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Driving south from Yellowstone

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Driving south from Yellowstone

Hi, All

We want to drive south from Yellowstone (eventual destination Santa Fe, NM) NOT via Salt Lake City but via Denver. Can anyone recommend great drives, things to see etc driving SE through Wyoming? I was thinking of 5 days to make the drive.

thank you!


Moose, Wyoming
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for Wyoming, Jackson, Jackson Hole
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1. Re: Driving south from Yellowstone

Do you plan to spend some time in Grand Teton NP and Jackson Hole?

Everett, Washington
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2. Re: Driving south from Yellowstone

Wow, you have a LOT of options headed that way. Five days all the way to Santa Fe though will mean making some choices. I'm going to sort of shotgun a bunch of things and see if any match specific interests. Also assuming this is in summer and not next week.

First off is the choice of exit from YNP. South Entrance or East Entrance. South is nice because it affords nice views of Teton Range on the way by. Then head over Togwotee Pass on US-287. East Entrance route would be via Cody and down past Thermopolis and through very scenic Wind River Canyon to Riverton or Lander for the night. Another option from south entrance of YNP and past Tetons is via Jackson and US-191 to Pinedale for night. If you have interest in history of the Oregon Trail and wagon trains then from Lander you can back track a bit via South Pass (and South Pass City restoration) and then to US-191 at Farson. Hitting the interstate freeway at Rock Springs. If via Pinedale you can side trip to South Pass from Farson.

Once at freeway heading east a really nice option that does not add much time would be take WY-130 from Walcott south to Saratoga and then over the Snowy Range Scenic Byway. Very spectacular drive and only adds about 30 minutes of drive time not counting stops. From Laramie (back on freeway again) then over to Cheyenne and down to Denver.

Snowy Range Road info:


Denver to Santa Fe is all freeway and only 6-1/2 hours so might be worth touristing around Denver for part of a day and then down to Colorado Springs. if weather is nice take Pike's Peak cog railway to top. Then resume drive to Santa Fe (5 hrs).

If I am counting correctly there could still be a couple days available. This could allow for more taime stopping at sights or making side trips such as Independence Rock or spending night at Saratoga Inn to enjoy the hot springs before going over Snowy Range Pass.

If YNP visit already included seeing Grand Tetons then by all means try going via Cody and down through Thermopolis. Might be worth a night there (after visiting museums in Cody) to see dinosaur museum and the hot springs. or press on to Riverton for night and do Independence Rock side trip next day. The Great Divide Basin stretch to Rawlins is a starkly beautiful sort of desolation and wide open space.

Bemidji, Minnesota
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for Yellowstone National Park
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3. Re: Driving south from Yellowstone

Is there some reason to go through Denver? You have a stop planned there?

If not, I'd have to say that that is one of the more boring routes to get to Santa Fe.

i'd go out the south entrance of Yellowstone to Moran and head east and south to Lander, WY and on to Rawlins. East for about 20 miles on I-80 and then south on highway 130/230 to end that section at Grandby. I'd take time to go through Rocky Mountain National Park to Estes Park and then either return on the same route or go south on highway 7/72 through Ward, CO to catch I-70 near the town of Idaho Springs, CO. West on I-70 to Breckinridge, then south through Leadville towards Alamosa with a side trip to Great Sand Dunes National Park. Even with these convolutions to your route, the driving should take about 20 hours, leaving time to hike a bit or explore some of the small towns along the way.

Santa Fe, New Mexico
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4. Re: Driving south from Yellowstone

I too would skip Denver unless you have the need to visit that city.

Spend time in Jackson WY and the Tetons.

Day 1 Then a drive to Lander WY which will take you over Togotowee Pass which will still be under construction so you will be able to stop a lot to see some beautiful mountains! We loved this drive even though it took along time. A visit to Dubois WY and then stop in Lander for the night. See Sinks Canyon State Park.

Day 2 Lander to Rawlins to Grand Lake for the night. You can do some hikes, visit the lake etc.

Day 3 Drive over Trail Ridge Road visiting RMNP. You could stay in Estes Park or return back to Grand Lake

Day 4 Grand Lake or Estes Park to Buena Vista CO. Beautiful place. Visit St Elmo Ghost Town, Mt Princeton Hot Springs, do some rafting, fly fishing etc.

Day 5 Buena Vista in morning, then a stop at Great Sand Dunes Nat Park and then to Taos for the night.

Day 6 Taos Pueblo and then to Santa Fe via the High Road and Las Trampas, Truchas, Chimayo.

Everett, Washington
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5. Re: Driving south from Yellowstone

Guess I might have taken the Denver part too seriously. If not mandatory I would add suggestion to the above ones to route to Rock Springs, WY and take WY-430 along Flaming Gorge then down to Vernal, UT and visit Dinosaur National Monument. then over to Rangely, Colorado and take CO-139 down to near Grand Junction (good night stop) via Douglas Pass. This is a very pretty mountain pass that is very often missed. The south side coming down towards the Grand River Valley is one loooooong straight sloping stretch of road where you can see for miles in front of you. Near Grand Junction Colorado National Monument is a must see - very impressive rock formations. The south of there near Montrose, CO is Black Canyon of the Gunnison Nat. Mon. with a very interesting canyon vista. Then on down to Durango, CO (side trip to Mesa Verde?) and over to US-84 to go down to Santa Fe.

Stops might be Rock Springs, WY, - Grand Junction, CO - Durango, CO with option for two nights in one or two of these -or- maybe add a night along the way in Thermopolis, Lander or Vernal and tour those areas more.

The route above would definitely be better than the other way through Denver except for missing the Snowy Range Road. But in total much more scenic with some impressive features to see along the way.

Fruita, Colorado
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6. Re: Driving south from Yellowstone

Sequimm88's suggestion to go south through Grand Junction is a very good one. The CO National Monument is celebrating their 150 yr anniversary and efforts are underway to make it a National Park - it is well worth a visit. I took the south route a couple of years ago when I went to YNP and it is so gorgeous. If you want to see an authentic ghost town, then add in South Pass City just southwest of Lander where you can see the ruts of the wagons taking the Oregon Trail. Very scenic and interesting. I would skip Rocky Mtn National Park since it will mean back tracking and instead head south of Grand Junction to Ouray and the glorious San Juan Mtns (called the Little Switzerland of America). You can then head for the Durango area where you can take the Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge train and then go to Mesa Verde National Park in Cortez. Head west to the Great Sand Dunes National Park and then south into New Mexico, where there are some very awesome old, old towns. Five days will go by in a flash and you will have traveled through many historical eras. The Indians who settled in Mesa Verde, the miners who were in the San Juans, the Hispanics of northern NM, the Native Americans of the pueblos, the pioneers on their way west, the fur trappers who discovered YNP. Use the winter to read about their amazing lives and adventures. You will have a great time.

7. Re: Driving south from Yellowstone

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