First off thank you to the contributors on this forum for the helpful tips and advice. We had just 2.5 days in YNP, and couldn't have planned our visit without your help.
Very long TR, but I hope someone finds it useful.
Weather: We got REALLY lucky with the weather - it was in the mid 50s all 3 days, with no rain or snow. Mornings and evenings were cooler (30s), but we were comfortable in a light jacket all day.
Wildlife: We saw bison (lots), elk, deer, marmots, a coyote and a fox with her 2 cubs really close up. Caught sight of a bear through binoculars for a fleeting moment. Disappointed not to have seen a wolf or bear closer, but well you can't have it all. We also saw a wide variety of birds.
Accommodation: We stayed at Grant Village. While this wouldn't be our first option for planning future visits, it was the only accommodation available. I think it's still better than staying outside the park. You are reasonably close to old faithful (17 miles), and you can get to other sights efficiently by planning your day's schedule to visit attractions in one area together, and avoid driving back and forth.
The room itself was okay - the standard 2 double beds. The shower is so tiny you have to stand sideways. You're paying the $150 for the location (in the park!)) more than anything.
Food: We ate breakfast at the Grant Village dining room on all days. We ate a picnic lunch on all 3 days - it didn't make sense to drive all the way to a restaurant in the middle of sight seeing. We got dinner at GV on a couple of nights, and at the old faithful inn on one night. The food is okay, but overpriced. There are decent vegetarian options though. Definitely have one meal at the OF inn just for the ambience and experience. Also, do make dinner reservations in advance.
Below is the report of our packed itinerary.
We flew in to Bozeman at noon and got a to-go lunch on the way. We decided to enter YNP via the north entrance so that we could check out the farthest parts of the park (from grant village), before checking in, and thus avoid a long round trip drive. The drive via Gardiner is beautiful. Here's what we checked out on the way
- stopped by Roosevelt arch for pictures. Reached here at about 2 pm.
- Mammoth Terrace hot springs: got some sightseeing tips from the park ranger at this station. Mammoth is the park headquarters, and I believe it's open year round. Picked up some brochures at the visitor center. We did the lower terraces walking tour (easy, all boardwalk), and the upper terrace drive. Canary spring was really pretty.
The terraces are a cool sight, but didn't find them jaw-dropping awesome. I guess it was because we didn't see much hot spring activity - wrong timing maybe?
- Next we drove to Tower-Roosevelt and checked out the petrified tree.
- Next was tower falls. The hanging valley is pretty cool.
- We had planned to do the Mt Washburn trail, but it was closed due to recent snowfall. If you're planning a hike, do verify in advance that the trails are open. Some are closed due to bear management activities as well.
- Since we still had 2-3 hours of daylight we decided to drive to Lamar valley, and again save ourselves a long drive here from grant village. Lamar is achingly beautiful. We got a ton of great pictures, and saw a fox + litter, bison, and elk.
- Drove to Grant Village via Canyon, then Lake Village. Made for a long drive, but we felt good that we had covered the farthest parts of the park on Day 1.
- Checked in at registration office, then had dinner at the GV dining room.
Started the day with breakfast at the GV dining room. (Tip - get the buffet if you're in a hurry, service can be slow).
- Drove to Old Faithful visitor center and got predicted geyser eruption times for the geysers we were interested in. (Tip - There is a phone # you can call for a frequently updated, pre-recorded message on geyser timing. Get this from a ranger at the visitor center).
- Started driving towards Norris Geyser basin. Did the firehole lake drive and fountain paint pot walk on the way. It took us 90 mins total. Some cool colors in firehole lake drive. At fountain paint pots, we saw Clepsydra erupting and got really lucky to also see the Fountain geyser erupt. It was really cool!
- Checked out Norris Geyser basin. Definitely a must-see for the other-worldly landscape.
- Then drove south for the midway geyser basin. Very impressive! We loved the colors in the grand prismatic spring and excelsior geyser.
- Got back to OF village as planned, in time for OF eruption. Lots of people had showed up. OF erupted on the dot!
- Next on the list was the upper geyser basin. This is all board-walk. We went up to Riverside geyser and watched it erupt. A beautiful sight with the rainbow it creates. On the way back we lucked out again, and saw Grand erupt. Majestic! Checked out numerous other geysers and springs on the way back to OF in this 2.6 mile round trip loop.
- Made it back in time for an early dinner at OF inn. Check this out for the ambience and the beautiful architecture rather than the food.
- Post dinner we decided that we still had energy to do more. We drove to Lake Butte overlook, past Fishing Bridge, just in time for the sunset. Stunning vistas on the drive along lake yellowstone. Definitely recommended, especially if you're staying at grant village.
- Back to GV, end of day 2.
- After an action packed day 2, we woke up later than usual, and had a leisurely breakfast at the GV dining room.
- set off to the Canyon area.
- Saw sulphur cauldron and mud volcano on the way. Impressive!
- First stop was at the uncle Tom's trailhead. This is a short, but physically demanding hike with a breathtaking view of the upper falls. Must-do! Took us about 90 mins.
- Drove to artist point. Another great vista.
- went on to North Rim drive and checked out Lookout Point, Grand View, and Inspiration point. All offer a different view of the canyon. The colors are just stunning.
- On the way back, had a picnic lunch in hayden Valley, watching bison and elk graze in the distance.
- Stopped multiple times on the way back to GV for pictures. It is a beautiful drive.
- Returned to GV early for a change, and explored the visitor center there. They have a cool exhibit on the 1988 fire.
- Took a stroll by the lake in GV. Great views, expecially by the marina and amphitheater.
Since we had a 1 pm flight, all we did was pretty much drive to Bozeman. We exited the park on the west this time. Spent 30 mins in a bison traffic jam in the park, so definitely allow some buffer if you're catching a flight.
All in all, an unforgettable vacation, and I'm already wishing we could go back soon.Edited: 28 May 2013, 16:47