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In just five days: Grand Teton and Yellowstone NPs

In just five days: Grand Teton and Yellowstone NPs

Old Jul 28th, 2014, 12:41 PM
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In just five days: Grand Teton and Yellowstone NPs

My husband and I took our nephew on an adventure to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. We only had five days to check them out but we had a wonderful time and fit in quite a bit.

Our itinerary was not ideal because we did not choose the destination until early spring--that meant most in-park accommodations were booked up so we took what we could get. That led to:

(Arrive night before Day 1)
Day 1: Morning, Inflatable Kayak/Duckie Trip on the Snake River from Jackson, Afternoon in Jackson and Grand Teton, night in Jackson Lake Lodge.
Day 2: Morning in Grand Teton then drive through Yellowstone for night in Gardiner, MT.
Day 3: Morning in NW Yellowstone and Lamar Valley, stop for hikes then night in Grant Village Lodge
Day 4: Morning in Yellowstone and evening at Headwaters Lodge at Flagg Ranch.
Day 5: Morning in Grand Teton, afternoon in Jackson.

I never wanted to come home. I wish I could spend all summer out there. What wonderful, beautiful, captivating parks. We did a lot of driving. On a return trip I would plan to do some back country camping so we could really get away from the crowds. That said, the crowds were not miserable. Yes, parking areas filled up and we saw others when we hiked but it wasn't so crowded that it detracted from our enjoyment.

My nephew specifically wanted to see bison herds and Old Faithful. Success! (Everyone should be so easy to please, right?). I'll report in a little more detail below about highlight activities.
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Old Jul 28th, 2014, 01:08 PM
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Hiking
Gear--we were only day hiking so no special gear except BEAR SPRAY. We rented ours from Teton Backcountry Rentals, TetonBCREntals.com -- loved them. They deliver and they were wonderful to deal with. We didn't actually have delivery because we had checked out of our hotel so they just picked a meeting point (the visitor center). Very accommodating and friendly. We heard about them when we rented our car. We had planned to buy bear spray but were pleased at the savings of renting--it came with the canister and a scat belt. At first I wondered if it was overly cautious bringing it on day hikes, even though I had read that it is advisable to have it--then I saw my first bear warning and saw that everyone carried it and didn't question it again.

Amphitheater and Surprise Lakes, Grand Teton
This was our favorite hike. It was long and moderately strenuous but beautiful. Surprise lake was the best part--the mountains reflected into a gorgeous greek lake when you walk about halfway around the water. We didn't see any notable wildlife though we saw many reports that bears frequent the area and actually heard that a bear had crossed the trail. The views going up were beautiful and there were wildflowers and chipmunks everywhere. It probably took us about 5 hours to do, stopping to pics, views, and snacks.

Lava Creek Trail, Yellowstone
Our nephew (17 y/o) picked this hike because it was close to the area of the park we were in. We actually only did the hike from the picnic area to the falls (probably a mile total) because it was a hot day, this wasn't particularly scenic and the trail was exposed, and it was a hike where you need to plan a shuttle. So...not an ideal pick. But, it was a gorgeous view of Undine Falls. And there were pretty butterflies and wildflowers along the way.

Cascade Lake, Yellowstone
Glorious little hike. Short and flat and peaceful. There were very few people on the trail and although the day was 90 degrees F there was a cool breeze and enough shade on this hike to make it refreshing. We saw a bison in the distance in one of the fields and the lake was calming.

Fairy Falls
Loved this one. First, you have to at least go as far as the overlook for the Grand Prismatic Spring. That was hands-down my favorite thermal feature and having a sweeping overhead view of it was incredible. But we continued on the flat trail all the way to the falls and really enjoyed it. We did it as an out-and-back but it could make a nice long loop. The out-and-back took us about two hours or maybe a bit more.

Hike around South Yellowstone Picnic Area--name escapes me
Just a short trail along the river in the picnic area South of the South Yellowstone Entrance. We just relaxed and took it easy here. It was REALLY mosquito-y, though. Make sure you have bug spray for morning and evening hikes.

Signal Mountain, Grand Teton
We did this really early in the morning with our fingers crossed hoping to see a moose. No moose. But we did see a doe elk and two gorgeous mule deer bucks. It was a peaceful hike that we had almost entirely to ourselves. And, of course, were rewarded with that always-glorious view of the mountains over the lakes. It was a wonderful farewell-to-the-parks hike. It took us about three hours to do.

Additional Activities

Duckies/Inflatable Kayaks--Rendezvous River Sports, Jackson
This was fantastic fun! We had an amazing guide, Carston, who kept us safe and made sure we had a wonderful trip. It was the three of us and two others. My husband and I in a tandem kayak and everyone else in solo ones. Four of the five of us ended up in the Snake River at Lunch Counter Rapids. Haha. It was a scramble but we still had all the kayaks and paddles when it was all sorted out. We saw a bald eagle catch a fish while we paddled. We saw an osprey, too. It was absolutely beautiful. Couldn't have asked for a better first morning than this trip. The company provides wetsuits, splash guards, and warm underclothes as well as all the safety gear.

Ripley's Believe It or Not
IF you've been to one of these, you've been to all of them. I've been to one before. But, my nephew wanted to go and he loved it. Right up his alley. The only real compliment I can give it is that it has a beautiful antler-sculpture of an elk. Even though I didn't find the antler arches in Jackson aesthetically pleasing this sculpture was really pretty.
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Old Jul 28th, 2014, 01:17 PM
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Glad you had a great time.

Last summer my granddaughter asked my daughter if we can go on another one (I took them you Yosemite when she was 4. Now 7) of grandpa's trips. I immediately booked lodging (1 night in OF, 3 nights in Canyon, 2 nights at Signal Mtn).

I told them about Mt Washburn hike that I did 4 years ago. I told her I didn't expect to do it again. Well, she told her mother she wanted to try it. The last half of that hike was the only bad weather we had on the whole trip. We got hailed upon on the way up and rained on the whole way down. But she made it.

We also hadn't seen a moose on the trip. Then I remembered Moose-Wilson Road. We left an hour early for the airport and at the first wet spot along that road we saw a female moose who cooperated and posed a lot.
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Old Jul 28th, 2014, 01:21 PM
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HIghlights

Wildlife Viewing

We saw four black bears (including two cubs), a grizzly bear, elk, mule deer, pronghorn, bison, osprey (with chicks), bald eagles, a fox, and chipmunks galore.

Our favorites were: The elk in Mammoth just hanging out in front of all the buildings. That was cool--plus we saw a baby that still had spots there. Also loved seeing a bear cross the road right in front of us in Grand Teton.

Thermal Features

As I said, Grand Prismatic Spring was my favorite. But we all also loved the Dragon's Mouth. There was such a huge variety of geothermic features. The artists' paint pots were cool and, of course, Old Faithful, which was true to its name.

You could spend many days just enjoying this aspect of the park without becoming bored, I think. We stopped at many of them and were always interested in how different they were from the last ones we had seen.

Lodging

I mentioned our nightly stops above and have reviewed specific hotels in more detail on Trip Advisor. But overall lodging at that time of year (high season) is expensive and not particularly impressive for the price you are paying. We loved Jackson Lake Lodge and in Gardiner, MT, we stayed at Yellowstone Condo Suites, which were wonderfully contemporary, spacious, and comfortable. We also liked Headwaters Lodge at Flagg Ranch--especially their restaurant. Our first night we stayed in the Anvil Motel in Jackson which was clean, comfortable and very convenient. Grant Village Lodge was exactly as mediocre, both location and accommodations-wise, as I expected from reviews.
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Old Jul 28th, 2014, 01:23 PM
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Oh Myer, that's awesome! She made it the whole way up Mt. Washburn?--that's fantastic. Lucky you on the moose. My mom and dad went about ten years ago and saw moose but never saw a bear so my mom's jealous of all our bear sightings.
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Old Jul 28th, 2014, 01:47 PM
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I'm so glad you had a great trip! I've been to Yellowstone many times and have never seen a bear; I'm jealous!
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Old Jul 28th, 2014, 03:57 PM
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Last time I was in Yellowstone I saw a couple of black bears. I've also seen them in Glacier.

But I'm jealous of your bear sighting this time. Good for you.

I saw two grizzlies with a bison carcass but they were way out there.

I'm glad you didn't just go to Grand Prismatic Spring but also along the Fairy Falls hike. That's not an overlook. It's an unofficial trail. In fact we saw 3 or 4 paths leading up and guessed which to take. We found a spot with an unobstructed view. My first time there 4 years ago the paths were not as well worn but it was obvious how to get up as there was only one path.

Will you be posting photos anywhere?
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Old Jul 30th, 2014, 12:55 PM
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You are right, of course, it isn't an overlook but it operates as one and I was sure glad of it.

I don't post a lot of pics here and none that include me/family for privacy reasons but I did put up a few here:

https://sharedonfodors.shutterfly.com/

(No real wildlife shots as we were usually too busy enjoying the moment and don't have a telephoto lens).

I am jealous of you who have made multiple trips to these national treasures. I'd be really interested in a winter visit (though not sure I'd survive the cold temperatures).
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Old Jul 30th, 2014, 05:23 PM
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Great photos at the Amphitheater Lake hike!!!

When I see photos on Undine Falls (and a few others) and remember that there were 2 cars at the pullout and ours was one (I went there 4 years ago but not last week), I wonder about Tower Fall with its full parking lot.

It must be prior reputation since the trail down to the bottom has been permanently closed and the forest growth blocks all but the top of the falls. I guess the food concession causes some of the cars to stop. I just don't understand.

I think we saw the same bison sitting in that bald spot. Then he took a dust bath. I guess that's how they get the ticks off.

I just saw your photo of Tower Fall. How does that compare to you shot of Undine Falls.

Nice shot of OF!!!

I wasn't planning to go past the GPS hill but my granddaughter wanted to. I see you went all the way to Fairy Falls as well.

That shot above GPS looks very much like mine. Isn't that view amazing? How does the ground level view compare? I think they should make the elevated view an official trail. Maybe it's too steep?

You saw a deer walking up Signal Mountain? Good for you. Four years ago I saw two black bears there. None this time.

Great shots!!!

I didn't think your photos would bring back memories since I was just there last week. But they did. It's great to see others enjoy the place. And you did a few things we didn't do. Good.

Thanks for sharing.

My photos from this year aren't posted yet but if you want to see the ones from the previous trip you can see them at: www.travelwalks.com
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Old Jul 30th, 2014, 06:04 PM
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Good Grief. I'm thinking I didn't see Udine Falls. I'm going again next June. Nice photo of it.
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Old Jul 30th, 2014, 07:56 PM
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I was fortunate enough to hike down to the bottom of Tower Falls back in the 80's. It was truly spectacular and I have some great old film pics! Pretty steep hike coming back up!

I'm glad you enjoyed your trip and did the float down the Snake. You really get a different perspective from the river and it is peaceful and fun at the same time.

The best places to see moose are around Oxbow Bend, Jackson Lake, and the Wilson-Moose road. I've even seen bears there chowing down on the late summer berries all along the river road.
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Old Jul 30th, 2014, 07:58 PM
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PS, if you want to see moose you can also come to Park City, Ut where I live. We have lots of moose. They even stroll down Main St. on occasion and bed down in people's back yards to rest on the lawn. We love our moose!
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Old Jul 30th, 2014, 09:46 PM
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Great pics! Sounds like you all had a lovely time.. even with the extra "swim".
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Old Jul 31st, 2014, 04:49 AM
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spiro,
And the best thing about Undine Falls is that it's roadside and the parking pullout is usually empty.

Dayle,
I went to Oxbow Bend several times early morning and early evening (also Willows Flats) and never saw any wildlife at either place.

On the way to the airport we left an hour or so early and drove a bit down the Moose-Wilson Rd. We saw a female moose at the first wet spot. Apparently she had two babies but they were in the woods and we never saw them.
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Old Jul 31st, 2014, 05:22 AM
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Sounds like a great trip. I'd love to go back to the area and do this with my grandkids also.
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Old Jul 31st, 2014, 08:22 AM
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emalloy,

Our (with my daughter and granddaughter) trip last week to Yellowstone and GTNP was a great trip.

We are all photographers. Even the 7 year old has her own DSLR camera. Whenever we saw wildlife I'd hear "grandpa, put on the longer lens".

We have to work on getting an appreciation for scenery. Her focus was on challenges (certain harder hikes and climbs) and photographing wildlife. You can't always count on seeing wildlife and scenery is predictable. So we have to work on that.
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Old Jul 31st, 2014, 10:11 AM
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Oh thank you all for taking a look and for all the nice comments.

I see some of you really love the National Parks. Spirobulldog, you in particular have been one of my Fodorite NP inspirations; I always check to see if you have been to the park we are visiting to get your tips. Myer, I see you get around quite a bit too so I will be looking out for your name. Off to check out your pics (and probably lose some afternoon productivity as a result!).
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Old Aug 3rd, 2014, 10:22 PM
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The Amphitheater and Surprise Lake hike is my all time favorite hike in the area. Truly gorgeous and very few people. I never carried bear spray in Yellowstone or GTNP--but I always had a bell!!!! And I never saw a bear. I do not hike on the trails with the bear warnings though-too scary for me.

I worked in Yellowstone for a summer and found that most people got in trouble when they were running on trails/hiking too fast/not making enough noise. My dad used to see lots of grizzlies while fishing in Yellowstone. He was always very careful--usually they left him alone because they were too busy eating their own dinner. Still very scary if you ask me!

Sounds like you had a great time. You are very brave/must know what you are doing to try whitewater kayaking on the Snake!!! I am too scared about going under and having to figure out to roll/not breathe etc. I know lots of people who do it and love it. Glad you had such a great time!
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Old Aug 7th, 2014, 10:23 AM
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Myer, your pics are fantastic. I did indeed lose an afternoon browsing.

Don't know if you go for online photo contests but if so the National Park service is running one for 2014:
http://www.sharetheexperience.org/

It's fun to just browse the entries, too.
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