National Geographic's New Geotourism MapGuide of Yellowstone and Grand Teton – It's Free

Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park. Photo by Circumerro Stock via Flickr.

Planning a trip to Yellowstone or Grand Teton National Park? For some hints from the locals on where to go and what to do in the parks—and the surrounding area—you might want to get a free copy of National Geographic's newest Geotourism MapGuide.

So, what is Geotourism.... or a MapGuide?

According to the staff at National Geographic,

Geotourism is "tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place — its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage and the well-being of its residents." A major 2002 Geotourism study by National Geographic Traveler magazine and the Travel Industry Association of America found that at least 55 million American adults can be classified as "geotourists" — a strong incentive for scenic regions to protect assets for future visitors.

That seems to be a definition compatible with the concept of national parks, so what's a MapGuide?

Much more than a road map, the new Geotourism MapGuide to the Greater Yellowstone Region and its companion Web site, share locals' knowledge on everything from where to find the best huckleberry milkshake and great community events to where to watch rescued grizzlies and wolves in their daily activities.

The creators of the project asked for suggestions from residents of the region and received nearly 1,000 map point nominations. About 175 map points made the final product, including Wyoming's Legend Rock Petroglyph Site, where one can see ancient carvings, and Idaho's geothermally warm Portneuf River, where one can cruise downstream in an innertube or dip in a hot pool.

The result is described as

"a unique resource for the millions of annual visitors as well as locals seeking unspoiled outdoor places and authentic cultural experiences." The map moves well beyond the parks' borders to highlight the region's unsung treasures, celebrating the world-class natural and cultural heritage of the entire area.

The large-format, two-sided map straddles the states of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming and includes 20 million acres of rugged mountains, picturesque river valleys, high desert plains and distinctive small towns and historic districts.

"The MapGuide showcases what makes the Greater Yellowstone Region distinct from any other place on Earth, and underscores the importance of conserving its tremendous scenic and historical assets for future generations," said James Dion, associate director of National Geographic's Center for Sustainable Destinations.

The project is a collaboration of National Geographic Maps, the Center for Sustainable Destinations, Wyoming Travel & Tourism, Idaho Division of Tourism Development, Travel Montana and its region and community tourism partners, Greater Yellowstone Coalition and Yellowstone Business Partnership, as well as numerous organizations and individuals serving as the Greater Yellowstone Geotourism Council. The MapGuide also received funding from the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service.

The MapGuide covers a big area, so don't expect 175 map points to include every point of interest in the region. It is a nice addition to the list of resources for visitors to the area--and the price is right.

You can obtain a free copy of the MapGuide by submitting a request on-line, or you can download a copy from a link on that same website.

The Yellowstone Geotourism website also includes an interactive Map Guide with a search function. You can narrow your search to sites that fit any or all of ten different "themes," including "natural area," "local point of interest," "festival or event," and "food or drink."

The press release about the MapGuide mentioned huckleberry milkshakes, so I gave the search function a try and got a suggestion for a historic store in West Yellowstone that offers those treats.

If your taste buds aren't acquainted with the variety of huckleberry found in this part of the northern Rockies, your culinary education is incomplete. However, even the good folks at National Geographic can't perform miracles, and you won't find any recommendations in the MapGuide from the locals about the best places to actually pick those luscious berries.

A few secrets transcend even a project with a purpose as lofty as GeoTourism.


Wow! This is truly an amazing resource. Very well done and I am sure it will be very useful on our next trip to the Yellowstone/Teton area.

Great find - thanks!