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Razfamily Wyoming / Yellowstone National Park Trip Report

Razfamily Wyoming / Yellowstone National Park Trip Report

Aug 2nd, 2008, 05:57 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 29
Razfamily Wyoming / Yellowstone National Park Trip Report

RazFam Trip Report for YNP:

Greetings, this is a brief trip report based on our family experiences at Yellowstone National Park this past summer. I have read many a reviews on this site and have been appreciative of the different perspectives that has helped to form different travel plans for us over the years.

This past trip lasted about eight days, leaving Olympia, Washington and driving the Southern route thru Oregon and arriving into Jackson Hole about 16-hours later. We drove a Toyota Landcruiser and towed a small camping trailer.

As an aside, our average MPG was a dismal 8!!! So if you’re towing a trailer you might want to reconsider whether it’s worth the gas mileage deficit in towing a trailer or if you’d be better off taking a more economical car and staying at a hotel/resort using the gas savings. Even though it cost us an estimated $700 more in gas to bring the trailer we were glad to have done it since we were able to stay in the park the whole time and it’s tough to replace camping memories with that of hotels.

We stayed at the Cowboy Inn in Jackson Hole for one night. Every Saturday night they have a rodeo, well worth doing, and there’s an endless supply of stores to browse within throughout the town. We were there less than 24-hours, too short a time in our opinion. If we were to do this again we’d go for two nights; staying at the Cowboy Inn was great, we paid about $170/night, it was a small little cabin but had a nice separate sitting/TV room, plenty of room for kids to roam, and was right in downtown—easy walking distance everywhere. And, plenty of parking space for our SUV and trailer. Ate breakfast at the Bunnery, overrated. Service was anemic, food was average. Wouldn’t do it again. Bubba’s was highly recommended for breakfast as well, next time we’d try that.

For dinner we ate at the Gunbarrel Saloon, or something of the sort. Fantastic, we’d go there again in heartbeat. $20-$30 entrée’s, so it’s not cheap, but worth it. Get either the Buffalo Ribeye or the Elk Steaks (latter was our family favorite).

From there headed to Canyon Campground in YNP, drove thru the Grand Tetons. If we went again we’d stay in Jackson for two nights, but an alternative for the budget or camping-minded is to camp in the Grand Tetons—apparently there’s a great campground about ten miles outside of Jackson, right in the Nat’l Park.

Canyon Campground is excellent, great services, a nice campground, clean showers, flush toilets…It was our favorite campground with amenities. We went down to Grant Campground for one night and left early to go back to Canyon; Grant’s facilities just weren’t as nice as Canyon, the campsites and scenery weren’t as charming (more barren), and we just preferred the Northern end of the park. It’s not a bad place to stay, many like it, but we wouldn’t stay in Grant again if we had a choice.

Norris Geyser Basis was quite interesting, a huge array of different Geysers. Probably much more interesting than Old Faithful, though that’s also a YNP requisite for most visitors.

If going to Old Faithful, we thought it was a worthwhile trip but wouldn’t choose to stay there many days, the hotel is very charming and one of the best afternoons we had was simply basking on the second floor deck of the hotel—we watched our second Geyser spout from there—and then dined at the hotel for dinner. Dinner is pricey, and the food isn’t fantastic—if we did this again we’d ensure we go to the lunch buffet, great Western fare and a pretty good deal at $13/adult (vs. about double that for dinner) and we’d bring a bottle of wine and picnic items for the afternoon or early evening deck ritual.

The Old Faithful geyser experience is really quite overrated, and it’s a tourist nightmare, so I’d go during the week vs. a weekend and be prepared for a lot of people.

Other highlights included a few of the Ranger talks at various campgrounds, usually offered around 9pm each night. And the Junior Ranger program for kids is a must—one of the Visitor Centers will give you a workbook for your kids to complete over a day/days, then upon turning it back in they’ll swear your kids in as a Junior Ranger and give each a patch—we do this for every National Park, it’s our kids proudest moment of the trip when they get sworn in.

The best campground we stayed at was Slough Creek, this is the Northern end of YNP—our favorite area. The campground is small, less than 30 tent and trailer sites, but right on the river and nestled between the mountains right adjacent to Lamar Valley—perhaps the best location for wildlife viewing around dusk. One night we got caught amidst several hundred Bison crossing the road, it was fantastic fun. It’s also the only area where we saw two Black Bears. There are also Wolves in this area, though we didn’t see any the two days we were there.

There are no showers at Slough Creek, or flush toilets, but the pits are clean and really were fine, a small price to pay for some of the best scenery and camping experiences I’ve ever had. No reservations here, first come first served.

Right up the road is Roosevelt Lodge, where you can sign up (do this way in advance) for a Chuckwagon dinner trip, or horseback ride (kids must be 8 or more). For two adults and two kids (6 and 5) the Chuckwagon dinner experience was almost $250, so if you want to splurge and do one really unique experience this might be it. We really enjoyed it, kids did as well. Bring a bandanna to cover your mouth, I think we ate as much dust as we did food that night but fun nonetheless.

Roosevelt Lodge was a charming place to visit, or to stay, in rustic cabins that book many many months in advance. We ate a few meals there, food was okay but the atmosphere is great and made it worthwhile. While Teddy Roosevelt never stayed in the Lodge, it was right in the vicinity of YNP that he frequented many times.

We exited the Northern end of the park at Mammouth Hot Springs, pretty area embedded in the mountains but in a more arid climate. Campsites didn’t look exceptional there, along the same lines as Grant, but these are also first come so if you stay there go early. The Visitors Center and nearby facilities are really first class, lots to choose from and a few miles north you’ll come upon a really cute little town called Gardner—good for knick knacks, stretching the legs, and some great ice cream at the little pharmacy/general store right there on Main Street.

Overall, one of our best trips ever. We debated going due to high gas prices, etc. but as my wife and I were discussing whether to follow-through with the YNP trip back in the Spring we were sitting in an airplace where the guy right in front of us was one of the head rangers on YNP! He turned around and said “You gotta go, it’s amazing”, so we took it as a sign that this was a must-do trip for us this summer—and we loved every minute.

Going throughout the entire YNP is worthwhile, but next time we’d probably do the following as our own personal “ideal” itinerary:

-two nights in Jackson Hole, definite dinner at Gunbarrel.
-three nights in Canyon, reserving a campsite that backs up to the park (vs. another campsite), visiting Old Faithful for a day/afternoon, going to the Mud Volancos, and then relaxing/reading/letting the kids play with other camp kids.
-two nights in Slough Creek campground (arriving first day by about 10am to secure a spot), spending most of the two days hiking the Slough Creek trail (day hikes), spending each evening in Lamar Valley viewing Wildlife, and enjoying a meal or two at Roosevelt Lodge.
-would definitely do the Roosevelt Chuckwagon dinner again, kids loved it. If the kids are old enough do the horseback.
-would try to do some flyfishing either within or outside the park for a half day with the kids IF big enough, don’t risk it with small kids.
-evening sky was spectacular, was fun showing some of the star cosnetellations to my kids and looking for shooting stars. Next time I’d try to find a Ranger program about the stars, or do some reading and bring some materials in advance so I could be a better teacher to kiddos and they’d have more fun staring into the evening sky.
-would purchase MUCH better binoculars, ours were only average and a good amount of the wildlife can be viewed only from a distance. Same with camera lenses, whatever you have will be better than nothing but if you have an SLR and can splurge for a telephoto lens you’ll be well rewarded with some great photos.
-I might also consider a day/overnight trip to Cody, just to see the sights and visit another Western town.

Lastly, I’d probably bring less food that requires cooking and either make simpler meals or eat out more just to free up some time for relaxation/exploring/reading. I felt like we spent a heck of a lot of time making a campfire, cooking, cleaning up, (one morning I made three-hour biscuits and gravy—good, but yes that’s how long it took from end to end). I’m not a very slow mover, but sometimes with fires and kids and cleaning it just can take, well, what seems like forever.

So campfire making/cooking were some of the best memories and most enjoyable moments, but next time I’d do a 50/50 balance—eating out about half the time for breakfast and dinners and cooking the other half. For lunch we would just do simple stuff like quick sandwiches on the run or out of the cooler.

For whatever it’s worth, these are some of the highlights of our trip. Hope that you have a great experience on your upcoming YNP visit, the park is simply spectacular and this has formed a great memory for our family.

razfamily is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2008, 06:34 PM
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 7,443
We really ejoyed the Old Faithful area. We saw 5 different geysers go there and didn't see anything but steam at Norris. It is always interesting to see how everyone likes and dislikes things. Sounds like you enjoyed your trip as much as we did and thats what counts.
spirobulldog is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2008, 06:37 PM
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 1,139
I found your trip report really interesting. It was fun to see the parks from a different perspective (we don't camp and our kids are grown).

We really liked the GunBarrel also. Thanks for posting -- there is alot of great information there.
maj is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2008, 05:49 AM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 325
Sounds like you had an excellent trip - thanks for the report! I enjoyed reading it as we just returned from our first trip as well.
lindsyb is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2008, 06:50 AM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 466
Great trip report. How was the wildlife viewing in general?
coldkelly is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2008, 01:58 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 311
Thanks for posting your report. We go next week, so I'm taking notes!
carolv is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2008, 04:28 PM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 333
Great report razfamily. We leave on Saturday! We will be staying in the Old Faithful area on Monday night at the Snowlodge. I have dinner reservations at the Inn that night, but I am rethinking that based on all the comments I have read. Can you use the second floor deck if you are not staying at the Inn?

Thanks for the tip about the bandanas for the cookout. We are doing the one hour horseback ride. I can't wait, but the fires are making me nervous.
kencolian is offline  
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