I apologize for the length of this query. I'm pretty anal when it comes to planning.
Before I book lodging for mid July of 2014 which should be opening up soon, I would appreciate any feedback on the planned itinerary. It's likely to be our one and only visit to Yellowstone/Tetons in this lifetime so I want to see as much as possible. If I could shave a day or 2 off without compromising that, it would help with the budget but is not a requirement. We like day hikes (up to about 10 miles or so round trip but the 1-2 milers are just fine too), getting out early to beat the crowds, wildlife sightings, wildflowers, landscape and wildlife photography, and the golden hour around sunset. We usually pack a lunch so we don’t need to stop mid-day at a restaurant. I've purposely chosen a figure 8 route but feel free to comment if you think it's a bad idea.
Day 1 - Fly from the East coast to Jackson Hole. Stock up on groceries. Stroll around Jackson. Hotel for 1 night in Jackson.
Day 2 - Because of the time difference we will probably be up early and out by 7am. Use this day to acclimate to the altitude. Drive to GTNP. Maybe take in a float trip on the Snake River, drive the Jenny Lake Scenic Dr with a short hike in the area or at Coulter Bay. Drive to the Summit of Signal Mt for sunset. Lodging at Signal Mt for 2 nights.
Day 3 - Try to be on the first boat to cross Jenny Lake. Hike to Hidden Falls, Inspiration Pt and into Cascade Canyon as far as we feel like going.
Day 4 – Drive to the Canyon area of Yellowstone. On the way stop at any Visitor Center, see West Thumb Geyser Basin, Lake Yellowstone Lodge, short hike on the Pelican Creek Nature Trail, maybe hike Elephant Back or Natural Bridge, Mud Volcano area and spend some time looking for wildlife in the Hayden Valley. Canyon cabins for 3 nights.
Day 5 – Canyon area drive/hikes
Day 6 – Canyon area drive/hikes
Day 7 – Drive west to Norris Geyser Basin then north to lodging in Gardiner for 1 night. Maybe a soak/swim at Boiling River.
Day 8 – Visit Mammoth area then drive to Tower/Roosevelt area. Lodging in a cabin for 1 night (Hopefully one with a private bath if I call early enough) Spend some time looking for wildlife in the Lamar Valley.
Day 9 – Drive to Cody via the Chief Joseph Hwy. Visit the Bill Cody Museum. See the night rodeo. Lodging for 1 night in Cody.
Day 10 – Drive back to YNP Tower/Roosevelt area via Beartooth Hwy. Another opportunity to view wildlife in Lamar Valley. Lodging for 1 night in Tower/R cabins.
Day 11 – Mt Washburn hike then drive to Old Faithful area. Lodging for 3 nights at Snow Lodge.
Day 12 – Visit Old Faithful area as far north as Madison
Day 13 - Visit Old Faithful area
Day 14 – Old Faithful area in a.m. Drive to GTNP and hike to Phelps Lake in p.m. Lodging for 1 night at Signal Mt. or Jackson Lake
Day 15 – Hike to Amphitheater Lake
Day 16 – Fly home
Do I need the 2 full days to see the Canyon area? Is 2 ½ days for Old Faithful area too much?
Would you change anything? If so, what and why? Thanks in advance for your responses.