My life is simply that. A weaving. We live in small town USA and I'm living a life I love…

[ The West, Day 02 ] : Yellowstone

After a good night’s sleep at our hotel in Idaho Falls, we got up and headed north to explore Yellowstone National Park.  We had been told by just about everyone that you would need more than a day for Yellowstone… yet, there was SOOOO much that we want to see that we decided to just make it work and so we basically did one national park or place every day…

Our drive from Idaho Falls to Yellowstone was around two hours.  We choose to drive to the West Entrance at Yellowstone.  This was closest to the Tetons (which was Day 03) and it was closes to Old Faithful… and let’s face it, as awesome and vast as Yellowstone is when you have one day you’re going to hit up Old Faithful.

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This is the park map.  A general “rule” would be that each of the segments of the road are an approximate 30 minute drive.   For example, from Madison Station to Old Faithful Station, it’s a 30 minute drive.  From Old Faithful to West Thumb… 30 minute.  West Thumb to Bridge Bay… 30 minutes.  You get the picture…  Some of the longer ones are actually 45 minutes, especially the roads going to and from Tower-Roosevelt…  both of those roads have hair pin turns and mountain elevations that don’t allow for very speedy travel.

We stopped at Madison Station to grab a hiking map and talk to the Rangers on what they would suggest…  the view at Madison Station was simply…  ‘Merica…

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In every park that we went to we generally stopped at a Ranger Station first, talked with a ranger and got their input on what trail to hike or what to see.  The other cool thing that we found to do in the parks was the Junior Ranger Program.  Each park was slightly different… in Yellowstone you paid $4/kid to get a workbook/brochure.  Inside it had different activities for different age levels that had to do with that specific park.  Once they finished an assigned number of activities, one of which included a Ranger led program, you stop back by a Ranger station, have a Ranger check it and then you get a badge and are sworn in as a Junior Ranger.   Our kids all really enjoyed the challenge and it gave purpose to some of the drive time…

Buffalo/Bison were everywhere in Yellowstone.  In fact, from Madison we headed toward Old Faithful.  While on the 2 lane road we got stopped in a traffic jam for over an hour because a Buffalo herd was blocking the road.   An hour… and it may have been more but I don’t want to exaggerate.

The traffic jam did afford us some time to each our official trip lunch… Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches.  

The route in between Madison and Old Faithful was beautiful.  It reminded of the Disney movies from my childhood where bears would be the rushing rivers and grabbing fish out…  we didn’t see a bear… but take a look…

We finally made it to the Old Faithful Station and… hello crowds.  At the previous ranger station we found that they had a prediction schedule listed for all of the geyser eruptions.  Because of the Buffalo Road Block we ended up arriving at Old Faithful right after it had erupted.

IMG_0904Old Faithful erupts on average every 90 minutes…  So, while we were waiting we took a paved walk around the Geyer area where there were all sorts of geological features… springs, geysers, etc. to take a peak at…

The loop we did was maybe a mile and a half long and by the time we got back it was show time!

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From Old Faithful we drove 30-45 minutes toward West Thumb.  It’s basically a piece of the lake that looks like a thumb and it’s on the west side of the lake…  We pulled off on a turn out at some point and captures this “panoramic” picture…  words and pictures can’t describe the beauty…

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(This version is a really crappy pieced together picture… I plan on photoshopping a better quality one down the road…)

From there we headed toward the Lake Village.  Just past the Lake Village we stopped in at the Mud Volcano…  the sulphur smell… talk about smelly…

We were heading into late afternoon and we made another stop at the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and the Lower Falls.  We found a trail marked Brink of Lower Falls Trail.  This trail included 8 to 9 switchbacks and descended over 300 feet over .25 miles…  This served as a great warm up for the rest of our hiking…  The view from the observation area at the top of the falls was beautiful, powerful, and quite a bit of scary…

After we huffed and puffed our way back up the switchback trail… which… by the way… the little legs of Addison conquered that hill like a champ!… the kids finished their Junior Ranger badges at the Canyon Village Visitor Center and then we headed up toward Tower-Roosevelt area in search of wildlife at sunset…

We did end up seeing quite a few bison, mule deer and prong horns…

Our only “mistake” was venturing out too far into the park toward dark.  The road between Canyon Village and Tower-Roosevelt is not an easy road… it’s twisty, turny, mountainous and honestly quite nerve-wracking in the dark.  We ended up having about two and a half hour drive through the park to get to the west entrance to head toward the hotel…  neither of us would recommend driving through the park after dark.  Nothing bad happened, it’s just super dark and not a straight and easy drive…

We got back to Idaho Falls the next day around 1am and we dragged ourselves to bed before heading out on our next adventure.

[ T R I P T R I C K S ]

  • Sign your kids up at the nearest ranger station for the Junior Ranger Program.  The Yellowstone program is $4/kid and includes a really nice patch when they finished
  • Purchase an annual pass for the National Parks.  We ordered this online for $80 and it’s good for a full year.  Each park averaged $30-40 per car which means in just two parks it paid for itself
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