After trying twice we finally made it to Yellowstone National Park. Our second year, 2013, we tried to go to Yellowstone but we had tire issues and just ran out of time that year. Actually, I was going to be in Yellowstone 50 years ago when I was 10 years old but my grandmother got sick so we went back home. So we made it this time!
On Tuesday August 2nd we left Cody WY and headed west on US 20 to the East Gate of Yellowstone. It is about 40 miles to the east gate from Cody and another 60 miles across the park to the west gate and West Yellowstone Montana. We had a reservation at the Valley View RV Park in Island Park Idaho about 14 miles south west of the west gate.
|Pictures of the drive from Cody WY to the East Entrance to Yellowstone.|
About 10 miles into the park we encountered a bison herd crossing the road. That slowed everything down as people (us too) stopped to take pictures. As we approached, a bison on each side of the road was rolling on their backs in the dirt just like we have seen dogs do. It was a pretty cool sight seeing the dust fly on both sides of the road with a heard of bison further up on the road. That episode lasted about 15 minutes before we were on the move again.
|We pulled of on the north end of Lake Yellowstone to use the bathroom.|
It took us about 3 hours to travel the 115 miles from Cody WY to our site in Island Park ID. The trip was mostly on flat ground but there were some moderate hills in Yellowstone but nothing that slowed us down. Actually it was one of the best trips we have had pulling the RV. The reason we picked the Valley View RV Park at 14 miles away from Yellowstone was that it had large spaces and was much lower in price than staying in West Yellowstone. We did look at staying in the park itself but there were very few sites big enough for us and they only had water and 30 amps electric. If we had to do it over again we would do the same and stay where we did. The 14 miles to the gate was only a 15 minute drive, really not an issue.
|To get from Cody WY we had to cross into Montana and then Idaho where our RV Park was.|
|View from our site.|
Our first full day in Yellowstone we decided to visit the Mammoth Hot Springs area that is on the north west side of the upper Grand Loop. There was loads of road construction on the way up to this area. The trip took about 2 hours to drive the 63 miles from our RV site. The thing about Yellowstone is that it really doesn’t feel like you are driving that far because there is so much to look at on the way.
|Drive up on the Grand Loop to the Mammoth Hot Springs area.|
|We saw this small herd of elk along the way.|
|Before we got to the hot springs we stopped at one of the many waterfalls.|
|This construction area is about half way up the western side of the Grand Loop. |
It delayed us only about 20 minutes.
|Entering the Hot Springs area.|
|The area really smells like farts! Hydrogen sulfide gas. |
There are also loads of minerals including iron in the water.
We spent the day mostly walking around the hot springs and viewing them from different angles. At lunch time we drove a couple of miles into the old military base there to have ice cream for lunch. We ended up having ice cream a couple of times in the park and each time it was some of the best we have ever had. We noticed that there are ice cream stands everywhere, even outside the park, so it seems ice cream is a thing here.
Our second day in Yellowstone we went to Old Faithful in the geyser basin. We decided to take the ranger guided tour first thing in the morning at 8:30 am. That meant we had to leave the RV at 7 am to make the little over an hour trip of 46 miles. We arrived with plenty of time to spare and there was plenty of parking at this time of day.
|This is the view as you are about 5 miles from the Geyser Basin|
where Old Faithful is located.
The guided tour was really a must do. We are so glad we did it! The tour lasts just about an hour and a half. A young park ranger gave the tour. She is a trained geologist with a master’s degree who did her thesis on super volcanos. I just wonder why she is here. She walked us around all of the major geysers that are near Old Faithful and gave us their history and explained how geysers worked. Just as we neared the end of the tour Old Faithful erupted, how cool was that!
|Old Faithful resting for the minute.|
|Our ranger tour guide.|
After the tour we walked about 4 miles of the basin to see the different geysers. We saw a couple go off as we were getting to them but the only one we saw up close was Old Faithful. To see more than just Old Faithful you need to get there early as we did, then check the estimated times that are posted, then make yourself a schedule and go to each one. This would mostly take you all day to do. We just decided that seeing one erupt was really enough for us so we didn’t bother to rush around.
|Inside the Old Faithful Lodge.|
|This picture didn't come out like I wanted. It is a picture of hot boiling water just under the thin ground here. We are warned everywhere not to step off of the walkway because the ground is thin and you can get burned. Here was proof!|
|Old Faithful Inn.|
|Inside Old Faithful Inn. It really is incredible, all of this wood work.|
On our third day we took a 250 mile circle through southern Yellowstone and into the Grand Teton National Park. We made it to Jackson WY where we turned west into Idaho and then back up to our RV site. The trip took us about 6 hours.
|As we passed through the southern part of Yellowstone we stopped at the Grand Prismatic Spring. This is definitely a must stop in Yellowstone.|
|These look so much like a great hot tub. You just want to step into these and have a nice soak. But this water is boiling! A tourist last year jumped into one of these and was not found, he dissolved. At least that is the story!|
We got the gist of the big mountains called the Tetons but, because of the wild fire smoke they were covered in a thick haze. Even in Jackson we could barely see the ski slopes of Jackson Hole in town. We got back to the RV just at dark. It was great day of driving and sightseeing.
|A stop for lunch at the Flagger Ranch. The Ranch is in between the south entrance of Yellowstone and the North entrance to the Grand Teton National Park.|
|Much more wild fire smoke in the Tetons than in Yellowstone.|
|The Snake River.|
|Jackson WY with the ski slopes in the background.|
|Interesting archway of elk horns in Jackson.|
|A horse carriage ride through downtown Jackson.|
|Don't remember the town in Idaho but we found this funny.|
|On our way back to the RV we stopped to do a little geocaching. |
The cache is the green tube to the right of the rock.
|Inside the container is a pencil and a log of who has found it.|
Our 4th day we went the eastern side of the upper Grand Loop to see the upper and lower falls as well as the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. These were the most picturesque sights of Yellowstone in our opinion. The pictures we took are nice but one has to be here to really get the full feel of the sights.
|The upper falls at 308' is taller than Niagara Falls|
|The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.|
|One of the most picturesque spots in Yellowstone, the lower falls.|
This is the area where I fell walking to an overview area of the upper falls. I got a lot of flak on Facebook for wearing flip flops while walking here. We wear flip flops all most exclusively everywhere and have for the past 5 years all over the country without an issue. Are they good for your feet, maybe not. We (I) find them very comfortable and hate shoes, so there.
Anyway, one of my flip flops broke and I tripped over the sole that came off. I only just skinned my knee but damn it, it hurt! The lesson for me is that I need to wear better flip flops if I am going to do any real walking and not the $10 Walmart ones. Sorry, still going to wear flip flops most places.
|All I did was badly skin my knee.|
|Luckily we had a great first aid kit we received from friends (Debbie and Ian) before we started our RV adventures.|
|The broken $10 Walmart flip flop.|
On our last day in Yellowstone we took a horseback riding trip into the Caribou-Targhee National Forest. Island Park, where our RV site is, we are surrounded by the Caribou-Targhee National Forest.
|Patty's horse wouldn't listen to her and mine just farted the whole ride.|
The horse riding stables, Eagle Ridge Ranch, were about 15 miles south of us. We took the 3-hour ride and man was I glad it was just the 3-hour ride! My legs just are not made to be bent sideways like that on a horse for any length of time. Every time we stopped I took my feet out of the stirrups and stretched out. I really didn’t know if I could stand up when we got off after 3 hours.
This horse ride was very good and run very well. We went through a very picturesque area in and out of the woods. The price was very good for this ride of just $70 per person. OK, now for the howevers. It was sort of boring for us. We never really rode into or on to any elevations. It was also very slow!! The guide stopped just about every 5 minutes to show us how he could expertly ride his horse, which he was training. That got real old after a while. We wanted to ride a little quicker pace and into the mountains. Anyway, this ride did satisfy our wanting to ride horses for a while.
There are better horse rides in the area and in Yellowstone itself. We originally wanted to do a ride in the park but we found out that those are very popular and were booked solid for the entire month. The way to get a great horse ride here in the park one needs to either book the ride a couple of months before you get here or visit the park after Labor Day. My bet is that even in the shoulder seasons, before Memorial Day and after Labor day, you may need to book the ride at least a few day in advance.
After horseback riding, we went back to the RV for a short nap before we headed out again. We went into West Yellowstone to have dinner and visit the tourist shops on our last evening in the area.
|Just a few pieces of "art" around the town of West Yellowstone.|
|They even make their bear-proof trash bins look like art.|
|One of the tourist streets in West Yellowstone.|
The shops are mostly the same as anywhere else but they are really big here. If you want a t-shirt you will find one with just about anything you can think of on it here. We didn’t buy anything except for some huckleberry jam. I found the cheapest I could find here and still paid $7 for a jar that will probably make just 4-6 sandwiches.
We had a nice dinner at the most upscale restaurant you can eat in West Yellowstone, The Madison Crossing. The food wasn’t bad, not great, but not bad. I had a steak and Patty had the bison meatloaf. The highlight had to be the beer though. We had the Keep Cool Creek Blonde Ale made in Great Falls MT. They gave us a sample and at the same time we both said, I’ll have one of those! The other good thing was that the cost of our dinner was very reasonable at about $50 for the 2 of us including the great beer!
OK, that just about wraps up our visit to Yellowstone National Park. Some passing thoughts:
You need about 5-7 days here depending on the amount of hiking you want to do. If staying in the park you probably need fewer days here.
Book horse rides real early, like months ahead of time.
The restaurant service and food in the park is actually pretty good, better than any tourist place we have been.
Make sure to take advantage of any ranger guided tours that are in your area of interest. They are free, short, fun, and informative.
Lastly, everyone needs to come here once in their lives and more than once if you came as a kid first time.
|A picture I took of Patty taking care of our babies.|
|One of my favorite pictures by someone else. |
I am going to have this one blown up for the RV
We are outta here and on our way to Glacier National Park now.