It has been a record-setting year for visitors to Yellowstone, and we were on the fence about braving the crowds up until the day before we decided to go. However, being a Wyoming native, I could not bear the thought of spending time around several entrances to the Park and not taking Bird.
Because we were staying in eastern Idaho, we planned a long loop through Grand Teton National Park, up through the western side of Yellowstone, and exiting through West Yellowstone before heading back south to our campground.
Approaching from the west toward Jackson, we had the pleasure of seeing the “backside” of the Tetons before even reaching the park. It was strange seeing the mountains from an unfamiliar angle, but they were just as beautiful as you would imagine.
As we pulled into Jackson, Will and I were both questioning our choices for the day. The town square was packed. What would this mean for the rest of our day? Luckily, we had not planned on stopping in town, so we made our way through as quickly as possible and headed toward the Park.
To relive a childhood memory, we stopped to get some cookies at Dornan’s Store in Moose, Wyoming. The parking lot was bustling, but we arrived right around lunchtime, so it was not a huge surprise. We managed to find a parking spot, picked up some cookies, and Bird and I took a little walk down a trail just to stretch our legs.
Because we were traveling with Daisy, we knew heading into this adventure that our day would be mostly confined to the truck, but this fit well with our plans for the day, which included lots of driving to get everything in. We were impressed with the information provided at the Yellowstone gate about where dogs were and were not allowed. Of all of our visits to National Parks, this is the only 1 where we received any guidance on pets (aside from the research done before our visits to ensure we knew the rules). So, knowing we were limited, we made sure to take advantage of several stops along the way to get Bird out to run around.
Shortly after going through the gate into the Park, we parked at a pull-off with amazing views of the Tetons. The pull-off was surprisingly not terribly busy, so we took our time eating our picnic lunch and soaking in the views. Bird wanted to wander all the way to the mountains, but we instead meandered down the trails for only a few hundred yards before heading back to the truck.
We attempted to stop at Jenny Lake, but this is where we saw the worst crowds of the day. People were parked nearly a mile from the visitor’s center, so we did not even try to make it happen. The Colter Bay visitor’s center was right up the road and was far less crowded.
Once we arrived in Yellowstone, we really did not encounter many crowds. We stopped briefly at Grant Village and then at Old Faithful. As we were finding a parking spot at Old Faithful, we saw the geyser erupting in the distance and it started raining. Both of these factors definitely limited the crowds. One of my goals of the trip was to take Bird into the lodge at Old Faithful, so she and I braved the rain (we of course had her raincoat packed but nary a coat or umbrella for mama) and took a little walk. The visitor’s center was temporarily closed due to a power outage, but we went into the lodge, walked around the second-floor balcony, then made our way back to the truck.
Before stopping at a picnic area for dinner, we drove through Firehole Canyon, which is not something I ever remembered doing, so it was exciting to experience a new part of the Park. There is truly so much to experience!
Throughout our drive, we saw very little wildlife. In fact, we saw 1 bison for a brief second when it lifted its head up from where it was laying in tall grass and laid back down, and we thought that might be it. However, as we were getting close to the West Entrance, we saw a large herd of elk along the river. We were able to stop and observe the elk for a few minutes, and it was such a beautiful sight.
West Yellowstone was another area of bustling activity, but we quickly made our turns through town and headed back into the wilderness.
Even though there were pockets of crowds, we did not experience some of the horror stories we had heard of other visitors to Grand Teton and Yellowstone this summer. The traffic was manageable, and we felt more than comfortable going into the few places we wanted to visit and found decent parking when needed.
I think our visit landed in a bit of a lull between the July 4th holiday and the final summer vacation push in August, and we had the most enjoyable day exploring both Grand Teton and Yellowstone. I am so glad we were able to share this place with Bird, and it only made me want to return more when she is older and we can truly explore the ins and outs of the park (sorry Daisy, we may have to go without you next time).