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Visiting Yellowstone National Park
Probably one of the coolest places we've ever been, YNP did not disappoint. Be prepared to experience another world.
We have always dreamed about visiting Yellowstone National Park and enjoying all of the priceless treasures it offers. I honestly didn't know what to expect and was a bit apprehensive given there are mountain roads involved. Spoiler alert: I didn't crap my pants or have a crying breakdown, so that was good.
Driving into Yellowstone was filled with excitement. We started our trip from Bozeman, Montana, and drove I-90 east until we hit Highway 89 then headed south. Our plan was to start on the north side of YNP at the Albright Visitor Center and take Grand Loop Road to Tower Junction before heading back south on Highway 89.
Mammoth Hot Springs was very interesting to see.
Before traversing into the wilderness, you can stop at Mammoth Hot Springs to shop for souvenirs, grab a bite to eat, and go tinkle. Speaking of, you will notice loads of animal poop around the visitor center. Apparently the sheep or bears know where to get a good meal.
The heated springs area looks like a scene from another planet. There are trails all around it and you can walk to the top if you enjoy the exercise. Parking can be a nightmare so take a deep breath and be patient.
Grand Loop Road is peaceful and amazing.
We snaked our way around Grand Loop Road into the Wyoming countryside and loved it. This is where we got our first glimpse of a herd of bison with a lone bull hanging out on the side of the road on our return. There wasn't much traffic so it made the ride even more joyful and allowed us to soak in all the beautiful scenery.
Off roading on Blacktail Plateau Drive kicked ass.
You can take this one-way, off road trail along Grand Loop for a few miles and I'm so glad we did. It's gravel and sand but goes through some amazing areas of Yellowstone. It felt real manly taking Silver Belle, our new 2020 Silverado truck, on this trek and getting her completely covered in dirt. It was well worth it.
Since Grand Loop Road was closed beyond Tower Junction, we backtracked our path to head south again on Highway 89. The drive is totally incredible. Between mountain views to wildlife sightings to out of the world springs, it will not disappoint. Unless you have no soul.
Heading to Canyon Village.
This scenic ride along Norris Canyon Road was a nice drive. Canyon Village is small stop by the Upper Falls of Yellowstone and includes a General Store where you can buy more touristy stuff or a cold beer. It was a nice, peaceful and quaint place with not many people around. Thumbs up to that.
All of this exploring and stopping for photos took up most of our day so we decided it was time to crash at the Brandin' Iron Inn at West Yellowstone -- which is a place we loved and was a perfect location for night time activity. And no, I don't just mean the hanky panky.
By the way, Firehole BBQ was like manna from heaven. We recommend eating there when it's open during the season.
We started Day 2 very early from West Yellowstone because wildlife is more active in the morning and evening. Since Donetta and I both suck at night driving, getting up at the crack of dawn was the option. While we hated to leave the town, which offers SO MUCH to enjoy, we were hell bent on seeing a bear.
Traveling Highway 191 that day was a gift from God.
You know it's going to be a good day when you start with a sausage, egg and cheese biscuit from McDonalds. Even when they are $5.00 each. The rest of the day from that point was magical.
The wildlife experience was an answer to prayer. Literally.
Sometimes timing is everything and this day was no exception. As we made the drive back into Yellowstone National Park along Highway 191, we were blessed with an awesome experience. Along the drive we spotted what appeared to be two wolves hunting a bison in the distance. They ended up being coyotes searching for food, but it was still very cool to see.
That morning I had also prayed for a sign from God to let me know my mother's potentially dangerous surgery would be a success; I simply asked God to send an animal (preferably a bear or moose) in front of our vehicle. Sounds cheesy but as we were stopped trying to get photos of the coyotes, the large male bison decided to make his way across the road right in front of our truck!
As Donetta panicked hoping it wouldn't ram us, it slowly walked right next to my mirror and looked at me with a sparkle in its eye. I could've reached out the driver window to pet it.
It was like he was saying it would be all good and in the end, it certainly was. It might have not been the elusive bear or moose, but I'm extremely thankful.
Onto Old Faithful and Yellowstone Lake
As I said before, timing this day was impeccable. We arrived at Old Faithful and quickly found a parking spot and walked up to Old Faithful just a few minutes before it erupted. The geyser itself was an incredible site but the rewards for me were no waiting or sitting in traffic.
Yellowstone Lake was absolutely captivating. The sheer size and colors of the lake will make you stand in awe. There is a trail that loops around to the waters edge and past several hot springs. I really wanted to go skinny dipping in the cerulean blue waters but due to local laws and Donetta's scathing glare, I opted to avoid jail time and the dog house. :)
Wildfires could've derailed our plans.
Thankfully for us and unfortunately for others, we avoided a large wildfire burning through the park. As we made our way back from Lake Yellowstone and south on 191, roads were being shut down and access was denied due to the fire. Since we were on our way to Grand Teton National Park and were finished visiting Yellowstone National Park, we escaped the madness and danger. For the hundreds of visitors heading north into the park, they were likely disappointed.
The Grand Finale! Grand Tetons National Park.
As with the rest of the drive, our route toward Grand Tetons National Park was fulfilling. The beauty that surrounded us was almost too much to take in. But the mountains is where it's at.
The Grand Teton makes up three peaks and was called "Les Trois Tetons" by early French trappers. It means "The Three Breasts" with the tallest being called "The Big Tit." Now this is something I can get behind. LOL! Regardless of its name, it's hard to not take your eyes off the peaks. See what I did there?
OK, back to my review.
Driving through the main roads of Grand Teton National Park is easy with no deathly mountain passes and it is fantastic for photo opportunities or selfies. You can soak in the views and connect with nature in a truly meaningful way.
Our biggest regret was not planning more time while visiting Yellowstone National Park.For a variety of reasons we had to keep trucking on. Two days is not enough to explore the park and the places around it.
If you're planning on taking a vacation to YNP then we suggest you plan for 4-5 days if you want to see and enjoy all of its treasures.
Donetta and I are planning to return next year and this time we'll be better prepared. But even if we don't make it back soon for some reason, I will never forget this experience and will cherish those moments forever.