Here is some must-follow Yellowstone and Grand Tetons advice for an unbelievable trip to these national parks. Breathtaking beauty awaits!
|Day 1 –||Travel day|
|Day 2 –||Beartooth Pass|
|Day 3 –||Horseback riding + rafting|
|Day 4 –||Boiling River / Yellowstone|
|Day 5 –||Old Faithful / Upper Geyser Basin|
|Day 6 –||Hayden Valley|
|Day 7 –||Grand Tetons|
Travel Day (Day 1)
We’ll call this first day: travel. At least, that’s what day one was in our case. You too?
*Trip Tip! If you’re camping and renting a camper, RV Rental in Billings, MT is an option. Renting closer to your destination saves you significantly on fuel costs and time.
Beartooth Pass (Day 2)
If you’re heading west towards Yellowstone National Park, be sure to pick up the Beartooth Highway. Heralded as one of the most scenic highways in the U.S., this route will have you saying, “Whoa, what a view!” countless times along the way.
The switchback roads are fun to drive, and you just may find some snow to play in (even in July!) at the high altitudes.
The highway eventually leads you to the Beartooth Pass Summit, which has an elevation of almost 11,000. So worth the drive!
Then you’ll come into the northeast entrance of Yellowstone National Park.
Bison can be spotted in numerous areas throughout the park, and be sure to stop in Mammoth Springs where you’ll see dozens of elk casually chilling on the grass around town.
From the Beartooth Pass it’s about a two hour drive to get to the town of Gardiner, MT, which is just outside the North Entrance to the park. Due to its outstanding location, we stayed at the Rocky Mountain RV park.
Camping cabins are also available there, if you don’t have a camper or RV. For tent camping, check out the nearby Eagle Creek Campground. Or, there are hotel accommodations in Gardiner.
Horseback Riding & Rafting (Day 3)
If you’re up for it, book a tour through Paradise Adventure Company, located right in Gardiner. The combo horseback riding and rafting package includes a morning two-hour guided trail ride through the mountains, lunch, and then a two-hour rafting trip on the Yellowstone River.
Afterward, walk into downtown Gardiner for some huckleberry ice cream at one of the various restaurants.
Boiling River and into Yellowstone (Day 4)
Just inside the north entrance of Yellowstone is a great spot to swim in the Boiling River. This area is a natural hot spring that flows into the river making it really warm. It’s such a unique experience, so don’t miss it!
Next, venture further into the park towards where you’re staying next. We chose the Grant Village campground (2+ hours from the Boiling River swim site), which was a great location to access lots of sights. If I wasn’t camping, I think it would be cool to stay at the Old Faithful Inn. Lots of cool history there as it was built in 1903-1904.
Old Faithful & Upper Geyser Basin (Day 5)
You can’t go to Yellowstone without visiting Old Faithful. It erupts about 17 times per day, according to the Park’s website, so your odds are great that you’ll see it. There are a ton of other geysers too (500 total in the park!), so if you’re trying to time your visits to some of them, Yellowstone’s Geyser Activity website posts prediction times.
Explore the paths of this entire Upper Geyser Basin, which occupies only one square mile. It’s Yellowstone’s largest geyser basin and is home to the world’s largest single concentration of hot springs. Highlights for us were Castle Geyser and the Morning Glory Pool (pictures below). I’d plan on spending about 3-4 hours in this area.
As you move on through the park, stop by the Artists Paint Pots. There’s a 1.1 mile loop that takes you past them on foot.
Hayden Valley & Grand Canyon of Yellowstone (Day 6)
Head towards Hayden Valley this day. We saw TONS of bison in this area, and the main attractions are Mud Geyser, Churning Caldron, Dragon’s Mouth Spring and Sulphur Caldron. Look for signs in the park for all those stops.
Grand Tetons (Day 7)
Pull up camp/check-out of your lodging in Yellowstone this morning and head south about 45 minutes to Grand Teton National Park.
The huge mountain ranges are what I remember the most… and the lakes. The Colter Bay area on Jackson Lake is absolutely stunning! I could have spent all day walking the shores.
Eventually, get down to Jenny Lake (about 30 minutes further) and buy a round-trip ferry ticket at Jenny Lake Boating. No online tickets are available; shuttles run every 10 to 15 minutes to the Cascade Canyon trailhead. (Or, you can save your money and hike the 2 miles one-way).
From the boat dock, hike 1/2 mile to Hidden Falls, and then continue on for another mile to Inspiration Point. Once again, you’ll find yourself saying, “Whoa, what a view!” when you reach the top of this hike and look out over Jenny Lake.
Jackson Hole, WY is only about 5 miles south of Jenny Lake, so that’s a really neat area to stay/explore before starting your way home the next day.
Plan your return trip in the winter
My final Yellowstone and Grand Tetons advice: when you get home, immediately start planning your return visit in the wintertime!
Check out my blog post about the unforgettable experience of snowmobiling in this area. In fact, some call West Yellowstone the “Snowmobiling Capital of the World.” I have a complete 3-day guide for where to rent snowmobiles, what to bring, which trails to explore, and what to expect.
- Ride the aerial tram in Jackson Hole – in just 12 minutes, you’re up over 4,000 vertical feet to see 360-views of the Tetons.
- Old West Dinner Cookout – ride a horse or a wagon to a cookout served at dusk. Cowboys and campfires guaranteed.
- White Water Rafting on the Snake River in Jackson Hole – a white-knuckle trip or a calm, scenic float are both options. Choose your own adventure!
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