February 12, 2016
A Triad of National Parks
By Kris Parfitt
Photo at right: The Grand Prismatic Spring, located in the Midway Geyser Basin in Yellowstone National Park, is the largest hot spring in the United States and the third largest in the world. Photo by Jim Peaco
Along the eastern boundary of the region known as the Northwest lies three National Parks tucked along the Rockies in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. The northern one designed by glaciers, another by volcanoes and water, and the most southern one a grand combination of both forces at work.
Yellowstone — The World’s First
Designed by volcanic explosions, geothermal activity and ice, Yellowstone is the world’s first wilderness area designated as a National Park by U.S. Congress and President Ulysses S. Grant on March 1, 1872.
Covering over 3,400 square miles the park is located mostly in Wyoming with hundreds of acres spreading into Montana and Idaho.
Close to four million people visited the park in 2015 to see many of its 300 geysers such as Old Faithful, or to view the Grand Prismatic Hot Spring—which is one of over 10,000 thermal features at the Park.
They also came to explore any of the 180 creeks and rivers, hike along the 900 miles of trails, discover one of the world’s largest petrified forests, traipse through hundreds of acres of lush forests and behold deep canyons often compared to the immensity of the Grand Canyon.
If that’s not impressive enough, Yellowstone is also home to 76 mammal species such as bison, antelope, elk, and, of course, black bear, grizzly bear and the elusive gray wolf. Over 320 species of birds, 16 types of fish and 1,350 plant varieties make great experiences for any outdoor enthusiast, biologist or photographer.
Whether you prefer backpacking, car camping, glamping, hotels or resort accommodations, within and outside the boundaries of this iconic National Park, you’ll find what suits your taste and your pocket book— just make sure you make lodging reservations far in advance!
Glacier — Crown of the Continent
Where the Rocky Mountains flow, ice will follow. With 25 named glaciers along the area just south of Canada in northern Montana, Glacier National Park was established to preserve these sheets of ice and the impressive wilderness area surrounding them.
Glacier, located in northern Montana, shares the U.S. – Canadian border with Waterton Lakes National Park in southern Alberta. Canada established its national park in 1895, and 15 years later on May 11, 1910, the U.S. established Glacier as a National Park. Both countries combined these two parks and today they are known as the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park World Heritage Site.
Glacier boasts 1,583 square miles of rugged mountains, lush meadows and pristine forests. Known as the Crown of the Continent, the 700 miles of trails, 2,865 miles of streams, 762 lakes and 175 mountain peaks welcome close to two million visitors a year. And it’s not just the glaciers they are coming to see.
While the Going-to-the-Sun Road is a main attraction for viewing glacially carved valleys, places like Lake McDonald Valley, Logan Pass, and Saint Mary Valley also offer visitors unique experiences to explore and discover extraordinary landscapes, historic homesteading sites, Native American history and wilderness adventures.
Grand Teton — Prehistoric Ecosystem
Only 10 miles south of Yellowstone National Park along the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway, Grand Teton National Park sits at the base of the 7,000-foot peaks of the Grand Teton Mountain Range as it towers over Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
Established as a National Park on Feb. 26, 1929, the park covers 480 square miles and is connected not only to Yellowstone National Park, but also many surrounding National Forests. These areas combined make up one of the world’s largest intact mid-latitude temperate ecosystems, known as the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
Host to almost three million visitors a year, Grand Teton National Park offers over 200 miles of trails to explore what is considered a pristine ecosystem. Home to over 1,000 plant varieties, 300 different bird and over 10 mammal species, the same hearty ecosystem has existed since prehistoric times.
Year-round adventure provides a multitude of activities such as cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter, and hiking, backpacking, camping, climbing, boating, biking, fishing and wildlife viewing in the warmer months.