I recommend you combine both parks during the same trip. Teton National Park requires less time than Yellowstone, and if you are flying to Jackson Hole, Grand Teton will be on your way before getting to Yellowstone’s south gate entrance.
When to go:
We visited the parks during the first week of June. We got warm temperatures and didn’t find huge crowds. July and August are popular for traffic jams and very warm weather. If you can make the trip out of the school holidays, it will be a “plus”. Although being on a “shoulder season”, all the hotels inside Yellowstone N.P. ’s perimeter were heavily booked months in advance.
I recommend you book your accommodations as early as possible. Depending on the hotel and type of room, you may need to book one year ahead of your travel dates.
Where to stay:
Definitely, stay inside the park’s boundaries. It’s fabulous!
Staying at one of the Park’s hotels you will be able to listen and watch geysers eruptions during late hours, and also enjoy the feeling of walking on “private” boardwalks, as you will be able to get there before anyone else.
Furthermore, if you like to watch wildlife (who doesn’t?), you will be in the “center of all action”.
Besides hotels and cabins, the park also offers many campsites for tents and recreational vehicles.
The best place to make reservations is through the Official Website.
It’s better to divide Yellowstone in three sections:
Yep, Yellowstone is huge! The best way to enjoy it properly is staying in three different places, exploring nearby attractions in a slower pace. If you divide the park in three (or at least in two), it will be possible to save on driving time, allowing extra time to explode new opportunities and getting to know the park’s many attractions in more detail.
Yellowstone has 8,983Km²! The park is 63 miles long and 54 miles wide and although you may think “oh, this is fast to drive around”, it’s not. The maximum speed is 45 miles/hour and most of the time you will drive at slower speeds for the following reasons:
- You will be enchanted by the views;
- There will be traffic along the road;
- You will have to stop to watch wildlife;
- you will have to stop for wildlife crossing the road or walking peacefully along it
How to get there:
We live in beautiful Vancouver (Canada) and our first plan was to drive from Vancouver to Mammoth Hot Springs. Checking GoogleMaps we realized that it would take at least 14 hours “no stop” to get there. Meaning we would have to overnight along the way adding up on time, cost and tiredness. We decided to fly.
We flew from Vancouver to Denver and from Denver to Jackson Hole.
Our plane landed at Jackson Hole Airport around 9.30PM. We got our rental vehicle from Alamo: A brand new car (never used) but very uncomfortable (Kia Rio). We returned to Alamo the next day to have the Kia Rio exchanged by a brand new Subaru (cost us 19 dollars / day more than the Kia but worth it).
Day 1: We traveled by plane most of the day and got to Jackson Hole at 9.30PM.
Getting to know Jackson Hole and Grand Teton:
We stayed at Huff House Inn and Cabins and really enjoyed our choice of accommodations. We found the B&B spotless clean, on a calm street located less than 5 minutes walking to the famous Jackson Hole Central Square.
I highly recommend staying at Huff House if you are planning to visit the region. The breakfast is delicious and there’s also a hot tub that is kept open until late night.
The first thing we did after breakfast was to walk to Jackson Hole’s Central Square. The Central Square is home of four famous arches made from elk antlers. The elks naturally shed the antlers at the end of every season.
After walking around the town, we drove to Teton National Park in order to drive the famous 42-mile scenic drive.
We stopped at Moose Crossing Visitor Center where we got maps and information about Grand Teton “turnouts”. At the information desk I also got information of ” how to get to Mormon Row“, a community of original homes and excellent photo opportunities.
We drove the 42-mile scenic drive counterclockwise stopping at many turnouts. The Tetons are magnificent and Mount Moran is really impressive and majestic.
We drove back to Jackson on time to watch the shootout that happens everyday at 6PM. It’s a funny tourist attraction that brings laughs to all ages. Just go to the Central Square to watch the free show. Although free, it will be nice if you leave a tip to the brilliant performers.
We had dinner at Snake River Grill. Good food and friendly service.
After another excellent night of sleep at Huff House, we savored again their delicious breakfast and loaded the car with our suitcases. Time to go to the “cherry on the cake”: Yellowstone National Park!
Yellowstone, here we go!
From Jackson it’s possible to drive along highway 191 or along Teton Park Road. As we did the “full loop” along Grand Teton National Park the day before, we already knew both ways, so we decided on the most scenic route: The Teton Park Road, as it passes really close to Jenny Lake. It’s a postcard-perfect picturesque drive! 🙂
On our way we also hiked on a scenic trail that goes to Taggar and Bradley Lakes.
Yellowstone National Park
We entered Yellowstone through the South Gate. There are many beautiful waterfalls along the way.
Our first stop was at West Thumb Geyser Basin. West Thumb is situated on the shores of Yellowstone Lake and has boiling mud, fumaroles, colorful hot springs and even small geysers.
Writing this post after returning home, I must add that an ideal enter point to the park is through the South Gate. If the first attraction you see is West Thumb Geyser Basin you will find it magnifique (and in fact it is). Of course, if you come to this attraction after visiting Old Faithful Geyser Area, you might find it less espetacular.
I also recommend you hike along West Thumb Overlook Trail for great views of Yellowstone Lake and the Absaroka Mountain Range.
From West Thumb Geyser Basin we drove to the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel without stopping along the way. There are two drives, one that goes through Norris and another one that goes through Tower Junction. We chose the first one.
It was good to arrive at Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel around 5PM. After check-in, we still had plenty of daylight to explore the Lower Terraces. The pictures are very pretty (in my “modest” opinion LOL) and you can see many more visiting my Flickr Gallery. Liberty Cap is very interesting and while we walked on the boardwalks we could admire the springs and cascading limestone pools.
Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel is an old hotel built in 1911. We had a large ensuite room with great views. There were several elks laying down on the grass, just under our window. So cute!
We were informed that the hotel will stay closed during the next winter season in order to go on a full restoration. It will be interesting to return in the future and compare the “before” and “after”.
Dinner was tasteful at Mammoth Grill, the hotel’s restaurant.
We woke up really early (around 5AM) and drove to Lamar Valley. The Lamar Valley is one of the park’s best places to spot wildlife. We saw black bears (with cubs), elks and bisons (with calves). No grizzly and no wolves (we saw them on a later date!).
Without options of “where to have breakfast” nearby Lamar Valley (as Roosevelt was closed for renovations and would not be open till a couple of days later), we returned to Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel to have breakfast there. We went to the Cafeteria and found it a poor choice, as they don’t grill the sandwiches and the prices are steep. If you plan to have breakfast there, go to the main restaurant. It’s more expensive but it’s fully serviced by waiters with all choices of eggs, sausages, potatoes, etc. That is what we did on the next day. 🙂
After breakfast we visited the “Upper Terraces”.
To visit the Upper Terraces you drive along a road called “Upper Terraces Road”. Many geysers can be seen from the car but after driving a few minutes there will be a parking space where you can park and start your walking sightseeing tour along scenic boardwalks.
From the Upper Terraces we drove south and stopped at Roaring Mountain Fumaroles.
From Roaring Mountain Fumaroles we drove to Norris Geyser Basin.
Norris: Norris Geyser Basin is the oldest continuously active geothermal area in the United States. There are two wonderful walking loop trails there.
There are several great geysers to watch, and Steamboat Geyser, the world tallest active geyser, is one of them. Steamboat is an “unpredictable geyser”, meaning we don’t know for sure when it will erupt, but even watching it when it is not in “full eruption” is an amazing experience.
The Porcelain Basin Overlook, in the same area, has amazing views.
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
Just 20 miles east of Norris, there’s one of the park’s greatest scenic spots: The Artist’s Point.
There are two amazing drives following the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone: The South Rim Drive and the North Rim Drive. We did both of them, and I can’t say which one is my favorite as both are awesome.
We opted for visiting the Artist’s Point first (this one is located by the end of the South Rim Drive) as it’s one of the park most famous spots for photographers. This is the spot where Thomas Moran painted one of the most well-know painting of the lower falls.
On our way back along the South Rim Drive we stopped at Uncle’s Tom Trail _ that was closed to the public due to snowy / slippery steps. I was happy with the closure because I already knew Uncle’s Trail has more then 300 steps down… so, I guess I “escaped” from a tough workout! 🙂
With Uncle’s Tom Trail closed, we stopped at the next viewing point, the “Upper Falls View”.
We continued our loop driving Grand Loop Road counterclockwise back towards Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel.
This drive is very scenic as it crosses the highest part of the park with magnificent views of the caldera. Along the route we took pictures of Tower Falls.
We saw many wildlife along this route and the highlight was a black bear with two cubs. They were really cute!
We arrived at the Mammoth Hot Springs around 7.30PM. This is the good thing of traveling in summer: The skies were still clear.
After breakfast we went to visit Fort Yellowstone. Located three minutes walking from the hotel, the houses are very well kept and there are informative displays about them. We had to find alternate routes to walk because there were several elks resting on the grass and we were told that many of them had just given birth a few days / hours before, so they could be aggressive with people passing by.
After breakfast (at Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel) we packed our suitcases and drove south along Highway 89 in order to visit Artist’s Paint Pots.
As soon as we started driving, there was a super attraction on the way: A grizzly bear!!! Oh, awesome!!!
After dozens (hundreds?) pictures of the cute grizzly, it was time to continue on our way to Artist’s Paint Pots.
The wooden trail along the Artist’s Paint Pots is super interesting and I recommend anyone visiting the area to stop by.
Continuing driving south we continued along the Grand Loop Road and from there we took the Firehole Canyon Road. This is an amazing route to see the Firehole Falls and the intricate rock pattern around them.
When driving the Grand Loop Road, there are two attractions that should not be missed: The Fountain Paint Pots, where mud pots, fumaroles, hot springs and geysers can be easily seen from a boardwalk and the Firehole Lake Drive, a short loop that you drive while you watch geysers, thermal features and the mysterious “Hot Lake” and “Firehole Lake”.
After having a great time along Firehole Lake Drive we drove to the Old Faithful Lodge in order to check-in.
The check-in process was fast and friendly and in a few minutes we had our stuff inside our cute cabin and were free to watch the Yellowstone’s main attraction: Old Faithful‘s eruption!
After the Old Faithful‘s eruption, that happens approximately every 90 minutes, we walked along the boardwalks to watch other geysers and the scenic sunset views.
Dinner was reserved months in advance at the Old Faithful Inn main restaurant. The restaurant’s architecture is amazing (as everything else at this hotel) and we were fortunate to seat by the side of the famous etched glasses panels that reproduces the original wooden Bear Pit Murals.
We slept like angels in our comfortable cabin at the Old Faithful Lodge.
About this cabin: When I made reservations (many months before traveling), there were very few options available as the hotel was heavily booked. Ideally, we would have preferred an ensuite bedroom but there were none available in this area (we wanted to stay at Old Faithful Inn or one of the hotels around it). We booked what was possible (this cabin) and I am happy we did so. Although very simple, it was super clean, the mattress were super comfortable, the linens were brandy new and fresh. The public washrooms were located not far from the cabin and were ample and clean. I totally recommend this accommodation if you want to stay in the area.
We had a nice view to the river, there were many windows (all of them with mosquito nets) and the air could circulate freely making it really fresh, like if we had air conditioner.
Xanterra has been doing an excellent work refurbishing and renovating the park’s accommodations. The natural beauty is so intense that visitors deserve what they are getting: new mattresses, new linens, spotless clean accommodations, etc.
We really loved our little cabin _ and we could hear the geyser’s eruptions during the night! Awesome! 🙂
We were eager to explore the uber famous Upper Geyser Basin, so we started early in the morning.
At 6.30AM we were already outside, having the place mostly to ourselves!
What a difference to walk along the boardwalks having them totally empty! Amazing! This is one of the greatest advantages of booking accommodations inside the park limits! 🙂
Although fearing bears, we walked all the way on a narrow trail to “Observation Point”. The trail is a steep 1 mile that deserves the effort. When you reach the top, there are amazing views of the Old Faithful and geyser basin, including the hotel and lodges.
After walking down the Observation Point, we started our walking tour along the Upper Geyser Basin.
As we started early in the morning, we were still without breakfast! So, at 9.30AM we went to Old Faithful Inn where we had an excellent breakfast.
At 11AM we attended the free tour of the hotel. We found it very interesting and we learned many things about The Old Faithful Inn glorious past. I highly recommend this tour if you are staying at the hotel or visiting the area.
After the historical and architectural tour we went outside in order to explore more attractions. I recommend you get a map (1 USD donation of free if you return it to the box after using) and follow it along the boardwalks.
The Upper Geyser Basin Trail: There are several amazing geysers and hot springs along the way, and the “Morning Glory Pool” is for sure, one of the prettiest things you will see while visiting Yellowstone National Park.
Black Sand Basin and Biscuit Basin are located close by (approximately 10 minutes driving) and should not be missed.
From Biscuit Basin we hiked to Mystic Falls. We were scared to death to have “close encounter” with bears, as there are signs on the trailhead advising not to take the trail in groups of less than three people. Luckily, we didn’t find any! 🙂
Midway Geyser Basin was our next attraction on this busy day and we loved it!
The main attraction at Midway Geyser Basin is the Grand Prismatic and this is… well… this is unbelievable!
Grand Prismatic is the largest spring is the United States and is the 3rd largest in the world. The deep blue waters are surrounded by amazing colors due to bacteria activity. It’s unreal.
We left Midway Geyser Basin around 6.30PM and went to the modern and brand new Canyon Lodge to check-in for the night.
Our room was large, modern and super comfortable. This was our best accommodation during this trip and next time we stay here we will ask for a room overlooking the forest instead of the parking lot. Although we stayed on the 3rd floor, it was noisy since early hours with people leaving the hotel with children screaming, rollon-on suitcases on the sidewalk and people slamming car doors.
We had dinner at Canyon Lodge Restaurant. I guess they are still in soft opening, so we found the service in need of more training.
Breakfast was at Lake Lodge Restaurant and again the service was awful. Time to move on!
We checked out and continued our journey along the Yellowstone National Park.
The first stop of the day was at Brink of the Lower Falls. This is a steep trail that goes all the way down to the falls. It’s simply breathtaking! Do not miss this attraction.
We continued driving along the North Rim Drive and stopped in several other attractions.
The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is super scenic and I am glad we explored it the way we did: Visiting the South Drive on a day and the North Drive on another day, so we could enjoy it more, with different perspectives and view points.
We saw an amazing eagle nest with a baby inside it and both parents taking care and changing places while an hawk was flying around terrifying the couple.
After leaving the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone we visited Mud Volcano area.
Mud Volcano has rotten eggs smell and the Sulphur Cauldron is super impressive, as we saw buffalos walking and resting in the area despite the bad smell and high temperatures. Amazing!
When we were waiting on line to use one of the washrooms, everyone had to move away, as a buffalo went walking and stopped by the washroom’s door.
It was funny as no one noticed the buffalo approaching. We only heard people screaming “move out, there’s a buffalo on your way”. LOL Everyone moved and we restarted the bathroom’s line minutes later.
About pit bathrooms at Yellowstone: We found the chemical bathrooms located in the park poorly maintained. All of them were smelly (not smelling of “blue chemicals” but smelling of sewage). Most of the washrooms didn’t have hands’ sanitizers _ only empty recipients.
The park is so pretty and the fact that the bathrooms are so dirty are a shame for everyone. I heard many foreign tourists, mainly from Japan, commenting about this fact.
From Mud Volcano Area we drove south along the Grand Loop Road to Lake Yellowstone Hotel where we had lunch. The hotel is being renovated and is located in a beautiful set, with awesome views to Yellowstone Lake.
Xanterra is performing an extensive renovation of the hotel and the results are awesome.
After lunch we walked around the hotel and saw beautiful elks walking peacefully. Simply magical moments!
Lunch at Lake Hotel was delicious and we were able to see wildlife around the hotel.
Back to Teton
We continued driving south and entered Teton National Park, on our way to Teton Village.
We checked in at Teton Mountain Lodge and Spa. As soon as we got rid of our luggage we went out to explore the small village.
We had lunch at Il Villagio Osteria. We didn’t like the dinner there. Hubby had a very dry lasagna and I had a “not tasty” pasta followed by a “not tasty” dry & extra-sweet tiramisu. The wine was good, although pricey.
After dinner we tried to use the hot tub at Teton Mountain Lodge and Spa but the indoor pool area is a joke. Although this hotel has a “pompous name” and is rated as “four stars”, it’s indoor pool area is worse than any cheap hotel.
I had never seen a pool and hot tub area without one single chaise. There’s nowhere to lay down, or seat, or read, or rest. There’s nothing.
Besides the lack of comfort, there were a group of teenage girls screaming out their lungs in an area where a sign states “Please enter quietly”. No supervision, no employees to take measures, nothing. Really awful.
The sleeping night at the Teton Mountain Lodge and Spa was a nightmare. Our roo,m had a murphy bed that when on “bed position” had the wall at its side.
Plus than 300.00 USD for this room? Seriously? To sleep “sandwiched” between the wall and my husband? Needless to say that to go in and out of the bed was a nightmare for me.
I sent an email to the manager at 2AM telling them it was impossible to sleep at this “four stars” hotel.
Breakfast was at the nice Mangy Moose. Delicious, affordable, great. Mangy Moose is the best place to have breakfast in Teton Village.
After breakfast I got a reply from the hotel manager and we got a meeting where she had our problems addressed.
We took the tram to the top of Jackson Hole skiing area and I found it amazing to see the steep trails where the skiers risk their lives. It’s really steep there!
At the top we hiked along the marked routes taking amazing pictures of the mountains around us.
Back to the village we had a delicious lunch at Mangy Moose.
We walked along the village and drove around trying to find moose. No luck with moose although we could spot elks and antelopes.
We had an excepcional dinner at Teton Thai and I highly recommend this restaurant! The service is amazingly friendly and the food is superb! In case you don’t like spicy food they have an interesting rating system going from zero to five where you can choose “how spicy” you want your food. My husband prefers the “no spicy at all” and I went on “grade 2” and found it SUPERB. Make sure you go to Teton Thai when you are visiting the region.
The new room we got from the hotel’s manager was much better than the first one, and we had an excellent night of sleep.
We returned to Mangy Moose for breakfast and drove to Jackson Hole where we went shopping for local art and souvenirs.
We flew from Jackson Hole to Denver and from there to beautiful Vancouver where we landed at 9.15PM.
It was a great trip and we loved each minute of it!
Feel free to ask questions or leave comments! I love to get comments on my blog posts! 🙂
In case you would like to see more pictures taken during this trip, please visit my Flickr Gallery. Thanks! 🙂