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luv2globetrot Jun 22nd, 2008 05:26 AM

Back from a great trip to Grand Teton & Yellowstone with info to share

We recently returned from a wonderful 10 day trip to Grand Teton and Yellowstone.
Thought I'd pass along some some information that might help others planning their trips.

First, let me start by saying that my husband and I love exploring the National Parks and these two have been on our list for quite awhile. We finally made the trip, May 28 - June 6, 2008.
These parks did not disappoint!!
The scenery in Grand Teton is breathtaking! I literally gasped as we drove up Hwy 89 in Jackson, came around the curve and we got our first glimpse of the Teton Range!

And Yellowstone is such an amazing array of fascinating geography and wildlife. The geysers, mudpots, hot springs, canyons, mountains, forests...the bears, wolves, coyote, bison, elk and more, more and more!!

Photography is a great passion and hobby of mine and we were very excited about the possibility of getting to photograph wildlife (something we haven't done much with the exception of monkeys in Costa Rica).
We bought a new Canon 70-300mm lens for this trip and learned a lot along the way. One thing we learned was that this lens was pretty small for Yellowstone! We saw people with some amazing camera equipment!! I see now how they get all those awesome wildlife shots.
This lens was not quite powerful enough for us to get the kind of shots I dreamed of, but we managed to get a few that are good enough for us to relive the memories of seeing these wonderful creatures roaming freely in the wild!!
The mountains and geysers gave us some wonderful photo opportunities, too!

If you'd like to see our photos, go to:

The weather was mostly cooperative. We never had any snow, but it did rain for 20 minutes here and there a few days. Mostly it was chilly in the mornings (35-39 degrees) and generally 60-70 degrees during the days. We wore layers and got a lot of use out of our windbreakers. Thermal underwear and gloves came in handy on those days that we got up at the crack of dawn to go sit out and watch for wildlife!

We flew into and out of Salt Lake City. And we spent our first and last nights in SLC (if you like Mexican food you MUST go to the Red Iguana!!)
The next morning we headed up to Jackson.
We drove through Logan, north on Hwy 89 through Montpelier, ID, then into Wyoming and 89 all the way to Jackson. Very pretty drive, especially around Bear Lake, ID.
The drive took us 5 hours, including a few stops for photos and a stop for lunch.

We used Jackson as our base for exploring Grand Teton NP and stayed at the Elk Country Inn.
We liked being in Jackson, as it has so many restaurants, shops and bars...really nice town to wander!
GTNP is a pretty small park and you can drive the entire loop, and fit in some small hikes in one day.
If you want more time for some longer hikes, a 2nd day is nice to have.
The rangers were advising people to stay off the Jenny Lake Trail because of snow pack and reported bears, so we regrettably skipped it. But we did a couple of smaller walks.
GT is marvelous for the scenery!
Check out the road called Mormon Row. It's south of Antelope Flats and has a couple of picture perfect barns that the Mormons built.
Get there early for some photos as the sun comes up and illuminates the barns with the Grand Tetons as a backdrop!!

Of course, you'll see lots of bison and elk, and even moose sightings were not too uncommon, but here are some really good places for viewing wildlife and what we saw:
-Blacktail Ponds Overlook - moose and elk
-Antelope Flats - tons of bison
-Schwabacher Road - one coyote
-Pacific Creek Road -bull moose, female and calf
We didn't see nearly as much wildlife in GT as we did in Yellowstone, but the scenery more than made up for that:)

By noon on our 2nd day we made our way north to Yellowstone.

Here was our itinerary:

2 nights - Old Faithful Inn
1 night - Canyon Lodge Pioneer Cabin
1 night - Gardiner
1 night - West Yellowstone

Since the park is so big, it IS hard to do without any backtracking. This was a lot of moving around, but it worked out for us as it gave us the opportunity to see just about every single section in the park with as little backtracking as we could manage.

We really enjoyed all the trails that the park has set up to see the major sights:
-West Thumb Geyser Basin
-Old Faithful Area - do this one as a's great!!
-Fountain Paint Pot
-Norris Geyser Basin
-Mud Volcano
-Canyon Area
-Mammoth Hot Springs
Be sure to pick up copies of the Trail Guides at any of the visitor centers.
We did most of all of them and they are very nice, most set up with boardwalks and signs explaining what you're seeing.

At Canyon, be advised that the North Rim Road is closed and that it will be closed all summer.
The South Rim is open. Uncle Tom's Trail was closed when we were there, but the south rim trail to Artist Point was open.
Artist Point is a must and you can also drive right to it.

We loved all the geyser areas! It's like nothing we've ever seen!

But our favorite part of being in Yellowstone was the wildlife!!
As you'd expect, we saw plenty of bison and elk all over the park.
Here's a rundown of some of the other animals we saw and where:
- 1 near Old Faithful Inn
- 3 in Lamar Valley
- 1 West of Madison
- 1 in Hayden Valley
- 4 from the Agate Pack between Chittenden Road and Tower
- 3 from the Druid Pack in Lamar Valley
- 1 at Soda Butte near Lamar Valley
- 1 west of Madison
- 3 in Hayden Valley (once a single grizzly and once a mom with cub)
- 1 in Lamar Valley
-Black Bears
- 3 (Rosie and her 2 cubs!!) at Tower
- 2 right next to the Roosevelt Ranger Station
- numerous, east of Roosevelt and on the road to Slough Creek
- 1 near the northeast entrance
- 1 north of Roosevelt junction

We did a couple of diversions while in and around Yellowstone.
As a day trip, we drove the Beartooth Hwy as far as the junction with the Chief Joseph Hwy. (At the time the Beartooth Hwy was closed from this point on to Red Lodge). So we then drove the Chief Joseph to Hwy 120 and into Cody. Had lunch in Cody, then spent a few hours at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center. This was actually not in our plans at all, but once there, we thought we might as well see it, and we found it pretty interesting! The admission fee is $15 (which we thought a bit steep, since that's $30 for both of us and it cost $25 for the fee for Yellowstone AND Grand Teton for a WEEK!!) But your ticket is good for 2 days.
The drive was spectacular!!!!! We drove back into Yellowstone the same day and stayed in Gardiner. It made for a nice, long day and a bit of a change from being in the park after a few days!

Another unexpected diversion was our visit to the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone, MT.
This is a great Not-for-Profit Wildlife Park and Educational Facility. All the animals at the Center are unable to survive in the wild and serve as ambassadors for their wild counterparts. It's a great opportunity to see grizzlies and wolves up close and there is an interesting museum as well. Admission was $9.75 and good for 2 days. We really enjoyed our visit there and highly recommend it!

So, after Yellowstone, we decided to drive back through Jackson and spend one night (also at Elk Country Inn). This gave us one more chance to get a look at those stunning mountains!!
Then we headed back to SLC via Hwy 22 west out of Jackson, through Wilson and Victor. Then Hwy 26 to Idaho Falls, then I-15 int SLC.
This drive took us about 5-1/2 hours including stops for bathroom and lunch.

If you'd like to see our reviews and photos of the hotels we stayed in, use these links and look for the submissions from luv2globetrot:

Jackson - Elk Country Inn - (I submitted 2 separate reviews. One for our stay in one of their cabins at the beginning of the trip and one for our stay in their hotel section at the end of our trip. But they only posted one. We loved both!) "Really Happy with this hotel!" -

Yellowstone - Old Faithful Inn - �A bit of a splurge for a nice experience" -

Yellowstone - Canyon Lodge Pioneer Cabin - �Bad on the outside, decent budget room inside� -

Gardiner - Best Western Mammoth - �Fine choice in Gardiner� -

West Yellowstone - We stayed at the Gray Wolf Inn. I always submit my reviews to Tripadvisor with photos, but, this time, I forgot to take pictures here, so I didn't submit a review.
But it was clean, well appointed and reasonably priced, with free wi-fi in the rooms. We had no reservation, we just walked up and reserved and paid about $95+tax for a regular room. We thought it was a fine choice and would recommend it.

Salt Lake City - Holiday Inn Airport West - �Not your typical Holiday Inn...loved it!� -

I hope that this information is helpful.
Feel free to ask any questions.
You can't go wrong with whatever itinerary you's all amazing! Enjoy!
Happy, safe travels!

maj Jun 22nd, 2008 07:13 AM

Great informative trip report and pictures. Looks like you got Rosie's cubs. Did you hear that she was apparently in a fight or attacked by another bear and the black one hasn't been seen since? Sad, but nature.

We bought a 500mm lens before this trip -- like DH says no matter how big a lens or great a camera you have, it isn't enough out there. We talked to one man from Florida who goes there 3 times a year and has spent way into the five figures for photo equipment. It is just a hobby with him. He was letting people put their camera on his lens to get some pictures.

swisshiker Jun 22nd, 2008 07:55 AM

Hello luv2globetrot :)

Welcome to the "I Love Yellstone" club. It's one of those places that in many respects is undescribable. I will never forget the first time I gazed into the depths of the turquoise geyser pools. So vivid in my mind.

One of the places you mentioned that we've not visited is the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center. I'll be sure to add it to our fall itinerary.

Your photos are truly spectacular.

Happy travels!

swisshiker Jun 22nd, 2008 10:07 AM

Uh-oh. Perhaps my club membership should be revoked.

Yellowstone, not Yellstone. sheesh... :-"

Dayle Jun 22nd, 2008 11:22 AM


Thanks for the trip report. I think it really helps people to hear first time visitors' opinions in addition to the "locals". Good to hear the weather cooperated for you.

You were lucky to see wolves. Even in all my visits, I never have!

Kerry392 Jun 22nd, 2008 04:37 PM

I loved your pictures! What a fantastic trip!!

luv2globetrot Jun 23rd, 2008 03:51 AM

Thanks everyone!!

That is such sad news about Rosie's cub. Somehow it feels like you have an actual connection with that animal once you've watched them interact for an hour or more. Very, very sad, but like you said, that is nature.

As for the lens, we're already looking into buying a faster lens:) This trip was definitely a lesson for us!

Yellowstone is an amazing place. I kept telling friends when we got back, "It's like no other place we've ever been!" So many different geological wonders!! I mean, we knew about Old Faithful, but we didn't expect there to be so many beautiful and interesting geological features.
Glad you liked my photos:)

We had low expectations on seeing certain animals like bears and wolves, since we heard how hit-or-miss it can be!
So, we were so excited to have 4 opportunities to see bears and we saw wolves 5 different times!! (These were the 2 highest on our priority list!)
So, we considered this first trip a huge success!!!
I knew we were lucky, but I didn't realize HOW lucky!
Just wish we'd have bought a more powerful zoom lens!

Thanks, so glad you like my photos:)

Happy, safe travels!

HowardR Jun 23rd, 2008 08:18 AM

Welcome to the "Teton is a photographer's paradise" club!

kaudrey Jun 23rd, 2008 10:58 AM

I copied your entire trip report. Thanks! I love photography too, and have the same lens! I hope to make it out there next year...right now I am counting down my days to my 2-week Alaska trip.

Thanks for all of the great details.


Myer Jun 23rd, 2008 12:41 PM

I too am planning a trip to YNP and GTNP.

Your 300mm lens wasn't long enough.

I was thinking of using a 55-250.

I normally carry a 17-70 but have not photographed wildlife.

great photos!!! Many look familiar.

maj Jun 23rd, 2008 02:41 PM


We were in Yellowstone around Labor Day last year and decided last minute to go again this past spring. We had bought a spotting scope for the last visit which was great to watch wolves at a distance, but were still unable to get good distance pictures. DH bought a new camera (not just for this trip) and a 500mm lens -- also a new teleconverter. Definitely helped, but the distances you are watching animals is so great out there -- you always want more lens! You can also rent lenses. And add teleconverters to your lens. The people who have these huge lenses are either renting them or go there frequently and use them often. Not sure the expense is worth a one time visit. They use editing programs (which we are just beginning to start to figure out) and crop the pictures they have.

We feel the same as luv2globetrot and hope to visit Yellowstone many more times so our investment in the 500mm lens was worth it to us. Still not ready to spend tens of thousands on camera equipment -- we just live too far away. You can get plenty of great animal pictures close to you also. And I have yet to see a good picture of the Slough Creek wolves at their den area which is about 2 miles from the road. It is fun to watch them with a good spotting scope (and people will let you look through theirs, but we liked having our own -- which, again, can't compare to the ones you see out there).

If you haven't seen it already, check out -- the Yellowstone Photography section. There is tons of information on cameras, lens, etc. as well as lots of pictures. We got lots of information on there before we bought ours. You can also email some of the people with specific questions (I know I did and they were very helpful -- mostly amateurs, but really interested in photography and Yellowstone).

Myer Jun 24th, 2008 04:46 AM

love2 & maj,

I'm not really fixated in photographing that wolf 2 miles away. Scenery is just as important.

I can't see using a 500mm and teleconverter that I really can't use anywhere else. I couldn't hold those steady enough anyway and while I'd probably use a tripod more than for previous trips, I wouldn't expect to stand around for a couple of hours waiting for a wolf to wander into my area.

A beautiful lake backed by a snow-capped mountain or an amazing waterfall are just as impressive if not more to me.

Yes, I'd like to get some wildlife but. . .

What kind of camera were you each using? i have a Canon 350XT. It's not a full-frame so a 250mm lens acts like a 400mm on a 35mm camera.

I use Photoshop for image editing so I don't mind doing a small amount of cropping. I try not to do a lot of cropping as the quality drops rather quickly.

I'll live with that and get what I can.

At this time I don't even own a telephoto lens and have never really missed it on previous trips.

I'll probably have to replace my camera eventually since it's now 2 generations behing and I've take almost 13,000 photos with it.

But, all this gives me something to think about and develop expectations.

luv2, thanks foer the excellent report.

Myer Jun 24th, 2008 05:17 AM


I went to the Yellowstone forum web site.

Other than beautiful pictures posted and a lot of ouhhhs and awwwws, I couldn't find any discussions on equipment, technique, etc.

I suspect some of these people are multiple visitors with a single-minded goal.

I don't think I saw any scenery. Just bears and wolves.

Almost nothing else.

I thought there are geysers, lakes, waterfalls & mountains there.

luv2globetrot Jun 24th, 2008 05:39 AM

myer and maj,

I brought 2 lenses with me. My 70-300 and an 17-55.
I was constantly switching back and forth because I, too, love taking pictures of the scenery (just as much as the wildlife). I found the geysers, pools and mountains pretty breath-taking:)

So, another lesson I learned is that, next time I'm in a situation like this (with scenery and wildlife) BRING 2 BODIES!
I used a Canon 40D on this trip, and I also have the 20D.
So, on our next trip, which is Africa in September, I'll be bringing 2 bodies, and at least 2 lenses; my 17-55 and a zoom.
We've decided to upgrade to the Canon 100-400mm 4.5-5.6 and we're thinking about renting a 70-200mm 2.8 to bring along also because we will be going to Rwanda to trek with the mountain gorillas!! That situation is commonly low light so that's why the need for the 2.8 lens.

This Yellowstone trip was a good practice trip for Africa. It really taught us a lot.

Happy, safe travels.

luv2globetrot Jun 24th, 2008 05:47 AM

Hi Howard and thanks:)
It WAS a paradise and we just kept wondering if you could EVER get tired of that view!! I think not!

Kaudrey, have a great trip to Alaska! Good luck with that lens!

Happy, safe travels.

Myer Jun 24th, 2008 06:42 AM


We all have to make decisions in life.

I don't think I'll carry 2 bodies (even if I had them at that point) around my neck.

I'm thinking that I should carry my light tripod in my backpack more often.

Seeing and photographing the sights is more important to me than spending all day for that one fantastic shot of a wolf.

I am trying to decide how to handle lens changing as I really don't see having "one lens does all". I've always travelled with one walkaround lens and that's it.

HowardR Jun 24th, 2008 08:08 AM

luv2, we never get tired of the Teton views. It's our favorite national park. We love it so much, in fact, that on our last trip out there, we never got to Yellowstone, spending all our time in the Teton before taking a sidetrip to the Wind River Mountains area.
Incidentally, I found September to be the best month for taking pictures. Heck, the September visit was our best trip there for all reasons!

palmies Jun 24th, 2008 08:28 AM

Thanks for your detailed itinerary of your trip. My husband and I will be out there in August, and I know that he will appreciate the photography suggestions. We are bringing our laptop just so that we can purge the memory card each day!

maj Jun 24th, 2008 10:13 AM

This is an example of one of the questions asked: (and yes they are pretty much into the animals)

Honestly, we read through that site quite frequently before we went there to get some ideas, but like on this forum, everyone has a different opinion so you have to sift through and decide what works for you. Right now it is hard to read through it because so many people have just been there and are posting pictures, etc. Before the rush to Yellowstone (in April) there was more discussion about cameras, etc.

We just bought a Canon rebel XSI and a 170-500mm lens and a 2x teleconverter. (which they advise you not to use with the 500 -- but it worked ok for us -- better than not getting the picture at all). My husband uses this. I mainly use my panasonic camcorder that also takes still pictures, with a 2X telephoto lens (not a teleconverter) on distance action shots. You definitely need a tripod with any telephoto lens out there -- it is usually windy.

Personally, again, I would not buy all this stuff for a first trip out there. This is our fourth trip (and we hope to make more which is why we decided to invest in the long lens) and we have many pictures of scenery, geysers, etc. (although we always take more and really enjoy the scenery out there also. The scenery in each area of the park is so different from the others -- and the Tetons are fantastic) Our main focus now is the animals (especially wolves). We have added more "toys" with each trip -- and still don't have enough magnification for some shots. But we're not making a living at this -- just a hobby. I think you will be fine with what you have. (even though, like luv and us, you will probably want more).

Every time we have used our long lens it has been near our car. We do see people walking on trails with the long lenses, but it is too much for us to want to carry around. Not sure what you mean by trying to handle lens changing.

Just wanted to tell you that I read your links about the hotels and really appreciate the detailed descriptions you gave. I just realized that you were there the same time we were -- May 27 - June 5. We were really lucky with the weather -- between the rain and the snow.

Love2RV Jun 24th, 2008 10:36 AM

Wow...those are great pictures. We are headed to both parks in June 2009 and can't wait to see some of what you saw.

HowardR Jun 24th, 2008 11:19 AM

A few photo suggestions in the Teton:
*Oxbow Bend
*Down Antelope Flats Road (I think that's the name) to the Moulton Barn. Any photo that includes the Moulton Barn will be a winner! This is also a good spot to photograph bison up close.
*String Lake.
*Inspiration Point.

Myer Jun 24th, 2008 11:34 AM


Changing lenses on-the-fly takes practice.

Essentially, you're trying to hold a camera that is open to dust & dirt, hold a lens that has just been removed and hold another lens that will be connected to the camera.

Each lens has a back cover to keep it clean.

Managing this takes practice.

= = = = =
Wow!!! A 70-500 with a 2x.

Who makes that? Does it have Image Stabilization?

What kind of image quality do you get?

Do you PP your images?

It must be a monster. Not something you carry on a trail.

Your Xsi just came out. Good buy!!!

I'm now 2 generations back with my 350xt. But mine has more experience at well over 12,000 shots.

maj Jun 24th, 2008 02:24 PM

We change our lenses frequently, but are usually doing it by the car. Mike has a pouch type thing slung over his shoulder (he made it to fit his needs) where he can easily get to a lens and put it back while changing the other on trails.(and uses his pockets also) But, admittedly he also has me to hold one if he needs me to. We frequently just keep the camera attached to a tripod in the car while travelling about for easy access because it does take time to attach it.

We have a Sigma 170-500mm (about 4-5lbs) and a separate 2x teleconverter (I think it is a Canon). They don't recommend using a teleconverter with a 500mm lens because you do lose picture quality.
It does not have image stabilization, but on our last trip he was shooting mostly in RAW (for the first time)and manually focusing. He said the farther out you go the harder it is to focus. And heat waves are a problem at times out there, no matter what your lens. He is just beginning to fool around with the editing. We've always had it, but didn't use it much before. Also, this trip was definitely a learning curve with both the camera and lens. And no we probably wouldn't take it on a long trail -- although people do. The fun part is trying to get all this into your carryon when you are flying.

Long story about the XSI. Basically it wasn't supposed to be out in our area until after our trip, but they sent 2 cameras to a number of stores right before we left and we ended up getting it at Best Buy.

Know what you mean about your 350xt. I've seen some of your pictures and they are great. I love my (old by today's standard) camcorder -- it has done me well.

Have a great trip!

lazuliangel Mar 16th, 2009 03:50 PM

Sadly, we only saw the SIGNS for animals when we were out last year! We were out in late March/early April on a road trip that spanned several states, but saw absolutely nothing wildlife-y in Wyoming ... unless you count the buffalo herd that are permanent residents of Hot Springs State Park in Thermop. Sad, really, since it took us till Idaho to even see a deer! By that point, we'd been on the road about four days already.

Your trip sounds wonderful, though. Intrepid Best Friend and I are planning a tentative road trip to Yellowstone this summer since we missed it last year. But first, we have to get through our week in the Big Apple and see if we survive.

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