Lay of the Land
“I’m in love with Montana. For other states I have admiration, respect, recognition, even some affection. But with Montana it is love. And it’s difficult to analyze love when you’re in it.”~John Steinbeck
Montana is the fourth largest state in the U.S. and one of the least inhabited. There are fewer than 1 million residents, and the vast open spaces inspire wonder at what untouched nature is left in our backyard. Called “the last best place” and “high, wide and handsome” (two book titles), Montana still looks much as it did when Lewis and Clark came through. The so-called Big Sky country is perfect for families eager to bond with the great outdoors while based at one of the state’s acclaimed ranches. Certainly there are travelers who plan road trips to visit such national parks as Yellowstone or Glacier. But many are daunted by the state’s sheer size and instead opt to stay put. Montana draws serious fishermen thanks to excellent fly and trout fishing.
Who Should Go: Travelers passionate about fishing, horseback-riding and staying put at a ranch hotel.
ARIZONA & UTAH
There are several ways to tackle the greater Four Corners region in the American West, chockfull of national parks, monuments and natural splendor, and all involve a good car rental, at least a week of vacation and a keen sense of editing the sights. It’s impossible to see everything, so try to select two or three experiences and do them properly.
The two cities that lend themselves to kicking off a road trip, especially for East Coasters, are Sedona and Las Vegas. The former is a great place if you want to explore the Grand Canyon, which at nearly 300 miles long can be an undertaking all on its own. Las Vegas the better city to start from to head into Utah’s national parks, including famous Bryce Canyon, Zion and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and onward to Lake Powell. Canyonlands and Moab’s Arches are further north, close to the Colorado state line.
Those with more time and a flexible flight schedule can do the grand tour by starting in Sedona, driving via the Grand Canyon to Lake Powell, then onward to Zion and/or Bryce Canyon national parks, and ending in Las Vegas.
Defined by its vast, sweeping landscape, Wyoming is an outdoorsman’s paradise thanks to low population density and its many national parks (Yellowstone and Grand Teton, to name a few). The star attraction is undoubtedly Jackson Hole, one of the top ski resorts in North America, but the rest of the state abides by a slow-paced way of life that offers an entirely different experience. The Lodge & Spa at Brush Creek Ranch exudes Old West elegance, and offers ample opportunity to explore the surrounding region, be it via fly-fishing, bison hunting or horseback riding.
Who Should Go: Adventurous travelers or families looking to unplug and experience life on a traditional but luxe dude ranch.
Alongside Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, Colorado makes up the Four Corners (the spot where these states meet). It is nevertheless more of a winter destination (especially for East Coast travelers) thanks to such excellent resorts as Aspen, Vail and Telluride. For something entirely different, make your way (and it’s a long way) to Dunton Hot Springs, a restored ghost town with natural hot springs and an incredibly authentic sense of place.