Yellowstone Trip 2014

For our 2014 summer trip we decided to see Yellowstone National Park. It was the very first U.S. national park and is in the top 5 most-visited parks. However, getting there can be challenging. For several reasons, we decided to fly into Salt Lake City and rent a car: airfare was cheaper, and also we wanted to do some sight-seeing in SLC.

An added bonus was that the Golden Spike National Historic Site was only a short drive out of our way, and they were weekly re-enactment of the historic driving of the spike.

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The site commemorates the 1869 completion of a railroad route from the East Coast of the U.S. to the West Coast. The original ceremony, held in April 1869, included the driving of the last spike—a special ceremonial golden spike—into the track The re-enactment includes two replica locomotives based on the steam engines that were present at this original ceremony, representing the two railroad companies whose tracks were now joined.

Bottom line: probably appeals most to serious history buffs and/or train enthusiasts.

From Gold Spike we drove north into Idaho, then on to Yellowstone.

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This park truly has some treasures. Everyone knows about Old Faithful, of course. It’s definitely one of the busiest spots at the park. Unfortunately, parking can be a challenge, especially at some of the other popular spots such as the Falls of the Yellowstone River and at Grand Prismatic Spring.

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A few tips: being East Coasters, we found it very helpful to keep our schedules close to the Eastern Time Zone. Sure, we were going to bed at 6:30pm, but we were also up and out on the trails at 6am. We always felt thankful for that when we’d finish a hike right as a tour bus pulled up.

The park is huge, and we drove quite a bit. Sometimes traffic can get backed up, especially at bison crossings!

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We visited the park in early June. Back home, we had been wearing shorts and sweating by the pool. In Yellowstone, there were still several spots where snow was thick on the ground, especially at the higher elevations. Be prepared!

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After spending several days in Yellowstone we drove south to the Grand Teton National Park. I definitely recommend visiting this park if you have time. You may not need to spend as much time there, but the views are spectacular.

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We took a boat ride across Jenny Lake and went on a Ranger-led hike. This was a great experience, as our Ranger told as about the history and geology of the park. Pro tip: do NOT miss the boat back! If you stick with the Ranger you will be fine.

After a few hours in Grand Teton, we headed on to Jackson, Wyoming. We took a whitewater rafting trip down the Snake River.

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This was the first whitewater trip for our kids, then aged 10 and 8. As always when scheduling any “adventure” type activity with children, we made sure they met the age, height, and weight requirements before booking. The trip was fantastic, with several stretches of class 4 rapids.

Trip Summary

Here’s a rundown of the places we stayed and the sights we took in:

Yellowstone: Day 1

  • Norris Geyser Basin
  • Grand Canyon: Brink of Lower Falls
  • Grand Canyon South Rim hikes: Lookout Point, Grand View, Inspiration Point
  • Stayed at Canyon Lodge Western Cabin

Yellowstone: Day 2

  • Drove through Lamar Valley at sunrise: amazing wildlife everywhere!
  • We had planned to hike Mount Washburn but the trail was closed dure to snow
  • Mammoth Hot Springs terrace loop hikes
  • Wraith Falls hike
  • Lava Creek to Undine Falls hike
  • Stayed at Canyon Lodge Western Cabin

Yellowstone: Day 3

  • Yellowstone Lake hikes
  • Elephant Back Trail: 3 mile loop, with lots of snow at the summit
  • West Thumb
  • Dinner at Old Faithful Inn: excellent buffet!
  • Stayed at Old Faithful Inn (note: shared bathroom facilities!)

Yellowstone: Day 4

  • Old Faithful!
  • Upper Geyser Basin hike (3 miles)
  • Fountain Paint Pots
  • Grand Prismatic Spring – hiked from Fairy Falls up unofficial trail on hillside to get view from above
  • Stayed at Old Faithful Inn (note: shared bathroom facilities!)

Grand Tetons/Jackson: Day 1

  • Jenny Lake boat shuttle and hikes to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point from South Jenny Lake boat dock – caught an early Ranger led hike that was wonderful
  • Stayed at Cowboy Village Log Cabin Resort

Grand Tetons/Jackson: Day 2

  • Mad River Boat Trips – The Classic Snake River Whitewater Trip
  • Jackson Hole Aerial Tram and Gondola Rides
  • Stayed at Cowboy Village Log Cabin Resort