Why I Wanted to Go
This was one of the first non-necessary, just for fun trips I planned. I gave Mike a list of three possibilities: Seattle and Vancouver, a New England roadtrip, and Yellowstone. Not surprisingly, given his love of hiking and outdoor pursuits, he chose Yellowstone.
I had originally intended to cover a much wider area and to make this more of a roadtrip, by flying into Denver or Salt Lake City. But after investigating further, I decided that I wanted to focus on Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. So we flew into Jackson Hole instead to maximize our time. We split the time almost evenly between the two parks, with a little more time spent in Yellowstone since it is much larger.
What I Would Do Differently
Everyone gives this advice, and it is true: when visiting Yellowstone, stay in the park. The park is huge, and even when you stay in it, driving from one part to another can take up a big chunk of the day. However it can be tough getting reservations during the most popular times of year. I changed our plans after reading more about it, and called up the reservations desk at some point late in the game, asking for any consecutive 3 or 4 nights within our timeframe. Luckily, we managed to get a cabin at Yellowstone Lake Lodge for three nights, which was a little less than we wanted, so we drove up to Yellowstone from Jackson for an additional day.
We didn’t stay in the park at Grand Teton, but we did drive around and visit the lodges there. I think that’s where my obsession with National Park lodges began, because after seeing them, I wished we had stayed there. But we did like staying in Jackson, it was definitely less expensive, and we had some great food choices there.
We focused more on Yellowstone, which makes sense since there is much more to do there. But as I mentioned above, getting around in the park eats up your time and it can feel like you’re spending too much time in the car. If I were staying for a week in Yellowstone, I’d move around to stay in different locations in the park to cut down on travel time.
I liked both Grand Teton and Yellowstone, but Mike ended up preferring Grand Teton. Although there is less to see, we did more hiking there, and I think he was not quite as interesting in the geysers and geothermal springs as I was.
I was afraid we wouldn’t see any, but the buffalo were everywhere.
We went in mid-September, so technically the off-season, but the crowds at Old Faithful were still massive. I can’t imagine what it is like in the middle of summer. However, Old Faithful was the most crowded part of the park. In contrast, Yellowstone Lake, where we stayed, was peaceful and almost deserted. There is a lot more to Yellowstone than Old Faithful.
This was my first time in the Rockies, and my first time at any significant elevation. I was pleasantly surprised I had no altitude sickness.
We saw a bunch of geysers by chance, especially Grand Geyser, which turned out to be a big highlight.
Our second or third day there, there was a wildfire not far from Jackson. It never reached the town, but it caused a constant smoky haze in the sky. I missed the bright blue skies of our first few days.
We were hoping to spot some grizzlies in Yellowstone, but we didn’t see any.
Best Parts of the Trip
The amazing scenery in Grand Teton, and the unexpected sensory perceptions in Yellowstone. The photos don’t prepare you for the experience – the constant smell of sulphur, the bubbling and hissing of the water, and the explosive rush of the geysers.
We also really like the huckleberry slushies.
Most Difficult Parts of the Trip
Our accidentally strenuous hike on our first day there.
Worst Parts of the Trip
We liked staying in Jackson, but some of the touristy, faux Wild West parts were off-putting.
We didn’t see anyone do this, but apparently people throw garbage in the hot springs in Yellowstone, and it is affecting the colors of the springs. This is an American treasure, people!
We ended up having to drive to the airport from Yellowstone before sunrise, which was nerve-racking because it is incredibly dark and full of wild animals and we weren’t exactly super awake. Thankfully there were no accidents.
We’d like to go back to this unique part of the world, and we’re planning to go to Yellowstone in winter next time.