It was a 4 hour drive from our hotel in Bellevue, Idaho to reach Grand Teton National Park.
Since we were arriving in the middle of the day, we tried to avoid the crowds and enter the park through the Moose-Wilson entrance. There is a 2 mile portion of the entrance road that isn’t paved and boy was it rough. There’s a chance to see some wildlife on that road but we didn’t feel like it was worth it.
They’re scheduled to pave it in July of this year, so if you’re going after that, it’s a good option to avoid the crowds.
We took an unconventional route through the park with the same goal of avoiding the crowds. We had heard so much about how busy the park gets in the middle of the day.
We drove the Gros Ventre road to the Mormon Row area. It’s a great place to spot some pronghorn and leads to the famous Mormon Row barns.
Oh yeah! I almost forgot about the amazing views of the Tetons from that area as well!!
One note of caution about the Mormon Row road: it’s gravel and very rough as well.
We made it back to Highway 89 (the outer road through the park) and headed north. There were so many amazing stops along the way! We found the Glacier View Turnout to be interesting. It presented information about the mountains and glaciers in between them.
At the Snake River Turnout we happened to spot a moose walking out into the river!!
Can you spot the moose??
How about now?
Still squinting? This should do it! Haha! Needless to say, we weren’t very close to the moose from this spot.
After seeing the first of what would be many bison in this park, we spotted another animal. Can you find it?
Here’s another, zoomed-in view.
We felt incredibly lucky to have spotted a wolf!!! Several other cars slowed down to see what we were looking at and we’re not sure any of them actually saw the wolf!
With evening approaching, we ventured onto the Teton Park Road, which takes you closer to the peaks and the crowds.
We stopped at the Jackson Lake Dam and Mt. Moran turnouts before heading to Jenny Lake.
We drove the Jenny Lake Road to get even closer to the mountains.
It’s not hard to see why Jenny Lake is the most popular spot in the park!
We made the short drive to our hotel in Jackson and prepared for a fun night of laundry! Thankfully, this should be our last major laundry experience of the trip.
Originally we were going to be spending another day in Grand Teton. However, they were opening up Yellowstone for the first time since all the flooding.
It was a no-brainer. We were going to Yellowstone!
Yellowstone was implementing an alternating license plate system to keep crowds under control. It just so happened our licence plate number allowed us to enter the park on the first day the park was back open.
With the park opening at 8am, we left our hotel shortly after 7am. It was just over an hour drive to the south entrance of Yellowstone.
One of the perks of coming from Jackson was getting to drive through Grand Teton again. The weather was absolutely perfect! Not a cloud in the sky!
Somewhere near Jackson Lake, we came upon several cars pulled over. We quickly realized what everyone was looking at. A grizzly bear!!
At 8:25am, we found ourselves 5 miles from the southern entrance to Yellowstone. This was how far traffic was backed up, waiting to get in to the park.
15 minutes passed.
No movement in the line.
We were starting to think we had made an enormous mistake.
But finally, after 20 minutes, we saw some cars starting to inch ahead way up in front of us.
We made it into the park just after 10 am. For those of you keeping count, that was roughly 1 hour and 40 minutes of traffic jam fun.
Once in the park, we headed straight for Old Faithful.
It was 11:30 am by the time we found a parking spot and made our way toward Old Faithful. The sign said the next eruption wouldn’t be until 12:41 pm. It erupts roughly every 90 minutes, so that means we just missed one.
We took the extra time walk around and visit some of the shops.
We made our way over to Old Faithful just before 12:00 pm, to make sure we got a seat.
Bison are everywhere in the park. This one was in between the viewing area and Old Faithful.
The parks predicted time for Old Faithful to erupt was 12:41 pm plus or minus 10 minutes. At 12:37 pm the show started!
Old Faithful’s eruptions can last from 1 to 5 minutes and can shoot the water up to 180 feet in the air. The eruption we saw lasted a little over 2 minutes. It was an impressive sight to see!
One thing we all commented on, was the sound. It was so quiet. I think we all expected it to be much louder.
I was filming another geyser erupting in the distance when Old Faithful started to erupt. It was just a very neat experience.
After taking in all that Old Faithful had to offer, we walked through the rest of the Upper Geyser Basin. It had an otherworldly feel to it. There were geysers and hot springs bubbling and spewing everywhere you looked.
We finished our walk at the Morning Glory pool. The colors were stunning!
By the time we made it back to the Old Faithful area, everyone was gathered to watch the next eruption. We had a different vantage point this time!
The task of trying to see everything Yellowstone has to offer in one day was a little overwhelming. The northern part of the park is still closed and likely will be for some time. However, Yellowstone is such a large park that even trying to see everything in just the southern loop in one day was challenging.
After Old Faithful, we made our way towards the Grand Prismatic Spring. Second to Old Faithful, it is probably the next most popular place in the park. Finding a parking spot was a little tricky, but definitely worth the hassle.
Before reaching the Grand Prismatic Spring, the boardwalk takes you past the Excelsior Geyser Crater. This was one of our personal favorites! Every now and then a warm mist would blow through.
Grand Prismatic Spring is the largest hot spring in the United States and is the third largest in the world. It was tricky to get a picture that shows its true beauty from the boardwalk. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to walk the trail to the overlook. It was still an unbelievable sight!!
There were a couple other neat features at the Midway Geyser Basin, including the Opal and Turquoise pools.
On our way to Gibbon Falls we were finally able to get a picture of an elk. We have seen several on our trip so far, but still didn’t have any proof.
We made the difficult decision to skip the Norris Geyser Basin to save time, but will definitely have to visit that area whenever we visit the park again.
The elk were out in full force today and we spotted two male elk, still with their antlers, just outside of Canyon Village.
The Canyon Village area features the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and the Upper and Lower Falls. We really enjoyed this area!
The next part of the southern loop took us through Hayden Valley. Outside of Lamar Valley in the northern part of the park, Hayden Valley is the best wildlife viewing area.
We experienced our first, legitimate bison jam!!
With everything else we had seen, I had almost forgotten about the Mud Volcano area. It’s at the southern end of Hayden Valley.
It is very different from any other area in the park. And when I say different, I mean smelly!!! The rotten egg smell seemed to penetrate everything. I would still recommend stopping here though, because of how unique it is.
We visited the Sulphur Cauldron, Dragon’s Mouth Spring, Mud Volcano and Mud Cauldron.
With that, our time in Yellowstone was coming to a close. All that was left, was to finish out the Grand Loop road and head back towards Jackson. Before we made it out of the park, we spotted another moose and her calf through the trees!
There were elk everywhere on our way back to Jackson. We pulled over to take some pictures of the elk and ended up staying for the sunset over the Teton Range. It was the perfect ending to an amazing day!