Concluding this five-part series is the rest of our time in Yellowstone National Park and our brief introduction to the Grand Tetons National Park! Luckily for us, we had a National Parks Pass so we were able to visit many of the National Park Services between South Dakota and Wyoming.
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The family woke up bright and early to catch the first glimpse of Old Faithful. Our cabin was about an hour away, and we knew we wanted to picnic in Yellowstone, so we stopped by a local Deli – Ernie’s Bakery & Deli – to pick up a few snacks for a picnic. (Side note: anytime we do a picnic I always get a BLT because it is the best sandwich to travel).
Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park
When we arrived to see Old Faithful we were overwhelmed to see all the amenities they had to offer in this one area. There is the Snow Lodge (which was not open during our stay), the Old Faithful Lodge, The Old Faithful Inn, The Visitor Education Center, and a gift shop.
Since Old Faithful is genuinely a once and a lifetime viewing opportunity, we timed it to see it three times in one day (and then a bunch of other times on other days)! Our first viewing opportunity was while we were lined up on the Old Faithful porch. The first time we witnessed Old Faithful, the thermal activity went on for over three minutes!
After that, we opted to walk the boardwalk to view some of the other thermal pools and geysers that were a stone’s throw away. Walking in this area was quite easy with the wheelchair since everything was marked on what was ADA compliant, what was a boardwalk, and what was steep.
Since Old Faithful was predicted to erupt a little over an hour, we took our time to explore the thermal features, enjoy the Bison, and pick our picture perfect spot for the viewing area. A great spot to spend a night or two during the winter is the Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Cabins – one of my favorite hotels I’ve stayed in so far.
Thermal Areas in Yellowstone National Park
After that, we had a picnic (in our car haha!) by Black Sand Basin which was not the best idea due to all of the flies zooming in and out of the car. I didn’t realize that flies enjoyed hot, stinky thermal activity.
After visiting Black Sand and Biscuit Basin, we moved on to the next most exciting part of the trip – the Grand Prismatic Spring. Grand Prismatic is Yellowstone’s largest hot spring – and it is HUGE! Seriously, I do not even know how they made the boardwalk to look at this Spring. The different colors of the Spring due to the different bacteria is breathtaking. There weren’t any warning about accessibility on this boardwalk, but the steep grade to reach the top of the Grand Prismatic was difficult yet worth it.
While walking the boardwalk, we stumbled upon a National Geographic’s tour group (which was the tour group I mimicked our vacation after). We followed the tour group to get a little more history of Grand Prismatic. After spending about forty-five minutes listening to the tour guide, taking photos, and just enjoying the beauty, we decided that the thermal areas were getting to us!
It was time to get in the car and take a break from all the walking we did throughout the day. Since we were in West Yellowstone, we saw two drives that we wanted to make – Firehole Canyon Drive and Firehole Lake Drive. Both of these drives are an excellent break from the crowd, and you get to spend some time enjoying nature. Firehole Canyon Drive has an amazing Fall and a natural SAFE hot spring (note – to a Southerner this hot spring will still be quite chilly).
Geyser Hunting in Yellowstone National Park
Firehole Lake Drive is where we learned about Geyser Heads! These fanatics visit Yellowstone quite regularly to witness some of the rarest and most explosive Geysers. When driving on Firehole lane, we discovered a guy who was camped out in front of a Geyser that was not active. After we did some more driving, we came back to the same spot and noticed the Geyser Head was still there. Luckily, we pulled over and were able to see one of the prettiest Geysers stay active for over 30 minutes!
There are so many sites, geysers, and hikes, to see in Yellowstone, that one could spend well over a week or two exploring everything. According to all of the guidebooks, most of the visitors only see 1% of all the sites.
Grand Teton National Park
We were planning on spending a day and a half in Grand Teton National Park, but do to some overbooked flights, we had to quickly change our flights from flying out of Jackson Hole to flying out of Billings.
We did, however, get to ride down John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway connecting the South Entrance to Grand Tetons. When we took the roadway, the Berry Fire had just ended, and the area had just re-opened from the devastation. It was quite strange to travel down the roadway seeing the scorched earth on both sides of the road; after passing through what seemed like miles and miles of burned trees, we made it to Grand Tetons National Park.
Yellowstone, in its own right, is a beautiful natural wonder but crossing into Grand Tetons National Park is a peaceful beauty that is indescribable. Seeing Mountains shimmering off of Jackson Lake is just breathtaking – it is nothing like we have in Louisiana.
Since we knew we only had about a half of day to explore the Park, we opted for a scenic drive. We traveled on the Signal Mountain Summit, which is a thrilling 4-mile road that winds up a mountain. After taking in the breathtaking views, we traveled down and saw a family of deer. Afterward, when we were heading back to the cabin, we saw an Elk at Willow Flats.
Final day of the Yellowstone National Park
Our final day of the trip, we had to pack up our bags and make our way to Billings, Montana so we could fly out to go back home. Luckily, with the change of plans we were able to see two more sites in Yellowstone that we really wanted to see – Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces and the Roosevelt Arch.
Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces has a couple of boardwalks, but the only one we went on was right in front so we could take some epic photos with this massive Terrace. We also did the drive on top of Mammoth Hot Springs which was an easy way to jump in and out of the car to take in the views. On another trip to Yellowstone, we met our tour guide in Mammoth Hot Springs!
We were dragging our feet leaving the North Entrance because no one wanted the vacation to end nor to do a couple hours drive to our next town. A storm was coming and we made our way towards the Roosevelt Arch. While we were driving over to the Arch, my sister decided that she wanted to take a couple of final photos of the Elk.
Black Bear in Yellowstone National Park
We pull over to let my sister out of the car and I opened the sunroof so I could see the Elk without getting out of the car (Lazy I know). Then I hear mom say “Man Allison disturbed the Elk,” as soon as the words were out of her mouth I spotted a black bear running through the village close to the visitor center. I, of course, start yelling at my sister to get in the car (she is too busy taking photos of the bear!) so we could go chase it.
Unfortunately, we were not able to find the bear again, but we talked to a couple that was pulled over in a parking lot and they said the bear ran right past them – when they had their windows down.
Our wonderful trip ended with us taking photos of the iconic Roosevelt Arch that has the saying “For the benefit and enjoyment of the people.”
This epic road trip was one of the best ways to see some of our countries finest locations within our National Park System.
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