Thanks to everyone with your help planning this trip! We had a great two week visit to Yellowstone and Glacier national parks, and were very lucky with weather and animal sightings. On the trip, were myself, my boyfriend, and my mom.
Day 1. Flew into Jackson Hole at midday. Smiths for groceries and Kmart for Bear spray (~$45), lunch in Jackson, then drove through the park to Signal Mountain Lodge. Slept SML.
Day 2. Drove the loop of the Tetons – Jackson Dam, Oxbow bend, Mormon Row, Jenny lake boat trip and hike to Hidden Falls/Inspiration point, Signal Mountain. After dinner, went to Willow Flats but sadly no moose. Slept SML.
Day 3. Drove to Yellowstone. West Thumb Geyser basin, Old Faithful geyser and then walked around geyser hill at Old Faithful. Slept OFI.
Day 4. Firehole Canyon drive, Fountain Paint Pots, hiked along Fairy Falls trail to Grand Prismatic overlook (while mom did boardwalk). Back to Firehole Canyon drive to see Great Fountain go off. Then back to OFI and walked to Grand Geyser to see it erupt. I then walked the rest of the Upper Geyser basin boardwalk to Morning Glory pool while the others went back to OFI. Slept OFI.
Day 5. Black Sand basin. Drove to Mammoth. Did upper terraces drive, and then viewed some of lower terraces from boardwalk (but didn’t do whole boardwalk). Drove to Tower and then Canyon and did Blacktail Plateau Drive along the way. Drove into Hayden valley after dinner and saw two bears and a wolf. Slept Canyon Western cabin.
Day 6. Drove through Hayden valley to Lake, stopping for an hour or so to view a grizzly mom and two cubs and a wolf. Lake Yellowstone hotel. Drove half way to Grant and found a secluded picnic spot along the lake for lunch. Drove back to Canyon and did Mud Volcano. Canyon South Rim drive and Uncle Tom’s Trail. Canyon North Rim drive. Drove into Hayden valley after dinner. Slept Canyon Western cabin.
Day 7. Drove through Lamar valley to the north east entrance and saw lots of pronghorn. Drove back to Canyon. Did some laundry. Walked from our cabin to north rim of canyon, and walked along rim and down to brink of lower falls. Slept Canyon Western cabin.
Day 8. Drove to Cody via East entrance. Buffalo Bill dam, Cody museum (Western, Plains Indians, and Natural History). Rodeo in evening. Slept Best Western Cody.
Day 9. Old Trail Town Cody. Drove Chief Joseph highway and Beartooth to Red Lodge. Slept Yodeler Motel in Red Lodge.
Day 10. 8 hour drive to Glacier National Park.
Day 11-14. Glacier National Park.
Day 15. Flew home from Kalispell.
Car rental: $550 with Alamo and Costco discount. One way rental, two drivers, unlimited miles, “compact” car (Dodge Charger).
Lodging: See my reviews for more details. In general we could not have done much of what we did in Yellowstone without staying in the park. I would definitely advise that you talk to someone when you book and request anything that is important to you as many of the room/cabins are not the same – eg. not all SML cabins are on the lake; OFI old house rooms will be noisier if you are on the first floor or balcony etc.
Signal Mountain Lodge – two room cabin on the lake, very peaceful, rustic, clean.
Old Faithful Inn old house room – wonderfully and perfectly maintained/restored, very very clean (including communal bathrooms). Great value and favorite place that we stayed. Loved sitting on the deck each evening with a drink and watching OF erupt. Main negative is that the lobby was always busy, even at 9pm in the evening.
Canyon Western cabin – clean, spacious, comfortable and very conveniently located for wildlife watching and first time visitors who want to visit all areas of the park. Bit too expensive though. Didn’t really like the Canyon “village” area (where the restaurant/general store is).
Breakfast and lunches from cooler. Also took a kettle for making tea and couscous.
OFI dining room – food was fine but not fantastic. Not much vegetarian choice.
OFI cafeteria – better than we expected and reasonably priced.
Canyon cafeteria – terrible except for the vegetarian chilli. Even the same garlic bread that we had at OFI cafeteria was 10x worse at Canyon.
Canyon dining room – not too many vegetarian options, but we had a pleasant dining experience.
Canyon general store soda fountain – typical veggie burgers, no surprises, cheap.
Bison – 11am around Mormon row (herd), and many many times in Yellowstone
Deer – 9am-ish, roadside near Signal Mountain Lodge (one). Mid afternoon, roadside, near Old Faithful area (two). Mid morning between Norris and Mammoth (one).
Elk – 9am-ish, roadside near Old Faithful area (two)
Coyote – 9am-ish roadside between OF and Madison (pack). Mid afternoon on Blacktail Plateau drive (one), and mid morning in Hayden valley (one).
Marmot – afternoon near brink of upper falls (one).
Grizzly bears – sunset from Grizzly overlook in Hayden valley (two). 9.30am from same place (mom and two cubs)
Wolves – sunset (one) and 9.30am (one) from Grizzly overlook as above.
-Watching Grand and Great Fountain geysers erupt. Great Fountain was late and we were essentially chasing it all morning – we kept coming back to see if it was ready! Grand was pure luck – we arrive around the predicted time, thinking we may have already missed it, but in fact it went off 15 minutes later!
-Grand Prismatic – very pretty and photogenic from above.
-All the animal sightings, but especially watching the grizzly family. They were a ways away, but we watched them play and forage on the hillside, walk down, swim across the river and feed on a bison carcass.
-The wildflowers were wonderful, especially around the lake area, Hayden valley, and around Beartooth pass.
-The scenery in many places, but especially the lake area, Hayden valley, Canyon, the mountains in the north east entrance area, the “hoodoos” near Mammoth, the Tetons from Mormon row and Oxbow bend, the east entrance road and the Beartooth pass.
-The brink of the lower falls – an awesome experience!
Less enjoyable experiences
-Seeing a kid throw a stone at a bird on the Inspiration Point hike. And then seeing some other kids feeding goldfish crackers to chipmunks. It was a very busy hike, but still worth it because Hidden Falls is so pretty.
-Mud Volcano. We did the whole boardwalk in the hot sun, and at this point I was geysered out – in retrospect we didn’t need to do the whole thing.
-Artist’s point. Lots of tourists and elbows. Just very busy.
-Lots of driving. Ok, this is kind of a plus/minus type thing. It was necessary to drive to get to all the highlights. And we wanted to stop a lot along the way to look at points of interest eg waterfalls, scenic views etc, which added a lot of time on to the driving. I hadn’t expected so much stopping along the way, so it got a little tiring! I was so glad we stayed in the park, because we were busy enough as it was, and we didn’t even get to do Norris geyser basin in the end.
All in all a great trip. I would love to go back again some time, perhaps in a different season. I think it would be more relaxed as I wouldn’t feel the need to go to all the highlights, or stop so much along the road. I would like to explore the north east area of the park a bit more, I bet there is some great hiking around there. I’d quite like to stay in the lake area for a couple of days too. Doing some animal watching, and seeing one or two of the big geysers erupt would also be on my list.