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Need itinerary suggestions for 2 days in Yellowstone

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We will be leaving Buffalo Wyoming in the morning on Wednesday, August 30th and coming over the Beartooth Highway to enter Yellowstone from the Northeast entrance. Our lodging that night is a Canyon Lodge Western Cabin. The next day, Thursday, we need to end up at our lodging at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge. The next day, Friday, we can spend most of the day in Yellowstone before heading to Grand Tetons where we'll be spending 2 nights at Jackson Lake Lodge.

So how can we make the most of our time? I visited Yellowstone briefly 2 years ago but saw nothing up in the Mammoth area of the park due to the construction road closures at the time. My husband has never been to Yellowstone.

Thanks for your help!

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    August 30 will still be summer--fewer animals out in the open during the heat of the day, so that would affect my itinerary. I will give you my suggestions based on my interests (wildlife, a variety of thermal features, getting out of the car and taking walks), the limited time, the late August date, and your husband's first visit. I don't know what is happening with road construction, etc. this year.

    Coming over the Beartooth, I would stop at several of the viewpoints on the highway to take some photos and enjoy the scenery. One stop is well marked and popular, so be careful of the traffic congestion. If you like stark landscape, plan to stop up on top near the entrance sign.

    Lamar Valley is a favorite of mine for bison, wolves, bears, badgers. However, most of the spotting is early morning or late evening, so you may just want to drive through and stop briefly depending on what you see. Binoculars help. There is a picnic area on the left that is shaded and near the river, but not good for wildlife viewing.

    I would focus on getting to Canyon so you can walk/drive along the north rim and go down/up to at least one of the viewpoints in the canyon itself (if too hot in the afternoon, save for next morning). You can find out about ranger walks/talks in the online brochure at the park website and check for updates when you arrive at Canyon.

    Second day I would take an early morning walk along the south rim of the canyon (and down/up if missed the previous day or you had such a good time you want to see the in-canyon view of a different area) and then move to the thermal features in the Norris area. We had a great ranger walk there one time that coincided with an unpredictable geyser eruption. You could walk up above Porcelain Basin for the view. I think Mammoth is one of the less impressive areas in the park and may be sacrificed on a short trip. The terraces are not as dramatic as they used to be. Others can tell you about the river in this area.

    Then head down to OF. Take the tour of OF Lodge. Check out any evening ranger program. Sit on the deck at OF Lodge to watch the geyser at leisure. Take the boardwalks.

    Third day, see more of whatever you have enjoyed most or missed. More geysers? A drive over to look at the lake and sit on the Lake Lodge front porch in a rocker as the bison walk by?

    (A small note, I think August 31 is the Wednesday?)

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    Kay2 is correct about wildlife. Except for bison most are only visible early and late.

    Lamar in the northeast and Hayden Valey just below Canyon are very good.

    In my opinion the two best locations to see the Lower Falls (the star) are Artist Point (which is a little far but gives you a good view of the canyon leading to the falls (on the south side) and Red Rock Point on the north side.

    Red Rock Point is below one of the parking lot viewpoints. It requires a hike down into the canyon and then of course back up (in elevation). I was there around 9AM and saw a great rainbow.

    OF is best viewed from the viewing deck in front of the lodge between 7 and 10AM. Of course no wind would be great. At that time the sun is behind you and glistens off the water.

    I would definitely walk as much of the Basin as you have time for. Even at different times of the day as it looks very different.

    You can see my photos of last year's trip at:

    www.travelwalks.com

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    Kay's ideas are pretty good but seems like a lot of time at the Canyon. I personally like Mammoth Hot Springs. It's not as grand as it was in the 1970's when I first saw it, but there are some really beautiful areas still.

    Wednesday: I'd come in the Beartooth, make a stop at Tower Junction, make my way over to Mammoth Hot Springs and around stopping at Sheepeaters Cliffs and driving the one way Virginia Cascade road to the Canyon. After checking in, I would drive down to Mud Volcano area and at dusk drive back though Hayden Valley to Canyon for the night.

    Thursday: I'd visit the Canyon and then make my way to Norris Canyon and around to Old Faithful area and all the geysers. Make sure you do the Artist Paint Pots, Firehole Lake drive, Fountain Paint Pots, Midway Geyser Basin on this day so you don't have to back track on Friday.

    Friday: Finish off the geyser areas closest to Old Faithful that you haven't seen and move to West Thumb/Lake area before heading down to the Grand Tetons.

    Utahtea

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    Hi Utahtea,

    That sounds like a great plan but I'm wondering about the timing for Wednesday. I'm seeing about a 5 hour drive not counting stops to get from Buffalo to the northeast entrance and of course we'll be making stops to take in the view! :-) So will we have enough time to get all of that in once we enter the park?

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    Hi Pat_in_Mich,

    I just came back from Yellowstone on Friday so I'll throw in my two cents too!

    Actually the best place to see Old Faithful is from the porch of the Old Faithful Inn, which is also the lodge that has the tour (it's one of the oldest buildings in Yellowstone and has a unique 4-story lobby.) The Old Faithful Lodge is a separate location and has a view of OF from its dining room. The Snow Lodge is across the street with no view of the geyser, but it is BEAUTIFUL and so peaceful compared with the hustle and bustle of the others (I went in to do laundry.)

    We also stayed in Canyon in a frontier cabin, which was very small (I think the western cabins are larger.)

    The Beartooth highway was a stunning ride, but it took a long time to cross it--plan for at least three hours once you're on it, then maybe two more to get to Canyon. One of the posters above mentioned the traffic, but although there were some cars, I wouldn't call it congestion (maybe for Wyoming it is.) There was a spot where they were doing road construction where we waited for about 20 minutes to get through.

    Regarding animal viewing, we saw a grizzly, a black bear and a pack of wolves all after 9 am. I know the animal experts say dawn and dusk are best but don't be discouraged if you can't get up in the dark. At one of the pullouts overlooking the Hayden Valley there were a bunch of folks with scopes who were happy to talk animal sitings and let you look at what they were seeing.

    As for other things to do and see, Mammoth was the most elegant of the villages, with the buildings of Fort Yellowstone incorporated into the town. The crazy hot springs there loom over everything and it's cool and different but I was "thermaled out" by the time we got there. Also if you want to see elk, go to Mammoth, as they lounge on the grass all over town.

    If you haven't had enough thermal features, I loved West Thumb and the mud volcano area, each are unique.

    The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone was absolutely stunning--I preferred the view from the north side, but both sides are gorgeous.

    One area I wish we'd had more time to explore is along the road from the east entrance, where the landscape is totally different from other parts of the park, with really interesting rock formations.

    Have fun! Yellowstone is such a special place!

    Patti

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    I would get a very early start and plan on a long day whether you add Mammoth or not. Adding Mammoth Hot Springs adds 31 miles. The Mount Washburn Road between Tower Jct and Canyon is a slow driving mountain road, much like the Beartooth so keep that in mind. I would see what time it was once you reached Tower Falls and make your decision then to what you had time for.

    Utahtea

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