If you plan to visit the majestic Grand Teton National Park, why not make it a driving vacation with a journey along the 161 miles of the Wyoming Centennial Scenic Byway. On a map, this combination of highways U.S. 26/287 and U.S. 26/89/191 looks like the profile of an English bulldog’s head gazing westward, and takes between 3 and 4 hours to drive. Read about the best places to see on this road trip through Wyoming!
Dubois, Wyoming is your jumping off point. Dubois is a real Western town where copyboys live every day. Along the banks of the Wind River and surrounded by the Absaroka Mountains, it has an 1800s era main street, complete not just with cows and horses, but sheep. Visit The National Bighorn Sheep Center to find out about the largest herd of them in the lower 48. Starting this June, you can take part in a family–oriented rodeo and a chuck wagon dinner, each week! Have you worked up an appetite? Then mosey over to the Cowboy Café for chicken fried steak, cowboy potatoes and boysenberry pie. Or visit the Nostalgia Bistro for Jenga stacked ribs, duck confit with mushroom ravioli, or sweet chili chicken. The Dubois cowboys eat mighty well!
As you leave Dubois, you will drive alongside the Shoshone National Forest, which is not just “a” National Forest, it is the first federally protected National Forest in the entire USA, comprising almost 2,500,000 acres. These woods are home to some of the wildest wildlife in the lower 48, and if you want to see bald eagles soaring, this is the place. Within the forest, which is actually five forests and three mountain ranges, you can visit the historic mining town of Kirwin with its log buildings. Celebrated aviator Amelia Earhart was enchanted by Kirwin and requested to have a cabin built for her; sadly the cabin was unfinished when she disappeared during her round the world flight. Even if you do not explore the Shoshone Nation Forest, do stop at the scenic overlook and look over the scenery.
Your drive takes you to the Togwotee Pass (pronounced ”toga-tee”) as you go over the Continental Divide. The Lava Mountain Lodge is there, including their Wilderness Boundary Restaurant. Have the iron steak, Buffalo wings or the Beef Fence Sitter sandwich, and enjoy watching the hummingbirds on the back porch. Or if you have planned ahead, have a picnic at the Fourmile Meadow picnic site. This section of the drive is so gorgeous with the Tetons looming right in front of you as you head west. The quaint, cozy and scenic Hatchet Resort dates back to the 1950s, offering log cabin style lodging and dining with views of Mount Moran. The Hatchet Grill and Whetstone serves up original fare such as bone-in bison rib-eye with a mushroom huckleberry reduction sauce.
As you approach Moran Junction you will enjoy views of Buffalo Fork on your left. At Moran Junction is the Moran Entrance to the Grand Teton National Park. To read Drive the Nation’s quick guide to Grand Teton National Park, click here.
As you leave Moran and head for Moose you will come alongside the scenic Snake River. Beautiful views abound. Be sure to slow down and savor them, and stop to make some memorable photographs. Then, the immediate surroundings open up as you travel a high plain with mountains in the distance. Dornan’s Pizza and Pasta in Moose offers up pizza with amazing views. Try their pastry filled with baked brie and served with huckleberry, jalapeño compote.
As you approach Jackson, you will come to the National Elk Refuge, which was created in 1912 to provide sanctuary for one of the largest elk herds anywhere. Stop in the visitors’ center to learn more. The town of Jackson and the Jackson Hole Resort are famous the world over for skiing in the winter and as the gateway city for Yellowstone and Grand Tetons National Parks. Stroll the streets and enjoy the many fine shops and galleries including the National Museum of Wildlife Art. For dining, try Bin 22 and The Blue Lion. The Town Square is decorated with antler arches at each entrance.
Between Jackson and the end of the Scenic Highway at Pinedale, be absolutely certain that you drive under the posted speed limits as there are speed traps along this stretch of road. You have been warned. Just before you arrive at the village of Kelly, turn on to Gros Ventre Road at the sign that reads “Red Hills 10.0 miles”. About three miles along it, you will enter Bridger-Teton National Forest and as you continue, you experience fabulous views. If you stop at the first turnout, a short walk will lead you to views of the Gros Ventre River canyon. Continue along to Lower Slide Lake and the Red Hills. The return drive will offer stunning views of the Tetons.
Hoback Junction is now home to one of the few roundabouts in the state of Wyoming, completed in 2012. The Snake River Arch Bridge at Hoback Junction is even newer, a graceful arching bridge that makes a lovely picture when viewed and when photographed. Between Hoback and Bondurant, you can take a side trip up Granite Creek Road to Granite Falls Hot Springs for a soothing plunge into constant 93 degrees Fahrenheit waters. The pool was constructed in 1933 by the CCC. Ask about road conditions before heading up Granite Creek Road—recently car-stopping potholes have been reported.
Bondurant offers you the chance to see the wonderful old church called St Hubert the Hunter, completed in 1941, which was paid for by a donation of a valuable diamond ring. The Warren Bridge is a lovely landmark between Bondurant and Daniel, as it crosses the Green River.
Trappers Point Site is one of the most important archeological sites in Wyoming, where many thousands of arrow points have been found, which were used in antelope hunting.
In Pinedale, visit the Museum of the Mountain, dedicated to telling the history of the mountain men. The Skyline Scenic Drive is paved and has many pull outs for enjoying the views of Fremont Lake, Half Moon Lake, Elk Hart Park, and the Wind River Range. Half Moon Lake Lodge offers stunning lake and mountain views for dining.
Have you taken a road trip or scenic drive on Wyoming Centennial Scenic Byway? Tell us about it in the comments!