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As winter comes to the American Rockies, we head into the mountains of Colorado and Wyoming – the setting for some of America’s most stirring national parks, plus craft beer, pioneer heritage and seasonal activities galore

Winter has an awesome beauty in the American Rockies: explore a small but star-studded stretch in Colorado and Wyoming, starting with a capital of craft beer, before heading into the mountains for snowshoe hikes, wildlife-rich national parks and the planet’s most spectacular geysers
A view towards 4,011-metrehigh Taylor Peak, one of the points along the Continental Divide of the Americas, inside Colorado’s snowbound Rocky Mountain National Park

@RGouldingTravel PHOTOGRAPHS PETE SEAWARD @Petersphotos

Plan your trip

1 Before exploring the Rockies, fuel up in Boulder, a city making the most of its mountainside environment in its off-time and its mealtimes (p48).

2 Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park is decked out in its winter fnest, when the forest takes on a secretive allure (p49).

3 Elk herds and hardy souls forge tracks through the snow in Wyoming’s Jackson Hole, in the shadow of Grand Teton (p52).

4 Bison graze as boiling fountains erupt in an ever-changing landscape that few experience in the cold – there’s nowhere quite like Yellowstone (p54).

MAP ILLUSTRATION: ALEX VERHILLE. PHOTOGRAPHS: SANDRA LEIDHOLDT/GETTY IMAGES, HOLGER LEUE/GETTY IMAGES, MATT NAGER PHOTOGRAPHY, RAY ROPER/GETTY IMAGES

HOW TO GET THERE

Denver, the capital of Colorado, makes the most useful entry point for this trip. British Airways flies there direct from London Heathrow: 9¾ hours out and 8¾ hours back (from £770; ba.com). Other airlines including American, Delta, Icelandair and Lufthansa fly from UK airports with one change of plane, with tickets starting at around £630.

HOW TO GET AROUND

Our suggestion for this itinerary is to hire cars at Denver and Jackson Hole airports (from around £30 per day; hertz.com), and to take a 1½-hour flight in between them to link the Colorado and Wyoming parts of the trip (from £340 return; united.com). Otherwise, it’s a drive of at least eight hours from Rocky Mountain National Park to Grand Teton National Park, via some flattish parts of southwest Wyoming. The trip outlined here involves less driving than the average US itinerary; with a bit of planning, it’s possible to replace all drives with a combination of local shuttles and taxis. For example, a variety of shuttles cover the 45 miles from Denver Airport to Boulder, including SkyRide buses (£8.50 one-way; rtd-denver.com).

HOW LONG TO SPEND

It’s possible to follow this route in just under 10 days, but a fortnight’s trip will be more comfortable. Yellowstone in particular is worth an extra day or two to see different parts of the park. Skiers may also want to spend more time in Jackson Hole, or add on a trip to one of Colorado’s many mountain resorts.

WHAT TO BUDGET

Winter is of course peak season in the ski towns of the Rockies. Away from the pistes, however, hotels may be cheaper than in summer, with rooms at three-star establishments for around £65–£95 per night, and upwards of £130 for higher-end places. In most eateries you can have a filling meal for £10–£15. One thing to bear in mind is that your choice of hotels, restaurants and other services may be more limited in winter. There is a full selection in Boulder and any winter resorts, and a wide one in Estes Park, but options are fewer in Yellowstone. In many places, guided excursions are worthwhile or even essential to get out into the wintry environment – count on around £30–£130 per head for such addons.

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