How did we pick this trip? Cam and I had so much fun on our hiking trip in Arizona that we wanted to do something similar. Our original plan was The Mighty 5 in Utah, but when looking at flight prices and other accomodations, we opted to visit these two magnificent parks!
We left on a Friday and flew from Tampa to Salt Lake City via Southwest Airlines. Our connecting flight out of Phoenix ended up being delayed so we didn’t arrive in SLC until around 5:00 PM. Our good friends, Brett and Carolyn, were with us and Carolyn used her Hertz points to rent our car for free! They gave us a Chevy Traverse which ended up being perfect for 4 people and 4 suitcases. Instead of staying the night and taking it easy after a long day of travel, we went straight to West Yellowstone (about a 5 hour drive). Thank goodness for Carolyn and her determination! She drove the whole way. We made it to Moose Creek Inn around 11:00 PM and all went straight to bed! http://www.moosecreekinn.com
The easiest way to visit West Yellowstone is to fly into the Bozeman, MT airport (BZN). Again, when looking at prices and flight options, we chose SLC. It was a much longer drive, but we all had Southwest points to use and they don’t fly into BZN.
The next morning we were feeling refreshed and ready to see Yellowstone! We had breakfast and bought boxed lunches from Ernie’s http://erniesbakery.com, ran around like crazy Floridians when flurries started falling, filled up the gas tank, and were off to the park! *Brett packed a hot/cold bag to keep our lunches in throughout the day with a bag of ice from the hotel.*
The entrance fee for Yellowstone is $35 per car and is valid for an entire week. You could also use your America the Beautiful Pass! The ranger will let you know of any road closings so be flexible with which routes you want to take each day if visiting at the beginning of the season like we did. The route we were planning to take had a road closed due to snow so we went with plan B and saw all of the geysers on day 1.
It was cold and snowy/rainy but that made the steam on all of the geysers extra dramatic and really cool to see! We also had the opportunity to see some bison and elk up close.
After seeing Old Faithful, we called it a day around 2:30 PM and started making our way back to Moose Creek to catch up on a little sleep. We all napped for a bit and then went out to walk the shops and have dinner at Madison Crossing http://www.madisoncrossinglounge.com. We all ordered different meals and appetizers to try. My favorite were the bison nachos and bison meatloaf!
The next day, we started at Ernie’s again for breakfast and our boxed lunches. Then we decided to make our way all the way to Lamar Valley. There were tons of beautiful stops along the way so it took us a few hours to get there.
Lamar Valley is known for animal viewing. But what we found out is that you need to be there EARLY and be willing to stay in the same spot all day long and hope for the best. We thought it would be easier than that because we were spoiled by our African Safari trip. You also need a good scope or camera lens because not every sighting will be close. Our 200 mm lenses were really sad compared to the gear we saw! We were lucky enough to see a sleeping black bear on the way, so it was still a great day for us!
We enjoyed the gorgeous views of the valley and then started to make our way back, with lots of pit stops in between.
We got back to Moose Creek around 4:00 PM and followed our same routine. Quick nap (for me at least) then out to dinner at Wild West Pizza so that we could watch a hockey game. https://wildwestpizza.com
On our 3rd day in the park, we took the route that had been closed on Saturday but was now open. There was so much snow so we now understood why it had been closed! We didn’t have an itinerary or destination in mind. We just drove around and stopped for all of the pretty views.
At one point in the day, we saw a lot of cars pulled over and big scopes and cameras set up. We pulled over and asked a gentleman what they were looking at. He let us all look through his scope and we were able to see a mama grizzly and one of her cubs! *Tip: those with scopes are more approachable and talkative. The folks with large cameras are most likely working.*
We ended our day around 4:00 PM again and had dinner at Taqueria Las Palmitas https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g45399-d1861294-Reviews-Taqueria_Las_Palmitas-West_Yellowstone_Montana.html – It was a nice and sunny afternoon so perfect opportunity to sit outside and try this taco bus! It was delicious! After dinner we walked around to a few more shops and then ended our night at Arrowleaf Ice Cream. The ice cream is made fresh when you order and soooooo good! My recommendation is vanilla and huckleberry. My husband is usually all about chocolate but he wouldn’t stop stealing mine! https://m.facebook.com/pages/biz/Arrowleaf-Ice-Cream-Yogurt-Shop-197436476348/
On our final day, we checked out of Moose Creek, had breakfast and ordered boxed lunches, then started making our way to Grand Teton through Yellowstone.
We stayed in Jackson at the Rustic Inn for our two nights at Grand Teton. It was only 20 minutes from the park entrance, really nice, just a few minutes from downtown Jackson, and included breakfast. https://rusticinnatjh.com
We didn’t check in until around 4:00 PM so we all unpacked, got settled, and then got a ride to the square for shopping and dinner at Hatch Taqueria. It was Taco Tuesday! Cam and I each ordered two different tacos and Mexican street corn. All were delicious! http://www.hatchjh.com
The next morning, we had a float tour with Solitude Float Tours. It was a very relaxing trip with amazing views. And we were finally able to see a MOOSE! This was a huge deal to Carolyn and me because we have looked for moose in many states and never had any luck. https://www.grand-teton-scenic-floats.com
After the tour, we ate our sandwiches from Creekside Market and we drove to the Lupine trailhead for Hidden Falls. Just a little ways into the hike, we saw baby bears in the distance! It was so much fun to sit and watch them.
We all loved this hike and recommend! After we got back to the hotel and everyone was ready for dinner, we made our way to Snake River Brewing. We ordered apps and dessert to start (you HAVE to get the cream puffs). http://www.snakeriverbrewing.com
Then we walked around town for a bit and eventually ended up at Moe’s Original BBQ for good food and shuffleboard. One platter was PLENTY for Cam and I to share since we had already had apps and dessert earlier. http://moes-original-bbq-jackson.business.site
On Thursday morning, we woke up early and did the Taggart Lake Trail and got to see a mama and baby moose! Our favorite part of the hike was seeing the mountain reflection on the lake so go early to catch it. After we were back and ready to go, we started our 5 hour trek back to Salt Lake City!
Snake River Roadhouse in Swan Valley was a good stopping point for lunch and a stretch break. http://www.srroadhouse.com
We stayed at an Airbnb for the night, ordered pizza, and watched hockey.
On Friday morning, it was back to Tampa!