Find great intimacy with the outdoors at Grand Teton, Rocky Mountain, and Zion

The West’s other National Parks
Photo courtesy of Facebook fan Viki Colby Nickels
Grand Tetons, WY


WYOMING: GRAND TETON Dwarfed by Yellowstone, its illustrious neighbor to the north, Grand Teton National Park offers greater intimacy with the outdoors. Alpine enthusiasts will love the wildflower-strewn meadows, and no matter where you roam ― or camp ― the splendor of the majestic Tetons will leave you awestruck. Info: Seven-day pass $25 per vehicle. or 307/739-3300.

Best campgrounds inside the park

Jenny Lake. Although sites fill by 8 a.m. each day, early risers are rewarded with Teton views and easy access to the park’s main hiking hub. 51 sites May-Sep; $15. No RVs; on-site convenience store. 307-543-3100.

Lizard Creek. A quiet area that attracts visitors seeking solitude, Lizard Creek blankets a forested peninsula along the north shore of Jackson Lake. 60 sites Jun-Sep; $15. 800/672-6012.

Signal Mountain. Camp here for stellar views of Jackson Lake; it’s a prime sunset spot, and there are good boating facilities. 86 sites May-Oct; $15. On-site marina, grocery store, and restaurant. 307/739-3603.

Best campgrounds outside the park

Atherton Creek. Within the Bridger-Teton National Forest , about 15 miles southeast of the park, the lovely campground is on the shores of Slide Lake. 20 sites Jun-Oct; $12. 307/739-5500.

Curtis Canyon. Seven miles northeast of Jackson, the hillside campground lies just below 7,000 feet and affords valley views of the Tetons and the National Elk Refuge area next door. There’s terrific hiking nearby. 11 sites May-Sep; $12. or 307/739-5500.

Hoback. Eight miles south of Hoback Junction, the shady sites are scattered along the Hoback River. Hike into the Cliff Creek area from here. 13 sites May 20-Sep 30; $15. or 307/739-5500. ― Amy Marr


Straddling the Continental Divide, the Lower 48’s highest national park boasts 60 summits of 12,000 feet or taller. Iconic Longs Peak tops out at 14,259 feet. You’ll enjoy hikes, trail rides, wildlife, gazing at heart-stopping mountain panoramas, and exploring two gateway towns, Estes Park on the east side and Grand Lake Village on the west. Trail Ridge Road, which bisects the park, normally is not plowed out until Memorial Day.

Info: Seven-day pass $20 per vehicle. or 970/586-1206.

Best campgrounds inside the park

Moraine Park. With nearly 250 spaces for RVs, trailers, and tents, this east-side campground is the park’s largest. 245 sites year-round ( reservable up to five months in advance for May 24-mid-Sep); $14-$20. 800/365-2267.

Timber Creek. Most sites are tucked into the trees, some with views of the Never Summer Mountains. 98 sites year-round; $14-$20. 970/586-1206. Best campgrounds outside the park

National Park Retreats. Hillside campground adjacent to park’s eastern boundary. About 100 reservable sites year-round; $18-$38. Also 5 cabins (from $130) and 4 motel suites (from $50). or 970/586-4563.

Winding River Resort Village. Family-friendly, with playgrounds, hayrides ($12), pony rides ($12), horseback trail rides (from $30), an animal farm, ice cream socials, and chuckwagon breakfasts ($5). 150 reservable sites May 15-Oct 1; $27-$34., 970/627-3215, or 303/623-1121. ― Claire Walter


Get a jump on the season at Zion National Park, where it’s possible (indeed, comfortable) to camp alongside the Virgin River while sites in many Western parks are still under snow. Spring and fall are the best seasons to visit. From April through October, the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is accessible by shuttle bus only, but you can still drive to the campgrounds easily. The free shuttle buses will ferry you to canyon trailheads or the town of Springdale, where lazy campers splurge for dinner at the Bit & Spur Restaurant & Saloon ( $$$; dinner daily; 435/772-3490).

Info: Seven-day pass $20 per vehicle. or 435/772-3256.

Best campgrounds inside the park

Lava Point. Ditch the crowds by staying here, about an hour north of Zion Canyon. 6 sites Jun 1-Oct 15; free. No large RVs; no running water. 435/772-3256.

South. Try for the nearly riverside, relatively private sites at the campground’s north end. 126 sites summer only; $16. 435/772-3256.

Best campground outside the park

Snow Canyon State Park. A few miles northwest of downtown St. George, the park’s a great place to camp on the way to or from Zion. A few sites have a spectacular view of the canyon. 31 reservable sites year-round; $15-$18. or 435/628-2255. ― Judy Jewell
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