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Great Western National Parks Itinerary and Pictorial

There was a time – before I sank my teeth into the board game hobby and before I took on the demands of being a stepmom to three children - that I planned frequent trips for my friends circle. Each month would see us jet setting off to a different part of the United States (or a different part of the world) in search of adventure and great cuisine. I would pour myself into the research project that proper trip planning requires and create a custom itinerary for our group, working to ensure we caught all the highlights of our destination. This post is about the one I worked up for our last trip to some of the great Western National Parks in the United States.  I share it here with the hope that you might find the itinerary useful in planning your trip out west.

 

--> Full Photo Gallery – Come and Explore 

DAY ONE

MORNING

Depart for Butte, Montana

Pick up rental car

AFTERNOON

Lunch (& ice cream) at Matt’s Place (Butte)

Transfer to Grand Teton National Park (4.5 hrs)

Grand Teton National Park Visitors Center (open till 7pm)

EVENING

Stop for photos @ Mormon Row Historic District (Antelope Flats Road, Grand Teton National Park, WY)

Dinner @ Peaks Restaurant, Signal Mountain Lodge

Check in @ Colter Bay Village

DAY TWO

MORNING AND AFTERNOON

5:45am Sunrise excursion to Schwabacher's Landing

• Roughly four miles north of Moose off of the main highway. The 1.5 mile gravel access road is currently closed to vehicles due to sequestration; 20 min walk is therefore required to reach the trailhead. The trail follows along the water, heads northwest then turns north to follow a trail along a smaller stream. Five minutes of hiking you should come to a large beaver dam that creates a pond. Circle around the water on the maze of paths that travel north through the woods for 5 more minutes and it will lead to an opening with the classic view. A log bench marks the area, and if you are arriving for sunrise, a photographer usually will also mark the spot.

Breakfast @ Ranch House

8am Assemble in lobby to depart for morning tour

Sightseeing in Grand Teton NP:

• Lake Jenny- Hidden Falls, Inspiration Point, & Cascade Canyon Hike

o Starts with a boat ride ($12; service from 8am) across beautiful Jenny Lake to where the trail starts. The half mile hike to Hidden Falls is short and easy. Half mile further to Inspiration Point. The hike from the boat dock to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point is like a traffic jam after 9am. Option to continue onto Cascade Canyon where the crowds thin and moose and other wildlife are abundant.

Signal Mountain Summit Road . The scenic Signal Mountain Road is a five mile, 1,000 foot climb of switchbacks to an observation area at the top of Signal Mountain. Set far apart from the next highest mountain peak, Signal Mountain provides breathtaking views of the Tetons’ towering peaks, the flat glacial plains below, Jackson Lake and the Snake River beyond. From Lake Jenny, travel N on the Grand Teton Road and take a right onto Signal Mountain Road.

Lunch @ Signal Mountain Lodge (Trapper’s Grill or Leek’s Pizza)

Afternoon at leisure at Colter Bay Village (horseback riding, kayaking, canoe rentals, etc)

EVENING

Dinner @ Ranch House or Chuckwagon

DAY THREE

MORNING

Breakfast @ Ranch House

Transfer to Yellowstone National Park (1.5 hrs)

Optional brief stop at West Thumb for photos (keep bear spray handy)

Sightseeing in the Upper Geyser Basin:

• Old Faithful

• Black Sand and Biscuit Basin Trails (1/2 mile easy boardwalk trail each)

• Geyser Hill Loop Trail (1.3 miles easy boardwalk trail)

• Morning Glory Pool

AFTERNOON

Lunch @ Old Faithful Inn Deli

Sightseeing in the Midway and Lower Geyser Basin:

• Despite its small size Midway possesses two of the largest hot springs in the world. Grand Prismatic Spring, nearly 370 feet in diameter, sits upon a large mound surrounded by small step-like terraces. The other feature, Excelsior Geyser, erupted nearly 300 feet high before the 1900s. It is now a dormant geyser and is considered a hot spring, discharging more than 4050 gallons of boiling water per minute. Other colorful springs include Turquoise and Indigo springs, known for their pale and dark blue colors. Across the Firehole River from Excelsior and Grand Prismatic springs are a series of small isolated, pristine springs and mud pots. The Rabbit Creek drainage possesses some colorful and unusual features and most are unnamed. Caution should be exercised while exploring this vicinity since the ground is unstable and trails are not maintained.

• The Lower Geyser Basin encompasses nearly 12 square miles, with most of the thermal features widely scattered in small groups. We will visit the Fountain Group, White Dome Group, & White Creek Group at minimum and venture onto the Firehole Lake Group and the Imperial Group if there is time. The Lower Geyser Basin possesses a large variety of thermal features, including mud pots, geysers, pools, springs, and fumaroles. Great Fountain Geyser is one of the grand geysers in the Lower Geyser Basin. It erupts from a large, terraced platform with massive bursts exploding up to 150 feet high. White Dome Geyser does not have spectacular eruptive displays, but it does have one of the largest pink and white streaked cones in the Park.

EVENING

Check in @ Old Faithful Inn

Dinner @ Old Faithful Lodge Cafeteria

DAY FOUR

MORNING AND AFTERNOON

Breakfast @ Old Faithful Inn

Traverse the Fishing Bridge Sightseeing in Hayden Valley:

• Wildlife Viewing

• Sulphur Caldron

• Mud Volcano Interpretive Trail (3/4 mile, easy)

Sightseeing in Canyon Area:

• South Rim Drive

o Picnic Lunch at Artist Point

• North Rim Drive

o walk from Inspiration Point to Grandview Point

o Brink of the Lower Falls Trail (1/2 mile, steep/moderate)  Especially scenic, this trail branches off of the North Rim Trail at the Brink of the Upper Falls parking area

• Canyon Visitor Center

EVENING

Check in @ Canyon Lodge

Dinner @ Canyon Lodge Dining Room

DAY FIVE

MORNING

6am Depart for wildlife viewing in Lamar Valley (snacks in the car)

9am Breakfast @ Roosevelt Lodge

Sightseeing in Northern Yellowstone:

• Tower Falls

o Stop at Tower General Store to pick up Picnic Lunch supplies

• Undine Falls

o Scenic pullout on the right

• Gibbon Falls

• Mammoth Springs (2 hrs)

o Lower Terraces including:

Opal Terrace

Liberty Cap

Palette Spring

Minerva Terrace

Cleopatra Terrace

Jupiter Terrace

Main Terrace

Canary Spring

Overlook

o Upper Terraces including:

Prospect Terrace

New Highland Terrace

Orange Spring Mound

Bath Lake

White Elephant Back Terrace

Angel Terrace

• Fort Yellowstone, time permitting

• Optional stop @ Norris Geyser Basin, time permitting

EVENING

Check in @ Three Bears Lodge

Dinner @ Taqueria Las Palmitas ($) or Madison Crossing Lounge ($$)

Ice cream @ Espresso West

DAY SIX

MORNING

Breakfast @ Woodside Bakery in West Yellowstone (world famous cinnamon rolls)

Check out & transfer to Butte (2.5 hrs)

AFTERNOON

Lunch on the road

Depart for home from Butte airport

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