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1wk Yellowstone July 2013 - Itinerary Help Please

1wk Yellowstone July 2013 - Itinerary Help Please

Oct 26th, 2012, 12:50 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 100
1wk Yellowstone July 2013 - Itinerary Help Please

My husband and I are planning a trip for July 2013 with our son (will be 3.5yrs next summer) for about a week and would love some advice. The main reason for the trip is a family reunion in Livingston, MT (Fri/Sat/Sun) at the end of our trip. We plan to fly into & out of Bozeman the Saturday beforehand - so we'll have Sat-Thurs (6nts) to travel on our own before the reunion. We've never been to Yellowstone and figure this is a great chance to visit. We'd love to see the "highlights" and wildlife, and hopefully keep things relatively low key (no more than 2hrs/day in the car if possible). We'd like clean basic accommodations on the lower price end, but would prefer our own bathroom if possible.

We had been thinking about 2-3nts in West Yellowstone and 2-3nts in Jackson, but are a little worried that this might be too much? Better to stay in the park (although things already look booked up...?)

Any suggestions/advice on traveling, where to stay, what to see, where to eat would all be greatly appreciated.
CRIdo is offline  
Oct 26th, 2012, 01:36 PM
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You should stay "in park". I would go for 1-2 nights at Colter Village in the Tetons. Then 2 nights at Old Faithful Lodge. Then a couple of nights at Roosevelt Lodge. These all put you directly in the park and is much better. Some of the cabins in Roosevelt and Colter have cabins and some don't. Some of the rooms at Old Faithful Inn have bathrooms and some don't. In my opinion, staying at Old Faithful Inn is a huge must.

Now the bad news. These places probably are already full. But certainly try them. Canyon or Lake Hotel is also a good place to stay in Yellowstone. Mammoth area is my least favorite, but I haven't stayed there. Lake Hotel can be more expensive. The Snow Lodge and Old Faithful Lodge are also near old faithful(but THE INN is what you should try for).

But directly with xanterra, the park concessionaire. Don't book thru a middle man.

You'll love yellowstone
spirobulldog is offline  
Oct 26th, 2012, 06:20 PM
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Yes, do try to stay in the park. As spiro said, no doubt they are all booked already for that time of year. So do this -- book something in Gardiner, West Yellowstone, etc. that you can cancel. Then start calling for lodging in the park - cancellations happen all the time, particularly as the date gets close.

We stay in West Yellowstone for much of the time, since we have timeshare there. Lots of lodging at various levels. Jackson will be a hike and will likely be rather pricey, so maybe consider a bit north - there is Hatchet Resort in Moran, which is affordable. http://www.hatchetresort.com/ There are other choices in the vicinity as well. And Gardiner is worth a night; we have stayed at the Best Western (good) but there are more choices: http://www.tripadvisor.com/SmartDeal...tel-Deals.html

As for the 2 hours a day in the car...I think you will end up spending considerably more than that, but you can find ways to break it up. This is a huge park, and no doubt you will find lots of "animal jams" where cars just pile up due to bison on the road, or to view other wildlife alongside (elk, etc.).

Go to the National Park Service webside to pull down a map and read up on what there is to do. http://www.nps.gov/yell/index.htm

Now, looking at the map, you'll find a big "8" configuration. Break your trip up into chunks of that, and identify all the myriad places to stop, get out of the car, and explore. No need to spend long periods trapped in the car. At the end of a long day, you may well find that your car time was 4-6 hours at a minimum, but that's in a 12-16 hour day.

Plan on stopping at the many day sites for picnicking, and pack a lunch. There are few food choices in the park, and you want to get out of that car anyway.

Don't miss the "Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone," Norris Geyer Basin, of course old Faithful. So much more is out there, depending on what you are interested in. No doubt you'll find yourself wanting to return for whatever you only discovered when you were leaving....

sludick is offline  
Oct 26th, 2012, 06:26 PM
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Oh, another thing - try to get a very early morning start, when the wildlife is still out but most people are still in. For your son, you might make use of one of those picnic sites to relax for a couple of hours mid-day and perhaps let him nap (unless like mine were, who slept anytime they were in a car).

At dusk the animals are out again - good viewing, but be very careful driving, as they might be on the road around the curve. If you are staying in the park, your driving time will be reduced considerably.
sludick is offline  
Oct 26th, 2012, 10:26 PM
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Thank you for the quick replies!
Looking through the "in park" lodging, it looks like we could get:
- SUN/MON 1 Queen bed room at Old Faithful Inn for our first two nights (maybe we could bring a mat/blow up mattress for our son??)
- TUES there's availability at Grant Village/Lake Hotel/or Lake Lodge for maybe the next night
- WED/THURS 2nts at Canyon Lodge (nothing at Roosevelt) - this would get us closer to Livingston for the reunion Friday. I know it would cut out Grand Teton, but we'd really like to do less driving if possible (we commute enough in our daily lives & my husband is insisting on some downtime on what will be our only real vacation since before our son was born). Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated. Again, thank you for the thoughtful posts!
CRIdo is offline  
Oct 27th, 2012, 04:22 AM
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Well, that's good news, and will let you break the park up into regions better. Book those, and you might keep calling for openings if you would like to spread your nights out to include Roosevelt.
sludick is offline  
Oct 27th, 2012, 05:05 AM
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I wouldn't cut out the Tetons. I would at least spend a full day there and if you can at all one night. They are really pretty. I like Yellowstone far better because of the Geysers and wildlife. However, sometimes you get luckier spotting wildlife in the Tetons.
Your child might like the hayride at Roosevelt, which a lot of people do even if they aren't staying there. There is also a place to go swimming in the hot springs run off near Gardiner. They say not to put your head under do to possible infections, but most people probably do it anyway(I'm always cautious though on things like that).

Go ahead and book all your lodging and try both on the website and by calling to get a cancellation. I can't stress enough that people cancel all the time, especially at the last minute, so it's entirely possible to get another room and more days at every place that you want.

I also want to make sure that you know that staying in any of these places mentioned is a bit different than traditional motel/hotel situations. Some of them are very old, have paper thin walls, rattling pipes, etc. We love them, but not all people do. Some of the food I find to be very good, while at times it is down right disturbing. We usually eat very light for breakfast, have a picnic lunch along the way, and then eat a nice meal in the evening.

We enjoy seeing cities, disney type vacations etc. The national park/lodges are very different from these. We really just discovered them about 7 years ago and it's basically the only type vacation we do now. Yellowstone is probably the most complete park that we have visited. Something around every corner for everyone. The Tetons are prettier though.
Do spend some time are the geyser basin near Old Faithful. You sometimes have to wait on the geysers, but the visitor center is able to predict about 6 or 7 of them. The rest you could be waiting for days or years even. Feel lucky if you see any of them go. We especially like Castle Geyser and Riverside Geyser.

You are on the xanterra? wwww.yellowstonenationalparklodges.com
spirobulldog is offline  
Oct 27th, 2012, 05:06 AM
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I would stongly suggest buying Bear Spray if you do plan on doing any hiking.
spirobulldog is offline  
Oct 27th, 2012, 05:08 AM
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Here is a link to our photos from mid-June 2008.
spirobulldog is offline  
Oct 27th, 2012, 05:15 AM
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Sorry for the multiple post. One more thing, You might enjoy driving The Beartooth Hwy. Consider by some the best drive in the US, certainly makes most Top Ten Drives lists.
spirobulldog is offline  
Oct 27th, 2012, 07:54 PM
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Since your son will be just 3 1/2 I can understand your desire to keep driving time as short as possible. I have 2 grandchildren near his age and long hours in the car don't make for a relaxing day. For that reason, as beautiful as the Tetons are, I agree with your decision to skip them this trip. It would be a long day for your little one.

Yellowstone is our favorite Park. We've been 3 times, in every season except Spring. It will be hard to limit your total driving time per day to no more than 2 hours because the Park is huge and the speed limit is low. However, you can certainly break up the car time with stops to view animals or walk the boardwalks so that there aren't any long stretches of unbroken driving.

As others have suggested, take what in-Park lodging you can get and keep trying to snag one of the cancellations. On our first trip (in Summer), we were able to change our scheduled rooms upon arrival at our first lodging.

While the Mammoth Hot Springs area isn't what it used to be, Terrace-wise, it does have one feature that your son would love. Large expanses of lawn. On our first trip, we spent a couple of nights in the Mammoth cabins and enjoyed watching the children playing on the grassy areas. Just keep that in mind if you're near there and need a place for him to burn up some pent-up energy. It's one of the few places in the Park where you can let him run free.
Floridafran is offline  
Oct 27th, 2012, 08:16 PM
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Love that suggestion. One of my very fondest vacation memories was stopping at a hotel around Wytheville, Virginia, that had a wonderful sloping lawn from our room. We watched our young son roll down hill on the grass and otherwise just revel in the freedom.

I have met some people (including my own stepdaughter) who thought they really saw Yellowstone, but basically never got out of their car. It's a mistake to think you could cover it all in a day or two, or even a week. I applaud you for setting reasonable limits so that you can fully enjoy where you are at that moment.

This is a place you can return to time and time again and not experience it all. Enjoy!
sludick is offline  
Oct 28th, 2012, 09:39 AM
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Spend as much time in Yellowstone and Grand Teton as you can afford or get reservations for.
Moving Hello Relaxation down another notch.
tomfuller is online now  
Oct 28th, 2012, 09:41 AM
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Yellowstone is really a big park and staying in several differnent areas allows you to enjoy each, without hours of additional driving.

You need more than bear spray if you are hiking. You need to learn how to hike in bear country. Learn how to make loud noises on the trail, to recognize the signs of bears, and how to read the ranger's advisories.
Marginal is offline  
Oct 28th, 2012, 01:19 PM
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Here is my trip report from last year when we went to Yellowstone with our children. Staying in the cabins was the best--bigger rooms, our own bathrooms, and the kids could walk around outside while we packed/unpacked etc. We stayed at the Snowlodge Cabins at OF and a nice cabin at Canyon. I couldn't get 2 nights in one place so we moved around. We did stay in Jackson and planned to drive up to the Tetons. I really like Jackson, there is a lot to do there and the kids loved the boardwalk town. We did go over to Cody to see the Buffalo Bill museum. But that is a long drive and it may not work well for a 3.5 year old.

StantonHyde is online now  
Oct 31st, 2012, 11:00 AM
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Thanks everyone for all the information & helpful advice - I really appreciate it! We're now booked for two nights at Old Faithful Inn, and planning to book 2 nts at Canyon Lodge...I've been trying to get reservations at Colter Bay Cabins, but until today they haven't been taking reservations past June 30th, but now they're booked solid as far as I can tell, the only place with cabins available is Headwaters Lodge & Cabins at Flagg Ranch - anyone have thoughts on this being a good place to stay?

Also, any additional suggestions on things to do with a toddler/small child at Yellowstone would be great - we're definitely going to try for the stagecoach ride, some very light hiking (maybe 2 miles - I realize this won't get us very far) and maybe a guided tour one day?

One more thing - I've been thinking about food, etc - since we're flying in we won't be packing much, but I was thinking maybe once we get our rental car we should hit up a Wal-mart or something similar and get a electrical tea kettle, maybe a styrofoam cooler, some plastic dishware & food...I realize I still have almost a year to get all of this figured out, but since you're all being so helpful I thought I'd ask.
CRIdo is offline  
Oct 31st, 2012, 11:57 AM
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Yep! And once you are at/near Yellowstone, the food is pretty pricey, so make that stop early in your trip.

Headwaters Lodge & Cabins looks nice, haven't stayed there myself. I would go for it, although it might be a little spendier than you are looking for.

One nice thing about Yellowstone is that there are so many short hikes/walks available. You can see plenty in a 20-30 minute walk, even.
sludick is offline  
Oct 31st, 2012, 04:14 PM
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We brought lunch foods to make sandwiches so we didn't have to worry about being by food sources in the middle of the day. Also lots of snacks. We had a cooler too. Breakfast was simple and dinner was at a restaurant.
StantonHyde is online now  
Nov 3rd, 2012, 12:07 PM
Join Date: Aug 2012
Posts: 172
The itinerary you have is a good baseline but this one probably has more detail.
Saturday Day 1: Fly into Bozeman drive to Mammoth and go to the springs, depending on what time your flight is you might have to look pretty quickly but in july there is plenty of light and it will be fine
Day 2: Drive East towards Tower Roosevelt and get either a morning or evening wildlife tour, they have the restored 1934 yellowstone buses and it is really cool. When i was there we even saw a pack of wolves!
Monday Day 3: Drive down to Canyon and go to the overlook for the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, you cant miss it, definitely a highlight of the trip. Drive to Lake Village and stay at the Lake Lodge or Lake Hotel
Now you have two options you can either try going to the Grand Tetons, which are amazingly beautiful, but cuts almost a day out of your itinerary and with the amount of time you have i wouldn't recommend it, or you can spend a bit more time in the park. If it was me doing I would take my time at the places I am going to because you can always come back and see Grand Teton NP another time.
If you go to the Teton's then
Day 4: Leave Lake Village and drive to Grand Teton NP. I would recommend Colter Bay because that is where I stayed but the rooms are very, very rustic so dont expect much. The food there is pretty good especially for the breakfast buffet.
Wednesday Day 5: Visit overlooks and eat lunch at Jackson Lake Lodge at the diner, best bison burgers and cherry pie. In the afternoon drive up to Old Faithful and spend the night there.
Day 6: Spend the morning walking the geyser trails and visit Grand Prismatic. Some time in the afternoon or evening drive up to Gardiner, MT and spend the night there, you can be in Livingston by mid-morning only about an hour drive.

The way I would do it is to spend a night in Canyon after Day 3. Tuesday Day 4 can be driving from Canyon to Old Faithful, stopping at overlooks and at the Midway and Lower geyser basins. Return to Old Faithful for the night at the Hotel. Day 5 can be the Upper Geyser Basin and driving up to Gardiner MT. On the way there is a petrified tree which I found pretty cool actually. Day 6 will free, giving you time to add a day somewhere you want to stay longer at.
dshamritsky is offline  
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