Indagare member Liz Lange, the fashion designer from New York, NY, sent us this postcard from the American West.
This August, my sister and I decided to plan a trip for our families—my kids are nine and seven, hers are seven and five—to the American West. We are both seasoned travelers but realized that we have not seen many of the great sights in the United States, so we wanted to build a trip around some places out West. We’re even considering making this an annual tradition. We knew we wanted the trip to include Yellowstone National Park but were stumped where to go from there. We worked with an Indagare recommended local specialist to pull together a week-long itinerary. Here’s what we loved and what we wish we had know before going.
We started the journey in Jackson Hole. If you can, I would recommend flying into Jackson on a Wednesday, since that’s the week day when they have a rodeo. Spend one night at the Four Seasons Jackson Hole, poke around, have dinner and see the rodeo. It’s a nice way to ease into your week.
We rented an SUV at the airport—this is a road-trip kind-of-vacation—and the second day, we left bright and early to drive the 1 ½ hours to Yellowstone National Park. At Yellowstone, we were met by a private guide from tour company Yellowstone Alpen Guides, the best in the area. Our guide was wonderful: she had a car and gave us lots of options if we wanted to walk, hike or drive. We spent the day meandering through the park and ended up at Old Faithful. Some advice: you don’t need to spend more than one night in Yellowstone. The accommodations are not great (we stayed at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge, which is the best of them) and, trust me, in 1 ½ days, you’ll have more than enough bison, natural splendor and hot springs.
After another half-day of touring Yellowstone, we took off towards Ennis, Montana, (about a 45 minute drive from Bozeman), and stopped by Virginia City, an old, preserved mining town and a great spot for lunch with the kids who loved the ghost-town ambience. We spent the night in a place called Moonlight on the Madison, which was hands-down the best discovery of the trip. It has four cabins; basically, you’re semi-camping, but in cabins that have real beds and battery-operated lights. The cabins are right by the Madison river, so the views are spectacular. It feels totally private: there are three or four hosts who take care of guests, preparing delicious meals and a big campfire at night, where the kids made s’mores. The manager, who is your host, personally takes you fly fishing and you just walk right into the river, which is right there. And his wife makes the delicious evening meals. There’s even a kids-only cabin with lots of games. Let’s just say that our kids didn’t miss TV even once. I can’t recommend Moonlight on the Madison enough.
The next day, we drive to the Resort at Paws Up, which was the longest leg of the journey in terms of driving, about three hours. We broke it up by stopping in a town called Butte for lunch. Paws Up is a huge property and along with tented camps, they also have about sixteen Wilderness Estate Homes, where I would recommend staying (some of the houses have very obscured views, so be sure to request one with a nice open view). They are huge three-bedrooms (you could have slept eight children upstairs) that come with their own electric cars. There are tons of activities to do; we stayed for four nights, but you could easily find enough to do for a week. The Blackfoot river of A River Runs Through It literally goes through the resort, so you can learn how to fly fish; we did some horseback riding and it was a lot of fun, especially for the kids who had never been on a horse before.
Two things that you should absolutely not miss if you go (and you have to sign up in advance for both): the Chuckwagon Dinner Rides, a cook-out complete with a horse-drawn buggy ride to get to the dining site; and a spa treatment at Paws Up’ genius tented spa, with glorious views. We also loved the more casual restaurant, Trough. If you want to mix it up, you can stay in one of the luxury tented camps (this is the place that invented glamping) and get very close to nature, without skimping on creature comforts.
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