National Park Vacation Advice

Apr 13th, 2010, 11:28 AM
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National Park Vacation Advice

Just starting to plan a summer vacation and looking for general suggestions on which national park we should visit. We are considering Yellowstone but are worried about crowds, whether we can find a nice, decently priced hotel, and whether we'd like the activities at this particular park. We'd prefer something out West, but would consider other areas other than Virginia (where we're from).

Our trip will be in mid/late June for 5 - 6 nights. We've been to the following parks out West: Grand Canyon (North and South Rims), Zion, and Arches. The trips to these parks were only one day (Grand Canyon two days), and we would be willing to go back.

- We are in relatively good shape, although not to the level of a marathon runner or anything like that.

- Avoiding crowds is a plus (although I know it will be difficult in June)

-We don't have any children

- We'd like to avoid really long drives unless it is one or two long drives separated by a few days (i.e. drive for 5 hours and then drive nowhere for three days).

- Somewhere that combines hiking, smooth water kayaking (nothing white-water), nice scenery, and which is good for an amateur photographer
adam09 is offline  
Apr 13th, 2010, 11:57 AM
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You could combine Yellowstone with the Grand Tetons, or you could go to Glacier/Waterton, or any of the above alone.
All are wonderful and offer the types of activities you mentioned in or around the parks.

Further west, there's Yosemite, Redwoods, just to name a couple.
panecott is online now  
Apr 13th, 2010, 12:03 PM
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Do NOT consider Yosemite if you want to avoid crowds - it's a freakin' madhouse in the summer time.
hazel1 is offline  
Apr 13th, 2010, 12:35 PM
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If you want to avoiod crowds consider Lassen and Redwood National Parks in northern California. Also maybe the Oregon Dunes National Seashore.
boom_boom is offline  
Apr 13th, 2010, 12:55 PM
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Is Yellowstone a "freakin' madhouse" during the summertime as hazel1 so wonderfully describes Yosemite? If we have to get up early or do something else to avoid crowds we really don't mind.

I haven't read up a lot on Yellowstone, but it seems like it's mostly pine trees and geysers, or am I mistaken? I love the scenery down near Arches and Zion, so maybe I'm a little scared to try something farther north.

I would love to go to Glacier, but I might save that until we can go into Canada as well (my wife doesn't have a passport, and I'm not sure she can get one by mid-June).
adam09 is offline  
Apr 13th, 2010, 01:27 PM
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Given the distances between the parks out west, if you only have 5-6 nights, you're best to concentrate on one area. Otherwise, you'd be spending most of your time traveling between parks!

Yellowstone is SO much more than pine trees and geysers. We visited for the first time last summer for only three nights and didn't even begin to scratch the surface. The incredible vistas, the canyons, the waterfalls and wildlife, in addition to the huge variety of geothermal features, makes it the one park that should not be missed! Do a little research on what's there and you should see why you should plan to visit!

With 5-6 nights, you could have time to appreciate both Yellowstone and Grand Teton, directly to the south. June is not overly crowded since many families wait until July to visit. It's not particularly hot that time of year either which makes it more comfortable. If you can find lodging inside either park, take it; otherwise, West Yellowstone is the closest town directly outside the west entrance and it's doable to drive back and forth each day. In Grand Teton, Jackson, WY is relatively close as well. *This* is the trip you want to take!
tekwriter is offline  
Apr 13th, 2010, 01:51 PM
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Just FYI, unless there are special circumstances involved, I think there's more than enough time for your wife to get a passport by mid June. I renewed mine last year by mail and received it in less than 3 weeks.

And tekwriter is right about Yellowstone. It is a gem and has much to offer.
panecott is online now  
Apr 13th, 2010, 02:06 PM
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June (esp early or mid) is actually much better than July or August when it comes to crowds, so don't worry too much about that. Go to Yellowstone/Tetons. One of the nice things about Yellowstone is that, similar to other national parks but even more so IMO, it attracts people that rarely wander more than 100 yards from there car. With little effort you're going to be able to get away from crowds.

Even if you're not sure about how much you will like Yellowstone, go. The first time I visited it was more because I thought I should, rather than being genuinely excited about it. And I was blown away. It's "America's Serengheti." It's a giant volcanic crater with amazing geologic features, tons of wildlife, mountains, etc. Not just pines and geysers

However, I'm not sure about accomodation. People book the national parks well in advance and your trip is so soon. You should do that asap.
christy1 is offline  
Apr 13th, 2010, 02:30 PM
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Another huge thumbs up for Yellowstone here. Even if the place were only "geysers and pine trees," the sheer concentration and variety of geysers, thermal pools, mudpots, and similar features would make this a must. Note that no other place on earth has such a large number of these features, and except for parts of Iceland and New Zealand, one doesn't much find areas of multiple geysers around the world (note that apparently the Valley of the Geysers on Kamchatka Peninsula was severely damaged by a mudslide and lake back-up in 2007, further limiting places to see these phenomena).

But like tekwriter and christy1 said, there's so much more here: wildlife, waterfalls, canyons, meadows, mountains, lakes. I think Yellowstone is a must, myself.
bachslunch is offline  
Apr 13th, 2010, 06:43 PM
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It sounds like we should definitely go to yellowstone.

Any additional advice on lodging at this last minute?

I think what we will try to do is fly into Billings or Bozeman MT, and then fly out of Jackson, WY. We'd go to Yellowstone for most of the time, and maybe spend one night in Jackson to see Mount Teton.

Should we plan to stay in West Yellowstone the whole time we are at Yellowstone, or would it be better to stay near the North entrance a few nights, and then near the West entrance (or South entrance?). The park is so huge it seems like staying near one entrance the whole time might make us miss out on a lot of the park.
adam09 is offline  
Apr 13th, 2010, 07:12 PM
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Just a few thoughts:

Billings is blah so maybe not stay there overnight. There are 2 options into Yellowstone from Billings: The famous alpine Beartooth Highway via Red Lodge to the NE entrance or the also scenic but more level entry south from Livingston to the North Entrance. Bozeman is a more scenic town than Billings and more fun.

West Yellowstone is kind of strip mally, so if you can get a lodge in the park that would be desirable (and more money).

It is nice to just relax for the whole day by the Tetons and not rush through.
tom_mn is online now  
Apr 13th, 2010, 07:13 PM
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If you're going to Yellowstone, it's definitely worth including a day or two in Grand Teton, a very good park as well.

Jackson, WY also makes for a pleasant day visit.

You'll find both pretty well covered by a board search if you want details on either.
bachslunch is offline  
Apr 13th, 2010, 07:14 PM
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For lodging within Yellowstone, there a central reservations website/telephone number (you'll have to Google it). I didn't have any luck when we went last year because it was very last minute, but I understand even if they're full now, vacancies come up all the time, but you have to be persistent.

If that doesn't work, then it may be a good idea to break up your trip into 2 nights North/2 night West and last 2 nights in Jackson. We stayed all three nights in the town of West Yellowstone at Rustic Wheel Cabins which we liked very much; clean, economical, full kitchen. We definitely were not able to see the North and East sides of the park because of distance and slow driving times within the park. The west and south provided plenty to see and do anyway! You won't be able see everything, but what you do see will impress, to say the least! (Just wait til you see your first grizzly bear ambling along the road!)
tekwriter is offline  
Apr 13th, 2010, 08:16 PM
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Some thoughts on crowds in national parks.

First of all, here's my attitude on crowds: when I'm hiking on the Appalachian Trail, seeing six people in a day is too many. In other words, I HATE them.

Secondly, I've been to 41 U.S. national parks and fifteen in Canada. I know what they are like.

Thirdly, places like Yosemite, Yellowstone, and Grand Canyon are SO SPECTACULAR that the fact that crowds exist does NOT reduce my enjoyment of them. And I've been to ALL of them in summer -- at least twice each!

Lastly, if the crowd level at any NP bothers you, just walk for fifteen minutes on any non-major trail. At the end of that walk, you'll feel as if you have the entire place to yourself. This has been my experience at every NP I've been to, most definitely including Yosemite.

For a five day trip in June, crowds in Yellowstone will be VERY acceptable. In Glacier they will be almost non-existent, simply because the main road isn't plowed till mid-June! Be aware that both these places can be VERY cold in June, so dress in layers!
PaulRabe is offline  
Apr 14th, 2010, 04:42 AM
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Is there any lodging at the South entrance (either inside or outside of the park)?
adam09 is offline  
Apr 14th, 2010, 05:24 AM
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No, there's no lodging at the south entrance because Yellowstone almost adjoins Grand Teton and it's a long drive to any lodging from there. One thing you should do is check the maps of both parks on the National Park Service websites to get a better feel for the geography and distances. Keep in mind that driving is slow because of terrain and the fact that most roads are narrow and two-lane. There can also be road construction anywhere; we were delayed on the road from Grand Teton to Yellowstone in August last year, but I don't know if that's been completed yet. The Park Service website will have the latest info.
tekwriter is offline  
Apr 14th, 2010, 05:35 AM
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Yellowstone.We've been there twice and my advice for lodging is to find lodging in Gardiner or West Yellowstone.Gardiner is one mile from the park entrance and W.Y.very close to the center of the Geysers. You'll find more lodging choices and much cheaper than in the park.Paul
tovarich is offline  
Apr 14th, 2010, 08:39 AM
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If you have the time, you should try to spend more than one day in the Grand Tetons. It's a spectacularly beautiful area, not as big as Yellowstone, but still plenty to see and do.
panecott is online now  
Apr 14th, 2010, 08:53 AM
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Check check check for lodging in the park. I always prefer to stay in the parks if at all possible. We were there in June 08. Didn't find it to be crowded at all. You might get in an animal jam a few times. Be prepared for even snow. The advantage for June is few crowdes, greater waterfall flow, lots of animals with babies, greater chances of seeing bears(we saw 10+). Spend an entire day just geyser gazing. Riverside Geyser and Castle Geysers were our favorites. I love National Parks and have been to the ones you mention, although I can't imagine staying only a day in Arches. Yellowstone is definately something you should experience. I rank it way above the Grand Canyon. There is just so much to see and do there. Seeing any of the trees in Sequoia, Yosemite, and Redwoods is pretty amazing also. I think allowing 5 ot 6 days will be a fantastic trip. I agree with others that one or two of those days should include the Tetons. With so many options to stay in Tetons and Yellowstone, you should be able to find something. We stayed at Colter Village Csbins in the Tetons and really enjoyed it.
spirobulldog is offline  
Apr 14th, 2010, 09:28 AM
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Staying in the parks is usually the best option, if available.

There don't seem to be too many options to stay on the highway between Yellowstone and Grand Teton, but there's at least one I know of. Flagg Ranch has both lodging and camping space available here. The bus tour I did of the area stopped here for a couple days (camping section) when on its Yellowstone-Grand Teton leg as a base for exploring the latter park. No idea what the lodging end of things is like there:
bachslunch is offline  

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