a VirtualTourist member
Hi, I would like to make a 1 week trip to Yellowstone NP and nearby surroundings. I would be with my wife and 6 month old son and planning to do this in May/Jun/Jul/Aug
Considering that I will be traveling from NJ, can someone suggest how best can I spend my time and cover most places. I also like driving and love photography and would like to cover some scenic byways.
Some other specific questions: 1. I may be asking too much, but does someone happen to have a day wise itinerary suggestion of how to spend each of these 7-8 days in Yellowstone and Grand Teton
2. From the following months - May/Jun/Jul/Aug , what time of the year am I more likely to get cheaper rates and/or lesser crowd?
3. I am even thinking of combining this as a Road trip i.e. fly from New Jersey to Denver, then drive to Yellowstone, through some scenic routes, and then spend time in Yellowstone/Grand Teton, before taking a return flight from some airport near to these NP. Feasible/Farfetched, any thoughts ?
Let me start with your last question - I think it really depends on how much driving you want to do. You could make a nice road trip and see a lot of things besides Yellowstone if you drove all the way from NJ (see my Iowa and Ohio pages for some stopping ideas) and there are some interesting sites to see in South Dakota as well. However, it would be a BIG trip and with a 6 month old? I dunno. It's up to you. If you only have a week tho, I think driving from NJ would be impossible to enjoy. The quicker route would be interstates but then the drive wouldn't be as enjoyable (in my opinion, I hate the interstates - boring!).
Driving up from Denver could be a lot of fun. Wyoming is really beautiful. There's some terrific stuff to see relating to the Oregon Trail in Eastern Wyoming and just driving up from Denver would give you a lot more time to enjoy in Yellowstone and GT.
As for the month to go, I think any of those times you're going to get crowds because school's out. There's not a lot you can do about that. The earlier you go the more the weather may be troublesome, esp. concerning tornadoes if you're driving across from NJ. My first visit, I went in July and I thought it was a perfect time. The weather was beautiful and it wasn't too hot in those higher elevations.
As far as a day to day itinerary, I think only you can come up with one based on your interests but know that with an interest in photography you won't need to wonder how to fill those days because both parks are so beautiful. In fact, when I was in GT NP, I actually said, out loud, to myself, "Stop taking pictures!" because it's really hard to not photograph the entire park. Yellowstone is the same way. Between the buffalo, the geysers, the mountains, the rivers, the waterfalls, the lake...just driving around randomly could keep you busy for a few days.
I think your biggest question for this trip is deciding to drive from NJ or Denver. Once you figure that out, the rest of the trip will be easy.
We have camped in Yellowstone on a couple occasions and found it quite remarkable. Have you considered renting a small RV and camp through the area? Try Cruise America for a RV. All kinds of things to see most within a days ride. Unfortunately, the times when things are cheaper are when the weather is not the best. If you do go by RV reserve early. Other than on an occasional road, the park is large it never seems crowded.
My son lives in NJ so we have made the trip often in a RV and please believe me when I say It can be a very long ride. If I had my choice I would rent the RV somewhere close to the parks. Fly out and save lots of time. In a RV, need not be big, you have all the conveniences of home and yet the cost are minimal particularly if you don't thousands of miles on the RV
A caution about doing Yellowstone this summer? March is very late for booking accommodations. Our accountant is taking his family in August and booked their park rooms in December: he said he was barely able to find openings. This is one of the U.S. more popular national park destinations so lodges start booking a year in advance.
You may have the same difficulties in the Tetons (specifically, Jackson.)
It would probably be a good idea to get some ideas from members here who have stayed outside or at the edges of park in the case that you're unable to find rooms at any of the lodges.
You might also call ahead to the park and see what they have open for any of the months you list: availability may determine what month you travel. :O)
If you do decide to camp scrutinize what the character of each campground is. A few with full hooks ups are nothing more than large parking lots, while others are placed in the trees and are quite beautiful. If you can control your power consumption, anything is possible. Where we last camped in the park there was a family of wolves near and while we walked to one of the lodges we had to dodge an occasional Buffalo crossing the road within a few feet of us.
I might mention while you visit the park it is very important to follow all the rules as they protect both the people and the animals. Even though there may be lots of people around you are still in the wilderness.
I clearly remember on one occasion while at the lodge we were having an interesting conversation with one of the long time rangers and I casually mentioned we were going to walk down to the lodge that evening to have dinner. The conversation stopped and he gave us a very solemn look and said he does not walk on any road at night! We drove to dinner that night!
I worked in Yellowstone for 5 years, and would really suggest May or very early June. The rivers will still be full and everything will be green and beautiful. It can get very hot in Yellowstone in the mid summer months along with the hordes of travelers. Traffic on the roads can become congested and it's not like it's a four lane hightway. Oh, yes and take some mosquito repelant with you. If you have a difficult time finding accomodations, try West Yellowstone, Gardner, or Livingstone.
A very similar/almost identical question was asked - also by someone with a 6 month old son and also from New Jersey very recently.
They've decided they would wait a year until doing the trip....
Until then, many good answers on their question, even pertaining to the month(s) you are inquiring about.
Are you going to stay in a lodge or camp? If you are going to do either, getting reservations in the park at this late date might be difficult. You could stay in West Yellowstone or in Gardiner and be just fine for either. But reservations are important.
You can fly in to either Denver or Salt Lake City, which would cut about 4 hours off your drive time. There are closer airports. I would suggest looking at Jackson Hole, Billings or Bozeman for places to land.
I have a fair amount on my Yellowstone page as I live fairly close. The park is built in a loop that is just a little more than 140 miles around. But it is done very slowly. Speed limits are often between 35 and 45 mph if you are lucky. More times than not you are going to see cars lined up at a stop because they are taking pictures of the wildlife. So do not have a strict schedule, it is going to change and be frustrating if you want that kind of time frame. Take time to do some hikes.
When you enter the park they will give you a map and flier - these are golden. They have all of the items marked out on them and where there is road construction. And if they say expect a 30 minute delay on them - they mean a 30 minute delay.... get out, stretch your legs and look around. Just remember to check the temperature of any stream before you allow the little one to wade in it. :) It might be hot.
(Administrator - Please let me know if I need to post this question as a separate thread)
Slight change in plans. I am now planning to combine Yellowstone/Grand Teton with Glacier NP in the last week of May
First 3-4 days in Yellowstone and the next 3-4 in Glacier. Please provide some suggestions
Where are you fitting in Grand Teton?
Yellowstone alone could take up 3 days easily - seems a shame to only do Grand Teton for 1 day.
Does the 3-4 days include travel?
Travel between North Yellowstone and Glacier will take up most of 1 day ditto on way back so that only gives you 1-2 in Glacier?
When in May? Some of the higher passes may/most likely be closed either in Yellowstone or certainly in Glacier, as they were when we were there last year in end of June.
Going to the Sun road didn't fully open until last day we were in Glacier, June 28th.
Short answer here? Too much in too little time. And again, you are visiting some of the U.S most popular national parks during the most popular seasons so reservations at accommodations near/ within those parks may be long gone by now.
To Add, this is the only time which I will get to visit this region so I want to make most out of it.
My tentative plan is as follows
5/24- arrive Bozeman
5/25 to 5/28 - yellowstone and grand Teton (need help on the breakup)
5/29 - drive to Glacier NP
5/30-5/31 - Glacier NP
6/1 - drive back for my return flight on 6/2 ( departure location TBD)
Thanks again for all your detailed inputs, it helps a lot, which is why I am now planning my trip in the week of 4th July.
Below is my itinerary, a few milestones are yet to be planned/booked so would need your help again.
Day 0 – 6/28 FRI Land at Bozeman, MT / Billings, MT and stay overnight at a nearby hotel
Day 1 – 6/29 SAT What all should I cover this day?. Staying overnight at Old Faithful Inn
Day 2 - 6/30 SUN What all should I cover this day?. Staying overnight at Lake Yellowstone Hotel
Day 3 – 7/01 MON What all should I cover this day?. Staying overnight at Canyon Lodge
Day 4 – 7/02 TUE What all should I cover this day?. Staying overnight at Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel
Day 5 – 7/03 WED Drive to Glacier NP, stay overnight at some Hotel in West Glacier
Day 6 – 7/04 THUR Do Chair Lift rides at Whitefish. What all should I cover this day? Stay overnight at some Hotel in West Glacier
Day 7 – 7/05 FRI “Going to the Sun Road”. Stay Overnight at “Rising Sun Motor Inn” on East Glacier
Day 8 – 7/06 SAT What all should I cover this day?. Stay Overnight at “Rising Sun Motor Inn” on East Glacier
Day 9 – 7/07 SUN Leave for Great Falls Airport for return flight
Apart from the questions mentioned above, I have the following queries as well
1. Between Day 1 and Day 3, where and how do I fit Grand Teton National Park?
2. Which are the scenic routes that I should take during my entire 9 day trip?
3. I can only do a couple of short hikes/treks during my trip so which ones should I go for?
4. Any other Tips and Tricks to make our vacation more enjoyable ?
I truly understand that I will just be “touching” upon the places….. so still trying to make the best achievable and enjoyable plan !!
Simple answer to #1 query: "How do I fit in GTNP" is you don't.
You *could* but it would entail a lot of senseless driving. You'd be going way south to once again go way north.
At best you would drive through and frankly, due to how crowded park will be during the time of year you're planning on going you'd be so frustrated I fear that it wouldn't be worth it.
I have a suggestion for you.
If you go to www.googlemaps.com and enter beginning and ending destination it will give you a good map out route including scenic routes you can take.
Easy to use, self explanatory and well worth your effort.
Ditto if you invest in a good guide book to Yellowstone National park.
Final note: 1 day to drive between Bilings and Old Faithful PLUS see what there is to see in both the Upper and Lower geyser basin (the most popular area and the one with the most to see out of the entire park) is also pushing it.
Just my two cents worth.
Have you actually booked the hotels you've noted?
Those hotels are probably full by now, at least the ones in YNP are.
I already have the Hotels in my name. I am trying to get suggestions for how to best cover the park with these reservations in place
I like Billings better than Bozeman - but I live closer to it. If you do that then I would take the time to go into the park over the Beartooth pass, I have pictures of it on my Red Lodge page. There is a stop near the top to look down over the pass.
This will bring you into the park on the NE entrance and across a great meadow that is great for seeing wildlife. Turn south here and stop to see Tower Falls. Do not bother going down the path as you will not be able to see the falls from the bottom any longer as the path is down. You should have enough time to then go to Old Faithful from there, you will see the rest on other days.
I would take the next day for the Tetons - go see Jackson Hole also.
You might be able to do Midway Geysers, than up to the Canyon and explore that area the next day.
The last day in Yellowstone you can see Mammoth and the geyser basins on the other side of the park.
If you can afford it - take the helicopter ride over Glacier. It is better than any other way to see the park. I should have a link to a good one on my Glacier Park page.
Wanted to throw in another question.
- Instead of staying in Old Faithful on Day 1, can I go further south and stay near Grand Teton so that I could cover that. Since I will be travelling so much, how much sense does it make to stay at OFI...also there is the fact that it is pretty expensive
Actually it would, especially if coming from Billings. If you stayed in Jackson Hole, and went south instead of through the park that day it would make sense. You could still drive the pass.
But the question might still be what's open for accommodations? Will it be difficult to find a place to stay?
Homer, my last post was in regards to this question:
"....can I go further south and stay near Grand Teton?"
AHHHH, got it!
Should be ok for Jackson, I often book last minute, alas at a premium
Great - thanks! That's what I was concerned about. High season, ya know. :O)
Typically you can still get places outside the park pretty easy.
Thanks everyone for your inputs. The time has finally come and this is my final itinerary. Please suggest some ideas on Photography, Scenic Routes, Wildlife Watching, Small hiking (Yellowstone & Glacier NP only) ideas and Places to see.
Day 0 – 6/28 FRI --> Land at Billings, MT and staying overnight at a nearby hotel
Day 1 – 6/29 SAT --> Long Drive to “Teton Village” via the Beartooth Highway (Please suggest the best possible scenic route). See Grand Teton NP and staying overnight at Teton Village
Day 2 - 6/30 SUN --> See Grand Teton National Park. Staying overnight at Lake Yellowstone Hotel
Day 3 – 7/01 MON --> What all should I cover this day?. Staying overnight at Canyon Lodge
Day 4 – 7/02 TUE --> What all should I cover this day?. Staying overnight at Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel
Day 5 – 7/03 WED --> Drive to Glacier NP, staying overnight at Apgar Village Lodge in West Glacier
Day 6 – 7/04 THUR --> What all should I cover this day? (Is Chair Lift rides at Whitefish worth covering). Stay overnight at Apgar Village Lodge in West Glacier
Day 7 – 7/05 FRI --> “Going to the Sun Road”. Staying Overnight at “Rising Sun Motor Inn” on East Glacier
Day 8 – 7/06 SAT --> What all should I cover this day?. Staying Overnight at “Rising Sun Motor Inn” on East Glacier
Day 9 – 7/07 SUN --> Leave for Missoula Airport for return flight in the evening at 7 PM