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Trip Report - Yellowstone & Grand Tetons National Parks - July 18-25, 2014

Trip Report - Yellowstone & Grand Tetons National Parks - July 18-25, 2014

Old Sep 15th, 2014, 03:13 PM
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Trip Report - Yellowstone & Grand Tetons National Parks - July 18-25, 2014

Three years ago I took my daughter and then 4 year old granddaughter to Yosemite National Park. Last June my granddaughter asked her mother if we’ll ever go on another of grandpa’s trips. I immediately booked lodging in Yellowstone and Grand Tetons; One night at Old Faithful, three nights in Canyon and two nights at Signal Mountain Lodge.

During the year between booking the lodging and the actual trip I told them about things I did on my last visit to YNP & GTNP in 2010. I told them about the Mt Washburn hike and that I didn’t expect to do it again. Well, the next time I saw them my granddaughter told me that she wanted to try that hike. Always looking for a challenge. She also decided that she didn’t want to take part in the Jr Ranger Program. I guess at seven she’s too old.

I tried to plan activities and sights that would interest all but mostly my granddaughter. Thermal features, waterfalls, hiking, wildlife. All three of us are photographers. My granddaughter even has her own DSLR camera. I had an extra telephoto lens so I took it along.

We arrived in Jackson around 8PM. The Alamo shuttle took us to their Jackson office that’s located right near Albertsons where we picked up breakfast and lunch supplies.

We stayed the night at the Ranch Inn on Pearl street. The location was convenient to get to from Albertsons and then the next morning to the road into the parks.

I planned to break up the drive to Old Faithful and the Upper Geyser Basin with a few scenery stops.

We stopped at the Mormon Row Barns, Schwabacher Landing and Oxbow Bend. Along the way we saw a roadside herd of bison that decided to cross the highway right in front of us. A good introduction to the parks. We phoned one of the lodges in the Old Faithful area and asked for predicted geyser eruption times.

We got to the Old Faithful area around 1PM and immediately walked over to Old Faithful as it was starting to erupt. That was a very rare day. All five predicted geysers were predicted to erupt within a 2 ½ hour period. We walked the full length of the Upper Geyser Basin to Morning Glory and its spectacular colors. We saw all of the predicted geysers erupt except for Daisy that appeared to be taking its time. It’s amazing how geyser eruptions are the same and yet so different. The scenery near Castle Geyser was even dressed up with a bison.

The next morning we went on a much shorter walk around Geyser Loop and met a woman who’s been renting a summer place in West Yellowstone for the past 10 years. Her hobby is watching geysers and she told us that the Beehive Geyser Indicator was spouting so we could expect an eruption double the height of OF’s within ten minutes. That was spectacular.

We then began to make our way over to Canyon. We stopped at the Fairy Falls trailhead. My intention was to hike as far as Grand Prismatic Spring and go up the hill for an elevated view of GPS. We stopped at a spot with an unobstructed view. My granddaughter wanted to go higher. She went a little higher but never found a better view.

When we got back down to the bottom, she decided we should do the rest of the hike to Fairy Falls. Fairy Falls is a lot more impressive than I thought it would be.

After returning to the car we drove to the GPS parking lot and walked around the boardwalk to see those colors up close. Impressive colors even though the view isn’t as good as up the hill.

We checked into Canyon in time for dinner and decided to eat at the full-service restaurant. Not a very good experience. We decided to go to the ice cream parlor for dessert and backed up plumbing resulted in another not very good experience.

We walked over to the general store that has a snack bar with counter seating. It was after closing time (8:30) so we bought a bucket of ice cream, sat down and shared it. The snack bar satisfied us for the next two evenings.

The plan for the next day was the Mt Washburn hike. Just as we got there around 10AM it started to drizzle. My daughter decided we’d do the hike the next day. We then drove up to Lamar Valley to photograph some bison close up. After a picnic lunch at the Yellowstone Picnic Area we headed down towards Canyon and saw about 30 ewes (female counterpart to bighorn sheep). We pulled over and jumped out of the car. I then heard what was to become a common request. “Grandpa, put on the longer lens”. Of course, my granddaughter wanted to climb the hill to get closer shake hands and introduce herself. We got a bunch of great photos.

When we got to the Mt Washburn Dunraven Pass trailhead we pulled into the parking lot. It was around 2PM and we were debating whether we should start the hike then. We saw some people who started when we were there in the morning. They said it never rained on them and was pretty nice. We decided to go for it.

About halfway up the clouds started rolling in and so did the thunder. Then some hail. It wasn’t too bad and we made it to the ranger station at the top just in time. It started to pour and that lasted about an hour. When it stopped we got into our rain gear and started the hike down. It poured on us just about the whole way down. We got back to the Canyon snack bar a little before 8 with more than enough time for some dinner. We were chilled and frozen. But those few hours were the only bad weather, cold or clouds we experienced on the whole trip. And my 7 year old granddaughter conquered Mt Washburn.
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Old Sep 15th, 2014, 03:17 PM
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I’m glad we got in the Mt Washburn hike the day before as the next day was very nice. I got up very early and let the others sleep in. I slowly drove down the main road from Canyon into Hayden Valley and was able to photograph some deer, elk, bison and two distant (too far for good photos) grizzlies working on a bison carcass.

Then I drove over to Lookout Point on the North Rim and hiked down to Redrock Point. I knew from my previous visit that around 9:30 – 10:00 at this time of year there’s a good possibility of seeing a rainbow in front of the Lower Falls. Sure enough there was one. Spectacular!!! The hike back up wasn’t as easy as the hike down at 8,000ft.

We spent most of the day visiting viewpoints. First Lookout Point and of course my granddaughter wanted to hike down to Redrock point. Having already done this earlier in the morning I remained at the top.

We went to Artist Point where we sat down for a snack lunch. Back to Yosemite three years earlier. One day I decided to go on a hike off Glacier Road and they attended a painting class and Jr Ranger Hike. One of the activities my daughter wanted to do was paint. I told them Artist Point was the perfect spot.

After lunch we found a bench facing the Falls located at a spot everybody coming from the parking area to view the Falls has to pass. It was amazing how many people stopped to watch the two of them paint. This went on for a couple of hours.

After packing up we stopped at Uncle Tom’s Trail parking lot. Uncle Tom’s Point is merely a view of the Upper Falls. However, by going to the right side and walking the switchbacks you get to the long staircase. Another unique, up close view of the Lower Falls.

A second dinner at the snack bar and it was fine. Whew!!!!

Another very early morning of wildlife viewing and photography before waking the others and loading the car for our drive to the Grand Tetons.

On the way we came to some people watching a distant wolf. We could barely see it. However, we did hear the howling off in the distance. It appeared as a dot on my camera screen. But it’s there. We started yelling at a bison that was about a hundred yards out and walking in the direction of the wolf.

After checking into Signal Mountain Lodge (a definite upgrade from the rooms in Yellowstone) we drove over to Jenny Lake and took the boat across the lake for the hike to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point. Again, no challenge goes unconquered.

That evening we finally had the opportunity for a real dinner at Signal Mountain and it was good. So that’s what food should taste like.

The next morning I went out early for some photos that I thought were way too hazy when first taken on the way to Yellowstone a few days earlier; Oxbow Bend, Schwabacher Landing and Mormon Row Barns.

My granddaughter decided she wanted a real breakfast and since we were in no rush to get anywhere she got her wish. On the way to the restaurant we saw a big male deer sitting in the woods beside the next cabin. Of course, we got out our cameras and had a great time until the deer got up and jogged away.

We went to the Leigh Lake trailhead and hiked along the lake’s shore until we came to the campgrounds. They have very small beaches so my granddaughter decided to play on the shore and build a castle. Eventually she went into the cold water.

That night she wanted pizza. So after looking unsuccessfully for some wildlife we drove over to the Colter Bay Village and waited over 45 minutes for an “ok” pizza.

The next morning I remembered that I had seen some deer on my last visit near the Moose-Wilson Road. I suggested we leave early for Jackson and our return flight and give wildlife one last look.

No sooner had we started down the Moose-Wilson Road we saw several people looking down a hill into a marshy area. A female moose was walking in the water. Our first moose of the trip and she cooperated by giving us various poses.

A fitting end to an excellent trip.

After the trip I tried to figure out which parts of the trip my granddaughter enjoyed the most and the least.

She enjoyed the hikes that were challenges, photographing wildlife and painting at Artist Point. I think the hikes that were not challenges and surprisingly, the geysers are what she enjoyed the least.

You can see photos of the trip at:
www.travelwalks.com
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Old Sep 15th, 2014, 03:19 PM
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Good start, Grandpa, keep it up.
emalloy is offline  
Old Sep 15th, 2014, 05:25 PM
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The parks are great but even greater when with someone special or close to you(family or friends).
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Old Sep 15th, 2014, 05:36 PM
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Your photos make me ready for our 2nd visit there next June. I have been to a couple of parks with my nephew and did a lot of hiking with my neighbor in Capitol Reef. We haven't been as a family with other people, but are going with a family we know from church. So, this will be different experience for us. My daughter will be 21 then preparing to start grad school. The other family is our age with and their kids will be 17, 15 and 10. The 17 and 15 year old are boys, so I am imagine I will do some serious hiking with them. We plan on having 2 cars so we don't have to do everything together.
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Old Sep 15th, 2014, 06:25 PM
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Thanks for this very helpful report and your fab photos. Sounds like you had a good balance: wildlife viewing, hiking, some creature comforts. I'd like to do a similar trip.
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Old Sep 16th, 2014, 07:31 AM
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We probably went to sleep too late. I'm out early but they wake up relatively late. So they didn't see nearly as much wildlife as I did.

My granddaughter's photography style is mostly a lot more close up than mine.

When we photographed the Mormon Row Barns, I was taking the barns with the Tetons in the background. She was taking a nail partly hammered into a board.

spiro,
I'm getting too old for serious hiking. Scrambling and canyoneering was never for me. I don't mind relatively long (3-5 miles each way) hikes if the scenery and end are worth the effort. It's the climbing uphill in some elevation that's getting tougher.

For instance, in Glacier, I'd do Iceberg Lake again but not Grinnell Glacier. Grinnell Glacier is steep and the glacier at the end is not worth the effort. Also, I feel going under and thru that waterfall is dangerous.
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Old Sep 22nd, 2014, 07:03 PM
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Thanks for posting this, Myer! I knew you were going to Yellowstone this summer, so I came here specifically looking for it! Sounds like a great trip! Did you pack in all your paint supplies? My kids would probably love to take some time painting as well. What a great idea!
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Old Sep 23rd, 2014, 07:18 AM
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I've been looking forward to your report and pics--thanks for sharing!
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Old Sep 23rd, 2014, 07:26 AM
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You saw some gorgeous elk! And I love the pics of Lower Falls with the rainbow. Magical. As are the foggy morning pics. And the sunrise over the oxbow lake in Teton. Well--I enjoyed them all, really.

Makes me want to go back already. It seems one could visit over and over and have different experiences each time.
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Old Sep 24th, 2014, 10:21 PM
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gnomemom,
Three years ago I took them to Yosemite. One day I left them and went up to Glacier Rd to do some hiking. They went to a Jr ranger hike and took an art class.

I had no idea they wanted to paint. My daughter packed the paint and a pad of drawing paper. They told me the day before the day I planned to be around the Lower Falls so I told them I had the perfect place in mind. The famous Artist Point.

It worked out perfectly. Weather and we got a bench facing the falls.

schlegal1,
About that rainbow at the Lower Falls. I was in Yellowstone a few years before. I went down to Redrock Point, took some pictures and was about to start the hike back up. This couple were standing there and he showed me a book he had that said there's a good chance of seeing a rainbow in early August between 9:30 and 10AM. Within a few minutes the rainbow started to appear at the bottom left and started stretching toward the top right.

This time I just planned my descent at about 9AM. It worked out perfectly.

Ten days after returning I was off to Banff and Jasper with my daughter. You can also see photos of that trip on my web site.
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