Yellowstone Park and the Neighboring West Yellowstone

This long anticipated trip to the Nation's premier park did not disappoint. And a lot of the fun can be found next door in West Yellowstone, Mt.

Day 3: Yellowstone

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by two cruisers on March 24, 2012

This, our last day in Yellowstone was abbreviated. We were driving from West Yellowstone to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The drive in was enjoyable, there is still a thrill the first time you see steam rising our of the thremal grounds. We stopped for lunch at the Old Faithful Inn. This time we found the small parking lot directly in front of it and easily found a parking spot. Good tip! Lunch was as good as our first stop here. I sincerely think that you could stay a week here at the Inn, walk out once or twice a day to view Old Faithful, take the yellow bus tour and eat your meals at the offerings in Old Faithful and without a car, have a delightful stay. Of course I haven't factored in the price of a room here which we heard is quite high. Before leaving the village we stopped at the large gift shops. In one a local artist was selling jewelry made from area found polished stones. Nice to find something from the heart of the area.
Heading to the South Entrance, we crossed the Continental divide several times. At one crossing we stopped to look at a lovely water lily pond. That surprised us to find these flowers at this elevation. We also stopped to looke at the damaged caused by the 1988 Forest Fire. At this point the fire was so intense it jumped over the Lewis River Canyon. So much more to see and do. Wish we hadn't put this trip off so long. When we were younger we would have enjoyed the many trails.
Yellowstone National Park
Headwaters of the Yellowstone River
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, 82190
(307) 344-7381

Old Snaggletooth is Waiting for You

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by two cruisers on March 24, 2012

As soon as the doors opened we entered this museum. It was our last day in West Yellowstone and we had put it off too long. This excellant little museum is housed in a former railroad station. The railroad is what really opened the area up to tourism. There is a variety of exhibits, some noteworthy, one dull as dirt. Starting out we were greeted by Old Snaggletooth a famous grizzly bear now dead and stuffed. He was well known in these parts for many years and was easily recognized by his misaligned teeth, missing toes, torn ears, and mangy coat. He was enormous. Once Yellowstone was discovered, people started arriving in whatever means worked. We saw pack mule and horses. Every thing packed in had to be packed out, too. Tourists arriving on the train in West Yellowstone, then took a three day stagecoach ride into the Old Faithful area. Eventually roads were opened up for autos and one display showed us the advent of plane travel. Displayed were, the means of transportation and the clothing (uniforms) people wore. Very educational and interesting.
There are three movies to watch in seperate theater rooms. The first one we watched was deadly dull. It told of the Anniversary Train, organized to celebrate a cross country train ride ending at the park. It was a little tedious and self agrrandizing...but probably wonderful for the people who took part in it. Next film was about the Earthquake of 1959. Lots of B&W footage and during the science end of it we saw others leave the theater. We found it interesting. The real crowd pleaser was the third film on the Fire of 1988. Standing room only for that show. It told the story well and with real footage, not special effects. The museum is organized well and should be of intrest to all ages.
Yellowstone Historic Center and Museum
Yellowstone Avenue
West Yellowstone, Montana, 59758

Day 2: Yellowstone

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by two cruisers on March 22, 2012

Road construction again this morning with no elk to excite us. A Park Ranger was stationed alongside the road. Rumor had it that a moose and mooseling were in the vacinity, but we didn't see them. The Ranger was packing heat, don't know if that was to protect the public from moose stompings or to protect the moose from the tourist. We are entertaining the thought of staying inside the park next time. At Madison we turned north. The main attraction between here and Mammoth Hot Springs are thermal grounds. Some of my photos look like the aftermath of a forest fire, but actually it is steam venting through the ground and giving a very spooky look to the forest. The grasses aound the boiling stream had a pinkish cast. I think they must be colored by a similiar bacteria to what we saw at the geysers, yesterday. The place we stopped had a very long walk up a slope and then up a hill to a boiling stream. This is truly worth the walk. But at that point Bill returned to the car. I started up the hill, but soon turned back. This altitude business is rough on low landers.
Another stop we made was at the Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces. They do not have the beauty of other thermal ground areas. Perhaps it is because they are so large, there isn't contrast with normal grassy covered land. Glad we drove the loop, but doing the walks seemed like a lot of walking for little change in scenery.
Lunch stop in Mammoth Hot Springs provided the rest and hydration we needed. We found a fast food economical place the Terrace Grille. It was very popular and very crowded. Be patient, you don't have many other choices and it tasted good. Next door was a gift shop that also sold some food treats. We walked down to the Hotel shop about a block away. Shopping was limited, but we got to inspect one of those yellow Yellowstone Tour Buses up close. Sure looks like fun. All and all, Mammoth Hot Springs isn't hopping with activity like Old Faithful. I doubt if we would come this way again...except...its how you get to the Lamar Valley.
We had been told Lamar Valley was where the bears and bison hang out. We needed to be there early in the day for the bears, but boy-o-boy did we see bison! At our first sighting we bailed out of the car practically before it stopped running, camera in hand I took position and shot off a series of pictures. Reviewing them it looked like a small fleck of brown in the open field. We had been warned not to get close, but this was way to far away, Back to the car, we went just a few miles down the road and traffic was stopped on the roadway. Bison were everywhere. It was almost as if the head bison was a conductor on a train moving from car to car to punch our tickets. (Conductors did that when I rode trains in my youth, don't suppose that happens now!). It was an exciting afternoon. Bison frolicked, sauntered, played statues, and even wallowed in the dust for our entertainment.
Still searching for the paintpots that I was so impressed with in my 1958 trip, we drove toward Canyon Village and beyond. Took a waterfall break at Tower Falls. That was so pretty. We had considered going to the more popular falls up the road, but the parking lot was dangerously full. The highway we were on took us over the highest point in the park. It was very interesting to see how the change between forested areas and above the tree line. We did find the Mud Volcano and Sulfur Caldron. They were interesting but not as pretty as what I remembered. Someone suggested they may have been transformed by the Big Earthquake or disappeared. I looked for a Ranger to tell me but apparently they are all out on moose protection duty.
We didn't walk as much today, but we covered lots of territory and gratefully returned to West Yellowstone and a good nights rest.

Yellowstone National Park
Headwaters of the Yellowstone River
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, 82190
(307) 344-7381

Day 1: Yellowstone

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by two cruisers on March 21, 2012

My last trip to Yellowstone National Park was in 1958. I know they have had an major earthquake and a gigantic forest fire since then, but I wasn't prepared for all the changes.The Park is huge and should not be hurried through. Of course bumper to bumper road traffic thru construction zone entering the park wasn't what I had in mind for lingering. But lets face it folks, they only have a few months a year to repair roads and it happens to coincide with when tourists want to be on the roads. Be patient, and look for animals while stalled in traffic. Our first day we saw elk in the Madison River Valley. The drive in from West Yellowstone was lovely and we could see the distruction to the forests from both the famous earthquake and the forest fire.
At Madison we turned South and drove to Old Faithful. Even starting out as early as we did it was difficult to find a parking place. At last we parked near some Yurts...very good landmark. We walked from there to the geyeser Old Faithful. We had just missed an eruption, so we wandered over to the Old Faithful Inn. They have a clock in the lobby that predicts the next eruption within 10 minutes. How convienent! We took the wait time to admire this fantastic building. Rugged, spacious, and constructed with flourishes that only nature can contribute. By that I mean the curved limbs from logs forming supports. At the deli we bought coffee and muffins that we took out to the front porch to eat. While waiting there we enjoyed watching the foot traffic and vehicles in the drop-off zone. Bill was particularly interested inthe yellow Yellowstone Tour Bus. Unique to this park, these vehicles take guest on tours of the park. Next trip we're going to do that!
We wandered over to the big guy geyser early to make sure we had a front fow seat. A little prarie dog joined us for awhile. So, cute and so tame. Soon the benches all around us filled and just as the eruption started a group of people came and stood in front of us!!!! Their guide did finally get them to sit down on the curb, but they still were annoying. We did benefit from hearing the running dialogue of the guide in front of us and another off to the side. Old Faithful was faithful. We were given a modest performance, but it was greeted with cheers and lots of camera clicks. Later in the day we saw a more dramatic display.
Lunch time took us back to the Old Faithful Inn were we ate in their dining room. Waiting to be seated we gleaned information about where to find bison and bear from the family standing in line in front of us. Folks are generally very nice and love to talk about what they have seen and done. The restaurant is in a newer but not new addition to the Inn. We had no trouble finding good selections on the menu. The tables were seperated enough to allow easy movement. Servers where courteous and friendly. Yup, we would be coming back here before we left the area.
After lunch I took a brief pass through the Visitors Center. It had good displays to explain the thermal activity and other natural wonders of the area. Leaving we looked for the Yurts and our car. Our afternoon was spent in the Biscuit Basin, Midway Geyeser Basin, and the Grand Prismatic Spring. It was warm out, and there were long walks between geysers, so half way through the afternoon, Bill took to bench sitting. I admitted I had to bench sit occasionally to rest between sections of the boardwalk trails. Altitude is the main culprit. Be prepared for it. Keep hydrated. Wear a hat and sungasses. And make sure that hat doesn't blow off because there are winds up here. The Park Service does a very good job of posting a map of the area at the trailhead. That gave us the opportunity to judge our physical capabilites for the area. The joy of seeing those first startling colorful basins or pools sneaks up on you. I've never heard so many adults exclaiming "Oh, Wow!" The boardwalks are solid and safe. Use caution is some wet areas as they can be slippery for some shoes. I was expecting the beauty of the colorful pools, I was surprised by the beauty of the run-off area of the Grand Prismatic Spring. Its appearance of roof tiles or terraced land under clear water was awesome. I think I kept repeating out loud, "just look at that!".
It was wonderful day. As we drove back to West Yellowstone we watched another work of nature as a dramatic storm approached.
Yellowstone National Park
Headwaters of the Yellowstone River
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, 82190
(307) 344-7381

Habitat Viewing without Fear

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by two cruisers on March 20, 2012

I talked my husband into going to the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center the night before we entered the park. I said we should go just in case we didn't see any critters in the park. Very wise decision. These were the only living bears and wolves we saw on our Yellowstone Adventure. When you enter the building there is a small exhibit area that we just did a nominal walk-through. As a graphic designer by profession, I was ashamed that I didn't linger over this display. However, we wanted to get out to see the animals before it got stormy. As it turned out the storm held off, but we were so interested in watching the animals, we forgot to return to the display. Our tickets were good for 2 consecutive days. I think that is a good selling point. The best selling point is the opportunity to watch wolves in their habitat and bears in their habitat from a safe position. There are actually two packs of wolves. From a rustic looking Naturalist Cabin you can watch one or the other back through floor-to-ceiling windows. Scattered about in the wolf habitats are skeletal remains picked clean. We did not see them being fed, but I assurme that are not given live animals to kill for our entertainment. I think the bones we saw were stage dressing. The wolves seemed alert at all times, one resting while others scouted. In the cabin we watched a long video about wolves wintering in the park. Throughout the day special events helped educate the crowd as to various aspects of the wildlife. The one event we watched was called Kid Keepers. Children 5-12 are gathered in a group, given instructions and then led into the Grizzly habitat. Yes, the bears had been cleared out! Each child is given a small pail (beach toy size) with some kind of food that bears really like. We are talking fruits and veggies and possibly Purina Bear Chow. The kids were allowed to scamper all over the habitat hiding the food under rocks and downed tree branches, hiding in clumps of grass and covered with sand. Then the kids and empty pails were carefully counted and marched out of the combound to a special viewing platform. From here they could observe the bears without nasty, inconsiderate, camera weilding adults jumping in front of them. That day the bears that were turned loose in the habitat were twins rescued from Alaska. Sam weighed in at 1,000lbs and his sister Illie weighed 750 lbs.
Most of the bears are here because they had become nuisance bears or garbage can bears. Often they are orphans. The twins found every hidden morsel and were quick about it. As we left the Habitat area we stopped to look at about a dozen or more garbage cans that had been ripped open by Grizzly bears...and some of them were labeled "bear-proof". Ha! For those of you with mobility problems, don't be afraid to visit this place. All the paths are negotiable for walkers, wheelchairs, and the slow of gate. Benches are provided and elevated platforms with a rail to lean on for those who have trouble seeing over crowds. All and all a well thought out arrangement. We did a turn around the gift shop which was geared to items children could buy for a souvenir. I would definately return to this well run attraction.
Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center
201 South Canyon
West Yellowstone, Montana, 59758
(800) 257-2570

Part Casino, Part Bar, Part Restaurant

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by two cruisers on March 19, 2012

Looking for food we were surprised to find slot machines and a well stocked bar, but eventually we found our way to the restaurant. We were given a large booth with a view of a miniture railroad train circling the room. Found out later it goes all the way outside and follows the sidewalk canopy as part of its circuit. Of course there were moose as part of the decor. I had prime rib sliders that were excellant. Bill had a hamburger and we split a truly yummy three layer lemon, lemon cream and meringue pie. The entire dessert menu sounded wonderful. Prices were high, but we are catching on that with West Yellowstone's short tourist season, they make the most of it.
115 North Canyon Street
West Yellowstone, Montana, 59758
(406) 646-7974

Good Location except for Wi-Fi

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by two cruisers on March 19, 2012

Our room was very spacious. Thats a good quality when you are staying multiple days. We had a fridge and microwave, table and 2 chairs, desk and rolling chair, there was room to leave the ironing board up to serve as an additional counterspace. We did call maintainence to repair the desk chair and by the time we came back to the room it had been replaced with a functioning chair. Beds and bathroom were in good condition. The free breakfast was well stocked hot and cold food, but the tables were very crowded. Service desk did their best with the many complaints about the Wi-Fi service. Travelors these days depend on computer access to research the day's sight-seeing spots, find restaurants, find activiies and reserve things down the road. Unfortunately our hotel had just "upgraded" their system and it had lots of glitches. To be fair, I would stay there again because surely it would be fixed by now. The hotel parking lot had a rear exit. Turn right and within two blocks you were at the Yellowstone Park entrance. Very convienent. Restaurants were next door, and across the street. It was just two-three blocks to a terrific museum, street of shops and the wolf and bear reserve.
Best Western Desert Inn
133 N Canyon Street
West Yellowstone, Montana, 59758

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