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Feedback on GTNP & Yellowstone itinerary - May/June 2019

Kansas City...
7 posts
Feedback on GTNP & Yellowstone itinerary - May/June 2019

I’d love feedback and suggestions on my itinerary. My husband, daughter and I will be driving in from Kansas City on Memorial Day weekend. We have up to two weeks, including travel days. We’re nature-lovers, but the 13-year-old has the attention span of a 13-year old, so we need to hit the highlights to some extent.

We check into our vacation rental (Aspens condo) on Sunday, May 26.

May 27 (Memorial Day) - GTNP

- Moose-Wilson Road

- Moulton Barn/Mormon Row

- Taggart Lake loop

- Picnic at Cottonwood Creek

- Menors Ferry Historic District

- Craig Thomas Discovery Center

May 28 - GTNP

- Highway 191 sites (Schwabacher Road, Snake River Overlook, Cunningham Cabin)

- Oxbow Bend Turnout

- Colter Bay Visitor’s Center

- Lunch at Colter Bay Village or Leek’s Marina

- Trail ride at Jackson Lake Lodge

- Hidden Falls/Inspiration Point hike via Jenny Lake boat shuttle

May 29 – GTNP and Jackson

- String Lake Trail

- National Elk Refuge

- Jackson Square shops and dinner

- Jackson Rodeo

(We might make this a full day in Jackson. Any recommendations for our daughter? She likes shops and quirky attractions, but she’s not adventurous. She’s not interested in the aerial tram, adventure park or a rafting trip.)

May 30 – Yellowstone: Old Faithful

- Check out of vacation rental

- Drive to Old Faithful area, picnic along the way

- Upper Geyser Basin

- Dinner at Old Faithful Inn

- Visitor’s Center, Old Faithful

Lodging: Old Faithful Frontier Cabin

May 31 – Yellowstone: Old Faithful and Canyon

- Midway Geyser Basin, Grand Prismatic Overlook (maybe) and Fountain Paint Pots

- Drive to Canyon area, picnic along the way

- North and South Rim

- Drive to Tower-Roosevelt

Lodging: Roosevelt Rough Rider Cabin

June 1 – Yellowstone: Lamar Valley

- Slow drive through Lamar Valley, stopping at viewpoints

- Drive to Black Hills (~6.5 hours)

Lodging: TBD, probably a vacation rental

June 2 – Black Hills

- Cosmos mystery area

- Pan for gold at Wade’s

- Mount Rushmore

June 3 – Black Hills

- Custer State Park

- Jewel Cave (maybe)

- Blacklight mini-golf

June 4 – Start drive home

- Badlands

- Wall Drug

Should I add another day in Yellowstone? I know there’s a lot more to see, but I don’t want to wear out my family. I skipped Mammoth and Lake Yellowstone as they seemed to require more driving time for less pay off. Let me know if I’m wrong about that.

Other suggestions? I’ve done a lot of research, but never been to the area, so advice from locals and previous visitors is super helpful!

5 replies to this topic
Atlanta, Georgia
Destination Expert
for Road Trips
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35,189 posts
508 reviews
1. Re: Feedback on GTNP & Yellowstone itinerary - May/June 2019

There is a wildlife art museum in Jackson. Also local artists in some of the shops in town who do photography and jewelry making.

N. Idaho
Destination Expert
for Yellowstone National Park
Level Contributor
25,192 posts
112 reviews
2. Re: Feedback on GTNP & Yellowstone itinerary - May/June 2019

Here are my thoughts on the Yellowstone portion of your plan:

May 30: Looks good. I'd stop at West Thumb Geyser Basin on the way. If you need a comfort stop, pop in to Grant area for cleaner bathrooms, flush toilets and running water at either the General Store or the Visitor Center. The vault toilets at West Thumb are overused and the staff sometimes can't keep up with the tour bus crowds. The General Store has terrific ice cream as well! I'd try to do Midway Geyser Basin early this evening. You'll have daylight until 8:58 with twilight until 9:34 and you'll be able to see this area after the tour buses and day visitors have left. It's better to see it coming off the warmest part of the day as there will be less steam obscuring the colors of Grand Prismatic. If you try to do it early AM it will likely have been near or below freezing overnight so will be very steamy.

31: If you are up early, take a walk thru the Upper Geyser Basin (even if you walked it yesterday afternoon) and try to see some of the predictable geysers. There are 2 apps for geyser prediction times - one thru the National Park Service and one thru the volunteer gazer group at GeyserTimes.org. The park service only does predictions when the Visitor Center is open and the Rangers are on duty. GeyserTimes does them 24/7 so depending on who's in the basin and what's erupted overnight you might be able to get some times for the big geysers early this AM. Otherwise, this day looks OK but rushed.

June 1: What route are you planning to drive? Are you going out the NE entrance over Beartooth? In any event I think your drive times are very underestimated.

-Roosevelt to NE entrance with no stops is 1 hour

-NE entrance over Beartooth to Red Lodge is 2-2.5 hours with minimal stops (Do not go by googlemaps times for this segment. It is laughingly underestimated. If you stop a few times it will take closer to 3 hours to drive this road. There is one segment of road up there that is surprisingly rated at 70mph. NO ONE can go that fast on that road.)

-Red Lodge to I90 is 1 hour

-Billings/Laurel (where you get on I90) to say, Keystone SD, is 5h45m to 6 hour of drive time. You'll need to add time for stops for food, fuel, comfort.

To me your time in Yellowstone is very short. If you can add a day I would. For myself, I take a full day covering the area from Canyon to Fishing Bridge/Lake area, a full day in the OF area and a full day for the Upper Loop including Lamar Valley. I realize you may not have this time to allow but if you can add at least one night to Yellowstone - 3 nights gives you 2 full days that would be good, adding another night for 4 nights/3 full days would be better.

Pam

Kansas City...
7 posts
3. Re: Feedback on GTNP & Yellowstone itinerary - May/June 2019

PeachBelle - I'll check into the jewelry making artists. That's something my daughter would like to see.

Wow, Pam, SO MUCH good information. I wouldn't have thought about the early morning steam being an issue. We do have time to add another day to Yellowstone. I was using Google maps for time estimates... so glad I got info from someone who really knows! Since I'm reworking to add a day, we could leave for the Black Hills from the East entrance and plan to be in the Lake area the night before.

Thank you both!

N. Idaho
Destination Expert
for Yellowstone National Park
Level Contributor
25,192 posts
112 reviews
4. Re: Feedback on GTNP & Yellowstone itinerary - May/June 2019

Yes, adding a night in the Lake area will make for a bit shorter day BUT it's still a full days' drive. Lake Village to Cody is a 2 hour drive but they are doing road work around Fishing Bridge so recommend you add 30 minutes to compensate for waiting for the pilot car and getting thru that area. Cody to Keystone is a good 7+ hour drive with minimal stops.

In looking at googlemaps - the drive times are pretty accurate for Interstate highways altho the time given is wheels turning so you always have to add time for food/fuel/comfort stops. They are not accurate at all for in-park driving or for the surrounding areas which are mostly 2-lane roads with mountain sections.

Pam

Salt Lake City, Utah
Destination Expert
for Salt Lake City, Lake Powell
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20,865 posts
41 reviews
5. Re: Feedback on GTNP & Yellowstone itinerary - May/June 2019

I think you should take a night and day from the GTNP portion and use it in Yellowstone. Some of the places you have listed for May 28 can easily be seen on the way north to Yellowstone (Schwabacher's Landing, Oxbow Bend, Colter Bay VC, Leeks Marina). Some of the things that you have listed for the 27th won't take that long.

Since parking at Jenny Lake for the shuttle can be very difficult and gets worse as the day progresses, you should plan on doing that the first thing in the morning and try to get there no later than 9 AM. The earlier the better. I would also do this on the same day that you are driving Teton Park Road.

You are going to need to be flexible in your day to day plans. You may get to places like the Discovery Center and String Lake and find the parking lots packed. You'll need to move on to something else. You may also find that your daughter is really enjoying where you are at the moment and it would be worth it to hang around and give up some other place because it's on your list of highlights.

I get the idea of finding a cool place for a picnic lunch. But IMO, one of the best places to eat in GTNP is at Dornan's in Moose. If you can snag a place on their patio, you can soak in some of the best views of the Tetons. Their pizza is some of the best that I've had.

The Gondola at Jackson Ski Resort is free after 5 PM. Even though your daughter doesn't want to ride the Tram, I think that the ride up the mountain in the gondola and the stellar views from the deck at the top is worth overruling her. The gondola is a shorter ride. My husband and i spent at least an hour at the top on a trip a couple of years ago sitting in deck chairs and soaking in the view of the valley. There's also a restaurant at the deck.

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