Our entire stay the weather was great and only had couple of afternoon thunderstorms at the end of our trip (we never used our rain gear) and it was COLD for us (we are from FL) mostly mornings and late afternoons. Also the last few days we noticed that there crowds increased significantly. Some good binoculars are a MUST!!! In many cases wildlife were far away and I felt bad for families that didn't have them. We lent ours to few people but sometimes there aren't people around to borrow. Also a portable small tripod helped us for great pictures together when nobody was around. AMAZON.COM helped me with most of my preparations for his trip. We put 1,000 miles on our rental :))
Day one of our Yellowstone vacation. I'll try to keep it short. We landed at Billings around 1:25pm and picked out our rental and had lunch at McCormick Cafe (Very very good). Then drove to Livingston and head down to Gardiner. We stopped at the Walmart in Laurel and stocked up. We never used our cooler, the waters in our car stayed cold all the time. We used the cooler as a storage :). We bought Camelback water botlles and filled them up all the time (they stay cold longer). It was raining most of the way to Livingston and it was a great experience (very different than flat FL). We made few stops and took few pictures on our way to Old Faithful Inn from the north entrance. After checking in we ate at the Old Faithfull Inn dining room. The food was good and service was great (Customer service from rangers and employee were great). I work at Disney as a waiter so I have high expectations in both areas. This was one of the best meals we had. We stayed at the west wing and the rooms were nice, nothing fancy but my spouse gave it the OK and that’s big LOL.
Day two: We got up early and had breakfast at the dining room. It took forever to get our meal and we almost missed our ranger walk at 9am. The walk was great and we saw the Lion Geyser in action...AWESOME!!! It was very cold and the walk was about an hour. We saw the Old Faithful eruption from the terrace :) . After the ranger walk we headed back to the visitor center and bought a map and some bear spray to keep my spouse calm (we never used it). Then we head out and finished the walk by ourselves. We wrote the predictions but never plan to see them. On our way to the Morning Glory Pool we saw the Castle Geyser go off...talk about good timing. We were tired and short of breath, we took few breaks and we did just fine. I felt some snow flakes and I couldn't not believe it. Then we drove to the Midway Geyser Basin and as many mention, pictures are hard to take from there so we decide to drive to Fairy Falls Trail head. It was a never ending walk but we did it. Then I had to climb up half way to the mountain (not a clear trail) to take better pictures. My spouse stayed down since it wasn't easy climb and he was short of breath from the altitude and walk. After that we head out to the Firehole Dr. and it was cool. Then we did the Fountain Paint Pot Trail and took more pictures. It was early so we decide to head north to Gibbons Fall. After that we had plenty of daylight so we decide to go to Artist Paintpots and was a good timing because there was a bison traffic jam the other way. The Paintpots were AWESOME!!! and even a few of us got a little souvenir in our clothes (some of the mud splatter on our clothing). We were OK and it wasn't much. We had dinner at the Obsidian and the meal was good. My portion was small compare to the table next to mine so I wasn't too happy. There was an employee eating on a table next to us and he was complaining about his job to another employee and saying things that I wouldn't talk on front of the guests. Then he wonders why he gets written up so often and does not get the transfer that he wants.
Day three: We got up early and decided to have coffee in our room and eat some snacks for breakfast before checking out and heading to Jackson. First we stopped at Black Sand Basin around 7am...we were the only ones there. On our way to Jackson we stopped at Moose Falls and took pretty neat pictures. Then we entered to the Grand Tetons NP and stopped many times and took pictures...AMAZING!!! Colter Bay VC was our second stop and we walked around and took few pictures. Next stop was Signal Mountain Lodge and we had lunch at The Trapper Grill where the views were great from the restaurant and food was good. Next stop was Jenny Lake..parking lot was packed but manage to park parallel between two RV's :). We took the boat and did Hidden Falls...fairly easy hike and a must do. After that I convinced my spouse to try Inspiration Point but we stopped at an overview to rest and saw how high it was we decide to stay there and enjoy the view (Altitude was killing us). Surprisingly I was getting phone signal so I was texting home to check on our kids (two cats and a dog) and posting few pics on Facebook. We headed back to the boat and continue driving and saw antelopes on our way to Jackson. We stopped at the Episcopal Chapel of the Transfiguration then took the Moose Wilson Rd to Jackson (we saw a beaver dam). There is a spot where moose frequent but we weren’t lucky. We stayed overnight at Cowboy Village were we did our laundry that afternoon. Our room was great and spouse gave it the OK :). We had a great meal at Cafe Genevieve...very very very good. Then walked around some...it was COLD!!!. That didn't stopped us from having some ice cream at Moo's Gourmet Ice cream.
Day four: After having breakfast breakfast at E.leaven Food Company (very good), we drove back thru Wilson Moose Rd where we saw a young elk. We hungout by the moose spot for over an hour with no luck so we decide to head to the Craig ThomasVisitor Center where the ranger was talking about places to spot wildlife.He was great with the kids. Then we headed out to Mormon Road where we took few pictures and saw bison, ground squirrels, and antelope. Next stop was West Thumb Geyser area...very impressive and the weather was changing and rain was heading our way. We saw elks in the area. We continued driving to the Lake Village where we took a break and looked around. Then we drove to the Fishing Bridge and hangout for a few before heading to the Canyon. Driving thru Hayden was breathtaking. We saw elks and many bison. We checked in at the Canyon Lodge (Dunraven) and the room was very nice. Since the menu at Canyon Lodge dining room was limited we decided to try Roosevelt for dinner. The drive from Canyon to Roosevelt was a bit too much for me. The road was going up and up with many switchbacks and not many guard rails on the road. At the top we saw snow next to the road, and the switchbacks were scary for us. The worse part was that we arrived around 7:30pm and there was a 45 minutes wait. Last thing we wanted it was driving back the same road at dark. I had the ribs and they were OK, nothing to brag about it. My spouse had the black bean soup that was mostly liquid and few beans. He had the shrimp and it was so overcooked that I couldn't even eat it. A table next to us had the bison burger and it was overcook. That is something that I noticed at the park, when you ask for a burger they do not ask you how do you want it cook. Well at least we made it back before dark and we were freaking out so much after driving that road that we only took two pictures that round trip. After that drive I was wondering if I could do the Beartooth Highway.
Day five: After getting advise from many people we decided to get up very early to see wildlife. Our luck, it was a foggy morning and we could barely see what was in front of us. We drove to the Fishing Bridge and back to the Canyon (saw few bison on the road). We decide to have breakfast at the grill/store (not sure if it was part of Xanterra) and it was OK. Then we drove to Artist Point, after that we decided to do Uncle Tom's Trail and it was great. We took our time going down and up, saw the rainbow :). After taking a break and hanging out at the Visitor Center for a while,we drove to the Brink of Upper Falls, then Lookout Point, and Grand View. The views were great and took many pictures. We decided to take a break from the Canyon and drove by Hayden Valley again, this time we saw a coyote very close to the highway. We were a bit hungry so we headed to the spot Pam recommend us and had some snacks (It was a beautiful place). It was pretty early so we headed out to the Norris Area and walked the Porcelain Basin Trail. After that we drove to the Hayden Valley and hungout before the sun came down. We didn't saw much but it was a neat experience being out t that time (use mosquito repellent). This night we ate at the Canyon Restaurant...the worse meal of the trip. I think Mc Donalds has better meals than this place and even the french fries were cold. This time our server wasn't saving the bad meal, she wasn’t friendly, very arrogant and didn't even check on our drinks. At the end she didn't even offer us coffee or dessert just dropped the check. I am a 20% kind of guy when tipping, she barely got 10% (She was that bad).
Day six: We checked out Canyon and drove by Hayden again and we saw our first grizzly bear digging. Thanks God for binoculars, my spouse was excited it since he was dying to see bears and it took this long. We also saw three otters swimming by the river and playing near the road. We went back to Norris and walked the Back Basin. Next stop was Upper Terrace in Mammoth, we took our time here and did most of it. Then drove to the hotel area and found parking after driving around for a few minutes. It was hot so we decided to take a break and have some delicious ice cream at the store. Then we walked the lower part before heading out to the Tower area (we had plenty of time) where we saw antelopes, and our first black bears (mom and cub). The cub was way up in a tree scared while the mom was at the bottom. We stayed for a while until mama bear was getting too close to the crowd and we left. We saw a coyote all wet crossing the road on our way to Tower (It rained). Once we arrived we turned around and headed to our B&B in Gardiner (Gardiner Guest House B&B was AMAZING!!! Nancy was great, you felt like you knew her for years). We ate at the Raven Grill and the food was delicious and the presentation was like a 5 star restaurant. Stephanie was our waitress and she was great (short redhead looks like a model). It was very busy but she was on top of her tables. We had a four course meal and everything was delicious and made fresh.
Day seven: We had a delicious breakfast and enjoyed the company of other visitors staying at the B&B before heading out to our next stop Red Lodge. In Lamar Valley we saw another black bear and her cub (same situation, baby up in the tree). We also stopped by the petrified tree. I was a bit hesitant of driving the Beartooth Highway but I am glad we did. It was amazing and most of the road has rails so it made it easier for me compare to the drive from Canyon to Tower. It was funny because my spouse was the one suffering from the altitude. I drank like three bottles of water and everyone was going at 25 – 35mph. The views were AMAZING and we took lots of pictures, many from inside of the car. We arrived at Red Lodge and checked in at Yodeler Motel (very nice) and relax part of the afternoon before having dinner at Bridge Creek Backcountry Kitchen & Wine Bar. The food was great as well (four course meals), I guess we were trying to make it up for the meals in the park :). We walked the town (lots of construction replacing water lines in town) and took few pictures. We saw a young elk walking in the streets.
We had a wonderful time and we thank everyone in here specially Pam for putting together the itinerary for us. We are glad that we stayed in different areas of the park since you want to get up early and late to watch wildlife and staying close to the valley helped us. We wished we stayed more days in the Tetons area but maybe next time. Starting the day early also helped us with avoiding the crowds and being able to do more. Drinking water helped us with altitude, my nose was sensitive but it was minimum (bloody), our skin was very dry. We are from FL so we got some sun burn but nothing mayor, but if your skin is sensitive apply sun lotion frequently.