Grand Teton & Yellowstone & ???

Old Oct 22nd, 2014, 09:51 AM
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Grand Teton & Yellowstone & ???

Hi all. I haven't planned a trip in some time and as much as I've tried to read prior posts on this topic, I realize I'm asking things that have probably already been answered but thanks in advance for your help!

Looking to head to Grand Teton and Yellowstone NPs next year in late June/early July. I keep reading that accommodations book up (am I already too late?!) but I don't have an itinerary yet so I'm looking for help honing in on key points such as:

- Total trip will need to be less than two weeks (but more than one is OK), coming from the East Coast, 4 of us including a 9 & 11 year old. While we want to see as much as possible (and my kids want to check off as many states as possible!), we don't want to do so much going/seeing/driving we need a vacation after our vacation. So, what can/should we add in in the timeframe we have so we can maximize an infrequent trip out west without overdoing it: Salt Lake City? Parts of Idaho? Glacier NP? And therefore how many nights will we need?

- Answering that probably helps answer my next question - where is best to fly in and out of?

- Given that those two parks are the definites, where would you recommend staying and how many nights at each? Again, I'm sure it kind of depends on itinerary, and I don't need to iron out what we'll do each day yet (right?!), but assuming we'll do the usual touristy things (kid friendly hikes, some horseback riding, rafting, animal spotting, Old Faithful, etc.), where would you recommend staying that's in a good location and not too bare bones or too ritzy (for each park)? There seem to be soooo many options it's a bit overwhelming.

It probably helps to know that budget isn't out biggest concern. That's not to say money is no object, but given that this may be our only trip to those parks, we don't mind paying more to stay somewhere great. Again - doesn't have to be five star; great location, kid friendly and some creature comforts are most important.

Maybe you have an itinerary you can share with me? I'll keep searching the forums - just freaking out about everything booking up.

Thank you so much!!
Chrissy4 is offline  
Old Oct 22nd, 2014, 10:14 AM
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If you're visiting YNP and GTNP for beauty, nature, and wildlife -- and doing so is an EXCELLENT idea -- then I recommend including Glacier NP in this trip. GlNP has the alpine scenery you won't get at the first two, and some great wildlife as well.

It's a full day's drive between Glacier and Yellowstone, so plan a stop or two along the way, each way. But also plan on continued OMG! moments at Glacier.

June is actually kind of early in the season for Glacier, so go there last. It would be sad to go there two days before all roads are fully open, when a minor switch would have allowed you to drive on all the roads.
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Old Oct 22nd, 2014, 10:15 AM
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I'd start by seeing if I could get a room at the Old Faithful Inn, preferably in a room overlooking the geyser. I'd plan around it. There are plenty of places to stay in Jackson if you can't get a room in Grand Teton NP. My favorite hotel is the OFI. If you can only get a couple of nights there, you can move on to another location. Be sure to plan a couple of nights in Cody, WY also. The rest of the trip depends on where you are coming from. Fly into Jackson WY if you can and do GTNP and then on to YNP. Billings, MT would be another option and the drive down into YNP. Those two parks plus Glacier are a lot to do, but doable if you fly into Jackson and out of Kalispell - which we did a few years ago.
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Old Oct 22nd, 2014, 01:55 PM
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Here is my trip report with itinerary from a couple of years ago on kids in Yellowstone. It is all based on where you get lodging--start there first.
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Old Oct 22nd, 2014, 01:56 PM
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And this is my report from this year's trip to Jackson Hole and the Tetons--kids are 9 and 12.
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Old Oct 22nd, 2014, 04:46 PM
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What about flying into Denver and visiting either Rocky Mountain NP or the Black Hills, plus Yellowstone and Grand Teton?

Salt Lake City is the closest major airport to Yellowstone, Denver is probably the next closest. Starrs listed off a few others that are very close but much smaller, so you'd need to check airfare and see if it fits your budget.
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Old Oct 24th, 2014, 11:09 AM
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You should plan out a rough itinerary and then refine it based on the lodging available.

Each of us has different priorities. For me, staying at OFI is not at all important. Getting my days and working out an itinerary is.

This past summer I took my daughter (married with an almost 8 year old daughter) and granddaughter to Yellowstone and Grand Tetons.

We are all photographers. Even the 7 year old has her own DSLR camera and I brought with an extra telephoto lens for her.

About 6-8 months before the trip I told them about a hike (Mt Washburn) I had gone on during my previous visit to YNP. I told them that I didn't plan on doing it again. A couple of months later my granddaughter announced that she wanted to try thank hike I told them about. She made it to the top.

I planned out some of everything. Well, she had little interest in the geysers, a lot of interest in hikes that were a challenge, no interest in hikes that got us somewhere that were not a challenge and most interested in seeing and photographing wildlife.

Other than bison (that are around all the time) wildlife is most active early in the morning and late in the afternoon. So staying far away or outside the park makes that impossible.

Is photography a priority?

Just below Canyon in Hayden Valley I saw deer and elk early, bison and a couple of grizzlies with a bison carcass.

I've been to YNP & GTNP twice and both time we stayed in the Old Faithful area (there are about 3 different places all in the same complex of lodging), Canyon and Signal Mountain in GTNP.

If I went back again I would do the same thing. Others might not.

So first you've got to decide on your interests and how much time you'll need in each place.

Just a though. About 8 years ago I planned "my trip to the southwest". Well, I've now been out there about 10 times.
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Old Oct 24th, 2014, 03:35 PM
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To say the time frame is early for Glacier is an understatement. The Going to the Sun Road, one of the most scenic drives in the country and the road that connects the east and west side of the park, doesn't even open until June 21st - at the earliest. A few years back when Glacier had a record snowfall, it was @ June 12th before the road opened. Most of the trails in the higher elevation will be covered with snow.

The other thing to consider is the amount of time you'll be in the car. As stated above, it's a fully day from Yellowstone to Glacier. But your time in Yellowstone will mean a lot of time in the car due to the size of the park.

Personally, I would focus on the Tetons and Yellowstone and stay in different areas of both parks. The area around Jackson will have activities for the kids like horseback riding, the tram ride up to Rendezvous Mountain and float trips along the Snake River. Jackson also has lots of options for dining out. But if you want to enjoy the solitude of the park, spend a few nights at Signal Mountain Lodge.

Some great easier hikes for kids that age would be Hidden Falls (if you take the boat ride across Jenny Lake), Inspiration Point, Phelps Lake Overlook, and String Lake.

I agree with starrs comment above about Cody, WY, also check out Cooke City, WY.

Myer: We were also in the Tetons this summer! We arrived after they'd had a spell of unusually cool wet weather. Pretty much had great views of the Tetons every day.
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Old Oct 24th, 2014, 04:36 PM
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The most important thing to do right now is to figure out when you're going to stay in Yellowstone and go to the National Park Service website to try to book accommodations ASAP. And, yes, you may be too late to stay in the park, but I highly recommend doing everything you can, including checking back multiple times, to try to get something in Yellowstone. Why? Because staying in the park saves a lot of time driving in and out, and you will see more wildlife staying in it than you will out of it. A lot of people stay in the Old Faithful area, or split it between OF and Canyon or OF and the Lake Lodge.

I would book about 4 nights in Yellowstone and another 4 nights in Jackson (should be several options for places to stay) or one of the Grand Teton NP lodges (which will also be hard to get into at this point). You could fly into Bozeman and out of Jackson or the opposite. If you are coming from a more distant international airport (Salt Lake City, for example), then plan for extra nights arriving and departing from that area and two more days of travel to and from those cities.

If at all possible, it might be better to push the trip into mid-July, because you will get better and more predictable weather between then and Labor Day. Early September can be good (but cooler) too, but I'm assuming your kids will be back in school.

Don't worry about figuring out your activities at this point...there is plenty to do and see. The accommodations are the biggest challenge for that area. Have a great trip.
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Old Oct 24th, 2014, 05:02 PM
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Don't just rely on the website when looking for accommodations in Yellowstone National Park! CALL Xanterra every day! Reservation cancellations occur all the time, but in many cases the rooms are rebooked so quickly that the opening never even make it onto the website. If you're persistent and you're willing to be flexible on where you stay in the park, your chances of getting lodging are excellent.
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