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Yellowstone National Park

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Trip List by TexasHam

Explore the wonders of Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons!

11 May 2006  I live in a conjested, hot & humid city in Texas - escaping to Wyoming is such a breath of fresh air!
4.5 of 5 bubbles based on 25 votes

You've seen Old Faithful many times, but there is so much more to explore in Yellowstone. The waterfalls, canyons, lakes and wildlife are plentiful and ready to be experienced. The Grand Tetons offer mountain views unlike anything you've ever seen, and the chance meetings with bull moose, elk, and bears are worth the trip. I will briefly describe three days in Wyoming that I experienced, and I could write pages upon pages of the many other wonderful things to do in the most beautiful place in the world such as hiking, biking, rafting, fishing and more. There is no place on earth that has the majestic mountains, mystical geysers, and untamed wildlife like Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons.

  • Explore locations featured in this Trip List: Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park, Jackson
  • Category: Perfect week or more
  • Traveler type: Sightseeing, Active/Outdoors, Never been before, Repeat visitors
  • Appeals to: Couples/romantics, Honeymooners, Singles, Families with small children, Families with teenagers, Large groups, Seniors, Students, Active/adventure, Tourists
  • Seasons: Summer, Fall
  • 1. Yellowstone National Park
    Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

    I headed out of the room by 5:45 a.m. to explore the Old Faithful area. I was up so early that the Snow Lodge staff had not made coffee yet, and they said that I was the first person up in the whole place. I was intrigued by that fact, but I was a little scared of running into a bison or some other creature outside in the dark. Even though I brought a flashlight, it didn't do me any good as a walked through the tall, dark trees towards Old Faithful. I could only see about 20 yards in front of me thanks to the lights of the nearby parking lot. Otherwise, it would have been totally dark. Luckily, I didn't run into any wild beasts and made it safely. The boardwalk was completely coated with a very thick frost, and it was a chilly 28 degrees outside in the pre-dawn light. The stark silence was broken by the constant bugling of elk and hissing of steam from Old Faithful and surrounding geysers. Slowly the sky became lighter and the magic of the park was surrounding me. Fog or steam was just hovering over the meadow next to Old Faithful, which erupted just as the sun rose over the top of the trees. I was the only person around to see that wonderful sight, and I felt like the luckiest guy in the world. I highly encourage anyone to brave the cold, dark, loss of sleep and lack of coffee to experience this sensation of being at one with nature. A few minutes later my wife's brother joined me to enjoy the experience, but we soon became cold and ready for hot coffee and breakfast.

    After an egg, bacon & muffin sandwich at the Geyser Grill, we departed at 8:30 a.m. to do the southern loop of Yellowstone. The Midway Geyser Basin and Fountain Paint Pot areas where our first two stops, but it was hard to see very much due to the intense fog caused by the cold weather and steam. Regardless, the following attractions were still fabulous and should be definite âmust-seesâ for anyone: Grand Prismatic Spring, Excelsor Geyser, bacteria mats, Fountain Paint Pot (bubbling white mud), Fumaroles (steam vents that just roar with noise!), and gorgeous clear pools of bubbling water. The sulfur steam emitted from these features smells like either rotten eggs or burned gunpowder, which may be unpleasant to some people (although I didnât mind). At the Midway Geyser Basin, we were walking from the parking past the Firehole River, which is the river that carries the spewed water of Old Faithful and every other geyser and thermal feature in the area. It is about thirty feet wide and very shallow for the most part - approximately two or more feet deep in this area. The water is cold and apparently teaming with fish. We saw a fly fisherman downstream, and overhead we saw an osprey gliding down the river. All of a sudden, the osprey dove straight down into the water and quickly emerged into the air with a fish!! Breakfast was served. That was a major highlight of the trip!

    We drove onward to Norris, and we happened upon beautiful Gibbon Falls along the way. I didnât have it marked on my itinerary, but the unexpected splendor of the falls and valley to the south was a perfect photo opportunity. None of the geysers were erupting at the time we arrived at the Norris Geyser Basin, but we enjoyed walking on parts of the north basin to see the bright blue pools of water and other thermal features.

    On our way to Canyon, we did the side-road one-way trek to view the Virginia Cascade waterfall, which was definitely a peaceful scene. This would be a great place to have a picnic and relax to the sounds of water rushing down the rocks in the shadows of late morning - you just have to park about 200 yards or more ahead of the falls and walk back.

    Our first stop in Canyon was Inspiration Point - another must see. Just a few steps down from the parking area is the overlook point where you can see the Lower Falls in the distance, the Yellowstone River below, and the Grand Canyon in all directions. Just to the left of Inspiration Point is a great lookout point for part of the canyon that recently slid into the gorge below following an earthquake. The second stop in Canyon was the Brink of the Lower Falls. This is a hike that my wife's parents declined, but the three of us "kids" decided to do. Going down was easy, but coming back up was another story. Anyone who has difficulty walking up the equivalent of ten flights of stairs might want to avoid this hike. With that said, the reward of this hike was worth it. Looking straight down at a 300 foot waterfall is an amazing view of the force of water at its mightiest. The spray at the bottom reflected a rainbow that gave the cold greenish-blue water a mystical glow. The view of the river and canyon from this vantage point is humbling to say the least. The hike to and from the Lower Falls offers a side view of the Upper Falls, which are nice, but not nearly as impressive as the Lower Falls. The third and final stop in the Canyon area was Artist Point, which was fairly crowded but still worth the stop to see the Lower Falls from a different perspective.

    From Canyon we drove south towards Lake Yellowstone and stopped in the Hayden Valley to take pictures of a herd of buffalo napping in a meadow beside the road. We were on the lookout for bears or wolves, but we didnât see any. We arrived at the Lake Hotel just as they were closing the main restaurant for lunch at 2:30 p.m., but we were able to get some sandwiches at the deli near the center of the hotel. We took the sandwiches to the Lake Lodge and ate them on the front porch in rocking chairs with a great view of the lake and mountains. Everyone was feeling tired at this point so we decided to call it a day. We drove from the lake back to the Old Faithful area and stopped at one point on the road, because we saw many cars parked and figured they were looking at some animal. Sure enough, there was a rather large and impressive bull elk with a ten-point rack. We snapped a few pictures and went on our way. That night some of us had dinner at the main restaurant in the Snow Lodge. I had a lamb shank, which had been slow cooked for twelve hours, and the meat fell right off the bone. Delicious! Worth every dime of the $26 it cost. (hey - it's a nice, National Park restaurant - expect to pay more at least once on your trip and just enjoy it!) My wife's brother had a stuffed pork tenderloin, which was also very tasty. This meal made sleeping very easy, which we all did very shortly after retiring to our rooms.

  • 2. Grand Teton National Park
    Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

    All of us piled into the minivan and set out for our first day in the Tetons. It was another warm day, so I wore shorts and a t-shirt. We drove up Pacific Creek Road in hopes of seeing a bear like my wife and I did in 2001; however, we didn't have any luck this day. We turned around and drove to Two Ocean Lake, which is a less-frequented location in the park as far as I know, and we did see a golden eagle along the way. The eagle stood very still in a tree surveying the valley for breakfast. The raptor took off and flew zigzag patterns through the valley methodically searching for prey. It was a very impressive sight to see. It's the unexpected occurrences like this that are the most memorable.

    When we reached the edge of Two Ocean Lake, everyone naturally became quiet to soak up the serenity and stillness of the lake water surrounded by tall pine trees. The only sound was an occasional quack from the ducks fishing and enjoying the peace of their surroundings like we were. All of us agreed that we could easily spend hours in this one spot sipping on coffee, reading a book & just enjoying nature - pure, clean, simple, & relaxing. Next, we drove to the Chapel of the Sacred Heart to see the intimate log cabin church. There is definitely a sense of a higher presence in this church as it looks over Jackson Lake and the mountains. From there, we did the round-trip boat ride at Jenny Lake. The 1/2 mile hike to and from the Hidden Falls was a little more strenuous for my wife's parents due to the many steps required; however, they both fared well. If it had been any further, then it would have been too much. We were all glad to take the boat ride back to the parking lot instead of walking around the lake. While the falls are lovely, I really enjoyed the gorgeous mountain stream that they produce, which parallels the trail leading from the falls. The woods and mountain views along this trail are spectacular.

    Lunch was at the Signal Mountain Lodge, which has a view that rivals the Mural Room at Jackson Lake Lodge. Signal Mountain Lodge is much closer to Jackson Lake, and we saw sail boats and other water craft, which was fun to see. We decided to have free time back at our lodge for the rest of the day. While others napped and relaxed, my wife's brother and I played cards on the front porch of our cabins. It was one of the best afternoons that I can remember â having no cares in the world and really just enjoying the moment of doing very little except relaxing under the pine trees. We ordered take-out from the grill, and I had the trout, which was very tasty. That evening I watched the full moon rise over the tree-tops as the sun was setting over the mountains - another picture-perfect experience.

  • 3. Jackson
    Jackson, Jackson Hole

    We arrived in Jackson around noon, and we were pleasantly surprised that we were able to check-in to our rooms at the Antler Inn, which is in a perfect location one block away from the town square. I highly recommend buying some huckleberry tea found in many shops in Jackson and in Teton lodges. Many products in this area are made with huckleberries such as tea, candles & bon-bon's! After walking through a few shops and art galleries, we decided to have a beer at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, which is fun even if you don't drink. Saddles for bar stools, knobby wood posts & railings, red carpet, and artifacts like spurs, Native American clothing, and stuffed mountain lions. Willie Nelson and many other famous musicians have played at this bar, and itâs definitely the place to be on a Saturday night. My wife, her brother, and I headed out on our own and did a little more shopping and ended up at the Snake River Brewery a few blocks south of downtown. Happy hour pints of beer were only $2.50, which is the best value we found on the entire vacation. The atmosphere is young (college age), and the micro-brew beer was exceptionally tasty. They also serve pizza and hot, fresh pretzels to help soak up the suds. Originally, we had planned on eating dinner at the Gun & Barrel Game & Steak House, but we weren't hungry enough to consume elk chops, buffalo steaks and venison sausage! We called it an early night as we were all very tired and somewhat ready to come home.