Cool side trips going "the back way"

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Posted by Ballpark Frank ( on 11:40:57 05/14/13

In Reply to: driving from gtnp to w. yellowstone posted by ursusani


As you are making your way between Jackson and West Yellowstone, west of the Tetons, there are a number of way cool side trips available.

First, a plug for Mesa Falls, which someone else already alluded to. It is a very high, exceedingly pretty waterfall.

Now, you have at least 4 major attractions that I don't think anyone else has mentioned.

1.) Big Springs is a "don't miss". You drive east of Hwy 20 on a paved road up a watercourse that is the source of the South Fork of the Henry's Fork of the Snake River. It is incredibly crystal clear. This large stream originates from a spring that issues forth 500,000 gallons of water daily, at a constant temperature of 52 degrees F. Trout love it!!! You can see some really giant specimens in the upper reaches of that stream. Unfortunately, you can't fish that area.

2.) Sawtelle Peak, just west of Island Park, has a large FAA communications site (and lots of other radio gear) on top of it. Thanks to the need to maintain all that "stuff", there is a well-maintained dirt road that goes right to the top. I've driven sedans to the top in summer with no problem. This mountain has visibility to most of Yellowstone National Park (which is why so much of the radio telemetry gear, particularly seismic-monitoring, aimed its yagi antennas at this mountaintop. Some of it may have been re-homed to the park's improved digital radio network in recent years. Thank you Project 25.) This mountain affords 360 degree views that are well worth the detour. (The large, highly visible, warning signs about high radiation might make you nervous about your future ability to reproduce, so don't hang around and picnic up there.)

3.) Moving a bit further west, we have Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge. It is a unique place, and well worth the drive, particularly if you are big on birds, cranes, ducks, geese, and swans.

4.) If you are willing to go a bit further west, there is an opportunity to dig for your own fire opal near Spencer, Idaho, at the Deer Hunt Mine, which is privately owned. You can also check out specimens and jewelry for sale in the area.

I was going to put Craters of the Moon National Monument in this post, but if lengthy walking is out of the question, it would be a long drive with minimal benefit. Save it for when you can wander out to where you can explore some of the lava caves.

Two weeks: Sounds wonderful! Have a great time!


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