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Is it worth the drive?

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Louisiana
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Is it worth the drive?

I am planning a trip to Yellowstone in Sept 2010 for 9-10 days. Our plans are to stay in West Yellowstone the first few days making our way across & down ending in Jackson Hole. What do you all think would be better - Flying into Idaho falls or Jackson hole airport, renting a vehicle, traveling that day to West Yellowstone? How is the drive from Idaho Falls? Is there alot to see? This is our first trip to Yellowstone. All information would be great. Thanks in advance for all the help.

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1. Re: Is it worth the drive?

Yellowstone is about 1 hour and 45 minutes from Idaho Falls.

Chicago, Illinois
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2. Re: Is it worth the drive?

Hi Coyne,

ParentsofThree is the destination expert for the Idaho Falls forum. He gives great advice...I can say that because I was just in Idaho Falls the first week of August and he gave me great tips. Hopefully, he will find some time to answer some of your questions.

I will try to give you some of my observations/experiences. You may have already seen some of this in the trip report I recently posted.

The reason we chose to fly and stay in Idaho Falls was because I got better fares to Idaho Falls than Jackson, and we are a family of four, so it mattered. Expedia gave me a great deal on a flight/hotel/car combination, so it was a no-brainer to take the deal and then use Idaho Falls as a base. Granted, that did not allow us to stay in the parks (which I understand is a great experience), but we did get to see some great stuff like Craters of the Moon, which we probably couldn't have done if we had confined ourselves to the parks. Also, with regard to Idaho Falls airport, it is a small airport...easy to get in and out of...car rentals within easy walking distance of where you pick up your luggage. Nothing fancy, but efficient.

Personally, I don't think that West Yellowstone has the quality of lodging options that Idaho Falls has, so it was worth doing the drive from IF to Yellowstone National Park. It is an easy drive on Rt. 20 north, which is a major highway, but not with too much to see. There are the towns of Rexburg, St. Anthony and Ashton and Island Park along the way, which have some lodging, food and gas stations. My best advice for traveling in the area is to bring a cooler with sandwiches and water because even in Yellowstone and Grand Teton, it can be a long way to food.

Which brings me to my advice about driving in the parks. It is much slower driving through the parks than using the roads outside of the parks. You may experience this less than we did because you are going in September. At certain times it can be just a line of cars all trying to get down a two-lane road. Then, of course, this comes to a stop if there are "animal sightings" like buffalo walking down the middle of the road or moose grazing in shallows. I guess what I am trying to say is that you need to use the roads in the parks to get around, but to get to the parks you do have good peripheral road options that I think work better. As an example, we chose not to drive the interior park road from Grand Teton to Yellowstone because we knew it would be crowded. Maybe someone who has driven it can chime in and give you their thoughts.

Hope this gives you some insights for planning your trip.

Louisiana
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3. Re: Is it worth the drive?

Thank you so much. I will keep everything you said in mind when making our finally arrangements. I know everyone has said to stay within the park, but we have choose not to. We will make our base camp West Yellowstone at the beginning.

idaho
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for Sun Valley, Ketchum, Beach Vacations, Idaho
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4. Re: Is it worth the drive?

i didn't have time to read all the posts...but as we are in JH all the time. that is the place, not IF...i wouldn't stop in IF, just fly into JH and tour the park. West Yellowstone is my least favorite part. you can hang around JEnny Lake, Yellowtone lake, lots to do there..

Tomah, Wisconsin
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5. Re: Is it worth the drive?

A lot of it is going to depend on your budget. Jackson is definitely more touristy (lots more to see and do), but it's also substantially more expensive. If money's not an object, I'd fly into Jackson. The drive between Jackson and I.F. is a little over an hour, and is actually very pretty (you're going right through the Tetons).

The scenery between Jackson and Yellowstone is about the same as between Idaho Falls and Yellowstone (you're looking at the same mountains, just on one side or the other). Actually, the view is probably better on the Wyoming side - I've just done the drive so many times that it all looks pretty much the same to me anymore.

If you're on a budget, I'd opt for Idaho Falls and spend the money on other stuff. Your flight, hotel and car will almost certainly be cheaper on the Idaho side.

All that being said, if you can arrange to stay in YNP at the Old Faithful Inn for at least part of your trip, that would be my one biggest recommendation. We absolutely love staying in the old section of the lodge and enjoying the evenings looking down on the lobby. To me, that's quintessential Yellowstone. Make reservations early (like now) as it fills up quickly.

Enjoy your trip!

Chicago, Illinois
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6. Re: Is it worth the drive?

I had one more thought...you might want to check airfares to Bozeman, MT because you could also enter Yellowstone from this direction (north). When I was checking airfares, I got the best fares to Idaho Falls, then to Bozeman and then to Jackson. No matter when I checked, Jackson was the most expensive.

Also, I have to agree with Parentsof3 about Jackson being touristy. We made a stop in Jackson to do shopping and sightseeing. It does have lots of nice shops and restaurants, but parking and traffic was bad. It reminded me of Bar Harbor, Maine. In my opinion, it's a bit overdone with antlers, bison burgers and ski wear...all catering toward the tourist. West Yellowstone also caters very much to the tourist, but on a lesser sophistication level than Jackson. Here, you will also find streets lined with souvenir shops and restaurants having themed menus.

idaho
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for Sun Valley, Ketchum, Beach Vacations, Idaho
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7. Re: Is it worth the drive?

i love JH, but not the touristy part. you just have to know where to go. been going over to vistit a friend for the last 32 years, and we always have a blast, mind you, we dont' spend alot of time in the square, except on sat for the farmers market...but around wilson, and dornans further out, love it.

Toronto, Canada
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8. Re: Is it worth the drive?

WE just got back, flights and rentals are cheaper to Salt lake City, but it is a longer drive to West Yellowstone. We got in around 1pm and drove to idaho falls that day and then upto West Yellow. Work out the cost difference. You can stop at Craters of the Mooon on the way up.

I'd suggest West Yellow as part of your base, but it takes longer than you think driving through the park so I'd either get a room in the park for a few days, or stay in Gardiner for 1-2 nights. If you are viewing wildlife at dusk or dawn (which is great at Lamar valley) it is a LONG drive back to West Yellow, or if you do a trail later in the day in the North it can take a while to get back (especially if there is road construction). Gardiner is smaller but has some average hotels and restaurants and is very close to the gate.

I would think using Idaho falls as a base would be a bit far, I wasn't sure if that is what someone was suggesting.

Louisiana
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9. Re: Is it worth the drive?

Thanks OntarioCanuck - We are flying into Idaho Falls around 12:30pm and then driving to West Yellowstone for 3 -4 nights. I was asking about the drive from Idaho Falls airport to West Yellowstone verses Jackson airport to West Yellowstone. I know the time difference is an hour apart. 2 hours from Idaho falls verses 3 hours from Jackson. Thanks for everyones help.

Banks, Oregon
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10. Re: Is it worth the drive?

Oh, I agree with you, ParentsOf3. (about the Wyoming side). The very first time I ever went to Yellowstone was when I drove in from Cody, Wyoming. Every couple minutes was an OMG moment for sure!!! I'll always remember that drive, and it was a very long time ago. My other trips into the Park from other sides were okay, and being in the Park was of course absolutely wonderful, but that first drive took my breath away!