Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Grand Teton & Yellowstone Trip

Where to even begin when it comes to recapping my amazing trip up to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone?

I guess with the fact that I spent the first 4 days completely solo. That was new. No one else was with me, I just headed up there and explored on my own. I slept in my car at a different campsite each night traveling around the parks. And I'm not going to lie, I kind of loved it. I could do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, all on my time. I was definitely ready for a real bed and an indoor shower by the 5th night though (and people to talk to!) when my mom and brother arrived and we spent the remaining few nights in Jackson, Wyoming.

All in all, I was pretty happy with my explorations of Yellowstone. I truly felt like I got to see ALL of the park and didn't leave feeling like I missed anything (with the exception of one trail that was closed - but that was out of my control!). As for Grand Teton National Park - I definitely drove the entire park and saw all of the major sites, but I do wish I could've gotten some more back country hiking in. It was early in the season though (so lots of snow still) and since I was solo I was very nervous of bears (every trail had at least 5+ signs about how you should "travel in groups of 3 or more" to avoid bears). So I ended up opting for a long road run on my one day in Grand Teton National Park instead of hitting the trails. It was a tough decision, but I've come to peace with it. This area is only 7 1/2 hours from me, so maybe someday I can get back up there with Scott to get some good hiking in (plus with my 100 Miler in LESS THAN 3 months, I needed the long run!).

So without further ado, I'm going to briefly recap each day followed by, quite possibly, a million corresponding pictures. I don't want to bore you with too much writing, so I've also put an asterisk (*) next to anything I loved or would consider a "must see" thing to do if you're ever visiting the parks! And, in case you're wondering, my recap of the Grand Teton Half Marathon will be in another post, soon forthcoming.

SUNDAY 5/29/2016:

This was actually Scott and I's 5 year anniversary! Can't believe it's been that long. I felt bad leaving on the actual day, but he was nice enough to encourage me to go. We did have a nice breakfast together at IHOP before I hit the road around 9am and made my way up to northern Wyoming. With only one brief stop in Rock Springs to stretch the legs and use the rest room, I landed in Jackson around 4:15. I quickly made my way up to the Grand Teton National Park visitor's center where I got a park map and asked about camping and for directions to Mormon Row - the main stop I had planned for the day (where the historic Moulton barns are). After stopping at Mormon Row, I made my way north up to Flagg Ranch where I stayed for my first night of car camping.

After 7 1/2 hours of solo driving, I finally made it!
One of the famous Moulton Barns at Mormon Row


My "mobile" home for the week! If I was one inch taller, I wouldn't have fit...

MONDAY 5/30/2016:

Whew, where to start with this one. This was my most exhausting day by far. I guess I was just so excited to be there and I wanted to see and do as much as I could. I woke up nice and early at about 5:30am. Took a quick shower and hit the road towards Yellowstone, where I started my clockwise loop of the park and checked out the following:
  • Old Faithful Area / Upper Geyser Basin*
  • Biscuit Basin (hiked to Mystic Falls)
  • Grand Prismatic Spring*
  • Norris Geyser Basin*
  • West Yellowstone, Montana
  • #AllTheBison

Old Faithful

Morning Glory Pool
Mystic Falls
Grand Prismatic Spring

So many Bison - even babies!!
Just hanging out with some Bison. NBD.
Norris Geyser Basin
Just about drove into this guy on Monday night!

TUESDAY 5/31/2016:

Since Monday was a pretty exhausting day (I ended up walking/hiking 14 miles!), I took Tuesday a little bit easier, and saw a lot more from the car as opposed to on foot. I woke up at 6:30 this time and continued my way around the park, seeing the following:

  • Mammoth Terraces*
  • Historic Fort Yellowstone
  • Gardiner, MT / Roosevelt Arch
  • TWO Bears (from the road)!
  • Lamar Valley
  • Tower Falls
  • Dunraven Pass
  • Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone - North Rim*
  • Hayden Valley
  • Mud Volcano
The road north to Mammoth!
Mammoth Terraces

Historic Fort Yellowstone
Roosevelt Arch
Bears and Antelope!

The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
Overlooking the Lower Falls (from the North Rim)
Lower Falls

Elk in Hayden Valley

WEDNESDAY 6/1/2016:

When I drove over Dunraven Pass on Tuesday, I stopped off at the parking lot for Mt. Washburn - the highest point in Yellowstone and a popular hiking trail. I was happy to see that the parking lot was very full - meaning lots of people were hiking it despite the amount of snow still on it. It was already 4:00 by the time I arrived that day, so I decided if I had time I would try to hike it the next day (which thankfully I did!). 
  • Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone - South Rim*
  • Artists Paint Pots (I missed this on my first day and had some extra time, so I went over and checked this area out real quick).
  • Mt. Washburn Hike*
  • Fishing Bridge
  • Yellowstone Lake / Lake Butte Overlook
  • West Thumb Geyser Basin*
  • Drove back to Grand Teton N.P. where I camped at Signal Mountain Campground for the night

Lower Falls from Artists Point on the South Rim

The Upper Falls
Artists Paint Pots
Hike to the top of Mt. Washburn
Views from the top of Mt. Washburn (highest point in Yellowstone)

Yellowstone Lake from Lake Butte Overlook
The Fishing Bridge

West Thumb Geyser Basin

Yellowstone Lake from West Thumb Geyser Basin
Back to the Tetons!

THURSDAY 6/2/2016:

My mom and brother were planning to get in mid-afternoon on Thursday so this was my last day to really do something big. I had wanted to do a long hike, but I decided it was still too early in the season for high alpine hiking (especially solo) and since Grand Teton National Park has an awesome bike/multi-use trail that runs throughout a good portion of the park, I decided, why not run with these amazing views in the background? So I did - 22 miles total from Jenny Lake south out of the park, then headed north over to Mormon Row and back. It was gorgeous although the weather was a little iffy - WINDY on the way out and then very hot on the way back. After I got done, I just relaxed at Jenny Lake for awhile (which I determined was possibly the first time I had relaxed so far this trip ;)! I also checked out a few more overlooks for photos before finally meeting them in Jackson around 3:00. That evening we went up to Teton Village for dinner, stopped off at Mormon Row (the 3rd time for me - but it's so pretty and I just had to show my mom and brother), and then relaxed in the hot tub!

Funny story: they were having a Grand Opening celebration on this section of the bike path - I'm pretty sure that's me running in the top right corner! (Picture from the Grand Teton National Park website)

Checking out Mormon Row again!

FRIDAY 6/3/2016:

Since my brother had never been to the area, the plan for Friday was to go show him some of the highlights of Yellowstone that weren't too far of a drive for us:
  • Old Faithful & Geyser Hill (repeat for me)*
  • Old Faithful Inn* 
  • Grand Prismatic Spring (repeat)*
  • Firehole Lake Drive / Lower Geyser Basin
  • Black Sand Basin*
  • West Thumb Geyser Basin (repeat)*
All in all, it was neat to see some of the same things again (and this time enjoy them without a camera even!) as well as a few things I had missed originally. After we finished up in Yellowstone, we quickly headed back to Jackson to get to packet pick-up before it closed that evening.

Old Faithful (again)

View from Observation Point
Grand Prismatic Spring (again)!
Black Sand Basin

SATURDAY 6/42016:

This was race day, so the first half of the day was spent doing that...which was awesome. I will do a much longer recap in another post - but the entire reason we were up here was so my mom could walk/jog the Grand Teton Half Marathon as her first Half - which she did! The weather was absolutely perfect and the views could not be beat! 

After the race we had a late lunch, went back to the hotel for showers, and then drove around Grand Teton National Park a bit - stopping off at:
  • Jenny Lake (mostly so I could look in the gift shop for a pint glass)
  • Signal Mountain Lookout
  • Oxbow Bend*
  • Snake River Overlook*
  • Schwabacher Road*
  • Moose Wilson Road (I had been told there were a lot of Moose on this road, but no luck in spotting any!)

View from Signal Mountain
Oxbow Bend
Schwabacher Road
Sunday we just headed back home nice and early. I had somewhat wanted to go see the Teton's one last time, but it had been a week away from home already and I still had a 7 1/2 hour drive ahead of me - so we just hit the road after grabbing breakfast to go. Overall, I truly did have a great time - I wish I could travel more often. It was an absolutely beautiful trip and a great way to kick off my summer!

1 comment:

  1. Amazing post, Kate! Makes me yearn to get back to Yellowstone and Grand Tetons asap, can't imagine a more perfect way to kick off the summer. I could stare at your photos all day — the colors of the Grand Prismatic are just surreal, aren't they? Very cool too that you scored so many wildlife sightings, brown and black bear included — the last time we were in Grand Tetons NP, a black bear wandered into the area near the visitor's center, which made for quite a scene. Thanks for sharing all the vivid details, look forward to your race recap (and congrats to Mom)!


Flattop Mountain & Hallett Peak

I've been wanting to hike to the top of Hallett Peak ever since I found out it was the gorgeous mountain towering above Dream and Emera...