We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

First time @ Yellowstone - itinerary help!

Saint Louis...
Level Contributor
3,558 posts
77 reviews
Save Topic
First time @ Yellowstone - itinerary help!

We will be making our first trip to Yellowstone next month and obviously there is so much to do, so looking for a little help from people who have been there.

We have rented a house in Big Sky, MT and plan on making at least 3 day trips down to Yellowstone. We probably will be entering through West Yellowstone entrance. Can anyone provide us with 3 separate day itineraries of things 'not to miss'. Obviously we'd love to see the geysers, etc.. and would really love to be able to see some wildlife (bears, wolves, etc) - just like everyone else.

Any help would be appreciated!! Thanks!

Todd

Wyoming & Sanibel
Level Contributor
1,344 posts
12 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: First time @ Yellowstone - itinerary help!

Wish you had asked for help before you had rented a house. Big Sky is about 55 miles north of West Yellowstone, Montana (which is not in the park, but one of the gateway towns).

Yellowstone NP is about the same size as the state of Delaware and the speed limit is 45 miles per hour, but often you will not be able to drive that fast, due to wildlife or some winding roads. You will have reasonably long days in July, but driving in the dark due to the wildlife is not advised, so be sure to head back earlier enough.

The west entrance will be fine for visiting the geyser and thermal areas generally on the west side of the park, but you will be a long ways from the prime wildlife viewing areas and by July early, early morning or dusk are the best times for seeing wildlife in the valleys in the eastern part of the park. But under optimal conditions it will take you just about 2 hours of driving to get to the Old Faithful geyser basin under optimal conditions (no slow downs for wildlife and without stopping for views and photos). That's a LOT of driving in the car back and forth.

As to itineraries, it would be helpful to know more about your group - are you travelling with children, interested in hiking, how early is your group willing to head out in the morning?

Edited: 15 June 2010, 17:27
Englewood, Fl.
Level Contributor
1,739 posts
3 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: First time @ Yellowstone - itinerary help!

If you have already locked into the house in Big Sky, you will be doing some traveling! It's over 50 miles from Big Sky just to get to the West Yellowstone gate. Not exactly the ideal recommend base location. Once inside the park there are over 2 million acres waiting to be explored.

Itineraries for visiting the park are as varied as the number of visitors who come. If you have done some research, you know that the main road, called the Grand Loop, is basically a figure 8. Some divide the park by halves or quarters and visit one portion each day, while some actually try to see it all in a day or two. It's a matter of personal choice, and there really is no right or wrong way to do it.

The geyser basins are located in the southern and western areas of the park, while the better wildlife viewing is found in the northern and eastern sections. These areas are over 80 miles apart, with a lot of park to explore in between. If spotting wolves and bears is on your agenda, you will want to be in the prime northeastern viewing areas of Lamar and Hayden valleys at first light and last light for the better "action." With the commute that you have given yourself, that will be very hard to do. Driving in the park at anytime during darkness is strongly discouraged.

I'm sorry to paint such a bleak picture for you, but I just wanted you to know what you are getting yourself into by basing that far out. Unless your plans include visiting places other than YNP, lodging in West Yellowstone itself, or the small towns of Gardiner, or Cooke City would be much more practical.

Englewood, Fl.
Level Contributor
1,739 posts
3 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: First time @ Yellowstone - itinerary help!

Shell..... It looks like we were both typing at the same time. I'm glad that we agreed, so we didn't confuse the OP too much ......... ;-)

H

Wyoming & Sanibel
Level Contributor
1,344 posts
12 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: First time @ Yellowstone - itinerary help!

Hawk - I was surprised that I was the first to respond, since I wrote quite a bit. It's very sad to tell people that they have made poor choices which will limit the reason they are coming to the area (to see bears and wolves). Yes, lol, same song unfortunately for them.

AKJ
Bruceton Mills...
Level Contributor
2,526 posts
3 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: First time @ Yellowstone - itinerary help!

I don't really disagree with the other posters but I'll try to help.

We put together itineraries from West Yellowstone. They might help you figure out what you'd like to do. There a text description of the day and an associated map. Sounds like you'll lose two hours of the day getting to and from West Yellowstone but you can deal with it.

alandsuejohnson.com/ynp_itineraries_west_yel…

You may not see much in the way of grizzlies and wolves. I don't think you can get to those areas early enough but the rest is quite spectacular too.

Have fun. If you decide to come back to the park, try for June and try to stay in the park.

Here's a link to some information we put together to help in planning a trip to Yellowstone.

alandsuejohnson.com/yellowstone_planning_a_t…

Saint Louis...
Level Contributor
3,558 posts
77 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: First time @ Yellowstone - itinerary help!

Appreciate the replies. And Shell, I don't think we made a 'poor choice' by staying in the house we're staying in. Yellowstone is not the main reason for the vacation. We have 12 people staying in a 3500 square foot house that is absolutely wonderful... so we have an awesome base to do a lot of stuff from. We just want to head into Yellowstone on a few of the days and we don't mind driving.

So again, given that - we were looking for the best things to do on those 3 days that we are driving down. If we need to leave really early in the morning to get to the best wildlife viewing areas, we can do that...

Saint Louis...
Level Contributor
3,558 posts
77 reviews
Save Reply
7. Re: First time @ Yellowstone - itinerary help!

AKJ - that is EXACTLY what I was looking for!! Great information and much appreciated!!

CT
Level Contributor
2,120 posts
38 reviews
Save Reply
8. Re: First time @ Yellowstone - itinerary help!

I don't think you made a "poor choice" either. Everyone has different priorities and agendas for vacations and there is no right or wrong way to spend time in the park. The bottom line is your are GOING to spend time there...just think of the people that go to Disney year after year after year and don't visit or bring their children to the amazing nat'l parks at all.

Have a great vacation!!!

Saint Louis...
Level Contributor
3,558 posts
77 reviews
Save Reply
9. Re: First time @ Yellowstone - itinerary help!

SilverStarfish - I completely agree. We love national parks. My in-laws live in Durango, CO - and we have been to many of them in Colorado, Utah, etc... (Mesa Verde, Black Canyon, Arches, etc). On our way to Montana, we are driving through South Dakota, and will be passing through Badlands, and also going to Mt. Rushmore. On the way home we hope to hit Grand Tetons and some other places. So I think they were off base saying we made a 'poor choice' - actually was quite condescending. Oh well.. thanks for the reply. We are looking forward to checking out Yellowstone - can't wait!!

Saint Louis...
Level Contributor
3,558 posts
77 reviews
Save Reply
10. Re: First time @ Yellowstone - itinerary help!

By the way, the home we are staying in was actually featured on HGTV, so again, by no means did I make a 'poor choice'! :)