8 Alternatives to Yellowstone National Park
With Access to Yellowstone Severely Limited, Visit One of these Other Destinations Instead
A combination of seasonal snowmelt and incredibly heavy rainfall has brought unprecedented flooding to Yellowstone National Park. Raging rivers and streams have overflowed their banks, washing away roads and bridges and damaging critical infrastructure within the park. As a result, Yellowstone now faces its worst natural disaster since the wildfires of 1988.
While the park’s South Entrance has reopened, access will be severely limited for the foreseeable future. This has forced many potential visitors to change their travel plans, as the roads in and out of the park will be crowded, and access will be limited.
If you were planning on visiting Yellowstone this summer and are now scrambling to find alternative destinations, there are plenty of options to choose from. These locations may not have the same name recognition as the iconic national park, but they’ll serve as an excellent substitute until it has time to recover.
These are the best alternatives to Yellowstone National Park:
Glacier National Park (Montana)
Glacier National Park is Montana’s other iconic outdoor playground. Located along the US-Canadian border, it offers some of the most dramatic landscapes found anywhere in North America. The park’s famous Going to the Sun Road makes for an epic drive, providing scenic views that will captivate you for its entire 50-mile length.
The only downside of visiting Glacier is that it could be busy with overflow traffic from Yellowstone too. Still, the park is always worth a visit and has avoided the massive flooding that caused so much damage in Yellowstone.
Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness (Montana)
Located just outside of Yellowstone, the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness is another rugged environment worth exploring. Covering more than 940,000 acres, this massive wilderness has hundreds of miles of hiking trails and a pristine backcountry that remains mostly untouched by man. It is a breathtakingly beautiful place that is accessed along the stunning Beartooth Highway, one of the most scenic drives in the entire country.
Grand Teton National Park (Wyoming)
Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park is just a short drive from Yellowstone and offers an unforgettable outdoor experience as well. The gorgeous Teton Mountains are rugged and challenging, but the park has hiking routes of various lengths and difficulties. Climbing the Grand Teton itself is a rite of passage amongst mountaineers, but a visit to spectacular Jenny Lake is no less rewarding. Afterward, head into nearby Jackson Hole to rest and refuel in one of the West’s most quintessential mountain towns.
Sawtooth Mountains (Idaho)
A sub-range of the Rockies, the Sawtooth Mountains are a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. In addition to excellent hiking and mountain biking, the Sawtooths offer outstanding kayaking, climbing, and some of the best fly fishing in the country. They also happen to be highly photogenic, so pack your camera. Paddlers will love spending the day on Stanley Lake, which sits at the foot of McGown Peak and offers plenty of Instagram-worthy views.
Custer State Park (South Dakota)
The Black Hills of South Dakota are a fantastic travel destination in their own right and always worth a visit. One of the highlights of the region is Custer State Park, where visitors can spot herds of bison along Wildlife Loop that rival those found in Yellowstone. Hikers up for a challenge can test their legs on the trail to the top of Black Elk Peak, which at 7,242 feet is the highest point in the state. As you would expect, the summit offers outstanding views of the surrounding area.
Teddy Roosevelt National Park (North Dakota)
The badlands of North Dakota make for a striking landscape in Teddy Roosevelt National Park. Spread out over 70,000 acres, this wilderness setting is seldom crowded and offers plenty to see and do. The park is home to herds of bison, numerous prairie dog colonies, and an array of other wildlife. Explore the 48-mile Scenic Loop Drive to get a sense of the expansive nature of the place and stop by Elkhorn Ranch, where the legendary president went to seek solitude in nature.
Lassen Volcanic National Park (California)
Yellowstone is home to some of the most amazing hydrothermal features on the planet, including hot springs, geysers, fumaroles, and mudpots. But it isn’t the only place where you can find that kind of geothermal activity. California’s Lassen Volcanic National Park offers a similar experience, with places like Devils Kitchen and Terminal Geyser serving as worthy substitutes with much smaller crowds. Activities include driving the park’s beautiful Volcanic Highway and hiking the Cinder Cone Trail, which wanders up an extinct volcano for impressive views.
North Cascades National Park (Washington)
Another often-overlooked destination, North Cascades National Park, is a stunning place with plenty to see and do. Visitors will find countless snowcapped peaks and alpine lakes, along with more than 300 glaciers. With 400 miles of hiking trails to explore, the park will keep even the most avid trekker busy. It also offers some of the best rock climbing and mountaineering in North America, along with outstanding wildlife and bird watching.
With any luck, Yellowstone will be back up and operational as quickly as possible. In the meantime, these destinations will serve as worthy alternatives. Thankfully, RVing allows travelers to be flexible with their plans and change things up on the fly. Use that flexibility to your advantage and visit these lesser-known places that are well worth a stop.