First established in 1872, Yellowstone National Park is known for its natural scenery, featured geysers, and abundant wildlife. It was the world’s first national park with 2.2 million acres of land. Getting to see Yellowstone on my recent trip would have been a dream come true. However, the park was closed due to snow runoff flooding. Fortunately, there are many other attractions nearby.
The Grizzley and Wolf Discovery Center is a sanctuary where animals such as bears, wolves, owl, and birds who can no longer survive in the wild are kept. Established in the West Yellowstone area in 1993, the discovery center holds both indoor and outdoor attractions. The indoor section contains information over the different types of animals on the preserve. The animals are kept in outdoor exhibits that simulate the wild as much as possible, which includes their food.
The facility also offers a program for the younger kids, allowing them to hide food in the bear exhibit,, then letting the bears back in one at a time to find the food. The discovery center offers an educational experience for the whole family.
Admission is $15 for adults, $14 for seniors, $10 for children, and is free for children 4 and under. Tickets are good for two consecutive days. The discovery center is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.
About an hour away in Idaho is the Upper and Lower Mesa Falls hiking trails. The Mesa Falls waterfall is about the height of a 10-story building built up from a volcanic eruption with the river on the lower falls still chipping away the remains of the ash and lava. Today, the falls are the last waterfalls unaffected by man. Several different walking points lead to viewing points of the falls and offer breathtaking scenery from all angles. It is open daily in the summer with limited access in the winter.
The nearby resort town Big Sky offers many activities in the summer and winter, including whitewater rafting. At the Montana Whitewater Rafting and Zipline Tours, eager participants will paddle through the Gallatin River. Participants can choose from a variety of class types depending on which difficulty they would prefer with the easiest being Class 1 and the most difficult being Class 4. The time it takes each tour also depends on the class level. Each party must check in and put on their gear including one-piece wetsuits, helmets, and oars. After hearing the safety procedures, each party is assigned a guide that assists them with paddling and calls out instructions. Paddling on the river offers beautiful views of red rock cliffs and a great view of the Big Sky mountain, Lone Peak. It’s an activity recommended for smooth sailors and risk-taking daredevils alike.
Admission is $150 per person with most rafting trips departing at 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.
West Yellowstone has a variety of things to do with places to shop, eat, and to see a one-screen movie. A local Imax theater in town shows only one movie rotating once every two weeks, which happened to be “Jurassic Park: World Dominion”. It included a small gift shop with Yellowstone themed novelties, (along with the typical overpriced goods.)
Yellowstone National Park is a main highlight of Montana with many people including the place in their dream places to visit. Yet, there are activities nearby that can be just as fun and offer great memories.
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