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.

Help initial planning Aug 2015 2-week family trip YNP & GTNP

Georgia, USA
Level Contributor
22 posts
106 reviews
Save Topic
Help initial planning Aug 2015 2-week family trip YNP & GTNP

Hello all!

In spite of research on this forum, I couldn't find posts recommending how to split a 2-week trip to Grand Teton and Yellowstone.

In 2012, we did GCNP, Arches, Zion, Bryce. Last year Big Sur, Yosemite and Sequoia. Here is what we enjoyed and are looking forward to finding next year:

- stay 2+ nights in each location (don't live out of a suitcase)

- wake up early to see wildlife and hike before it's hot

- just admire the vistas, landscape, immensity

- be able to cook our meals (don't eat out every time)

- drive no more than 5 hours between 2 hotels

I'm looking into arriving/leaving from Salt Lake City.

I've read about GTNP, where I'm thinking to spend 2-3 days [2 nights in Jakson]

I've also read about the various locations within YNP

- Mammoth (see 'Gardiner' below)

- Canyon village

- Lake village, with the Hayden valley for wildlife viewing

- Old Faithful OF

- Roosevelt, with Lamar valley for wildlife viewing

And two locations just outside the park, where lodging could be more affordable:

- West Yellowstone

- Gardiner

We'll be 2 families (4 adults, 4 teens and two 9-yo) and we can afford NP hotels, but not for every night.

So the question to you guys Destination Experts: how would you split your 12 nights amongst those locations in GTNP & YNP, and in which sequence ?

This will greatly help planning and checking for vacancy. I may then ask for your help again if I hesitate between different hotels.

N. Idaho
Destination Expert
for Yellowstone National Park
Level Contributor
18,617 posts
110 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: Help initial planning Aug 2015 2-week family trip YNP & GTNP

If you need kitchen space you would need to look at lodging in West Yellowstone or Gardiner as none of the park facilities have that.

I would go for either a clockwise or counter clockwise circle. Here's a suggestion.

Day 1: Land in SLC, drive toward Idaho Falls. West Yellowstone is 5 -5.5 hours from SLC (but truth be told it takes me 6. I guess I make too many pit stops, lol) I would stop in IF for a cooler and supplies and would stay in West Yellowstone or if you can get there before dark, go for Old Faithful.

Day 2/3: Overnight Old Faithful or if you need the kitchen West Yellowstone

Day 4/5: Overnight in Gardiner with a kitchen facility.

Day 6: Exit thru the NE entrance. Drive Beartooth Highway to either Red Lodge for Lunch or turn around at Rock Creek Vista. Go back almost to Cooke City and drive south on the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway. Overnight in Cody, possible Kitchen.

Day 7: Do Museum complex and rodeo. Also possibility of wild mustang tour. Overnight Cody with Kitchen

Day 8/9: Re-enter park and overnight at Lake

Day 10/11/12: Jackson in lodging with kitchen facilities if that is available

Day 13: Head back toward SLC unless you have a very late afternoon flight on the 14th:

Day 14: Fly home, plan next trip!

You can also do this the opposite direction, entering in Jackson, but I thought that might be best at the end for a bit more civilization.

Please know that I have no idea if there is lodging with kitchen space in Cody or Jackson. That's just not on my radar. I know people have posted about kitchen facilities in West Yellowstone and GArdiner. If you do look at those towns, be really careful about the location. Sometimes people will advertise *near the park* and it will be 45 minutes away which is too far given the amount of driving you will do IN the park.

Pam

Edited: 05 August 2014, 00:59
Atlanta, Georgia
Destination Expert
for Road Trips
Level Contributor
26,873 posts
379 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: Help initial planning Aug 2015 2-week family trip YNP & GTNP

Pam has given you great advice!! Yes there are rentals in Jackson or Teton Village with kitchen space. There is also a small kitchen at the Homewood Suites right off the square in Jackson Hole. We have stayed there before and liked it.

Do not know about Cody. The only place we have stayed is the Cody Cowboy Village and it was very nice.

Georgia, USA
Level Contributor
22 posts
106 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: Help initial planning Aug 2015 2-week family trip YNP & GTNP

Thanks, D0bby and PeachBelle for your posts and thanks Kitty for your message.

Kitchen is always better, but since there are none in the park, we'd have to trade being Inside the park, right where the action is, for a kitchen. I guess that's worth it in several places of Yellowstone, esp where you have to get up early to see wildlife, or places with long trecks.

So a new question is: which park areas are best to be visited while staying in the park (in a Xanterra hotel or lodge) ?

I was thinking that Lamar, Canyon and Lake are too far to be accessed from West Yellowstone, Gardiner or Cody (unless we Wake up super early), but I really value you guys' opinion.

The other question is about Cody. The counter clockwise trip recommended by D0bby looks great. I hadn't thought about Cody, because of the 20 mile distance from park entrance. But the kids would definitely enjoy a "day off" from walking trails and a visit of the Buffalo Bill Museum. Are there other areas with rodeos ?

Thanks!

Tacoma, Washington
Destination Expert
for Road Trips
Level Contributor
8,021 posts
1 review
Save Reply
4. Re: Help initial planning Aug 2015 2-week family trip YNP & GTNP

Out of park lodging options are in: West Yellowstone, Gardiner, Flagg Ranch (south entrance), and Cooke City. Cody is a little too far as a base for a visit.

Canyon is ideal for a central one place for lodging for say 4 nights.

For Grand Teton it a little easier. There are some park lodging and a ton of lodging in Jackson and Teton Village along with rental cabins in the surrounding area.

Since you are traveling for 2 weeks compare the rates of flying+ car rental between SLC, DEN, and the closer airports in Jackson, Idaho Falls, Bozeman, and Billings.

SLC will take about 6 hrs to get from the airport to either est yellowstone or Jackson. From Denver Jackson is 8 and Cody is 7 hrs.

Something to consider is doing something like 5 days in Yellowstone and then renting a home/cabin for a week in Jackson. Another option is looking for a 4 day rental just outside the park but close enough to explore parts of the park like west of Cody, near Cooke City, or near Garinder.

Fpor 12 nights you could do 4 night rental near West Yellowstone or Gardiner, 3 nights in Canyon/Lake then 3-4 nights in Jackson Hole area.

Between west yellowstone/Gardiner and Canyon/Lake you could do an overnight or 2 nights in Cody/Red Lodge---but this depends on how you fly in.

If you were to fly into Billings then I would say fly in and stay the night in Red Lodge then explore the parks doing the north part first, then old faithful, then down to Grand Teton, then Lake Yellowstone then up to Cody then back to Billings to fly home.

Atlanta, Georgia
Destination Expert
for Road Trips
Level Contributor
26,873 posts
379 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: Help initial planning Aug 2015 2-week family trip YNP & GTNP

We have stayed in West Yellowstone and toured the park. But West Yellowstone would be better for western side of the park, i.e. Old Faithful and geysers. IMO I would opt for a couple of nights at the OF inn and another couple at either Roosevelt, Canyon or Lake. Canyon is most central but a lot of people do not like the food. The food at Roosevelt and Lake is better. The food at the OF inn especially the breakfast and dinner buffet is very good.

In Jackson Hole be sure and check out the Gunbarrel restaurant.

Flowood, Mississippi
Level Contributor
286 posts
8 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: Help initial planning Aug 2015 2-week family trip YNP & GTNP

If you go to Cody, I would recommend spending a few hours at the Buffalo Bill Museum,as it is 5 museums in one with a lot to see. The rodeo runs nightly through the end of August, and the kids would probably enjoy that. There is a trolley tour of Cody which I found informative, and a nightly shoot-out in the street in front of the Irma hotel. If anyone in your group likes horses, there are tours to see the wild horses a few miles outside Cody. When we visit next year, we're going to drive the 80 miles down to Thermopolis to see the dinosaur museum and the hot springs.

If you're interested in spending time in Cody, I would suggest spending a night or two there as it's aybout 55 miles to the east entrance of the park-really too far for a day trip.

Lodging in Mammoth or Gardiner is good for seeing Mammoth Hot Springs, Roosevelt and Tower area and especially for wildlife viewing in Lamar Valley. There are some yellow bus tours that go mornings and evenings to Lamar Valley for wildlife viewing, and pick-up at Mammoth Hotel. Many posters on here like lodging at Roosevelt, but it's a little too rustic for me--especially those caebins with shared bathrooms that aren't down the hall but outside in a separate building.

Canyon or Lake are good for seeing the east side of the park, but with a group the size of yours, you will need 2 or 3 cabins or rooms as most come with a max of two queen beds. I think there may be a few that have 3 doubles-maybe at Roosevelt? To my knowledge, they don't have rollaways. You could bring sleeping bags for the kids to sleep on the floor if they're willing.

A night or two at Old Faithful would give you good access to the geyser basins without too much driving. Just remember to plan to always be back to your lodging before nightfall-large, dark animals roam the roads at night.

Have fun planning your trip.

Kitty

Yellowstone Nat...
Destination Expert
for Yellowstone National Park
Level Contributor
2,214 posts
19 reviews
Save Reply
7. Re: Help initial planning Aug 2015 2-week family trip YNP & GTNP

Well, there are a jillion ideas flying around here, so take your pick. To clear up a couple of things ...

I don't think of Flagg Ranch as a good base to see YNP. And ...

<< From Denver Jackson is 8 and Cody is 7 hrs.>>

That may be true in a helicopter, but helicopters are very expensive. In a car it is much longer than that.

ENJOY!

Aubrey, Texas
Level Contributor
10,527 posts
169 reviews
Save Reply
8. Re: Help initial planning Aug 2015 2-week family trip YNP & GTNP

First, Yellowstone isn't more worthy than Grand Tetons NP but it is a heck of a lot bigger with more things to see. I suggest a roughly 1/3rd GCNP to 2/3 YNP allocation of time.

Next, after spending hundreds if not thousands of $ to get to/from the parks spend a little more money if that's what it takes to fully experience them. Look at cabin accommodations which cost less than the hotels.

Staying in the parks lets you be there before and after the tourist throngs from W Yellowstone or wherever. Sunset at Old Faithful and sunrise on the Lower Falls seen from Artist Point sure beat an ordinary hotel/motel experience in my book. People who stay outside the park literally have no idea what they miss.

It's great that you have so much time for your trip to this amazing area.

Georgia, USA
Level Contributor
22 posts
106 reviews
Save Reply
9. Re: Help initial planning Aug 2015 2-week family trip YNP & GTNP

Thanks to all for contributing. Here is what the trip looks like now. I think it’s a fair balance of hikes (mostly), wildlife viewing and a few fun things like rodeo/raft to give the teenagers a ‘break’ in hiking. Please see my questions at the end.

- Day 1: arrival in SLC around 1:30 pm, get rental car, shopping for gear, cooler and supply. Night north of Salt Lake

- Day 2: 5h drive to Jackson. Warm-up hike in the pm. First of 4 nights in VRBO house in Jackson or Teton Village (TV)

- Days 3, 4, 5: three full days to hike in GTNP, with white water rafting and horse back riding. 3 more nights in Jackson/TV

- Day 6: drive to YNP, with stop at West Thumb geyser and hike near Yellowstone lake. Canoe on lake? First of 3 nights at Canyon Village (CV) lodge

- Days 7 and 8: two full days in Canyon. Morning hikes in Hayden valley. Artist point. Upper & Lower falls. Two more nights in CV lodge.

- Day 9: morning hike in Hayden, stop by Yellowstone lake on way to Cody. First of 2 nights in Cody

- Day 10: full day in Cody. Five museums by Buffalo Bill. Shoot out act. 8pm rodeo. 2nd night in Cody

- Day 11: drive to YNP thru N-East entrance. Hike in Lamar Valley. First of 3 nights in VRBO house in Gardiner

- Days 12-13: early morning hikes in Lamar valley, for the wildlife. Afternoons: mammoth hot springs and bath in Boiling River. Last 2 nights in Gardiner.

- Day 14: drive from Gardiner to West Yellowstone (W.Y.). Stop in obsidian cliff and Norris geyser basin. First of 3 nights in VRBO house in W.Y.

- Days 15-16: hikes in geyser country. Old faithful. Last 2 nights in W.Y.

- Day 17: drive from W.Y. to SLC, with some shopping on the way

Q1: would you say this trip is well balanced or would you recommend to spend more time somewhere, less time elsewhere?

Q2: to hike in GTNP, which is a better location to rent a house, Jackson or Teton Village? Remember, we are 10 people (2 families with 3 kids each, 16, 14, 10 yo)

Q3: is it doable to hike in Lamar while staying in Gardiner? I’m not too fund of Roosevelt lodge…

Q4: any other things to do on the way?

Thanks a million!

N. Idaho
Destination Expert
for Yellowstone National Park
Level Contributor
18,617 posts
110 reviews
Save Reply
10. Re: Help initial planning Aug 2015 2-week family trip YNP & GTNP

Q1: Looks pretty balanced to me.

Q3: Yes, very doable to hike in Lamar from Gardiner. You will see more wildlife from the road than hiking. Be sure to stop when you see people out with long camera lenses or spotting scopes. Cue the kids to be quiet when exiting the car, no door slamming, no yelling until you can see what's what.

Q4: I would talk to the Rangers at the various Visitor Centers regarding which hikes they would recommend for your group. You don't specifically have Storm Point hike listed, but there is a cool marmot colony about halfway along that is neat. The Trail head is about 3 miles east of Fishing Bridge. There are no vault toilets there, so stop at the Fishing Bridge VC before you head out there. There is a Ranger Led hike at 10AM daily which you could do on your way out to Cody, then eat either a picnic lunch or double back and eat at the Fishing Bridge General Store. Natural Bridge is also in the Lake area and is short but nice. The Natural Bridge at the end if pretty cool.

Have a wonderful time! We would love to read a Trip Report when you get back!

Pam