John Steinbeck frequently proclaimed his love for Big Sky Country, and who are we to disagree? Montana and Wyoming are home to soaring mountains, sprawling plains, America's first (and many would argue best) national park and, yes, some very, very big skies. The best way to see this region (and arguably the best way to see the whole of this magnificent country) is on an All-American road trip, hitting the open road with Springsteen on the stereo.
Driving between national parks, luxury ranches and mountain ranges, stopping off in one horse towns to eat cheeseburgers for lunch and stock up on Stetsons and cowboy boots makes for an excellent holiday, especially for families. Speaking of cowboys and ranches, we're in the know on the best for horsey and non-horsey types alike, and can arrange the perfect multi-generational family trip – we're yet to meet a grandparent-grandchild double act who didn't love spending a day fishing on a private lake before eating their catch under the stars – or super romantic honeymoon – star-lit wagon rides and spa treatments for two looking over epic mountain scenery, anyone? Holidays with a real sense of achievement, be it learning to lasso a bison or make burgers your own burgers the grill, are also possible and activities tend to vary depending one which ranch you go for. The spectrum goes from resort ranches – riding-focused but with activities for everyone and some seriously luxury cabins and glamping tents – to dude ranches, where the cowboy (or girl) experience is front and foremost, and stories and s'mores around the campfire are a must. It's fair to say that there are few experiences more quintessentially American.
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Moving away from ranches, Wyoming and Montana are home to some truly spectacular national parks. First and foremost is Yellowstone, the first national park not just in the USA but the world. Way back in 1860, President Ulysses S Grant (number 18) protected 500 geysers, innumerable big-horn bisons and itty-bitty pikas – along with 500+ other species of mammals, 318 different types of bird and an impossible to quantify number of creatures and critters – by law, and for the enjoyment of the people. It isn't hard to see why, the first tourist to visit, one Warren Angus Ferris, back in 1834, was drawn to the spot by descriptions of rocks the colour of sweets and craters spouting boiling water. Sunrise and after sunset are the best times to see this spectacular spot, but a visit at any time of day has left visitors awestruck at its magnificence. Further north, straddling the US-Canadian border, Glacier National Park's 37 glaciers host myriad outdoorsy activities – from cross-country skiing in the winter months to hiking and water-sports in the summer. Grand Teton National Park, meanwhile, is home to some of the most arrestingly beautiful mountains in the Americas. The pristine eco-system within the park hasn't changed since pre-historic time so walking around here truly does feel like stepping back in time (woolly mammoths not included) there are mountains aplenty to climb – during the summer months – or ski during the winter.
Close to both Yellowstone and Grand Tetons National Parks, Jackson is an old ranching town turned ski-hotspot where cowboys in Stetsons and spurs still walk the streets. This is a town where preservation (97% of the surrounding land is protected by the US Government) and a reverence for the way things were are paramount. Don't think that this means Jackson is backwards facing though, some of the coolest hotels we know in North America – including Amangani – are close by and the city's art galleries display Georgia O'Keefe and Andy Warhol. There are also some excellent eateries and salubrious spas, not to mention all of the outdoorsy fun to be had year-round (even if you don't ski).