Lately, I’ve had A LOT of people asking me about Yellowstone.
I visited Yellowstone back in July 2015…before I started blogging about my trips. However, since I’ve had so many people asking me about it, I thought I would do a blog post on it.
Since I’ve had so many requests for Yellowstone, I thought I would go ahead and publish this post before my 2nd post on Asheville.
So, let’s get started!
We flew into Salt Lake City, UT on July 17th (our trip dates were the 17th-24th). We picked up our rental car at Thrifty Car Rental and paid approximately $300 for a mid-full size car.
Tip: Closer airports would be the Jackson Hole airport and the airport at Bozeman
We then made the 4 hr drive to Jackson Hole, WY where we would be spending our first night.
Tip: I always book my car rentals through Travelocity or Expedia and never had any issues.
On the way to Jackson Hole, we stopped and snapped a pic in front of the Welcome signs for Utah & Wyoming…who else does this on their vacations? 🙂
We passed the Salt River Pass & Lander Cut …the elevation was 7,600 ft.
We passed through Afton, WY….I snapped a pic of this cool looking antler arch as we were driving through.
Click here for 12 things to do in Afton
After arriving to Jackson Hole, we checked into our cute little cabin at the Cowboy Village. The cost was $225 for 1 night.
After getting settled into our room, we left to check out the small town of Jackson Hole.
Click here & here for the best things to see/do in Jackson Hole
We took pictures in front of the “famous” antler arch
Did a little shopping & finally had my pic made with a moose! 😉
We tried eating at the popular Cowboy Bar but it was way too crowded so we found somewhere else to eat!
After eating & walking around for a bit, we headed back to our room and called it a day!
Click here for the best restaurants in Jackson Hole & here for those on a budget
Our cabin was really cute & quaint but it was small…it had 1 bed, a pullout couch, 1 bath & a small kitchenette
Click here for the best hotels in Jackson Hole & here for budget friendly hotels
The next day, we checked out of our room and headed into the Grand Teton National Park.
Click here for lots of free maps of the park & here for a map of just the Tetons
As usual, I took lots of pictures as we were driving!
However, the two pictures I missed taking, was a shot of the iconic Moulton Barn on Antelope Flats Rd and Mormon Row! The barn is perfectly framed by the mountains while bison roam free nearby! :(.
The other being the Chapel of the Transfiguration. The small log chapel, built in 1925, offers spectacular views of the Teton Mountain Range.
Our first stop was 10 mins from our hotel – the entrance of the National Museum of Wildlife Art to snap a few pics of the art work of the various animals.
We chose not to visit the Museum which is home to more than 5000 works of art representing wild animals from around the world.
Buy tickets here – $15 for adults
We had our first real wildlife spotting here too….a marmot!
Our next stop was 5 mins from the museum – we stopped to have our pic made in front of the National Park sign….unfortunately, it was too foggy to see the mountains behind us.
As we continued our drive, I continued my photo shoot through the windshield!
We pulled over several times to take pics of the scenery…
Tip: Click here for a map, along with stops, of the 42 mile scenic drive through the park
The wildflowers were blooming all over!
Next stop was a boat tour of Jenny Lake….the scenery here was jaw dropping!
We got off the boat on the other side of the lake and hiked a short distance to Hidden Falls waterfall.
Tip: There’s a hike you can do beyond the waterfall that takes you to Inspiration Point
Click here for 18 epic hikes in the Tetons
After our boat tour, we continued our drive through the park & made several stops along the way to take pictures.
We stopped at a pull off that had some amazing views.
As we continued our drive we spotted this sign. There are black bears and grizzly bears in the park so always be on the lookout!
Our next stop, was Jenny Lake Loop Drive….the drive winds its way through the forest before opening up to a breathtaking view of Jenny Lake Viewpoint!
The one-way road is about 5 miles long. It is a well maintained, paved road that can be traveled in about 20 minutes, but this time doesn’t include stops to admire the scenery.
Once we arrived, we spotted a gentleman painting a pic of the gorgeous scenery..
The views are definitely a must see!
Tip: A flat 6.5 mi hike circumnavigates the lake…you can also hike to Hidden Falls & Inspiration Point from the other side of the lake as well as trails to String & Leigh Lakes that can be accessed from the northern shore of the lake.
Our next stop was another pull off with gorgeous views of the mountains…
We spotted another painter at this location
My daughter found a huge dandelion!
Our next stop was the Jackson Lake Dam & Reservoir.
Jackson Lake is a 400-foot deep natural lake with a dam added to it.
The dam was constructed in the early 1900s making it one of the tallest dams in the United States at that time. Unfortunately, the dam failed in 1910.
Our next stop was our hotel, the Jackson Lake Lodge that is located in the park…the lodge was VERY NICE and I HIGHLY RECOMMEND it…the stay for one night was $280.
After checking into our hotel, we headed to a popular stop to spot wildlife, Oxbow Bend
However, we never spotted anything! 🙁
During our visit, we did manage to see a bald eagle, multiple birds and a beaver!
Click here to read what animals are in the park and the best place to see them.
After leaving Oxbow Bend, we headed back to our hotel to eat at one of the restaurants called Pioneer Grill..it was a diner style restaurant… We all ordered the burgers …it was pretty good. The hotel offers 4 different restaurants.
The views from the hotel are incredible!
We then headed back to Oxbow Bend for one more chance at spotting wildlife…I really wanted to see a moose or a bear…but again, nothing!
We then headed to Cattleman’s Bridge and spotted some mule deer in a nearby field.
After this stop, we called it a night and headed back to our room.
Tip: Click here for 12 things not to miss in the Tetons, here for the 15 best things to do in the park, here for the top 12 hikes in the park & here for itineraries for the park
To keep this from being a SUPER long blog post, I’ll try to leave out all of the boring details of our trip as most people just want the facts when needing an itinerary. So, let’s get started with our first day in Yellowstone.
Tip: Click here & here to read about the Grand Loop Drive
Click here for a very detailed map of the park
Tip: Yellowstone is a 40 min drive from the Grand Tetons and 1.5 hrs from Jackson Hole which is considered the South Entrance – Yellowstone has 5 entrances
The park has a $35 entrance fee and is only good for Yellowstone…it’s good for 7 days – The Tetons has a separate $35 entrance fee …read here for a visitor’s guide to the park.
Tip: Purchase your entrance pass for Yellowstone here & click here to purchase for the Tetons – Read here about the free entrance days in the parks and read about the America the Beautiful pass here.
Our first stop, taking pics in front of the National Park sign.
Our next stop was only a 5 min drive from the entrance –this area is called the West Thumb Area where you will see the following: BLUEBELL POOL – HOT SPRINGS – FISHING CONE – BLACK POOL – KING GEYSER – ABYSS POOL– PAINTED POOL – MIMULUS POOL – HOT BUBBLING MUD POTS & MORE–
Click here for the 8 best geysers in the park & here for the current geyser activity.
We continued our drive and spotted Elk on the side of the road…
There are still signs of previous fires in the park
We made a stop at the Yellowstone River to take a few pics.
We walked down the boardwalk to the water’s edge
Our next stop is 40 mins from the West Thumb area called the Mud Volcano Area – this is where you will see – STEAM VENTS-(Warning: PUNGENT SULPHUR SMELLS) – 2/3 MILE TRAIL- MUD CALDRON – DRAGONS MOUTH SPRING – BLACK DRAGON’S CALDRON – MUD GEYSER – We also saw bison and deer here
After leaving here, we continued our drive..on the way, we passed lots of Bison..
Our next stop was 20 mins from Mud Volcano, you will come to an area where you will see the following:
Uncle Tom’s Point, Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, Artist Point, Upper Falls, Brink of Upper & Lower Falls, Lower Falls, Grand View, Inspiration Point, South Rim Trail, The North Rim Trail from Cascade Falls to Brink of the Lower Falls Trail, & The NORTH and SOUTH RIM drive.
South Rim Drive begins 2.3 miles south of Canyon Junction and leads you to views of Upper Falls at Uncle Tom’s Point and of Lower Falls and the canyon at Artist Point.
North Rim Drive begins 1.2 miles south of Canyon Junction. This one-way road takes you to four accessible views of the canyon, each featuring a different aspect of the canyon’s power, color, and geology.
At Brink of Lower Falls, glimpse Lower Falls and Upper Falls from paved accessible trails at the top or descend the steep Brink Trail to witness the Lower Falls’ power.
View Lower Falls again from Lookout Point, and see it again from a distance at Inspiration Point.
Grand View offers spectacular views of the canyon and river.
The spur road to Brink of Upper Falls is 1.6 miles south of Canyon Junction on the Grand Loop Road. Follow the paved path to a dramatic vantage point for viewing the Yellowstone River as it plunges over Upper Falls.
5 mins from Uncle Tom’s Point stop is Artist Point – Artist Point is an overlook point on the edge of a cliff on the south rim of the Grand Canyon.
From one side of the lookout (easy, short walk) you see beautiful, colorful canyon walls and on the other side there is a wider part of the canyon and the Lower Falls
Lower Falls is the biggest & most famous waterfall in Yellowstone…it’s 308 ft tall and the 2nd most photographed spot in Yellowstone…Old Faithful is 1st.
Our next stop was 30 mins from Artist Point and is called the NORRIS GEYSER BASIN & MUSEUM – Sitting at the junction of three fault lines, the Norris Geyser Basin is the hottest, oldest and most dynamic of Yellowstone’s thermal area.
At this stop you will see: EMERALD SPRING & STEAMBOAT GEYSER (WORLDS TALLEST ACTIVE GEYSER).
The Norris basin consists of two areas: Porcelain Basin and the Black Basin.
Read here about deaths in Yellowstone and here about Bear inflicted fatalities.
After leaving this area, we checked into our hotel at Days Inn West Yellowstone where we would spend the next 2 nights…approx 14 miles (30 mins)from the Norris Geyser area taking the W Entrance Rd -(this road is closed Dec – April)…cost for 2 nights was $450-500…way overpriced for what you get!
Click here for the best hotels in West Yellowstone & here for budget friendly hotels
While driving to our hotel we saw a huge deer
After getting checked into to our room, we left and had dinner at the nearby Timberline Cafe
We ordered a burger, roast beef w/ gravy & mashed potatoes and a French dip sandwich…the food was pretty good.
Click here for the best restaurants in West Yellowstone & here for the best things to do in West Yellowstone
Our first stop of the day was approx. 1 hr from the West Entrance – Old Faithful
This is a VERY busy area!
There is lots to see/do here – the historic Old Faithful Inn & Lodge – Gift shops – restaurants – and of course, we can’t forget Old Faithful Geyser.
There are also many trails to hike.
Old Faithful erupts every 35 to 120 minutes for 1 1/2 to 5 minutes. It erupts up to 20 times a day. Its maximum height ranges from 90 to 184 feet. It is not the biggest or the most regular geyser in Yellowstone but it is the biggest regular geyser.
We saw the nearby Chinese Spring
We checked out the Old Faithful Inn which was built in 1904 and has 65 ft ceilings. It’s the most requested accommodation in the park.
We then sat and waited for Old Faithful to erupt …it was extremely crowded!
But it was worth fighting the crowds to see this!
After watching Old Faithful erupt, we walked the nearby trails. I highly recommend you do the same as there is lots to see!
Click here for the hikes located in this area
We saw: CASTLE GEYSER – GROTTO GEYSER, GIANT GEYSER (HAD LAST ERUPTED IN JAN 2010) – SPA GEYSER – SPITEFUL GEYSER & MORNING GLORY POOL (ONE OF MY FAVORITES!!)
We then headed back towards Old Faithful and saw it erupting again.￼
We stopped in at the General Store for some ice cream before heading to our next stop.
Click here for operating hours/days of all stores and visitors centers in the park.
The Old Faithful area is a place you could easily spend a day or a few hours…there is so much to see and do in this area.
Click here for tours offered, click here to book a room at Old Faithful Inn or any of the park’s lodging….these fill up quick! As much as a year in advance so book early!
After leaving this area we backtracked 7 mins towards the West Entrance to the BLACK SAND BASIN – (THIS AREA INCLUDES CLIFF GEYSER, RAINBOW POOL, SUNSET LAKE, EMERALD POOL – CLIFF GEYSER
From here our next stop was a short 5 mins from the last stop called the BISCUIT BASIN AREA where you will see the BLACK OPAL SPRING – SO MANY COLORS HERE – SAPPHIRE POOL – BLACK PEARL GEYSER – MUSTARD SPRING – AVOCA SPRING
Our next stop was 7 mins from the last stop called the MIDWAY GEYSER BASIN – This area includes: TURQUOISE POOL, EXCELSIOR GEYSER, OPAL POOL & the famous GRAND PRISMATIC – Don’t miss the Fairy Falls hike.
Read here to find out the best spot to view the Grand Prismatic Spring
This is an AMAZING STOP and not to be missed! It’s crowded but most stops in Yellowstone are…there’s a boardwalk you can walk on like most of the other stops in the park.
Our next stop was 5 mins from last stop and it was the WHITE DOME GEYSER AREA – STEADY GEYSER – YOUNG HOPEFUL GEYSER
From here we drove a short 6 mins from our last stop to the FOUNTAIN PAINT POTS – you can walk 30-45 min along the trail to see the following: FOUNTAIN PAINT POT, RED SPOUTER, LEATHER POOL, MORNING GEYSER, FOUNTAIN GEYSER, TWIG GEYSER, SPASM GEYSER, CLEPSYDRA GEYSER, CELESTINE POOL) Also saw very colorful BACTERIA MAT
Our next stop was 20 mins from the last stop – it was a small roadside waterfall called Firehole Falls – its forty-foot drop from a turnout and parking area on the Firehole Canyon Drive
Click here to read about 7 falls in Yellowstone
After this stop we headed back to our hotel…approximately 30 mins from last stop….on the way we saw Bison, swans & smoke billowing from hot springs and geysers
We started our morning with some pastries from the Woodside Bakery – (Update: this places is now closed)
Click here for the best breakfast restaurants in West Yellowstone
After we ate, we checked out of the Days Inn and headed towards the North Entrance where we would be spending our next night
As we were driving to our first stop, I took tons of pics…as usual!
We pulled over to to take pics of the Gallatin Range – this area is a critical habitat for grizzly bears and all Greater Yellowstone species, including mountain goat, mountain lion, mule deer, elk, bighorn sheep, and wolves and is a valuable corner of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
Speaking of Grizzly Bears, the north end of the range is home to Casey Anderson’s Montana Grizzly Encounter and Brutus the Grizzly, stars of many Nat Geo specials on Grizzlies and Yellowstone.
On our drive we had to watch out for bison ..they are all over Yellowstone.
We passed a roadside waterfall on the way. I’m pretty sure this is Undine Falls.
We drove through an area that had tons of limestone rock so we stopped and took a few pics.
We continued our drive…the views along the way were amazing!! Our next stop was the Mammoth Springs Area – We stopped to check out an area that had the following: CLEOPATRA’S TERRACE, HYMEN TERRACE, LIBERTY CAP, PALETTE SPRING, OPAL TERRACE, MINERVA TERRACE, MOUND TERRACE, CANARY SPRING, – ORANGE SPRING MOUND
Next, we drove through the historic area of Mammoth Hot Springs…there are lots of Elk in this area.
We stopped in Gardiner and ate at the Cowboy’s Lodge & Grill
We ordered the Bbq Sandwich and fries…the service & food was average.
Click here for the best restaurants in Gardiner and click here for the best hotels
We then checked into our hotel, the Super 8 hotel….we paid $170 for one night.
The town of Gardiner is very old west style…we really enjoyed our time here.
Click here for the 20 best things to see/do in Gardiner
We took some quick shots of the Roosevelt Arch.
The arch was completed in 1903. It was the original gateway to Yellowstone. The North entrance is the only entrance that stays open year round.
After lunch & checking into our hotel, we headed out again …we spotted mountain goats as we were driving.
We made a stop at the Boiling River.
The Boiling River is sort of a natural hot tub where a large hot springs enters the cold waters of the Gardner mountain river. The cold and hot water mingle and makes the water temperature comfortable enough to bathe in.
We parked and walked the short trail (1.25 mi r/trip) to where you can swim and soak in the water.
We passed a sign on the trail showing we were halfway between the Equator and the North Pole.
We spotted a few bighorn sheep along the way…
Once we arrived to the entrance of the river, there were quite a few people soaking in the hot water.
We decided not to soak, so we just got in to snap a quick pic to prove that we at least got in.😉
After staying here for about 30 mins, we headed back towards Mammoth Springs.
We stopped and saw Liberty Cap, the many terraces and Devils Thumb.
After leaving here, we continued our drive….we stopped at Floating Island Lake to take a few pics.
After this stop, we headed to Soda Butte….on the way, we saw deer, bison & a bald eagle.
As we were driving, Bison started crossing the road blocking traffic.. we pulled over to take pics since there were so many with babies.
As we continued our drive we spotted a black bear with babies….we pulled over and they crossed the road right in front of us!!
We then passed the Gardiner Ranger Station & the Gallatin National Forest sign as well as the Welcome to Montana sign.
Shortly later, we arrived back to our hotel in Gardiner and called it a night.
We checked out of our hotel and headed to the nearby Roosevelt Arch to take a few more pics.
We then headed out to start our day….we passed one of the 4 Yellowstone National Park Post Offices.
We then passed the Mammoth Chapel that was built in 1913.
We also spotted more Elk.
As we continued our drive we stopped to photograph a nearby bridge.
After leaving here, we saw lots of people pulled over on the side of the road….Usually that only means one thing, they have spotted some kind of wildlife…so, we pulled over and sure enough it was a bear with her babies!!
Next we stopped at an overlook with some amazing views!
We then stopped at the Petrified Tree
Next we stopped at the Calcite Springs Overlook…the overlook is a short walk from a turnout on Grand Loop Road just north of Tower Fall.
At the overlook, we spotted a momma bear with her babies…
Our next stop was the Tower Fall Overlook …the fall plunges a stunning 132 feet.
The unusual rock columns north of the falls was created by lava flow that cracked as it cooled.
Next we stopped off at a pullover that had an information plaque talking about the presence of grizzly bears and how to increase your chances for spotting one….The sign went on to say that the area was prime grizzly country…..sadly we never saw one.
We then made a stop at the Mt Washburn/Dunraven Pass area.
Mt Washburn sits at an elevation of 10,243 ft and is a spectacular drive. The highway eventually reaches it’s highest point at at Dunraven Pass (8,839 ft). If you want to get even higher, you will need to hike the trail that takes you all the way to the summit of Mt Washburn.
Dunraven Pass is the highest road pass in Yellowstone and because of this, it can get snow any time of the year.
This area is a great place to spot grizzlies, bighorn sheep, and beautiful wildflowers!
You could still see the remnants of an old wild fire.
After this area we stopped off at the shores of Yellowstone Lake.
Yellowstone Lake is the largest lake in North America at this high an elevation, 7,733 feet. It is 20 miles long and 14 miles across from West Thumb to the opposite shore.
The lake covers 132 square miles and has a shoreline of 114 miles. It has an average depth of 139 feet, although the deepest point is 410 feet.
Our next stop was a small overlook of the lake with a sign talking about the temperature of the lake bed..
The hottest spot in the lake was found at Mary Bay where the temperature was recorded at 252°F. Hollow pipes, or chimneys of silica, several feet in height, were found rising up from the lake bottom at Mary Bay.
It is thought that these are the old plumbing systems of now dormant geysers. Rock spires up to 20-feet tall were found underwater near Bridge Bay.
Next we stopped at Steamboat Point
Tip: You can have a picnic lunch at the nearby Steamboat Point Picnic Area.
After leaving here we continued driving towards the East Entrance near Cody, WY..
We passed the East Entrance sign, the Shoshone National Forest sign (read reviews here) and a sign warning of Grizzly Bears.
As we exited out of the East entrance, we stopped at the Pahaska Tepee Grocery store for some snacks. There is also a gift shop, gas and lodging.
We also went into the gift shop for some souvenirs.
Tip: Cody, WY is an hour from this store
After leaving the store, we headed back into the park…
As we were driving, we spotted 2 deer on the side of the road
Next we stopped at Hayden Valley to see if we could spot any wildlife.
Hayden Valley is one of the best places in the park to spot wildlife…however, the only wildlife we spotted was chipmunks!
Tip: Be sure to bring your binoculars.
Next we stopped and spotted a Beaver in a pond….we also saw lots of Bison.
We then headed to our next hotel, the Grant Village Hotel inside the park. $215 for one night. The hotel was near the West Thumb area at the South Entrance.
We checked out of our hotel and made a stop at the nearby Yellowstone General Store.
We then exited the park at the South Entrance and headed back through the Tetons.
I took lots of pics on the way..
Since it was a clear day, We decided to stop back off at the Teton National Park sign and take another picture…this time you could see the majestic mountains in the background.
Next we headed back towards Jackson Hole on our way to Bear Lake, ID…
We stopped off for lunch at MacPhails…a burger place that serves grass fed burgers..the burgers were delicious but expensive! $53 for 3 burgers, fries & drinks! Sadly, this place is now closed.
After lunch, we continued our drive to Bear Lake….Bear Lake is 3 hrs 40 mins from the South Entrance of Yellowstone.
We passed the Welcome Sign for Idaho on the way
After 3 1/2 hrs of driving, we arrived in Montpelier, ID where we would be spending our next night.
Click here for things to do in Montpelier
We drove through the old historic town taking pics…we took pics of the Paris Tabernacle church.
Since its completion in 1889, it has functioned as a house of worship and a community center. Today it is also open for public tours.
Guided tours, about 30 minutes long, highlight the faith and sacrifice of early Church members who donated their time, labor, and money to build the tabernacle.