A total solar eclipse, when the Moon comes between Earth and Sun to cast its shadow upon us, is one of the most spectacular phenomena you can witness. On August 21, 2017, the path of the total eclipse will pass right through the United States on a latitudinal course reaching from Oregon to South Carolina. While the eclipse will be visible in several Western states, Coloradans’ best bet to witness it lies in Wyoming, where they can also get in some quality outdoor adventure. The following guide will make it all easier.
Don’t wait until the last minute to plan your trip. You’ll want to be close to your viewing site by the night of August 20, since the eclipse is expected to draw huge crowds that could clog, and even close roads.
While lodgings in popular destinations such as Jackson Hole and Casper have been booked for months, smaller Wyoming towns (think Douglas or Dubois) and backcountry destinations are still open (try the Bridger National Forest northwest of Lander in the Wind River Range in the west, or Medicine Bow National Forest southeast of Casper in the east.)
Anna Wilcox, Executive Director of the Casper Eclipse Festival, says there are still about 90 reservable campsites still available at places like Alcova Lake Campground, Beartrap North On Casper Mountain, Black Beach Campground and others. And at publication time, there were just under 100 rooms in town still available. Note that many campgrounds in the area do not take reservations and run on a strictly first come, first serve basis, which means you can snag a spot if you come extremely early. With a maximum stay of 10 days and no reservations, the campground at Grey Reef Reservoir (natrona.net/239/Gray-Reef-Reservoir) on the North Platte River 30 miles southwest of Casper is a prime spot to snag a site before people start arriving in hordes.
You can find lodging destinations outside of the path, but still close enough that you can drive into the big event. Start checking in towns like Pinedale, which will not experince total darkness but is close enough that an early start will allow for time to get you into the path of totality. Find a map of the path and links to destinations at eclipse2017.org/2017/states/WY.htm.
Listen to our local hero Dr. Douglas Duncan (see page 9) and be sure to use solar filters or solar-eclipse-rated glasses if you look at the sun (even expensive sunglasses are no good). For optimum safety, check out shades by four manufacturers who’ve certified that their eclipse glasses and handheld solar viewers meet the ISO 12312-2 international standard: Rainbow Symphony, American Paper Optics, Thousand Oaks Optical and TSE 17.”
On August 21, eclipse chasers from around the world will converge along the “path of totality,” which passes straight across Wyoming and Idaho here in the Rockies, to experience complete darkness during the total solar eclipse. But who wants to be around all those crowds? As long as the weather cooperates, these hikes in the backcountry should offer prime viewing away from the masses. Be sure to take the proper precautions. If you want to look directly at the eclipse, protect your eyes with special solar eclipse glasses (they must meet the ISO 12312-2 international standard; sunglasses won’t work). And bring bear spray.
Bald Mountain Trail, Sun Valley, Idaho. Hike to the top of Sun Valley’s iconic Bald Mountain on this five-mile route that gains 3,300 feet in elevation. Plan at least three hours for the hike up, and savor 360-degree views from the summit. Leave enough time to hike back down, since downloading via lifts will not be possible on August 21 (the resort won’t run the lifts during the eclipse). sunvalley.com/eclipse2017
Darby Canyon, Caribou-Targhee National Forest, Wyoming/Idaho. Slip over to the western side of the Tetons and explore the Caribou-Targhee National Forest via the Darby Canyon Trail, accessed through Idaho’s Teton Valley. Enjoy a 5.4-mile round-trip route with 1,800 feet of elevation gain and plenty of open areas for viewing. fs.usda.gov
Taggart Lake, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. Grand Teton National Park is expecting its busiest day ever on August 21. If you dare brave the crowds, hike to Taggart Lake, an easy three-mile roundtrip with 350 feet of climbing. Or make a longer loop by adding another 2.6 miles to Bradley Lake for a 5.9-mile roundtrip moderate adventure. nps.gov/grte/planyourvisit/2017-solar-eclipse.html.
For more Wyoming-specific information on viewing the august 21 eclipse, consult windrivereclipse.org, eclipsecasper.com, greatamericaneclipse.com, eclipsewise.com and timeanddate.com.