In June 2018 Mike and I embarked on 2000+ mile road trip with our beloved aframe pop-up trailer to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. We made our camping reservations more than 6 months in advance which I'd recommend. We chose early June to avoid the worst of the summer crowds with the hope that the snow would be gone from the places we wanted to visit and that there would be lots of babies. We were blessed with lots of babies and for the most part roads were open but several of the hikes we were looking forward to (Mt. Washburn and Boiling River near Mammoth) were off limits. As always, I figure anything I miss one trip is an excuse to return. You can click on the photos for a larger version and see a complete set of our photos HERE.
Here's our route, not counting driving in around the parks themselves:
We drove more than 600 miles the 1st day through gorgeous scenery and camped our 1st night in the campground at Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park in Montana - a friendly place with lots of birds and clean bathrooms with showers.
The next morning we drove a few miles up the road to the visitor center for the Lewis and Clark Caverns and completed a switchback hike of about 3/4 mile to the cave entrance; hike and tour included we passed 2.5 happy hours.
The 2 hour drive south to West Yellowstone was scenic and passed quickly. We stopped for a picnic lunch and fly shop questions in Ennis and saw a moose as we left town.
After a quick stop for maps, an annual parks pass, and fishing permits at the visitor center in West Yellowstone, we headed east into the park and camped our 1st 4 nights in the Madison Campground near Madison Junction.
The campground is large and wooded, has bathrooms but no electricity or showers, and the area features good wildlife spotting and the convergence of the Fire Hole, Gibbon, and Madison Rivers. Mike enjoyed several mornings and evenings flyfishing.
To the south are many of the most popular geothermal features of the park in the Upper, Midway, and Lower Geyser Basins.
Great Fountain Geyser
Old Faithful (do you see her face?!)
Grand Prismatic Spring (a favorite!)
Every 2 days we took a nice hike starting with this 4 mile Mystic Falls Loop.
To the north of Madison Junction is the Norris Geyser Basin (Porcelain Basin featured here)
and the Mammoth Hot Springs complex.
I like to look for novels based in the places we travel and Mike and I read 'Alpha Female' during our Yellowstone stay. Dozens of times we were rewarded with sites and references from the book including this stone house where the main character lived within site of the Liberty Cap.
Cow elk with twins
Our hike in the Mammoth areas was the 5.5 mile Beaver Ponds Loop which gained a lot of altitude and passed through a variety of ecosystems.
On our way in we passed a family who had seen a grizzly bear in this marshy area; we kept our bear spray handy but didn't see him or her.
Another part of the park we enjoyed was the stretch either side of Tower Junction and up the Lamar Valley. We spent several evenings driving and watching the hillsides for wildlife.
Highlights including pronghorn antelope
Huge herds of bison with rambunctious babies
a golden eagle nest
this mama black bear with triplets
and these big horn sheep families on the cliffs across the Yellowstone River.
We spent our last 2 nights in Yellowstone at the Canyon Campground (includes a voucher shower and laundry facility) near the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.
The area south of Canyon Junction is another terrific wildlife viewing spot, especially the Hayden Valley.
The hike we did in this area was the 3.5 mile Elephant Back Loop with gorgeous views over Yellowstone Lake.
We got an early start heading south toward Grand Teton our final day and stopped along the way when we saw groups of cars at pullouts to see what they were spotting. A wolf!
We asked where people had spotted grizzly bears and a well-informed kind soul showed us a spot on the map near Sedge Bay SE of Fishing Bridge. We were rewarded with more than an hour of fantastic bear watching - this 3 year old female cub on the hillside to the right of the road who was recently kicked out by mom
and mom and a huge boar on the hillside to the left. Icing on the cake!
We drove south out of Yellowstone and into Grand Teton National Park, stopping for 1 night in the RV park at Colter Bay Village. It was a well-located base but our least favorite place to camp (good store, visitor center, and coin operated shower/laundry facility near by).
It poured overnight but the forecast called for clearing. As we drove south toward Jenny lake we stopped for photos as the Tetons started showing themselves.
We hiked around the south side of Jenny lake to Hidden Falls and Lower Inspiration Point, then took a shuttle boat back to the east side of the lake.
We had so little time in Teton NP and it is so beautiful - we started planning a return trip during the hike.
Near Jackson we met up with a close friend of our daughter's and her kids, value added.
Our last night before driving back to Oregon we stayed in the campground at Massacre Rocks State Park, so named because the narrow passage for Oregon Trail wagons made them 'sitting ducks' for attacks by justifiably threatened Native Americans. We loved the campground on the beautiful Snake River (nice bathroom and shower facilities).
Such a happy, memorable trip! I wish everyone in the US could make a trip to these amazing national treasures. HAPPY TRAILS!