Monday, June 24, 2013

4 Days in Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Park

Being from Europe, we had always dreamed to visit Yellowstone. In June 2013 we finally made it, but with limited time. So, we had a tight schedule and needed to plan ahead in order to see everything that we thought was important. There are so many more things to see and you probably could spend weeks or even months in the park, but if you only have limited time like us, you may find our itinerary helpful.

Day 1: We arrived in Salt Lake City, UT on Friday morning and rented a car for driving up to Grand Teton and Yellowstone.
After 5 hours driving we finally arrived in the Signal Mountain Lodge at Jackson Lake, where we rented a cabin for one night. The Lodge is located directly at the lake and has a beautiful view on the Grand Teton mountain range. We only stayed 1 night and didn't have much time for exploring the area. But we were able to take some sunset pictures. It's a beautiful area and I wish we would have stayed 1 or 2 nights more. It is definitely a must for at least a couple of hours if you are coming from the south.


Day 2: We got up really early, I believe it was around 5:30am, we took a quick bite for breakfast and went down to the lake where we took some sunset pictures of our little group.
We stayed maybe an hour and just enjoyed the calm atmosphere of the lake and the awakening nature.
Finally we headed to Yellowstone and the typical tourist attractions like the geyser basin with Old Faithful and Grand Prismatic Spring.
Somebody told us the line at the entrance was a half mile at 10am, so we were anxious to arrive early.
Old Faithful erupts every 90 min and is the most famous place, but there are boardwalks through the whole basin and you can spend hours and hours exploring this area. 

After a couple of hours, we went to a hiking trail south of the Grand Prismatic Spring. We followed it for around 15 min until we saw the spring on our right. I took my camera and climbed up a hill (not easy at this high elevation ;) ) for getting a breathtaking view over the valley. 

In the late afternoon, we left this area and drove to the northwest entrance and further to Gardiner, MO where we stayed in the Super 8, which was surprisingly comfortable and had a great continental breakfast.

Day 3: On our third day, we visited Mammoth Hot Springs and took a nice 5.5 miles hike. The hiking trail is called Beaver Ponds and is a nice loop through the wild. The "dirt trail" goes 400 feet up and is partly shady. Be careful! You are in bear country and you should always keep your eyes open and definitely carry bear spray. As we saw a Grizzly cub, I was glad that I was prepared. When I heard from the hikers a few minutes behind us, that the cub's mom charged them and they had to use their spray, I took it with me wherever we went. 

After 4-5 hours hiking, a few nice shots of the view, our group and some other animals, we definitely earned our lunch break. We were tired but really happy that we did this hike. 

In the afternoon we drove to Lamar Valley in the northeast. This is one of the valleys where you can see big bison herds and sometimes other animals like coyotes, bears or even wolves.
Unfortunately, we were not careful enough and left the car to take some pictures about 300 yards away from the car. In the meanwhile the bison herd moved between us and the car and we had a BIG problem. Luckily the herd kept moving after a few minutes. But, there was one bison that appeared to be angry about us being in his living room and it went back and followed us. You have never seen me running faster. Luckily we made it back to the car safe :) 

Day 4: The last day we checked out and drove down to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. The took the South Rim to Artist Point where we had a great view on the lower falls. 

Later we went to Lamar Valley, where we saw more bison and had a great view into the valley.
On our way back to Salt Lake City, we stopped at Moose Junction and were lucky. There was a moose at the river, that was finally moving closer to the road and even crossed it right in front of our car. 

Due to this unexpected encounter, we arrive in Salt Lake City a little late, so we didn't have time to explore the city and the surrounding area with its lake and famous sand plates. We decided that we would have to come back soon. 

I think we will combine it with a trip to Arch National Park close to Moab, UT and Monument Valley, UT.

We will never forget this trip to Grand Teton and Yellowstone and I can only recommend to take a few days off, pack your stuff and just go there. It's for all ages and even if you only cruise around you may see Black Bears, Elks or even Wolves. The geological uniqueness, the landscape and the wildlife makes it one of the best and most visited placed in the US.

If you decide to stay on the road and in tourist centers, you will be fine without special equipment. If you decide to do back country hiking, please be cautious, carry bear spray and always keep in mind that you are in the wild with its own rules.

Get information about how to behave when encountering wildlife and check the weather. The morning and evening can be chilly, during the day it can be hot. However the high elevation and the surrounding mountains can bare a surprise; a blizzard in summer is possible.

Here are some additional information:

Here are some interesting links that where really helpful for our trip planning:
I hope you enjoyed this report and the pictures. Any comments or questions are well appreciated.

- Thanks for reading -


  1. Beautiful photos and great tips. We are leaving for our trip soon. Thanks for posting. Safe travels!

  2. Hi Anonymous, Thanks for your nice words. Enjoy your trip. Be safe!

  3. We're going the first week of August. Thanks for the blog.

  4. Thanks for sharing. Good one.

  5. what would be the ideal place to book a lodge/resort/hotel in the park?
    i still haven't booked anything and plan to travel in July/August. any suggestions on hotels?

    1. In Grand Teton we stayed in the Signal Mountain Lodge at Jackson Lake. We had a little cabin, which was nice, but don't expect luxury. It's kept really rustic and was good for staying the night. The rooms would have been a little nice, but it was an adventure :)

      In Yellowstone, the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel & Cabins seemed to be located very good as base for the northern part. We didn't stay there, but we talked to a family, who liked the hotel.
      In the south, the Old Faithful Inn, looked really nice. We were just too late and didn't get a room anymore.

      Book as soon as possible!! Summer is the busiest time of the year,

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  7. Hi,
    Read your travelogue..very impressed. Will be going to GTNP and YNP for 6 days from Salt Lake City from May 22. Any further suggestions? Your input will be appreciated

    1. Thank you for your nice words. There are a few things that I would suggest:
      - enter the park in the morning, as you may experience traffic jams at the entrance.
      - don´t just drive through lamar valley. stay there a little. especially in the morning or evening, you may spot other wildlife than just bison. wolves and bears can be spotted sometimes.
      - do the little hike up the hill at the prismatic spring that I mention. you won´t get a better view anywhere else.
      - snake river is a good place to spot bald eagles. I think it was oxbow bend that was recommended to me. unfortunately, we didn´t have much time.
      - go hiking as much as you can, away from all the tourists. That is how you experience the real beauty of the parks (but always do noise. you don´t want to surprise a bear or a moose)

  8. Thanks Daniel,
    We r about 60 yrs old with medical problems. Hence hiking is not an option
    Will be entering from W Yellowstone in the morning. Park accomodation seems to be full....any suggestions on far as possible not on upper floors

    1. We stayed in the Super 8 at the North entrance. Super 8 is most of the time comfortable enough for us and it usually includes breakfast. Holiday Inn is usually nice too. Stay outside and you save a little money. We didn't have any problems there and it was still convenient.