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Reader Participation Day: Which Is Your Favorite National Park Gateway Town?


West Yellowstone's ties to Yellowstone National Park are evident throughout town. NPT file photo by Kurt Repanshek.

Gateway towns to national parks can be fun, eclectic, unusual places. There's the electric vibe that runs through Bar Harbor on the doorstep to Acadia National Park, the outdoor pulse to Moab near both Arches and Canyonlands national parks, and the urban environment Tuscon offers Saguaro National Park.

With that in mind, which gateway town do you look forward to visiting on your national park vacation?

Would it be West Yellowstone, Montana, with its laid-back attitude, eclectic Gatlinburg, Tennessee, near Great Smoky Mountains, Estes Park with its Rocky Mountain National Park backdrop, or Jackson Hole with its Old West flavor?


I have to say West Yellowstone is probably my favorite! (It stems from visitng Yellowstone at least once a year.) From staying at the Stagecoach Inn in Winter waiting for the snow coach to take us in, eating at The Gusher Restaurant right across the street, watching a movie at the IMAX theater or hitting some of the shops, it's a treasure! In the past, while the guys have taken a strenuous hike, the gals will go into West, get the laundry done, eat lunch, shop and hit some of our favorite stores (Smith& & Chandler). There is an exceptionally well-stocked scrapbooking store there (Out West) that carries great supplies with local themes as well as a wonderful bookstore (Book Peddler) and "The Cradleboard" has a large variety of turquoise/coral etc jewelry.

I don't know that I would ever want to live in a gateway town when we retire because of the tourist traffic but West Yellowstone is one of my favorites!

I truly feel in love with Durango, Colorado while working at Mesa Verde. There's the train ride to Silverton and a feel of old west with the energy of a college town. Of course Jacob Lake is sweet on the way into the North Rim Grand Canyon, yet may barely be considered a town.

Springdale, Utah -- just outside of Zion. There, the community has worked hand-in-hand with park people. Despite traffic, it's a pleasant, clean and reasonably quiet place. The Springdale/Zion Shuttle is the result of outstanding city and park leadership.

As for West Yellowstone -- it has improved a whole lot since the 1960's when it was known as West Yellowstain.

Bar Harbor, Maine. The shops and eateries there are so eclectic and the people so friendly that a walk through town is surprisingly pleasant, even with summer crowds.

Malibu. At the foot of Santa Monica Mountains NRA. But I can't afford to live there!

Traveling from Florida, my favorite town is Dahlonaga, Ga. I love stopping and walking the old brick sidewalks, checking out the old stores, and of course, panning for a little gold. The museum is my favorite. They have a short film about the gold rush days of the Smokey Mountains. A lot of gems are still being searched in the hills. It is a wonderful old town to stay and explore. Then I'm off to Cherokee. Since I am 1/3rd Cherokee, I always make sure I stop to see "Unto These Hills" out door theater. It is absolutely breath taking!!!!! The Cherokee Museum has interactive technology for the public. I go to the museum and learn a little Cherokee language each time I go. The drive through the Parkway into Virginia has always been a different experience each time I go. Favorite place I would love to live?.....Bryson City.

I have to agree with Lee and go with Springdale. I like it because it is a tourist town but it still keeps that small town feel. Plus it has a great candy store and the Spotted Dog Cafe...mmmmm!

Gaelyn, your name rings a bell. When did you work at MEVE?

Jasper, Arkansas has none of the trappings of most National Park Gateway towns. No cheesy souvenir shops or amusement parks. Just really nice people who all know the river and the area. Some good eats too. Of course it is the same for all the gateway towns to the Buffalo National River - The country's FIRST National River!

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