We (3 adults) plan to drive up to Grand Tetan National Park from Denver and spend few days in both Grand Tetan and Yellowstone National Park total 5 days (arrive on 5/22 and leaving on 5/28). Then drive back to Denver. Since all places are sold out inside the park, we plan to stay in Jackson Hole or Moran for Grand Tetan and West Yellowstone for Yellowstone. What is the best routes if we'd like to take different route going up and coming back and make the most of our trip?
Depends on your ideas of what is the most fun. For me, Grand Teton are views, Yellowstone National Park is experiences.
Personally, here is what I would do. Go north to Cheyenne and then west on I-80. You can then alter by where you are staying, as one road goes right into Teton. We had a condo on Jackson Lake when we were there. Jackson (Wyoming) is very nice. If you like craft beer and good food, hit the Snake River Brewery & Restaurant
As for Yellowstone, there are some options outside the park. Gardner to the north, is quaint. Close to some features and one place you can go into the river and swim (the other is north of Old Faithful). It is cheaper than West Yellowstone. Cody is a bit farther to the east, but has the historic Irma Hotel, which has a bar donated by Queen Victoria to Bill Cody (Buffalo Bill). If there at the right time, you can see a gunfight in the street and they have a great tea room. If you swing back out that way and plan a day in transit, you can head east and see quite a few things.
Just northeast is a WWII Japanese Internment Camp. Continuing east, you can stop and see an old Native American Medicine Wheel. And they do a hanglider event in late May (I think it is around the time you would be driving through). In Buffalo (heading south to Denver again), there is the The Historic Occidental Hotel, which still has bullet holes in the ceiling (and a great restaurant from when I was there a few years ago).
If you do that loop, you should be able to stop in Jackson Hole for the night, then see Tetons on the way to Yellowstone (day 2) and spend the night either north of or to the east of Yellowstone and circle back in a few times. I might consider stopping in West Yellowstone so you can see the Great Chromatic Springs and Old Faithful Geyserday 3. You can then swim in the river north of Old Faithful. and head out to Gardiner on the north. Day 4 will be the Camp Yellowstone, Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and out to Cody. Day 5 will be return to Denver via Sheridan and Buffalo. If I have the days wrong, you will have to shorten things but 2 days in Yellowstone is the minimum I would aim for.
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From Denver travel on I-25 North to Cheyenne, Wyoming then STAY on I-25 north to Casper Wyoming. At Casper get on State Highway 26 west to Shoshoni, WY and Stay on State 26 west until Dubois (Wyoming)Dubois, Wyoming (pronounced "Due-Boyz"). Stay on this route 26 west and watch for deer, moose maybe elk and most of all the Teton Range to appear - the best reason to approach from east to west. Photo-Dubois area:At Moran Junction you can go North directly into Yellowstone or South to Jackson Hole and The Grand Teton National Park Headquarters and to Grand Teton National ParkGrand Teton National park.
After such a long drive you may want to stay in Jackson Hole or at or near Teton Village (Jackson Hole Mountain Resort Ski Resort, by winter) for a couple of nights to stretch you legs and get in some great hikes in Teton National Park (Phelps lake, Rockefeller Center, Jenny Lake or ask a Ranger). For any hikes bear spray is recommended (do as I say not as I do). Of course you have the wonderful restaurants of Jackson and the surrounding area as well as a lot of options for lodging. Once you head into Yellowstone your lodging options, as you have unfortunately learned, are much more limited. For future trip you can still get reservations stay two nights at the Old Faithful Inn and use that as a base. I think Moran Junction would also be suitable for a night so you could get an early morning start on the Grand Loop with stops. At the east entrance Cody Cody, Wyoming is one of our favorite small towns. The
The drill in Yellowstone is to drive through it, but schedule drives around planned hikes and Ranger talks; the biology and nature talks are wonderful as are the historical and environmental (Yellowstone Fires 1988 and how the Park has healed itself with greater variety and a stronger eco system).
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I visited both parks last summer and stayed at Signal Mountain Lodge Road. Rates are not cheap, but everything in the Jackson (Wyoming) area is pricey, including a Hampton inn which was more than the Lodge we stayed at on the shores of Jackson Lake. Dined at Jackson Lake Lodge Road which is another great place with dramatic views of the Teton Range. We were able to get lodging inside of Yellowstone Lake, at Canyon Village (best location in my opinion). We approached from Gardiner, which was small but looked like a good spot outside the park to stay. West Yellowstone is very crowded and touristy from what I have read.
John Henly's suggested of route approaching the parks looks/sounds great and that's what I would do. It's a long drive from Denver. If you do Yellowstone first and Tetons next, you could come back via Rock Springs, then south into Utah's Flaming Gorge Reservoir, possibly stopping at Dinosaur National Monument and making your way through scenic Rocky Mountain N.P. if you have the time.
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