Oct 6, 2011

Yellowstone & Grand Teton

Hot Springs @ Mammoth

Over the 2011 Labor Day weekend, we visited America's First National Park ... The Yellowstone National Park. It was the perfect long weekend for the long road trip of 17 hours from Santa Clara to West Yellowstone. We decided to stay in Reno, NV, and then drive the next day 12 hours via Twin falls to West Yellowstone. You could also..
  • Take a flight to Salt Lake City and drive to the park ( 6 hrs 15 mins )
  • Fly to Boise, ID and drive to the park ( about 7 hours  )
  • Fly to Jackson airport and drive via Grand Teton NP to Yellowstone ( 1 hour 40 mins )
  • Just drive to the park ( 16 hours with an overnight stopover in between )

This is an incredible park with a lot of energy in every location, numerous geysers, wildlife, birds, hot water springs, mud pots, scenic routes through meandering rivers and picturesque meadows. In this blog, I will be writing about what to expect and what you can do. The recommended amount of days to spend in this park would be 3- 4 days. This would include spending time at all the must see attractions including taking pictures and viewing wildlife.

Based on our experience, we would suggest the following itinerary if you have about 4 days to spend in both the parks:

DAY 1:

  • Drive to the Old Faithful Geyser, wait for the eruption which is predicted to be every 90 minutes.
  • Then walk the 2 mile round-trip walk to the Morning Glory pool and back where you will find other geysers. The interesting ones are the Castle, Grotto, Daisy and Riverside. You will find numerous hot-springs and erupting geysers with lots of good photo opportunities.
  • Once you are done with the walk you can head back to the Visitor center to refresh, grab a bite and buy mementos.
Old Faithful Geyser
Morning Glory Pool
Daisy Geyser
  •  Next, you can drive to the mid-geyser basin which is a host of some of the largest and spectacular hot springs namely the Grand Prismatic  and Excelsior Geyser and the Turquoise Pool. It is a short walk but quite spectacular. The water from the hot springs draining into the stream below is quite spectacular and presents a beautiful photography.

Grand Prismatic
Excelsior Geyser
  • Finally, end the day with a short hike at the Fountain Paints Pots in the Lower Geyser Basin and a short round loop drive along the Fire-hole Lake.

  • Do make time for the spectacular meadows and the scenic spots around the meandering river when you drive from the Madison Junction to the Old Faithful Area. You are very likely to sport elk and bison grazing in the meadows and lone fisherman in the streams.

Bison near Madison River
DAY 2:

  • Drive to Norris  Geyser Basin. Some of the more interesting geysers in this basin are the Echinus and the Steamboat. The Porcelain Basin walk is quite spectacular and makes for interesting photo opportunities from the over-look.  
  • The Norris Geyser Basin also hosts night sky programs. Given its location this place hosts one of the most spectacular dark night starry skies.

Porcelain Basin Trail
  • On your drive from Madison to the Norris Geyser Basin make time for the  Terrace Springs, Gibbon Falls, Roaring Mountain and the short walk on the Artists Paint-Pots trail.

Roaring Mountain
  • Next drive to the Upper and Lower Yellowstone Falls. There are numerous view points along the rim of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone which hosts the falls. The most spectacular ones we liked were the Artists Point and Uncle Tom's trail. You can also take the short but steep hike to the top of the lower falls.

  • Drive down to the Sulphur Pits and the Mud Volcano area for an extraordinary experience.

Artists Point ( view of Yellowstone Falls )
  •  End the day at Hayden Valley which is one of the best spots for wild-life viewing in the evening and the early morning.

DAY 3:

  • Drive to the Mammoth Hot Springs area. While here take the spectacular trail that covers the upper and lower terraces. The town of the Mammoth is also quite interesting. 
  • While here you should make time to drive down to the 45th Parallel Latitude which is the half-way point between the North Pole and Equator.

Mammoth Hot Springs

  • Next Drive to Tower Falls. This is also a very interesting falls and makes for good photo-opportunities. The drive from Mammoth to Tower Falls is quite spectacular. 
  • The Lamar Valley which is close to Tower Falls is also one of the most famous places for wild-life viewing in the park.

Tower Falls

  • After covering Tower falls you can drive down to West Thumb via the Mt Roosevelt Overlook. You will pass through the Hayden Valley and the Spectacular Yellowstone River. West Thumb is also an interesting basin right along the Yellowstone River and makes for a very nice leisurely evening walk.

  • If you still have time you can end the day at the Old Faithful Area. On your drive here you will pass over the Continental Divide. Alternatively you can head back to Hayden Valley for wild-life viewing.

DAY 4:

  • Drive to the Grand Teton National Park via the South Yellowstone Park Entrance. Depending on what you want to do you can spend a few hours or a couple of days in the Park. You can stop at the visitor center and pickup the suggested tours. We only had a few hours to spend in the Park, so we chose the Jenny lake driving tour itinerary. This marks the driving trail and spots as you stop your way through the park to photograph and take in the breathtaking scenery with the majestic Grand Teton Peaks in the backdrop.

On the way to Grand Teton

Route on Jenny Lake Drive
 Finally we made our way out of the park to the small but quaint town of Jackson, Wyoming. We stopped by here to grab a bite and do a short drive thru the town before heading back home via the Teton Pass over an elevation of 10,000 ft.

  • Do carry water and snacks as not all places will have stores for a quick bite.
  • Most of the areas have steps and may be a little strenuous. Do take a flyer at the entrance of each point for $ 50c. This will have a map of the area and mention if it is accessible.
  • Not much shade in most areas, a wide brimmed hat is recommended.


  1. great info and beautiful pictures :)

  2. Thanks Madhu ! I appreciate it... I hope this will be your next trip..

  3. Beautiful pictures and a nice write up.

  4. Thank you so much for this information.. lovely pics as usual :)

  5. Thank you Pavi.. Its my pleasure to share it with you..