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Your Dream Vacation to Yellowstone & the Tetons

Your Dream Vacation to Yellowstone & the Tetons

Jan 8th, 2006, 03:24 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 8,296
Your Dream Vacation to Yellowstone & the Tetons

I want to plan a trip to the Yellowstone/Teton area for my DH. We are recovering from Katrina, and he continues to work his behind off at home, volunteering, and on his job--medical field. He has never been to Wyoming, and I was last there as a teen. I want to make this a very special escape for him. I am reading through the threads, but thought I'd ask you Fodorites what would be your ideal trip to this area?

If you could create your dream trip of about 10 days to Yellowstone/Teton area . . .
1. What time of year would you go?
2. Where, specifically, would you go and how many days in each spot?
3. What would you do?
4. Where would you stay? Would it be better to rent an RV or stay in lodgings?
5. Rent an SUV or regular car?
6. What is your TOP TEN MUST DO list for this trip?
Etc., etc.

We had the trip of a lifetime last year to Alaska thanks to all you Fodorites, and I know you won't let me down with this trip!

As always, thank you!
BayouGal is offline  
Jan 8th, 2006, 03:48 PM
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 500
I read about winter camping in Yellowstone, with tents to sleep in, and tents to hang out in. I'd love to do a winter trip and see the wildlife and the snowy beauty. But, I have two little kids. I tried to get people on these boards to tell me it would be a fun winter trip with young kids, but they set me straight soon. One day, though...
sfamylou is offline  
Jan 8th, 2006, 04:09 PM
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 14,080
If I could do anything, I would stay at Jenny Lake Lodge for at least three nights. It is very $$$$, so if that is out of the budget range, go for Signal Mountain Lodge or Jackson Lake Lodge in the Tetons. I would go in Sept. I would then move up to Lake Yellowstone Lodge for three nights and then over to Old Faithful or Mammouth Springs. My favorite thing to do is hike, hike, hike. No end to the glorious places you can go. Best wishes to both of you, I know it is very hard to deal with all you have experienced. I hope the trip is just the remedy.
cmcfong is offline  
Jan 8th, 2006, 04:24 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,019
Hmm. For the Tetons, the most luxurious place is Jenny Lake Lodge. It costs top dollar. If you want the best place to stay in the park itself, then try Jenny Lake Lodge.

If that is too expensive, the Colter Bay Lodge seems acceptable as does Signal Mountain Lodge.

There are also good motels in Jackson.

For Yellowstone, you have a different problem. The best rooms are also high priced and are available at Lake Yellowstone Hotel and Old Faithful Inn.

If you want fairly good to middling rooms, then a Western Cabin at any one of several locations might do the job.

Also, the Old Faithful Snow Lodge is fairly new and offers decent rooms and somewhat high prices.

My own choice would be to stay in three places:
1 place in the Tetons
Canyon in Yellowstone
Old Faithful in Yellowstone

If in park accommodations to not appear to do the job for you, West Yellowstone has several commercial motels that are quite nice.

Now what to see. In the Tetons, I think a lot of it depends on how much hiking you are willing to do.

If you are really in good shape, Amphitheater Lake is a prime objective. It is uphill and takes good legs and a stout heart.

Other than that, a ride on Jenny Lake might be nice. There are some water falls on the other side.

A must do is to view the whole range from Signal Mountain. It is a panoramic sweeping view of the whole thing.

The visitor center at Colter Bay has a small but very good Museum of the Plains Indians. It is well worth a visit.

In Yellowstone, there is a lot to do and a lot to see.

My favorite places are as follows:

1. the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and those magnificent falls of the Yellowstone.

2. The Upper Geyser Basin.

3. Lone Star Geyser
3. (tie) Great Fountain Geyser

4. Lake Yellowstone

5. Haydn Valley

6. Norris Geyser Basin.

In additioin to these six, there are other thermal features like the Mud Pots, the Dragon's Cauldron, and quite a few smaller water falls like Tower Falls.

The Upper Geyser Basin is quite a complex. In addition to Old Faithful, Castle and Grand Geysers put on quite a show. Grand is probably the most spectacular of the semi predictable geysers. It usually erupts within a 4 hour window, with the highest probablity of eruption occurring within a 2 hour window.

Castle puts on a 45 - 50 minute display of first water and then roaring steam.

Lone Star Geyser involves a very beautiful walk through unburned forests and meadows to a lovely spot along the upper reaches of the Firehole River.

The geyser erupts about every 3 hours. I usually take my lunch and have a seat under the lodgepole pines and wait.

The Norris Geyser Basin has thermal features that erupt sporadically. It is a hot spot, but Echinus Geyser seems to have lost its predictability.

Haydn Valley is well known for its wildlife. I have had to stop and wait for bison to cross the road. Often you see some moron who wants to flap his arms to make the bison run faster. Smart idea, particularly if one of them panics and runs over the person.

Time of year? July and August are the most crowded. I have gone in early September. This year some time between the 5th and the 15th of September would be after Labor Day.

You might want to be there in late August before the ranger programs start shutting down. Those can be very interesting and informative.

If you want a room inside of Yellowstone, I would start now to make reservations. Many of the better places go fast and they go first it seems.

For rooms in the park, go to this site:

For the Tetons, use this one for starters:


Let me prepare you for a little sticker shock: A one roon cabin at Jenny Lake Lodge, inclusive of dinner and breakfast, is $500 per night for 2.
For me, that price is a big ouch!!

bob_brown is offline  
Jan 8th, 2006, 07:07 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 22,132
#3 - what to do. Yellowstone has a "figure 8" road configuration with many well-marked spots to stop, walk/hike, see interesting things. A good guide book will tell you details about each spot - depending on amount of time, you can pick areas of interest as you go along each day or have a master plan ahead of time.

#4 - lodging. In-Park lodgin has great atmosphere and generally few amenities. So it depends on your style. We stayed outside park because we had to make plans too late to get in-Park lodging and our hotels were fine. Consider staying at 2 or 3 different parts of park (or just outside) since if you don't road configuration will mean you back-track a lot - not necessarily bad, just more time consuming. Travel can be slow because of animal jams. I would not rent an RV. While roads are paved and fine, there can be traffic, parking issues in-season, and there are some switchback type areas with limited guardrails that I would not want to drive in a rented RV.

#5 A regular car is fine - no need for SUV unless you prefer one or are driving in snow.

#6 - not very good at top ten lists. But my favorite was random encounters with big animals. (moose, bison, elk) - just off the road. If you have a sick sense of humor like me you can laugh at the stupid people trying to pet the animals like they were at a petting zoo and hope for a stampede.

Second favorite was Boiling River - near north entrance to Park. Area where river and hot spring merge and you hike in and sit in semi-sheltered by rocks area that forms a natural jacuzzi of varying temperatures depending on where you sit. Entrance and parking is near Continental Divide sign - map and sign from parking lot guides the way, but not in most guide books.

We also liked the experience of town of West Yellowstone. Went to a local rodeo there.

My condolences for damage of Katrina - can only begin to imagine what all must be going through.
gail is offline  
Jan 8th, 2006, 07:18 PM
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 1,456
...and if you would like a little side trip away from it all take a drive up the Lamar Valley spend the night in Cooke City or SilverGate MT, follow US212 north and east over the BearTooth Highway and the Top of the World to Red Lodge, if time permits a day in Cody would be in order..... This is some of the most beautiful country you will ever see. Few people make this trip, most only take the fig 8 Grand Loop Road within the Park. Wild life is abudent in the Lamar, it is also home to several of the YS wolf packs. If you would decide to do the RV rental the only CG in the YS that offers hook-ups is the one at Fishing Bridge. A smaller one would be better. If tent camping is a part of your plan then any of the CG's would do, our choice when we camp are Indian Creek, Pebble Creek and the NF CG Soda Butte just east of Cooke City. the park is the most crowded from the first of July thru August. Late June or early Sept are the best times from that standpoing. Everyone looks for different things hope this has been of some help. It sounds like you are doing your homework, enjoy your trip.
RedRock is offline  
Jan 8th, 2006, 09:53 PM
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 116
I'd like to add a few suggestions. We found the cabins at Signal Mt. Lodge charming and rustic, with comfortable beds covered with beautiful quilts. It cost us $124 for two (two beds) a couple of years ago--much cheaper than the nearby Jenny Lake Lodge. Drive to the String Lake parking lot and do some hiking in the Tetons. There are several choices for long or short hikes from there.

If you do go to Cody, be sure to see the wonderful museum there. They had a new section two years ago that I didn't remember from a trip 5 or 6 years ago. I asked several people when it had been built, and no one could remember exactly, but they all told me that Clint Eastwood had been there for the opening!

My sister and I went the week before Memorial Day two years ago, and we saw lots of bison babies, running with stiff legs playing with each other. We often had to stop and wait for bison to cross the road at their leisure.

One problem of our having gone so early was that the Beartooth Mt. pass was still snowed in. I was so sorry I couldn't take my sister there. But after crossing the Lamar valley, we drove down the Chief Joseph Highway to Cody, and that was beautiful too, as was the drive back in to Yellowstone from the east, a road I had never been on before. Now I've driven in or out(or both) all five entrances to Yellowstone.
xanthippe is offline  
Jan 9th, 2006, 03:20 AM
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 1,598
Since you have ten days I would try to include Glacier national park in your plans. I would take 2 days for glacier -4 for Yellowstone en 3 for Tetons. To reply to your questions:
1. go in September-less crowded and still nice weather.
2.see above
3.Yellowstone is in the form of an eight and about 240 km long. You get a plan from the rangers. Glacier : you do the Going to the sun road;wonderful- Grand Tetons dont forget to visit Jenny lake.
4.Glacier: Kallispell. Yellowston:West Yellowstone. G.Tetons :Jackson.
5. Regular car(you can save a lot of money by going to Motel6 in Kalispell and Jackson).
6. If you want the real high mountain feeling you should include Glacier. Yellowstone is on a plateau and G.Tetons you see the mountains only from afar.
Always available for further info.Greetings from Belgium.Paul
tovarich is offline  
Jan 9th, 2006, 05:43 AM
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 4,620
Inside Yellowstone I have stayed at the Old Faithful Inn, Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Canyon Lodge. I would recommend all three. When I tried to make reservations last year at this time, most of the in park lodging was booked. I made reservations in West Yellowstone that were cancellable and kept checking the travelyellowstone.com website. A few weeks before the trip I was able to secure reservations at the Old Faithful Inn. So, if you want to stay inside the park, don't give up!

Lonestar Geyser is a wonderful experience and easy hike. Bob Brown has the right idea about bringing his lunch! I wish we had done the same. Bug spray is also essential and maybe a book to read in the shade. We played tic-tac-toe in the dirt to pass the time.

I have stayed at the Jackson Lake Lodge in GTNP twice. The cottage rooms are around $180 a night. Nothing spectacular and very basic. The main lodge has a floor to ceiling picture window with a breathtaking view of the Tetons. It is a wonderful setting to sip a cocktail while enjoying the scenery and trying to spot moose.

Don't miss Jenny Lake. We did a fairly easy hike to the other side of the lake where we caught the boat which brought us back to our starting point.

If you can, try to picnic as much as possible. There are quite a few pullouts with picnic tables and it is a great way to soak up more nature and avoid the crowds at the restaurants.

wtm003 is offline  
Jan 9th, 2006, 01:50 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 358
in Yellowstone sign up for the official park tours, day long bus tours. The Southern loop leaves from the Old Faithful lodge, the Northern loop leaves from Lake Yellowstone area. Very inexpensive, less than $50 and you will learn so much. While you are in the Tetons make sure you go whitewater rafting in Jackson, many rafting companies. If you're a beginning you're on the water less than 2 hours but allow a day because you travel from Jackson by bus an hour each way. Sightsee first in Yellowstone, then go down to the Tetons and jackson
hilda is offline  
Jan 17th, 2006, 12:43 PM
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Thank you for all the help. Where would I be without the help of you wonderful Fodorites?!
BayouGal is offline  
Jan 21st, 2006, 04:09 AM
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 565
If you want to get "up" in the tetons, I would reccomend hiring a montaineering guide. Grand Teton is the hardest and requires a little bit of ropes. But, the other peaks are just a steep hike, no rock climbing or ice climbing. An alternative to that, is take one of the trails the run along the floors of the canyons between the peaks. This gets you up close and personal with the peaks. Cascade Canyon and Death Canyon are good examples. I liked the Cascade Canyon Trail a lot. You take a boat ride accross Jenney Lake to get to the trailhead! Then, the trail goes past Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point which is a view of the lake. Most of the crowds don't go past here. I would highly reccomend going past this point and making it a half/full day hike. There is no climbing after this, it is a flat trail the rest of the way. I made to the forks of the canyon and it took a good chunk out of my day but not the full day. I would suggest making that you destination. The only place where there is an uphill climb is up to inspiration point from Hidden Falls and it is not bad at all, you are only gaining a couple hundred feet there. You gain a little in elevation going up the canyon but you don't notice it. You will see all kinds of wildlife, since there is basically no crowds after inspiration point. Only saw a couple people. I saw a moose. There waterfalls coming off the peaks and you are surrounded by tall rocky peaks. I loved it. I suggest to do this hike in the morning and getting on the first shuttle boat at 7 or 8 am. This avoids the crowds at hidden falls and IP and also allows you to do other activities that day. When I got to hidden falls, there was nobody there. But, when I got back from the forks of the canyon, I hit crowds as soon as I got to inspiration point. I did the Jackson Hole Aerial Tram at the teton village that day too, which I highly reccomend. That will get you on a tall mountain peak without hiking. Takes you all the way to the summit. This is outside of the park and is not one of the peaks you see in the park. But, on top of this mountain you can look north and you are just about at eye level with the grand teton, maybe a little bit lower. But, that is a different perspictive also.
asdaven is offline  
Jan 21st, 2006, 04:21 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 22,132
You can also go rafting from several operators in Gardiner (north entrance to Yellowstone). The one we took was fun enough for our teenagers and yet mild enough for the 8 year old of another family on raft.
gail is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2006, 06:20 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 8,296
As of today, our plans look like this:

Fly to Jackson from New Orleans
Dates: Sept 15 - 23, 2006
Rent auto or small SUV in Jackson

Travel destinations so far:
Beartooth Parkway

Fly home from Jackson to New Orleans

I have posted new questions for this itinerary under "Getting more specific on our Teton/Yellowstone Escape."

Thanks so much for your continued help!
BayouGal is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2006, 06:31 PM
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 155
Here is a vote for Signal Mtn Lodge. We rented a cabin in the off season and it was just fabulous. Not luxurious at all, small, basic, but we had a small front porch and we hiked and had dinner a the lodge. As I recall I'm pretty sure we put reservations in for a trout dinner in advance and they caught the fish in fresh as could be that afternoon. whoa. One of my favorite trips!
Weezie is offline  
Feb 17th, 2006, 07:01 AM
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ttt for GailJoe
BayouGal is offline  
Jun 1st, 2013, 10:50 AM
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Topping for friend. Some expert Fodorites gave great advice here.
BayouGal is offline  

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