As historic flooding caused extensive damage throughout Yellowstone National Park, some visitors have had to cancel their summer plans to visit one of the most popular national parks in the country.
The National Park Service anticipates that the northern portion of the park will not reopen for the rest of the season but the southern portion might be open as early as next week.
The closure comes during the summer peak season when Yellowstone boasts nearly a million visitors a month.
While the natural disaster may have canceled or limited some tourists’ plans to visit Yellowstone this summer, many other national parks and recreation areas in the West could serve as an alternative.
Craters of the Moon National Monument, Idaho
Craters of the Moon is located southwest of Yellowstone in southern Idaho. Here visitors will find a unique volcanic landscape and many caves to explore.
Travelers can set up camp in a lava field at the Lava Flow Campground for a unique camping experience. Craters of the Moon is a certified International Dark Sky Park meaning light pollution is at a minimum providing unobstructed views of the night sky.
Laurie McConnell, senior tourism communications specialist for the Idaho Department of Commerce, said Craters of the Moon offers “vast lava fields and unique geologic features like spatter cones, caves and lava tubes to explore.”
Due to increased visitation at Idaho parks and recreation areas, tourists are encouraged to make reservations ahead of time, McConnell said.
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Just south of Yellowstone is Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. It offers stunning mountain ranges where visitors can enjoy camping, hiking, biking and more. The park has more than 200 miles of hiking trails and visitors can float down the Snake River during warmer months.
Grand Teton spans 310,000 acres and is part of the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem. During the summer months, visitors will find colorful wildflowers dotting the meadows throughout the park.
Visitors are told to plan ahead under current conditions, especially those wanting to spend the night.
Glacier National Park, Montana
Located on the U.S.-Canada border in northwestern Montana, Glacier National Park has 700 miles of trails and mountain landscapes. Here travelers will find blue lakes, various wildlife and, of course, glaciers.
During the peak season of May through September, the park can see up to 3 million people. The park’s website encourages visitors to be patient and flexible and have backup plans when parking isn’t available for your desired trailhead.
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah
Going a bit farther south is the hidden gem of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah.
Last year, President Joe Biden expanded the monument boundaries of Grand Staircase-Escalante after the Trump administration reduced them in 2017. The monument now covers 1.87 million acres of land in southern Utah.
The Escalante Canyons are the most popular area within the monument with active waterfalls, sculpted slickrock and narrow canyons with plenty of hiking. Near the region includes the Calf Creek Falls recreation area and the popular Peek-a-boo and Spooky Gulch slot canyons.
The Grand Staircase region is less popular but contains the “most extensive network of slot canyons in Utah.”
In between those two areas is the Kaiparowits Plateau, a 1,600 square-mile plateau that rises thousands of feet above Lake Powell.