyline.

    Skylines in Salt Lake City
    An alternative way ...

    You can choose to stay longer in Wyoming instead of going through most of Idaho, just don't turn shortly before Etna on the 34 but stay on the 89. The duration is more or less the same and along the itinerary you will meet Evening, the town that prides itself on having the widest deer antler arch in the world, and the Bear Lake, a beautiful natural area with lake views, also renowned for the production of the infamous raspberry shake.

    Bear Lake

    For a wide-ranging itinerary

    Since you are in the States it is likely that you are not satisfied only with Yellowstone and Grand Teton, but you want to see a lot more. Who said that anyone who goes into the American Rocky Mountains should give up the red rock parks of the Southwest? Here is our ebook Yellowstone e Utah Mighty Five, a 16-day itinerary that will allow you to explore not only Yellowstone and Grand Teton but also Las Vegas, the great parks of Utah and Arizona.

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