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Need help with 2 days in Yellowstone with West Yellowstone Lodging

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We will be arriving in West Yellowstone Saturday evening and leaving for GTNP on Tuesday. We have 2 full days and a minivan. We want to see Old Faithful, Grand Prismatic, do some short hikes, see Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and would love to see wildlife in Lamar...I'm having trouble coming up with a plan that doesn't have us driving for several hours every day. Should we take a tour or explore on our own? We are travelling with our 10, 14 and 16 year old sons. Any and all suggestions appreciated!

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    On your own. Tours don't stop when you want as they're on a schedule.

    You have 2 complete days and early morning of Tue.

    OF isn't the only thing in the Upper basin. The good thing about OF is that it erupts app. every 90 minutes. So you don't have to plan for it.

    There are 5 predicted geysers in the Upper Basin. When I was there last we it was a rare occurrence. All 5 were predicted to erupt within 2 1/2 hours. We didn't see Daisy.

    When you enter the park and go south towards OF you'll come to Grand Prismatic Spring. Park in the lot and go see GPS. Spectacular colors but the view leaves something to be desired.

    Then drive a mile south towards OF and pull into the Fairy Falls trailhead. Hike the first mile of the Fairy Falls hike on a level dirt road trail until you come to Grand Prismatic Spring on you right. You'll see several unofficial trail on your left that go up a hill. Pick one and go up until you can see an unobstructed view of Grand Prismatic Spring. Now that's the view you had in mind.

    When you come down either go back to your car or continue to the falls. It's a very nice waterfall.

    Drive down to OF and go into one of the 3 lodge offices to get eruption predictions for all 5 predicted geysers. OF should be your lowest priority if any of the others are predicted to erupt within an hour. That's because OF erupts so often and the others maybe once or twice a day.

    Walk all the way the length of the Upper Basin to Morning Glory and back. There are many geysers and spouts, etc putting on a show. Then walk Geyser Loop just on the other side of OF for more colors and hiccups.

    You may see a bison or two somewhere in the Upper Basin.

    There are a lot of bison in Lamar. However, there are quite a few in Hayden that's below Canyon and on the way to Lake and on to GTNP.

    Seeing wildlife requires 3 things to happen. Be in the right place. Be there at the right time. And bring along your luck.

    Last week we slept at Canyon Lodge for 3 nights. While my daughter and granddaughter slept in I was driving between Canyon and Hayden and also down the Southern Canyon Rim Road.

    Each day I saw deer and elk if various roadside locations. Some male and other female. In Hayden I saw some bison very much up close. I The only bears I saw were in Hayden. There were two of in the distance feasting on a bison carcass.

    Just across the road at the same spot there was a wolf way off in the distance.

    So some were close and some were far.

    Since you're staying in West Yellowstone you'll have to get up very early to see wildlife.

    Since everyday is different I would do the above drive both Monday and Tuesday on the way to GTNP.

    You don't say when you're going so I'll assume it's soon.

    Right after viewing the wildlife get over to the North Rim by 9AM. Stop at Lookout point for the view of the Lower Falls. The Lower Falls is much larger and more spectacular. Then if it's sunny, go a few yards back towards the car, turn left and hike down to Redrock Point. This gives you a much lower viewpoint. But also, around this time of year between (:30 - 10:00 you have a great chance to see a rainbow in front of the falls going from lower left to upper right.

    The hike your way back up (your at 8,000 ft so you may feel it).

    Then drive over to the South Rim. Stop at Uncle Tom's Trail (as opposed to the viewpoint of the Upper Falls) and walk down a couple of hundred stairs for a face on, up front view of the falls. Of course, now you have to walk back up again.

    Then continued on the South Rim Road to the end and the famous Artist Point.

    Now, if you want a bit of a challenge, drive several mile north of Canyon to Dunraven Pass and the southern trailhead for Mt Washburn. My 7 year old granddaughter told her mother (my daughter) that she wanted to try that hike.

    Unfortunately, our only bad weather for the week took place in the middle of that hike. Half way up if hailed on us and all the way down it poured on us. But she made it.

    That hike is 3 1/2 miles on a gentle dirt road that is used to take supplies up to a ranger station at the top. So what's the problem? Well, it starts at 8,800 ft elevation and goes up to about 10,400 ft.

    Granddaughter made it to the top.

    I gave you a bunch of things to do within a fairly short ride of West Yellowstone.

    The main issue with your location is that wildlife is most active early and late. You want to avoid too much driving in the dark as animals could easily be on the road.

    As well as last week I was in Yellowstone 4 years ago. You can see my photos at: www.travelwalks.com

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    Thank you so much for the advice! We will be there this coming weekend. I was considering a day in the Canyon area with an evening drive through Lamar, but perhaps the dark ride "home" is not the way to go. I will look at your pictures and digest all of the notes you gave me. Appreciated.

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    Since I just got a this past Friday night photos from this trip aren't posted but you can see the previous trip there.

    I have to catch up from a recent trip to NY and DC with my wife, the Yellowstone trip with my daughter and granddaughter and prepare for a trip to Banff and Jasper with my daughter next week.

    Travel is fun while I still can.

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