We dreamed of visiting Yellowstone National Park in winter for years, and in 2021 we finally took the plunge. Visiting in winter is a such a different experience from summer that it’s practically a different park. Yellowstone receives about the same number of visitors in the entire month of December that it sees in a single day in July. Let that statistic sink in…
Park access by car is limited to Mammoth Hot Springs/Lamar Valley in the north, and West Yellowstone, Montana in the west. All other access is by large-wheeled snow coach or snowmobile, as roads are snow-covered and groomed, but not plowed. In a departure from our normal style of do-it-ourselves trip planning, we bought a five-night, six-day “Winter Couples Adventure” package through Xanterra Lodges. It included bus transportation from the Bozeman Airport, two nights in Mammoth Hot Springs, three nights in the Old Faithful Snow Lodge, our amazing guide Kristi, snowshoe rental, and all meals. There were also little bonuses like a gift basket in the room (post-hike champagne!) and $50 to spend in the gift shop. Group size is limited to 10. We would definitely recommend it as the best way to see the park in winter.
We flew from Chicago to Bozeman, Montana a couple nights early in hopes of skiing at Bridger Bowl, but drought conditions meant not enough snow for the resort to open in time, so we settled for a day of hiking, breweries and museums in town.
For the most part, travel was back to normal in 2021, which meant a return to our usual form of finding the best food and drink wherever we go. The following is our list of the best things we ate and drank, plus some shoutouts to our favorite lodging locations during the year in travel.
We knew we were planning on hitting some remote sites on last summer’s trip, so we rented a pickup truck to help us get there. We were impressed just how rugged and unspoiled some of these places actually were. We spent 186 miles (7.5% of the trip) on rocks, gravel, dirt, mud and deep sand, and our trusty Tacoma, AKA “TacoTruck” got us everywhere we wanted to go. Here are a few of the most memorable routes mapped: (click for larger view)
The Colorado Plateau region never fails to impress. Our recent three week trip was one of the most scenic we’ve ever taken. We’ve been through the area several times before, so this trip allowed us visit some lesser-known attractions to fill in the gaps between previous routes. Out of more than 1,000 photos (I need to stop) I’ve distilled it down to 53. There’s much more to be seen, so check out @highkicktravel on Instagram for more upcoming scenery.
Click on an image to open slideshow and view captions.
Our latest travel adventure is upon us. On Friday, July 9th, we fly to Albuquerque, NM to begin a three week road trip through the four corners region. After an evening at the vintage El Vado Motel in Albuquerque, we’ll spend two days exploring New Mexico’s Capital, Santa Fe.
After Capitol Reef, we make the quick drive along the famously scenic Utah Highway 12 into Escalante, where we’ll stay for two nights in an Airbnb that features llamas in the yard. We’ll spend a couple days exploring the sights and slot canyons in the area before making our way to Zion National Park after a morning in Bryce Canyon.
We last visited Zion in 2012, so we’re excited to hit the features we didn’t get to see the first time. Our main objectives (weather-permitting) are The Narrows and Kolob Arch in the more remote northwestern section of the park. Following Zion, we’ll head south into Arizona and spend two nights camping on the less-visited North Rim, where we’ll day hike down to roaring springs and also take in the many viewpoints from the rim level. After departing the Grand Canyon, we’ve secured permits for the South Coyote Buttes area of Vermillion Cliffs National Monument. The nearby “Wave” formation gets most of the area attention, but a hard-to-win lottery makes visiting it a slim chance. South Coyote Buttes still require a permit, but it’s available to reserve online ahead of time.
The next two nights will be spent at Lee’s Ferry Lodge, which will be our base for a kayak trip down the Colorado River around Horseshoe bend. The Navajo Nation just announced a partial reopening to tourism, so we’ve finally been able to reserve a tour of famous Antelope Canyon as we head out of the Page, AZ area toward our final National Park of the trip, Mesa Verde. We’ll spend two nights at the Far View Lodge, exploring the ruins on our first visit since summer 2015.
The final week of the trip is a delayed celebration of my parents’ 50th anniversary. The whole family will meet in a house on the side of a mountain near Fairplay, Colorado. We’ll spend the week whitewater rafting, horseback riding and additional general mountain fun before we hitch a ride back as far as Iowa with the family.
Images from our recent trip to Moab, featuring Arches National Park, the Island In The Sky and Needles districts of Canyonlands National Park, and Fisher towers. Red rock is heavily featured and the LaSal mountains play a prominent supporting role as the backdrop to the entire region. Click to full size slideshow for captions.