Realistic expectations in Yellowstone in July

Old May 16th, 2015, 09:22 PM
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Realistic expectations in Yellowstone in July

Hi everyone,

For those of you that read my trip report from VA to CA in 10 days, you know that I will be doing a return trip to VA the last week of July. This return trip will include stops in Yosemite, Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, Mt. Rushmore and the Black Hills, the Badlands, and Omaha, NE to see family. I have some questions regarding our stop in Yellowstone.

(Due to the nature of the trip, we have limited time; and due to bad planning on my part we only have ONE DAY in Yellowstone but will return in the future to do the park justice!)

We are staying at the Lake Lodge cabins (2 nights), and are planning to do the lower loop only. Our current plan is to be up early to drive through Hayden Valley on our way to the Canyon, then go through the stops at the Canyon (Inspiration Point, Lookout Point, Brink of Lower Falls, Uncle Tom's trail (0.7 miles roundtrip but all stairs), and Artist's Point). Regarding this section, how much time should we expect to spend here, and should we limit ourselves to just a couple of these points? And if so, which ones?

Next we will head over to Madison, and from Madison to Old Faithful, plan to stop and do Fountain Paint Pots (0.5 mile loop), Fairy Falls Trail (5 miles roundtrip), Biscuit Basin (0.6 mile loop), and Black Sand Basin (0.4 mile loop). About how long should we expect here? Is it reasonable to visit all of these, considering our focus for this park is seeing the geothermal features?

Once at Old Faithful, we want to check out the Inn, do the Observation Point trail (1.5 mile loop), and maybe check out some more of the Upper Geyser Basin. I know viewing Old Faithful will depend on the predicted times, which will affect how long we stay here. My question here pertains to the Upper Geyser Basin, what else should we see (if anything considering everything else we are doing?) Should we even bother with Observation Point trail and just do some more of the geysers in Upper Geyser Basin instead?

We are finished for the day after this, but have to drive back to Lake Lodge cabins for the night. The next morning we head to Grand Tetons, and I am considering stopping at West Thumb in the morning on the way out. Once in Grand Tetons, we are checking out Schwabacher's Landing (can walk up to 4 miles along the river) and Mormon Row before checking into our hotel in Jackson Hole. We have engagement pictures planned for this evening starting at 6pm (Jenny Lake and Mormon Row), so we will need time to shower and get ready and make it back into the park to meet our photographer. Based on this, do we have time to stop at West Thumb? I'm not sure how much time to allow for Mormon Row and Schwabacher's Landing. I'm allowing us 3 hours to check in to the hotel, shower and get ready, and drive back to the park, so I would like to be at the hotel no later than 3pm. Our hotel is Flat Creek Inn, if that makes a difference.

Based on all this, I'm wondering what is considered a reasonable amount to accomplish in Yellowstone (and based on the fact that it's the last week of July, which I'm expecting to be extremely busy). We are definitely open to our plans changing based on whatever we may see, but we just wanted to have a general itinerary to start with. Also, if any of my distances regarding the walking/hiking trails are off, please let me know. This is just what I have found through doing some searches. Any suggestions and feedback would be greatly appreciated!
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Old May 17th, 2015, 06:25 AM
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Don't miss Grand Prismatic Spring in the Midway Geyser Basin.
http://mms.nps.gov/yell/ofvec/exhibi...dprismatic.htm
You will walk past several others to get to it.
Don't try to take any pictures too close to bison. Some girl was gored in the park yesterday.
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Old May 17th, 2015, 08:54 AM
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tomfuller, that is actually one of the things at the top of my list to see in Yellowstone. I'm under the impression we can see it from Fairy Falls Trail, where we can also do the scramble up the hill to see it from above. Or should we stop for an up close view along the boardwalk too?

I see Morning Glory Pool is also something that we should maybe try to see, and it looks like we can access it from the Biscuit Basin parking via hiking or from the Upper Geyser Basin Trail via bike or hike. Any recommendations on which trail to take (from Biscuit Basin or Upper Geyser Basin), and if from Upper Geyser Basin, whether to bike or hike (given our limited time)? It looks like the bike trail is across the river from most of the geysers we would see along the way, not sure if this is a big deal or not.

Good to know about the bison….we will be sure to extra far away from them, or just take pictures from the car.
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Old May 17th, 2015, 09:44 AM
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Take your pictures up close from the boardwalk. Just hope that 1 or 2 busloads of tourists don't get there when you do.
I had to park a ways down the road because the parking lot was full. Pull completely off the road if you stop for a wildlife picture. If there is no place to pull off have the picture taken by your passenger from inside the car.
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Old May 17th, 2015, 05:56 PM
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More info on bison safety:

http://www.cnn.com/2015/05/17/us/yel...on-girl-gored/

And if that doesn't convince you:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XwrdHrtj1SY
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DXZUTSRZdwU
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PNvTHOrTf_Y
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Old May 18th, 2015, 05:53 AM
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In Yellowstone you are told over and over and over again to stay 75 feet away. But people do what they want and then they get gored! Duh! Stupid.
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Old May 18th, 2015, 06:01 AM
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Paul - Amazing video. Parents let the children get within probably 4 feet and then the buffalo chases one child. And the parent is laughing!!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DXZUTSRZdwU
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Old May 18th, 2015, 06:20 AM
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OMG, that last video in Paul's list....hard to believe the man was able to get up after being gored and thrown in the air!
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Old May 18th, 2015, 12:36 PM
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Hard to believe also is that the person kept filming if they were related rather than try and help or summon help.
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Old May 18th, 2015, 03:51 PM
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You can do the lower loop from Madison Junction, Old Faithful, and GC of Yellowstone in one day. Walk fast! The one thing that can throw a wrench into your plans--road construction. So plan out what you want to do just knowing that you might have to adapt. Then see the West Thumb area on the way to the Tetons. Yes, its a lot to do in a day but you are not expecting a relaxing day--go for it and enjoy it for what it is!
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Old May 18th, 2015, 07:14 PM
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Hard to believe the danger those people went through just to get a close up picture…won't have to worry about us trying to get that close! We do have some common sense when it comes to that

Thanks, StantonHyde! It's good to know our plans are at least realistic, even if we do end up having to adjust on the fly. We really wanted to do Lamar Valley and see the Mammoth Hot Springs, but realize that we just don't have the time. We are both looking forward to returning to the area in the future to see more.
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Old May 28th, 2015, 04:30 PM
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In Canyon I would skip Uncle Toms Trail. It's a lot of stairs for a view that's actually to close.

I would also skip the Brink of . . . either. Your viewpoint is the very top of the falls and water is just rushing by you.

The two best views of the Lower Falls are from Redrock Point and Artist Point.

Redrock Point is at the Lookout Point parking area but take the trail down and to the right. Also, at the right time (in early August it would be around 9:30AM) you have a good chance to see a rainbow.

The view from the hill along the Fairy Falls trail is spectacular. If you go to my web site you'll see photos of these place. www.travelwalks.com

I wouldn't bother with Observation Point. The view isn't as spectacular as you'd think it should be.

There are 5 predicted geysers. So based on their predicted schedule you could either walk Geyser Loop or thru the whole Upper Basin.

Old Faithful is the easiest to see as it erupts about every 90 minutes.

Depending upon what time it is, where the sun is and/or if it's breezy you can pick a spot on the viewing deck or if it's later in the afternoon you'd be better and have less competition for viewing space by sitting on one of the couple of benches at Plume Geyser that's on Geyser Loop right on the other side of Old Faithful. That way the sun won't be in your eyes.

Schwabacher Landing and Mormon Row are about 5 minutes from each other. Schwabacher Landing is just north of Mormon Row and off the west side of the road. It's a 5 minute drive off the main road and down. You won't walk very far there. Essentially, the best views are early in the morning since you'll be facing west.

Mormon Row is off the east side of the main road. You go east on Antelope Flats Road for about 5 minutes. There are two barns. One about 100 yards left (north) and the other a couple of hundred yard right (south). You will also be facing west towards the Tetons with the mountains behind the barns. Depending upon the time you may have to position yourselves with the sun in mind.

Take a look at my photos at the above link and they'll give you some ideas.
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Old May 28th, 2015, 07:10 PM
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Thanks for the advice, Myer! And the pictures. All very helpful!
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