10 Must-See Treasures Outside of Yellowstone

Bison grazing in the shadow of the Grand Teton Mountains
Grand Teton National Park, only about 30 miles from Yellowstone, is packed with wildlife and rugged mountain scenery. Matt Anderson Photography / Getty Images

Yellowstone, the national park erected over a supervolcano at the geothermally active intersection of Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho, attracts more than 4 million visitors a year. Most come to watch the regular eruptions of Old Faithful, gawk at the park's proprietary Grand Canyon, and marvel at the bountiful wildlife, but there's even more to see outside the gates of this beloved nature hub.

From an old Wild West ghost town to locally focused museums and educational centers—even another notable national park—here are 10 must-see treasures outside of Yellowstone.

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Teton Science School

Teton Science School exterior lit up at night

Carolyn Rogers / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Ted Major is the famous science teacher who created the Teton Science School in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, in the 1960s. He wanted to immerse students in an undisturbed ecosystem, and he saw neighboring Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks as a pair of perfect opportunities. Today, his science school is one of the most well known in the U.S.—and you don't have to be a student to join some of the programs. Sign up for one of the many expeditions that go into Yellowstone from this Jackson Hole center, about an hour outside the gates.

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Wyoming Dinosaur Center

Fossil exhibits inside the Wyoming Dinosaur Center

Wyomingdinosaurcenter / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

About 2.5 hours from Yellowstone National Park, Thermopolis, Wyoming, is quite a drive yet well worth the trek. Not only is it home to the world's largest mineral hot springs, but it also has the Wyoming Dinosaur Center. The hot springs themselves are decorated with dinosaur statues, and the museum features hundreds of dino-related displays—including more than 50 mounted skeletons—many found in the area. It also offers the incredible opportunity to go out for a real dinosaur dig, the ultimate hands-on learning experience.

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Gem Mountain

View of Gem Mountain mining area from a dirt road

Shadowmeld Photography / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Gem Mountain is another big detour, located about 3.5 hours from the park in Philipsburg, Montana, but it's a great pit stop for those traveling between Yellowstone and Glacier National Park. Gem Mountain is a sapphire mine where you can purchase a bucket of gravel and search for gemstones yourself—you have the exact same chance of finding something as the miners do, the center says. Whatever you find, you can keep. If you find nothing, gemstones and jewelry are sold on-site.

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Roosevelt Arch

View of Roosevelt Arch with hills in the background
Jeffrey Ross / Getty Images

Those who want to get into Yellowstone National Park during the winter must travel through Gardiner, Montana, the park's original entrance and the only one open year-round. This route is marked by the grand rusticated Roosevelt Arch, a structure dedicated to Theodore Roosevelt, "the conservationist president," in 1903. The arch is 50 feet high and is built around a time capsule that reportedly contains a bible, a photo of the former president, newspapers and documents of the era, U.S. coins, and more.

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Virginia City, Montana

Old-style brewery and horse-drawn cart in Virginia City
magmarcz / Getty Images

The locals have preserved Montana's old Wild West town, Virginia City, impeccably. Now functioning solely as a tourist attraction, the frozen-in-time Victorian gold-mining town is packed with nostalgic saloons and breweries. There's even a (nonoperational) bawdy house in the town. Visitors can watch as actors in historic period dress demonstrate old-world techniques or tour Virginia City by horse and buggy or antique fire engine. The Montana town is 90 miles (an hour and a half's drive) west of Yellowstone National Park.

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National Museum of Wildlife Art

Outdoor moose installation at National Museum of Wildlife Art

WildlifeArtJH / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

About an hour from the gates of Yellowstone in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, is a peculiar building made of Idaho quartzite—designed to resemble the ruined Slains Castle of Aberdeenshire, Scotland—that houses more than 500 wildlife-focused works of art. Overlooking Jackson Hole's National Elk Refuge and itself marked by the outdoor elk installation included on its sculpture trail, the National Museum of Wildlife Art celebrates animals from all over the world with art by Georgia O’Keeffe, Andy Warhol, and more.

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National Bighorn Sheep Center

Couple sitting at National Bighorn Sheep Center wildlife viewing site
Aurora Open / Getty Images

Another quintessential Western town that welcomes visitors with open arms, Dubois, Wyoming, is a couple of hours from the epicenter of Yellowstone. One of the main things to do here is looking for bighorn sheep and learn about them at the National Bighorn Sheep Center. The center works not only to educate the public about these Rocky Mountain dwellers but also to conserve the four species of wild sheep that reside in the area. It offers wildlife tours, viewing sites around town, several exhibits, and other kid-friendly educational resources.

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Playmill Theatre

Review after review praises the Playmill Theatre, a West Yellowstone, Montana, institution since 1964. The troupe serves up nightly (except Sunday) performances with a focus on family. Presentations range from Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Cinderella" to the beloved musical "Newsies." Concessions are equally impressive, featuring old-school root beer floats and local treats like Heidi's Fudge.

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Beartooth Highway

Beartooth Highway cutting through summer fields toward mountains
Ericliu08 / Getty Images

Yellowstone is brimming with scenic drives, but if you crave more picturesque miles, Beartooth Highway—called one of the best drives in the U.S.—starts near the park's northeast entrance in Cooke City, Montana. The route zigzags through remote Montana for 68 miles, at one point ascending more than 10,000 feet to Beartooth Pass. Beartooth Highway, technically a section of U.S. Route 212, is only open spring through fall due to snow.

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Grand Teton National Park

Sunrise over the Grand Teton Mountains and lake
Dean Fikar / Getty Images

Perhaps the most popular thing to see and do outside of Yellowstone National Park is visit the patch of public land surrounding the Teton Range in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. This patch of the Rocky Mountains is known for its dramatic and jagged peaks rising from the welcoming, lake-dotted valley floor. It's a photographer's paradise—boasting famous landmarks like the Chapel of the Transfiguration—and a wildlife lover's dream. Wake up early to see moose, pronghorns, bison, and grizzlies grazing. You can travel between the two parks in just 10 minutes.