Recent headlines showcasing the devastating, 500 year floods that recently occurred in Yellowstone National Park and the surrounding areas are heartbreaking. The photos and video footage only show a small glimpse of what the environment, animals, and people are enduring in the area. There is also much talk about the tourists who had trips to the area. If you are one of the thousands who is facing challenges with an upcoming trip, here are alternative places to visit if your trip to Yellowstone has been cancelled.
This was supposed to be a landmark year for Yellowstone National Park. The park is celebrating its 150th birthday. This is monumental for the National Park system. But, Yellowstone has also been dealing with many major issues lately. These issues include overcrowding, poor tourist behavior, inappropriate animal encounters, pollution, and degradation of natural resources to name a few.
Some feel this flood is Mother Nature’s way of taking back control over this natural landscape. Personally, I can’t stand the thought of all the newly born baby animals who have lost their habitats, food sources, and lives. I remind myself though that right now they might be enjoying a much needed break.
In all truth, the Park’s gateway cities are also all going to suffer in some way or another. Places like Jackson Hole are seeing a large influx of people who have redirected there from Yellowstone already. With that said, we are boldly going to leave Jackson off this list of alternatives for now. Not only is Jackson incredibly expensive, but it also struggles with overtourism in general. Other gateway cities like Gardiner, MT have been catastrophically impacted and cannot host tourists now. Again, these places will suffer greatly. When the time is right, please plan a new trip here.
It is heartbreaking to see the damage that has happened here. And, with more rain and melting snowpack in the area, the area still may experience more flooding. It is also shocking to grasp the fact that the bulk of the northern portion of Yellowstone National Park may not reopen this season. As Wyoming natives, it truly is heartbreaking for us here at By Land and Sea. Climate change is real.
Other than staying safe and evacuating as soon as possible, we cannot advise you on what you need to do if you area already there, or if you have an upcoming trip booked. Instead, we hope to give you some ideas of other great small towns in the region you can visit. Many of these towns offer bits and pieces of the Yellowstone National Park vacation you were hoping for. All of our ideas below are in towns that are less than a days’ drive from Yellowstone. They all have abundant outdoor activities, potential to encounter wildlife, see nature, and some spots are near other major national parks!
Something many of the towns listed below also have in common is that they would all greatly benefit from you, as a tourist, coming to visit when them too. We all know the last few years have been very hard on the tourism industry. But many of these alternative places also totally rely on tourism spending.
If you are in the process of changing your trip, but aren’t sure where to go, we are here to help with plenty of great alternatives!
This small town is located in north, central Wyoming at the base of the beautiful Big Horn Mountains. Buffalo is a charming community with a lot of art, history, and outdoor activities. Buffalo is a shorter distance from Yellowstone, so driving here won’t take long and you’ll be able to enjoy beautiful scenery along the way. This is especially true if you go through the beautiful Ten Sleep Canyon. To learn more about the best things to do here, read this post.
Casper is the second largest city in Wyoming and the biggest city featured on this list. Here, you will find so much to do! Whether you want to hike, bike, golf or boat, there are tons of outdoor activities to participate in. Casper is also home to several museums including the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center. There is usually always something going on in town, especially at the ever-popular David Street Station. And, its no secret that Casper is home to some of the best fly-fishing in the world thanks to the blue ribbon waters along the Platte River.
Devil’s Tower, Wyoming
Located in the opposite corner of the state from Yellowstone is Devil’s Tower. This is America’s first National Monument. This giant monolith juts out from the surrounding landscape and has captivated visitors for decades. Here, you can walk around the base or watch rock climbers scale the rock formation. This is a great photography spot too and a place you can learn about the cultural significance of the monument!
Sheridan is a charming town, not too far from the Montana border. A stroll down Main Street offers plenty of window-shopping opportunities and stops at places like the historic Mint Bar. Summer brings polo matches to nearby fields thanks to Big Horn Polo Club. And, you can easily head into the northern Big Horn Mountains for further adventure. If you want to hike or camp, consider Sheridan!
Located in the southern area of Wyoming is another small, charming town called Saratoga. This spot is a great launching point to head into Medicine Bow National Forest and the Snowy Range Mountains, where you will experience smaller crowds and breathtaking scenery. The town is also home to the Saratoga Hot Springs Resort and Hobo Hot Springs. Here you can soak your aches away in one of the various thermal pools after a day of outdoor activity. The best part is the hot springs at the resort are covered by adorable teepees!
Spearfish, South Dakota
Spearfish is another fun town with a lot a great outdoor stuff to do. We visited recently and found the Elkhorn Ridge Golf Course to be quite enjoyable. Visitors here also enjoy Spearfish Scenic Byway, local breweries and more. It is not too far down the road from the super popular town of Deadwood, which is popular for its Western History and gambling. Along with Deadwood, Spearfish isn’t too far from other tourism hot spots like Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Monument, or previously mentioned Devil’s Tower in Wyoming.
Steamboat Springs, Colorado
If you are looking to head out south out of Wyoming, we recommend Steamboat Springs as a great stop. This is a ski town, but there are still plenty of great things to do during the summer. Think hiking, biking, fishing, horseback riding, and even several hot springs to enjoy! If you plan your late summer visit right, you can hit the Steamboat Festival!
Glenwood Springs, Colorado
Heading further into Colorado is Glenwood Springs. This is probably my second-favorite small mountain town in Colorado. There is no shortage of stuff to do here. Additionally, this town’s tourism industry has taken a few major hits in recent years thanks to fires, floods, and other situations. Like many small towns, your tourism dollars can make an impact here.
Estes Park, Colorado
Hands down, Estes Park is my favorite small mountain town in Colorado. This town is located further east, just outside Loveland. Not only is the town itself amazing, but it is nestled at the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park. If you’re looking to visit some of America’s great National Parks this summer, this one does not disappoint. Just remember they operate on a timed entry system, and you need to secure your ticket in advance.
Deciding to head further south will take you to the outdoor adventure capital – Moab! We recently returned from our first trip here and loved this little town. It packs a punch for people who love to be outside. In addition to that, Moab is at the doorstep of awe-inspiring Canyonlands and Arches National Parks. These are incredible places! Arches is another park that requires an advance reservation to get in.
Again, every place on this list is less than a 9-hour drive from Yellowstone National Park. Armed with this information, remember that there are plenty of other places in the region where you can have a great trip doing all sorts of wonderful things.
The flooding in Yellowstone and the surrounding area will have long-lasting impacts. Personally, we think it is essential to avoid the immediate area for now but know the importance of giving our tourism dollars later. In the meantime, there are other things which can be done to help. As Wyoming residents, we are able to donate items which will be driven to those in need. Many in our area are offering to help house displaced people and domestic animals. There are also online donation options which can be found by a quick Google search.