Need Help with YS & GT NP Itinerary

Dec 31st, 2008, 05:38 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 132
Need Help with YS & GT NP Itinerary

I have finalized our reservations for our 2009 YS & GT NP vacation to fly in to Billings on Sept 6th and spend 3 nights at Canyon, 3 nights at Mammoth, 3 nights at Old Faithful Inn, 3 nights at Signal Mt in GT & 1 night at Jackson, then flying out of Jackson Hole on Sept 19th. Now I need help on what to see and how much we can do in one day and keep a restful, laid back pace. We really want to try to see the wolves & I got a new scope & tripod for Christmas for this vacation as well as future trips to other NP & Alaska. We are in our early 50s, active but not up to long, strenous hikes. This is what I have so far. Please give suggestions or comments:
Sep 6th - arrive at Billings at 11:30am, get rental car, eat lunch (any suggestions on where) and pick up ice chest/food at local grocery store (where is one near the airport or on the way out of town). Take the Beartooth Highway and end up at Canyon to check into our room. Hang around local area & eat dinner at Canyon
Sept 7th - get up early (5am??) and head to Lamar Valley to try to find wolves - where is it best to stop? Eat breakfast from our car, hike around Slough Creek. Lunch ? Roosevelt/Tower area, Hike Tower Fall area DInner at Canyon
Sept 8th - Get up early (5am?) & go to Hayden Valley to see wildlife. Breakfast, Hike Artist Point, Inspiration Point. Do Yellow Bus tour in evening.
Sept 9th - Checkout of Canyon, drive to Grand Canyon & look around. Lunch? Tower Roosevelt area or Mammoth? Check in at Mammoth walk around Mammoth hot springs.
Sept 10th - Get up early & go back to Lamar Valley if have not seen wolves yet. Breakfast, Drive back to Mammoth lunch? then drive to Norris Geyser Basin. Dinner back at Mammoth
Sept 11th - Mammoth Terraces & Swan lake & ??
Sept 12- check out of Mammoth & drive to Madison Jct. see Firehole Falls & Fountain Paint Pot. Check in at Old Faithful Inn. check out Old Faithful Geyser, reservations for dinner at Old Faithful Inn & hand around area
Sept 13- Upper Geyser Basin Grand Geyser, Castle Geyser, RIverside or Dairy. Dinner at Old Faithful Lodge
Sept 14 - Go to West Thumb Juction area
Sept 15 - check out of Yellowstone & head to GT NP. Lunch? Checkin at Signal Point
Sept 16- Go to Jenny Lake & take boat across & hike to Inspiration Point. Lunch Jenny Lake Lodge
Sept 17 - Check out Signal Mountain area, Oxbow Bend, Evening raft ride on Snake River
Sept 18 - check out Signal Mountain, drive to Moose area & spend the day then drive to Jackson & check into hotel in Jackson. Eat dinner where in Jackson?
Sept 19 - eat breakfast where? spend morning doing what & what time to head to airport to turn in car & catch flight out at 1;30pm.
PHayden is offline  
Dec 31st, 2008, 07:23 PM
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 1,139
Just a couple of suggestions. You have a whole day donated to West Thumb. It will take you about an hour (give or take) to tour West Thumb and there really isn't anything else in that area that you will probably want to do/see unless you are going up to Yellowstone Lake area which I don't see on your list. And actually it is much closer to Canyon. I would stop at West Thumb on your way out of the park going to the Tetons.

As far as the best place to see wolves (and any other animals for that matter), it changes with the year and the season. The wolves usually have their dens in general areas, but it depends on if they are close enough to see them (even with scopes). You will see people with spotting scopes as you travel through the park. They are usually very friendly and will tell you if there are wolves there or they are just waiting.

I highly recommend:

especially as you get closer to your trip. There isn't usually too much information on it until spring is approaching -- then you have so many trip reports, etc. through the fall that it is sometimes hard to sift through them (it has become a very popular site). It is the absolutely best place to find out where the animals are right before you go. People also post on it from the park so it is good for weather conditions, etc. The Visitor page, insider and trip reports are the best ones to wander through.
maj is offline  
Jan 1st, 2009, 04:24 AM
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 7,443
Looks good to me. On the day you have an entire day for geysers, check the night before to get an idea of when Castle Geyser might go. It only goes off every 13 hours. You might want to time your day around it. There are about 5 or 6 geysers they are able to predict. It so happened the day we were there 3 of them went at the same time. Castle and Riverside both last a pretty long time. We liked breakfast and lunch at the Hamilton Store next to Old Faithful Inn. Maybe eat at Jackson Lake Lodge for a meal, we liked the 50's style cafe they have there. It is supposedly the longest continuous counter in the world.

There are Walmarts and other stores in Billings. The only day I am a little worried about is your first day. by the time you get your luggage,car, and grocery store it will probably be 1pm at best. hopefully your flight will be on time. I would do my stopping on the Beartooth, and save stops in Yellowstone for the next days.

Are you not going to see any of the Lake Area? I would eat a nice evening meal in Lake Hotel one night.

Check on lunch at Jenny Lake Lodge, I am not sure, but I think they are somewhat wierd about guests that aren't staying there and serving them a meal. I was really turned off, when I called them about lodging there. we saw moose up close on Moose Rd. in the tetons.
spirobulldog is offline  
Jan 1st, 2009, 04:57 AM
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 158
Nice trip you have planned. We had a new scope with us in June and saw much that we wouldn't have seen otherwise. Including watching 4 wolves torment a bison herd. Bison aren't defenseless as it turns out.

You might take a look at our website.
Yellowstone and Teton links on the left.

We've got trip reports, pictures with comments, planning information and sample itineraries. It will give you some thoughts on how some people pursue Yellowstone. If you're willing to get up at 5:00AM, you've got part of it already figured out.

You might consider taking an ice chest too. Works well for breakfast and lunch since you can eat whereever you want.

Best place to stop in Lamar for wolves is where the other people are. Might sound overly simple but it works. They've got radios.

We used to do itineraries but kind of make it up as we go now.
AlJ is offline  
Jan 1st, 2009, 06:13 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 132
Thanks everyone for your suggestions. We will modify the one day with West Thumb and see Yellowstone Lake with West Thumb on that day since I totally forgot about that area. We will check geyser times and work around them to try to see as many geysers erupting as we can. MAJ, thanks for the link to the yellowstone forum. I will keep checking it out too and it sounds like watching for everyone with scopes is the best way for a beginner to find the wolves. Spirobulldog, thanks for the recommendations on eating places. I also am not sure we will try Jenny Lake Lodge for lunch as I am not sure it is the right atmosphere for us! Also, watch for my post on Alaska later this month. Since I am almost done with planning this trip it will be time to start on our 2010 trip planning for Alaska & I want your input! AIJ, I have already been looking at your website & it is great. It is nice to have the maps & itineraries to go through. We will be getting an ice chest in Billings and doing most breakfasts & some lunches on our own. I agree with you on winging it. I am making an itinerary to try to know what directions we will be going each day and highlights that we don't want to miss but we also have learned that making it up as you go is part of the fun. Also, with going the first part of September, will there still be bears around where we can see them? If yes, what areas are the best places to see them?
PHayden is offline  
Jan 1st, 2009, 11:45 AM
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 1,139
Bears are not as visible generally in the fall as the spring/summer, but we saw a bear around Labor Day in the tetons on our way from the airport to Canyon.

Another thing we do is to go to the visitor centers which are in each area to find out from the rangers where the animals are being seen at that time. Our favorite sightings have usually been unexpected as we travel the roads. It is truly a right place/right time scenerio, although you can increase your changes by going early and at dusk. For example, there was an elk kill (which attracts wolves, bears, eagles, etc.) near Canyon. We ventured by there everytime we left or came back to our room at Canyon. We saw eagles there, but finally saw a wolf there the day we checked out of canyon (and it was mid morning).

Dining in Jackson:

From recommendations, we ate at the following two places and would recommend either (both very casual), but I'd probably try for reservations any place you decide to go.

Gunbarrel Restaurant

and Nora's Fish Creek Inn (known as where the locals go) in Wilson (which is right next to Jackson)

There have been many good reviews about the Bunnery for breakfast. We usually stop there for pastries/coffee to take with us.

Giadia de Laurentis recommended Shades Cafe for breakfast which looked good, but we haven't been there.

She also recommended Snake River Grill. We ate lunch at Snake River Brewery (different place) which someone we met on a trail recommended. They said the beer was good and liked the happy hour half price appetizers. Our lunch was good but we aren't beer drinkers -- just wanted to mention it in case that would appeal to you.

Also, if you have a clear morning (may want to do this your last morning), the place to take pictures is Mormon Row with the backdrop of the Tetons. You can go there anytime (it is near Jackson and Moose), but the sun off the roofs of the buildings at sunrise is the one most photographed.

maj is offline  
Jan 1st, 2009, 03:12 PM
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 158

Glad you found some of it useful. Its been fun putting it together. Now I just have to figure out how to get back in 2009.
AlJ is offline  
Jan 2nd, 2009, 08:06 PM
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 861
It sounds like an amazing trip, and I'm so glad you are planning for 9 nights in YNP. We only had 6 nights - 2 ea in Old Faithful, Mammoth, and Canyon in Sept '06 - and wish we'd had more. The thermal features of the park are extraordinary, and we particularly enjoyed the Norris Geyser area and the surreal area around Old Faithful, particularly at sunrise.

We saw every wild animal possible in YNP. On our very first full day in the park, we were driving out past Fishing Bridge along the lake and had our first grizzly sighting.

It was incredible. I spent a summer working as a naturalist in Glacier NP, hiking all over the backcountry and never once saw a grizzly. I'm in Yellowstone for less than 24 hrs and I see a grizzly running along the beach! Never would've expected to see one on the lake. We saw a few more grizz that week; one chowing down on a carcass at dusk in Hayden area - quite a sight.

We saw lots of black bear including mama (the infamous Rosie) and cubs feeding on pine nuts along the road near Mt Washburn. We watched coyotes and fox stalking prey, saw lots of Bighorn sheep and bison everywhere. Elk were everywhere in Mammoth and the bugling was magical! We loved the Mammoth area because it's quiet, ruled by elk and the food at the Inn was really good. The hot springs closest to the Inn were dry and not as scenic as those farther away but we really liked being close to Lamar and the north entrance at Gardiner.

Canyon was our least favorite area because it was the most crowded, but it's great to have easy access to Hayden, especially at dusk. We would drive through Hayden before dark and check out the pull offs to see what the wolf watchers were up to. You'll know immediately if they are seeing any "action". We only saw wolves once but we watched them for a long time (thru scope and good binoculars). For most of the week, we drove around spotting wildlife and walking through steamy geyser basins and gurgling mud pots in amazement. Yellowstone is a most unique experience.

We only spent 1 night at Signal Mtn and loved it. Had a small cabin with fireplace and enjoyed a fantastic meal in the restaurant. We spent a few hours moose watching at Oxbow Bend
and drove to the top of Signal Mtn to catch a sunset.

Be sure to take Maj's good advice and become a regular lurker on the forum. There are some serious yellowstone wolf watchers that post regularly and will provide in depth information on where the packs are being spotted. And check out their photograph postings to get yourself really excited. You can delve in to our photos thru the shots posted above. You are going to have an amazing trip!

sharondi is offline  
Jan 3rd, 2009, 05:27 PM
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 54
Glad you are coming to Yellowstone via Billings. When you leave the billings airport you will come down a long hill into downtown there will be a Albertsons food store on your left about 1 mile from the airport, can get your cooler and supplies there and then its a straight shot to the interstate to the west. I am in Billings if you have any questions contact me at [email protected]
jere1mt is offline  
Jan 4th, 2009, 10:05 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 9,408
Hi PHayden,

You do have a wonderful trip planned! I agree that you can combine West Thumb with more.

Since you are so fortunate to have 9 days in Yellowstone, do try to see as many geyers as possible. Each is unique and most people never have the luxury of taking the time to see them go! As others suggested, the visitor's center can give you estimates of eruption times. Remember, patience is key.

Plan plenty of time to drive the Beartooth Hwy. It does take a while and there are endless photo ops.

My favorite place for breakfast in Jackson is Jedediah's House of Sourdough. They have sourdough pancakes, muffins of all types, french toast, etc, etc, all sourdough. Extremely popular, tiny in a historic log cabin right of the town square, no res taken. Go early and the wait is worth it. Friendly, fast service. They serve bkfst, lunch and dinner, but close in between meals.

Happy trails
Dayle is offline  
Jan 4th, 2009, 03:20 PM
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 143
Used to work at Signal Mountain Lodge and can't say enough good things about it. Make sure you're up at sunrise to catch the alpenglow on the Tetons. Oxbow Bend or Snake River Overlook are good choices but the shoreline right there at the lodge can be good too. I know you aren't up for long hikes but there is a short one you may be up for. You can take a boat ride (scheduled service) across Jenny Lake and hike up Cascade Canyon to Cascade Falls. Highly recommended and the boat ride saves you the hike around the lake. Check it out on the internet. Also, the road to Jenny Lake ranger station is not to be missed. You get a close up view of the Tetons that will make you wonder why you spent so much time in Yellowstone (and I love Yellowstone).
Have a great time!
jumbonav is offline  
Jan 4th, 2009, 05:13 PM
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 7,443
We liked the hike that Jumbo described and it is fairly easy one to the falls. The only bad thing about it is there is a ton of people on the trail.
spirobulldog is offline  

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