Day 10 of 11: Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks
Posted by joeabbott on July 8, 2014
While Yellowstone was an interest for us as a stop along the way home, it wasn’t clear that seeing the park would be built-in to our drive until we really started reviewing our plans. That is, while other parks were near the freeways and highways along our route, both Grand Teton and Yellowstone are around the freeways and highways! If you’re heading along Hwy 287, you will enter both Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks!
Good for us that, many days earlier when we entered Glacier National Park, we purchased the America the Beautiful: National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass. Yeah, not sure why they didn’t just call it the US National Park Pass, but regardless the name, we got one. And it more than paid for itself in fee savings!
The plan was not ambitious: get into Grand Teton, see what there was to see, and then get up to Yellowstone. We had about 3.5 hours of driving to get through after leaving Yellowstone, so we told ourselves we would need to clear the park by 6PM to avoid being too wiped out for that day. We had about 70 miles from where we stayed to get to Grand Teton, the two parks are nearly adjacent (about 30 miles apart), and Missoula (where we had a room reserved that night) was a bit more than 250 miles from Yellowstone.
Time to get into the day!
The first thing we noticed on waking was that the rainy weather returned. It wasn’t dumping, like it had been when we visited Glacier National Park a week and a half earlier, but it was disappointing nonetheless. That said, the temps were pleasant and not nearly as cold and we were game for walking about.
The approach on US-287S to Grand Teton National Park is amazing; the top pictures above came from simple roadside pull-outs. Once into the Park, you get some stunning views, too, but it’s hard to ignore a first impression!
While in the Park, we didn’t spend a lot of time … maybe an hour and a half. Part of that time was sitting through a talk on John Colter and the famed Colter Stone. While both were interesting, it was a smaller slice of Park history and information than we were after, so we found time for pulling out a few more times, some easy walks, and then we headed on for our next stop.
We spent more than our budget of time here but we didn’t spend nearly enough time here!
There are swift rivers flowing through deep gorges, there are waterfalls of staggering beauty, you see all sorts of animals, and the natural wonders! Colors and shapes and the geysers! It’s a lot to take in as a drive-by, but we did just that: took it in and drove by. A sad injustice to such a wonderful place.
All that is very fine, however, if you want people … well, just come to this “wilderness” area! Oy vey! The people! At one point we were within spitting distance of Old Faithful geyser … and while we’d seen the geysers of Iceland, seeing more weren’t on our “must see list” … so we took the turn-off for parking. Then we threaded through a long set of roads, then through some long parking lots, then past several gift shops, stores, and other buildings, and then just continued on. It was like seeing a Disney attraction and our hearts weren’t into that sort of experience.
So, while our morale was a bit bruised, we drove a bit further on, pulled down a curiously quiet little lane, and parked alongside an active thermal pool area and saw it spouting and spraying and generally giving us a private show. It was very nice.
Upon entering the park we pulled out at every turn-off and enjoyed every little sight or view. Lovely!
We saw a lot of folks at Lewis Falls, which was a little surprising as they weren’t jaw-dropping. But, a very nice 30’ drop to say the least.
As we threaded through the Park, we crossed the Continental Divide any number of times and, most of the time, I had to get out and pose. Loved it. Wish I’d done this the entire trip … I missed a couple!
In my words
Then on to Grand Teton NP. Rain started before we hit the park but low clouds gave a drmatic look to the Grand Teton Range.
On the way to Yellowstone National Park we stopped many times and took many pictures.
Yellowstone is phenomenal.
We’ve seen the tiniest slice but continued to stop to enjoy the wonders. After many marvels we had a lunch of apples, cheese, and some crackers. We loved the views, sounds, and smells.
I’m not sure where our time went in Yellowstone; sitting on a bench, lakeside, outside a lodge; the tiniest of naps by the geyser pools; the many stops to take a picture, read a plaque, or enjoy a sight. By the time we left Yellowstone, it was an hour later than our cut-off time. We drove the long miles to Missoula, our final hotel, before the last leg home.