Take a Road Trip North to Jackson Hole on Route 89

from The Most Scenic Drives in America | 217

The Tetons At 10 million years old, the Tetons are relatively young, but they contain rocks that are nearly 3 billion years old.
Route Details


About 240 miles.

When to go:

May to October.

Nearby attractions:

Fossil Butte National Monument (fossil displays), west of Kemmerer, Wyoming. Lava Hot Springs, Idaho (known for its hot mineral pools). Periodic Spring (the spring gushes every 18 minutes from an opening in a canyon wall), in Bridger-Teton National Forest, near Afton, Wyoming.

Visitor centers:

At Colter Bay, Jenny Lake, and Moose in Grand Teton National Park.

Further information:

Grand Teton National Park, P.O. Drawer 170, Moose, WY 83 012; tel. 307-739-3300, www.nps.gov/grte/.

Bold and larger than life were the trappers, hunters, homesteaders, and prospectors who trod the ranges and ridges of Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming a century and more ago. On this drive you’ll travel in their footsteps, following them through still-untamed country that seems both remote and accessible, forbidding and beautiful. The reward at the end of the road is a relatively small but priceless jewel — glorious Grand Teton National Park.

1. Logan Canyon Scenic Drive

From Logan, Utah, Rte. 89 follows the Logan River northeast toward Bear Lake. On either side of the river rise the steep slopes and dramatic limestone cliffs of Logan Canyon. Among the intriguing stops along the route is the Preston Valley Campground, where a sign calls attention to a slab of quartz tunneled by tiny seaworms some 400 million years ago. Another is the Wood Camp Campground, from which a trail leads to the Jardine Juniper, an evergreen believed to be more than 1,500 years old.

2. Bear Lake Summit

After a climb of some 3,000 feet between Logan and Bear Lake Summit, the drive rewards travelers with a breathtaking view of Bear Lake, which shimmers with a shade of blue-green so vivid it looks like a tropical lagoon — or a suburban swimming pool. A mile farther on, another commanding view overlooks not only Bear Lake, but a horizon rimmed by the Sawtooth Mountains to the northeast, the Trump Range to the east, and the Uintas to the southeast.

3. Bear Lake

Turning north at Garden City, Rte.89 parallels the western shore of Bear Lake, whose aquamarine waters — colored by tiny suspended particles — straddle the border between Utah and Idaho. Because geologic upheaval long ago isolated it from surrounding bodies of water, Bear Lake has managed to nurture four species of fish found nowhere else in the world. The wide sandy beach at the lake’s northern shore, part of Bear Lake State Park, is a local mecca for swimmers and picnickers. Just north of the beach is Bear Lake National Wildlife Refuge, 18,060 acres consisting mostly of wetlands that provide nesting places for snowy egrets, white-faced ibises, and Franklin’s gulls.

4. Greys River Road

The fast way north to Jackson is via well-traveled Rte. 89 through the Star Valley, where the rugged mountains of Wyoming flatten and slide toward blandly bucolic Idaho farmland. A more adventurous route is the 80-mile, two-lane gravel detour by way of the Smith Fork and Greys River roads, beginning at a turnoff about six miles south of Smoot. Following a verdant valley tucked between the Wyoming and Salt River Mountains and cloaked with lodgepole pines (part of the Bridger-Teton National Forest), the road runs along the trout-rich Greys River. Frequent turnouts invite hungry travelers to pause for a picnic and tempt eager anglers to wet a line in the flowing waters.

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