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Adventure Travel

Scenic route: Take a National Parks road trip to or from Outdoor Retailer

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Good idea: Showing up in Salt Lake for Summer Market. Great idea: Making ORSM the jumping-off point for a classic summer road trip. Pick a direction and finish off your show in style with one of these three weeklong itineraries, all starting and ending at the Salt Palace.

Road trip 1: Wyoming Wildlife Extravaganza

Point yourself north and drive straight into the land of bears, moose, bison and wolves on this tour of the northern Rockies.
Days:6Miles: 700+

Spy bears on a road trip through Grand Teton National Park
A female Grizzly Bear and her two one year old cubs in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, near Pilgrim Creek. Photo by

Days 1 + 2Salt Palace to Grand Teton National Park (280 miles)

Talk about vertical: The Teton peaks stretch 7,000 feet from the valley floor to their 13,000-foot-plus summits, making for one of the Rockies’ most striking postcard views—and some of the region’s most coveted climbing objectives. Beyond the peaks, you’ll find challenging paddling on the Snake River, miles of prime backpacking trails winding through wildflower-spotted canyons, and habitat for moose, elk, bald eagles and grizzly bears. Top overnight: The 18-mile trip linking Paintbrush and Cascade Canyons. Prefer car camping? Jenny Lake Campground has spectacular views (and the popularity to match), while Lizard Creek Campground is a safe bet for late arrivals.

Days 3-5 Grand Teton to Yellowstone National Park (53+ miles)

The country’s first national park is like nowhere else on the planet: a bubbling, boiling landscape where grizzlies, black bears, bison and wolves roam among geysers, hot springs, wide rivers and mountains. You could spend weeks here and barely scratch the surface, so focus your exploration: Head to the Lamar and Hayden Valleys for the best wildlife-watching, the Canyon area to see the mega-cascades of Upper and Lower Falls pouring into Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Old Faithful area for the world’s highest concentration of geothermal features, and Mammoth for unique travertine geothermal sculptures. A thousand miles of trails make backpacking options practically limitless, and 12 park campgrounds (plus nine lodges; try Old Faithful Inn) provide plenty of overnight options.

Day 6 Yellowstone to Salt Palace (370 miles)

Head back south on I-15 to close the loop.

Road Trip 2: Colorado Rocky Mountain Run

Skyscraping peaks and a plunging canyon anchor this loop through southwest Colorado.
Days: 6 Miles: 803+

Winding road trip through the Colorado National Monument.
Winding road through the Colorado National Monument. Photo by

Day 1Salt Palace to Colorado National Monument
(274 miles)

Welcome to cycling country: Mountain bikers flock to Fruita’s slickrock trails, while Rimrock Drive at Colorado NM makes for a classic road route.

Day 2 Colorado National Monument to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park (75 miles)

At the world’s deepest narrow canyon (up to 2,722 feet deep and just 40 feet across in places), big-wall climbers tackle advanced routes and anglers vie for a bite in the Gunnison River’s blue-ribbon trout waters. Trails here are very steep and challenging, but those up for the adventure will find solitude camping on the canyon floor.

Day 3 Black Canyon to Telluride (78 miles)

Park yourself in the San Juan Mountains. Telluride is full of restaurants, galleries and lots of options for day adventures. Sunshine Campground in the jointly managed Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests has close-to-town tenting.

Days 4 + 5 Telluride to San Juan National Forest (mileage varies)

August is prime time in this region of dramatic peaks, abundant wildflowers and sparkling lakes. Grab a backpack and head into the wilderness. Chicago Basin is a classic spot, but don’t overlook lesser-visited spots like the Rio Grande Pyramid.

Day 5 San Juan National Forest to Moab (170 miles)

It would be criminal not to stop in Moab on your way back, even in high summer. Cool off with a rafting trip in the Colorado or Green Rivers if it’s too hot for hiking or mountain biking.

Day 6 Moab to SLC (234 miles)

Finish up on US 191 north back to Salt Lake.

Road Trip 3: Idaho Sawtooth Sampler

Trade OR crowds for lonely summits on this loop tour through the Teton and Sawtooth Ranges.
Days: 7 Miles: 991

Road trip through mountain valleys
Road trip through mountain valleys. Photo by

Days 1 + 2Salt Palace to Caribou-Targhee National Forest (282 miles)

Head north to see the other side of the Tetons; the range’s west side is just as full of mountain splendor, with a fraction of the people. Roam the trails: We like the 11.5-mile out-and-back to Table Mountain for a dayhike. From this area, you can also access the remote southwestern corner of Yellowstone National Park, a region packed with waterfalls and soakable backcountry hot springs. Camp at Teton Canyon Campground.

Days 3 + 4Caribou-Targhee to Stanley (268 miles)

This adventure-loving mountain town makes the perfect base for your explorations of the Sawtooth, White Cloud and Salmon River Ranges. Check out nearby Redfish Lake or get to know the brand-new Boulder-White Cloud Wilderness, officially protected as wilderness last year. This alpine zone features lakes, the headwaters of important salmon-spawning rivers and habitat for black bear and elk.

Day 5Stanley to Sun Valley/Ketchum (62 miles)

Take a layover day in Sun Valley and Ketchum, a favorite ski destination full of summertime hiking and mountain biking trails, plus live music and, yes, a brewery or two. Try the Pioneer Saloon.

Day 6Sun Valley to Craters of the Moon National Monument (73 miles)

Wander the dry, lunar volcanic landscape of this unique park, full of lava fields, caves and cinder cones. The 2-mile Broken Top Loop Trail grants access to Buffalo Cave (permit required to enter). The park campground is closed this year, so head to the nearby town of Arco for the night.

Day 7Craters of the Moon to SLC (306 miles)

Close the loop back to town on I-15.

This story appears on page 66 of the Outdoor Retailer Daily Pre-Show Edition.