Yellowstone National Park

Paddle Wyoming's Secret Sea

The Early Bird Gets the World-Wide Fame: Yellowstone National Park     Photo: Corel

Kick Back in Red Lodge

Red Lodge, population 2,177, offers downtown trout fishing in Rock Creek, mountain biking in the Beartooths, and rafting on the Stillwater River. Locals like Bogart's, a bar known for giant pizzas and Montana's best margaritas, but when it's time to get down to business, head over to the Snow Creek Saloon, an excellent dive with live bands. Red Lodge won't bust your budget - rooms at the Rock Creek Resort (800-667-1119, www.rockcreekresort.com) start at $110, and it's a fairly swanky place, with a swimming pool, hot tub, and tennis courts. For the less swank, there are 61 nearby campsites in Custer National Forest.
One Fine Day: Take a brisk morning hike on the south rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, near Canyon Village in the park's center. Everything the park is famous for is on display right here: geothermal features, open meadows, wildlife, and lakes. Later, head to the banks of the trout-filled Madison River, unroll a lazy picnic, and cast a few flies - the Madison is one of the best trout streams in the country. -J. D.

Acres: 2,219,791 Contact: 307-344-7381

COVERING 137 SQUARE MILES and perched above 7,700 feet, Yellowstone Lake is a formidable barrier between the tourist circus on the lake's north shore and the roadless expanse to the south. To get to this wild heart of the park, you can hike for days carrying a heavy pack, or you can take a wet shortcut and arrive in a few hours without breaking a sweat. The easy way starts at Bridge Bay Marina, on the lake's north end. Load your sea kayak on the Yellowstone Lake Shuttle ($124; 307-344-7311), hitch a ride to the top of Yellowstone LakeÂ’s southeast arm, unload, and drift into a huge no-motors zone.

Approximately seven miles long, the southeast arm deserves at least four days of exploration. You're likely to see grizzly bears, moose, and elk, and hear wolves howling at night. From your drop-off point, set up camp at Columbine Creek or paddle down to Terrace Point, where you can hike up to stunning views of the upper Yellowstone River valley. The next day, continue to the bottom of the arm, camping at Trail Point or Trail Bay along the headwaters of the Yellowstone River. Grab your fly rod and head upriver or hike a network of remote trails (like Thorofare and Two Oceans Plateau) to overlooks and wildflower-filled meadows. Eventually, make your way back to the top of the arm, completing a horseshoe-shaped, 18-mile route. The ferry will return you to civilization.

GETTING THERE: Snake River Kayak and Canoe, in Jackson, Wyoming, rents sea kayaks and offers guided four-day trips into the Yellowstone Lake arms ($755 per person; 800-529-2501, www.snakeriverkayak.com). Advance reservations for backcountry campsites are recommended. Buy them at the park's trip-planner page.

WHEN TO GO: August and September. Early summer camping is restricted because of bear activity.

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