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Trip to Yellowstone and Teton National ParksAuthor: Terry Marsh
Date of Trip: May 2007
First let me say I am sorry this review is so long. I wanted to include as much info as I could to help anyone planning a trip to Yellowstone National Park (N.P.) and/or Grand Teton N.P.
We recently went to Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park for 8 days. Over all I will tell you it was a good trip. The National Parks were absolutely beautiful and in Yellowstone, you will see things that you will have a hard time finding anywhere else.
I will start out by stating the one big mistake of our trip. We flew into Salt Lake City and rented a car - Lincoln Navigator (was a perfect car for the trip). We drove up a very scenic route through Utah, a small portion of Idaho and then into Wyoming until we got to Teton Village which is where we stayed for five days. We stayed in the Snake River Lodge and Spa. Although Snake River Lodge was wonderful, it was a mistake for us to stay there for five days. The reason I say that is because from there to Yellowstone's South entrance is at least and an hour. If you get behind slow moving traffic, it could take you 1.5 hours just to reach the entrance. So you spend two to three hours of your day just getting to and from the entrance of Yellowstone. When you are trying to cram as much of the park into your day as you can, you can see where this ends up being a waste of your time. If you are going to be there any time at all, you should break your days up by staying a few days near the north entrance, a few days near the west entrance, etc. Or actually by staying a few days in the park. Like at Old Faithful Inn or Hotel on Lake Yellowstone, etc.
The last three nights we stayed in West Yellowstone, Montana in the Club House Inn. Now from what I saw of West Yellowstone, all they have available are "Comfort Inn, Motel 6, etc" kinds of hotels. Not what I am comfortable staying in because I like having the option of room service, etc, however I will say that the Club House Inn seemed to be very new and was very clean. West Yellowstone is right at the West entrance to Yellowstone.
We originally stayed in Teton Village as long as we did because we expected to do more in Grand Teton national Park. To be as honest as I can be about that, Grand Teton National Park is beautiful, but as far as I know, we pretty much did all there is to do there in one day. Now I say that from the prospective of what we wanted to do which was drive around, stop and see the beauty, etc. I am sure if you are looking for a more active vacation, hiking, etc, there is a lot more to do in Grand Teton than one day worth. We bought a week's pass at the entrance to Grand Teton N.P. that was $25.00 and was good for a week at both National Parks. You can buy an Annual Pass that is good for any National Park you go to for like $80.00 and if you are a Senior Citizen, you can get the annual pass for a greatly reduced price, although I can not remember what it was.
Ok.. Since most people reading this probably want info on the parks, I will start with my take on those:
Grand Teton National Park:
Grand Teton is BEAUTIFUL. I honestly could have just stopped and looked at it all day. We did go to Jenny Lake and we took the boat ride across the lake. My memory is it is 9 dollars a person round trip. When you are deposited on the other side of the lake, there is a trail for you to hike (I believe its .5 miles long) up to Hidden Falls. The .5 miles hike is almost straight up. I went half way up (I am semi handicapped) and I stopped at a place that had the most beautiful cascades. My partner went all the way up to the falls. From his description and from the video he shot, I think you will be disappointed after making the hike.
We saw Moose, Elk, Coyote, and Chipmunks in Grand Teton N.P.. There was this one female Moose who stayed pretty much the whole time we were there in this shallow pond eating and eating and eating some kind of plant that was growing on the bottom of this pond. She was very cute and I loved watching her.
There is a turnoff outside of the park, along a highway that goes between Yellowstone N. P. and Jackson, WY that will take you up to the top of a much smaller mountain where you can look out over Grand Teton Mountains and look out over the valley. To be completely honest I was asleep when my partner found it, so I do not know how to tell you to find it, but I am sure if you asked locals, they would be able to tell you how to find it. I recommend doing this highly as it was a BEAUTIFUL sight from every look out on that mountain.
Yellowstone National Park:
What can you say about Yellowstone N.P. It is exactly as I had always thought it would be. Beautiful, rugged, filled with animals and VERY diverse landscape. You will be driving down the road and literally turn a corner and you are in a completely different type of setting than you were just minutes before. Animals were EVERYWHERE and that was wonderful.
As far as animals, my only disappointment was we did not see more Moose. I think total for the whole trip we saw maybe three Moose. In Yellowstone we saw Elk, Buffalo/Bison (still not for sure which is which or what the difference is), a Female Grisly Bear and her baby cub, a black bear and a VERY large brown bear, Big Horn Sheep, Mountain Goats, Chipmunks, Ground Squirrels, Marmots (extremely adorable and shy creatures), Bald Eagles, Osprey, Canadian Geese and their many babies and even trout jumping out of the streams.
On the way into Yellowstone past the South entrance we stopped at Crawfish Creek. If you stop there and get out, you can follow the very short trail to a beautiful and accessible waterfall. When we were there, some college kids were playing on top of the fall and down below in the pool formed by the fall. I loved that stop. We also went the route that took us by the Lower Falls and the Upper falls. These waterfalls are in the Yellowstone Grand Canyon and I HIGHLY recommend this route. The Lower Falls are the most fantastic falls in the park, in my opinion. I don't mean to say they are more beautiful than others. But just on a grand scale, they are breath taking. The other waterfall that I would say is a "can not be missed" stop is Tower Falls. Some say this is the most beautiful waterfall in all of Yellowstone, so you do not want to miss it. Every waterfall that is on the main routes was worth seeing. But if you have limited time, make sure you see the Lower and Upper Falls, the falls at Crawfish Creek and Tower Falls.
We also, of course, had to see Old Faithful. Now here is where I probably will be unpopular with a bunch of people. We waited for well over an hour.. I think an hour and 20 minutes to see Old Faithful. I am very glad that I can say I have seen Old Faithful erupt. To me, it is a huge part of "Americana". However, I have to say, it was not more impressive to me than the many other "water features" we saw. By "water features" I mean geysers, caldrons, boiling mud pots, etc. One that you can NOT miss if you want to see something spectacular is Mud volcano specifically Dragon's Mouth. You must stop there and walk the circle path. Also I recommend Sulphur Caldron. Be ready for the smell, however, at both locations. If you do go to Yellowstone and go see Old Faithful (how can you go to Yellowstone and not see it, right??), the walk around Old Faithful area to see the caldrons and other geysers is worth the walk. One last "water feature" I have to say I wouldn't want to go to Yellowstone and miss is Firehole Lake Drive.
Ft. Yellowstone, which is just south of the North entrance is a very quant looking "village" and I enjoyed our time there. It was a nice respite. This is where we went up to the North entrance. You will see the Roosevelt Memorial Arch. There is a little town just outside the entrance that we just didn't have time to explore, but I will say it looked interesting.
One thing I recommend the most is taking a drive out of the Northeast entrance and driving the Bear Tooth Mountain Pass.
I am sure I am leaving out some important stops that we made. But these are the ones that made the most impression on me.
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