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2 plan options in Yellowstone

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May 15th, 2012, 09:14 AM
  #1
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2 plan options in Yellowstone

I'd love some input on the advantages/disadvantages of each of our options in visiting Yellowstone. A little background: My husband and I are taking our 2 teens on a whirlwind trip of National Parks so our schedule is... well, scheduled. Very. So, no, we don't have more time to stay in Yellowstone and are content to hit the highlights for the kids' sake. We'll be staying in Cody the night before, will have one night in/near the park, and the next night in Jackson. Oh, and this is the night of Sun Sept 9th in question.

We're considering 2 options.

Plan A: Get up from Cody and visit the eastern side of the loops and stay in Gardiner that night. Monday drive south on the western side of loop to Old Faithful, then on to Jackson.

Plan B: Get up from Cody and visit the bottom of the figure 8 and stay in the Old Faithful area IF (big if) we can get a cancellation of a room. Then Monday more sightseeing as we make our way down through the Tetons to Jackson.

I'm hearing rumors the Mammoth Hot Springs are dried up from when we saw them 14 years ago. Is there anything else in that top of the figure 8 that is really "can't miss"?

We considered staying in West Yellowstone but hubby thinks it makes more sense to just take one day to go up to Gardiner and then one day to come back down.

We do have a reservation in Gardiner as a back-up.

Thanks!!
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May 15th, 2012, 09:39 AM
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I like B. I was shocked to see how dried up Mammoth was. As disappointing as it was, I'm glad I saw it that way.
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May 15th, 2012, 10:13 AM
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I would see Canyon area, Lamar Valley, Hayden Valley, Old Faithful area.
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May 15th, 2012, 11:09 AM
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We decided to add a PLAN C! Now West Yellowstone is back in the running, if Old Faithful doesn't work out. It would save 26 miles Monday morning coming down from Gardiner.
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May 15th, 2012, 05:25 PM
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As spiro say OF, Canyon and one of Lamar or Hayden if you can't do both.
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May 15th, 2012, 07:01 PM
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Driving isn't a bad thing in Yellowstone. We were there in mid June a couple of years ago and basically drove around for 5 days. LOL. This isn't like us at all, we usually have tons of things mapped out to do. You need to be a bit flexible here for all the wildlife spottings. I think part of it is luck, but we saw a lot more wildlife in Yellowstone than we did at Tetons. Dusk and dawn tend to be a bit better for animal sightings. We saw tons of baby everything. Even bear cub.
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May 15th, 2012, 08:42 PM
  #7
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Thanks starrs, spiro and myer! Myer... technically we CAN do both, as in seeing the whole park, but it'd be more rushed to take the time to drive to Gardiner to see Mammoth Hot Springs. Or we can spend more quality time by just concentrating on the southern part. So quality vs quantity. The age old question!
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May 16th, 2012, 01:09 AM
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You can concentrate on the lower half of the park.

OF is in the bottom wanyon in the middle right. Skip Lamar.
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May 16th, 2012, 11:10 AM
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I'd go with plan C - having been hauled into the park countless times as a child/teenager and hauling others into the park as an adult, I prefer the lower half if short on time. The Upper/Lower Falls, Paintpots/Geysers, Old Faithful, and the beautiful section of road between west yellowstone and madison are always the biggest hits....
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May 16th, 2012, 01:02 PM
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I agree - Plan C.
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May 16th, 2012, 03:03 PM
  #11
maj
 
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Just some thoughts -- the East Entrance from Cody is one of my favorites. You will pass by Yellowstone Lake (which is beautiful), but really no need to spend more time there or travelling that road between there and West Thumb with your limited time. Turn right at the park road and head toward Canyon. If you want you can stop at Mud Vulcano for a short visit. You will then go through Hayden Valley which is just a drive through unless you happen to see animals there which are worth a stop. Stop at Canyon at some of the viewpoints (don't need to do all).

I'd take picnic supplies, cooler and snacks so you could stop and eat when you wanted. The main areas, Lake, Canyon, Old Faithful have dining options including soda fountains in their general stores (which we really like).

The most congested area (as far as attractions) is between Madison and Old Faithful. When you leave, continue on the park road towards Jackson from OF. You might want to stop at West Thumb before you go south (just a very short way out of the way). You get more views of Yellowstone Lake from there.

I think you will be glad you didn't try to fit the northern part of the loop in this time. If you find you have more time than you thought and want to drive over Dunraven Pass or visit Norris you can always do that and then turn around without driving the whole loop.

Sounds like you have a great vacation planned.
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May 16th, 2012, 08:25 PM
  #12
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Thank you all! So comforting to have the best travel agents right here on Fodors! It's unanimous... stay south.

Now to decide if I should spend my summer calling every day for lodging in the Old Faithful area, or keep our reservation at the Three Bears Lodge in West Yellowstone. Both are so appealing! The West Yellowstone to Madison drive sounds pretty, and the reservation is set, so that part is easy. But staying in the Old Faithful area guarantees several viewings of the eruption and a quicker exit to the Tetons the next day. hmmm...
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May 17th, 2012, 04:51 AM
  #13
 
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Staying in the park will certainly save on time but you'll be good either way. IMO, seeing Old Faithful once is enough as I actually prefer some of the other geysers but it is nice as a launching point to be in the park. One thing to mention as a benefit of West Yellowstone (if you have time) is a quick visit to the Grizzly Discovery Center (grizzlydiscoveryctr.com). They take in "problem" bears that would have otherwise been destroyed and have an extremely very well done exhibit. I never get tired of watching these amazing animals up close and they also have some wolves. The center is super convenient by the park entrance and easy to see at the beginning or end of your day (the wolves get more active at night of course.
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May 17th, 2012, 05:12 AM
  #14
 
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Stay at OF. Definitely.

It's good to have a plan for the days but also be willing to be flexible and allot time based on what's going on. The days are long and you have time to drive both loops each day. So don't rush. See what's happening and change your plan accordingly. The last time I was there I got the best pictures ever in the Lamar Valley, including great ones of a ram as we were exiting the park. Traffic stopped because there was a grizzly sighting and we spent several minutes watching (from afar) instead of driving on. I spent more time on the boardwalk at Old Faithful and enjoyed geyser eruptions I'd not seen before and watching mama bison and her baby. In the Grand Tetons, traffic stopped on the Moose Wilson road to watch a mama moose and her baby walk down the middle of the road. Have a plan but be willing to toss it out the window in case there's something really cool going on.
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May 17th, 2012, 11:55 AM
  #15
 
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I always vote for staying "in park" if possible. Keep your other reservation, until you have one in park though.
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May 17th, 2012, 12:40 PM
  #16
 
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If you keep an eye on the old faithful inn online booking its amazing how often availability appears stay in the old inn it's amazing, wonderful in the evenings to watch OF from the deck
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May 20th, 2012, 05:16 PM
  #17
 
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Hi, I hadn't paid any attention to the US forum lately and missed your thread. I'd agree with spiro above--staying IN park, especially around Old Faithful, will be worth the efforts it sounds like you are having to put forth. Then if something doesn't show up, then you have a backup plan. I think skipping the northern-ish parts of the Park is going to be what is necessary this trip. Our two favorite things, I think, were the Old Faithful area and the Yellowstone Canyon (plus the wildlife). But you know what--it is all so amazing that you won't go wrong!!
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