I am planning a trip to Glacier, Yellowstone, and Grand Teton NPs for myself, my sister, and my mom and dad (mid-60s - good-spirited and up for adventure, but not really into hikes so we will be driving and taking short walks to scenic spots), ideally in late August (as this seems to be a highly recommended time, since everyone says that July is madness (?)). My parents aren't nature buffs, they just want to be tourists and see the absolute highlights in each of these parks, and then (honestly) come back home and enjoy their normal lives. My sis and I would love to see wildlife, and are all about adventure, but this trip is about quality family time, cool moments, conversation, and memories.
I realize I should have planned this out and made lots of hotel reservations well in advance through NPS.org, but life got in the way (I trust you understand). I've read as many posts as I can, for hours, to figure out a gameplan, and feel ready to ask your opinion and solicit some answers to some questions.
Fly from Orlando into Kalispell, MT, then begin driving to Glacier National Park. Visit the Visitor Center, get advice. Spend 3 nights (in Many Glacier Hotel? Get a two-room suite which is lakefront? Or SwiftCurrent Motor Inn cabins - consider boat tour of Swiftcurrent Lake, perhaps Red Bus tour at night?). Spend full day on the GTSR (Avalanche Creek, Bird Woman Falls, Weeping Wall, Hidden Lake Overlook, Jackson Glacier overlook, boat ride on Lake McDonald, Trail of the Cedars, Fishercap Lake to see moose?, etc.). Figure out a day to cover East Glacier and a day to cover West Glacier.
After three nights, drive to Great Falls, MT (spend a night there?) and then head to West Yellowstone, MT or stay at Old Faithful Inn, Yellowstone Lake Lodge, or Roosevelt Lodge and explore YNP for three full days. See the highlights (OF, Norris Geyser basin, Grand Prismatic Spring area, Obsidian Cliffs, Tower Falls, Artist Point, Inspiration Point, Upper and Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River). Basically, a day at/near Old Faithful, a day doing the Lower Loop, and a day doing the Upper Loop.
After third night spent in YNP, drive the next morning to Grand Teton (is Beartooth Highway a possibility?). Go to the Visitor Center! Stay at Signal Mtn Lodge for 2 nights (or Colter Bay cabins or Jackson Lake Lodge?). Obviously try Oxbow Bend, Willow Flats, Jackson Lake Lodge to find moose (I have wanted to see a moose my whole life!). During the first full day, book a float trip down the Snake River. During second day, hit up other possible highlights (recommendations?). Fly out of Jackson Hole.
The folks want to see Utah, but they also want to visit Vegas so maybe our next major trip out West will be to fly into Vegas and explore Bryce, Zion, and Arches from that starting point.
I know this is not optimal because 1) I haven't checked into flight prices 2) I will have to deal with one-way rental car drop-off charges (is there a better loop or figure eight we can drive so we can fly into and out of the same airport to cut costs?) 3) I don't enough about the areas to determine the best overall route and gameplan; I am an East-coaster. I do, however, know what restaurants to visit, thanks to other posters! I am completely open to changing my starting point and ending point, and haven't made any reservations yet (but will prioritize this now that my life has opened up). I actually may consider VRBO rentals instead of hotels/motels, but I don't exactly know the availability of private homes/rooms within or very close to the NPs.
I'm grateful for your time and input. It's a bit overwhelming to read so many posts and pick up the nuggets of wisdom, especially for one completely unfamiliar with these states.
Glacier, Yellowstone, and Grand Teton itinerary - advice requested please!
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