May 18 - 22

Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks

Spring this year we visit Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Park in northwestern Wyoming. It has been decades since I last visited. The unusual cool spring brought us a more winter experience yet the magnificence of the park still overwhelms no matter what conditions.

Day 1 - Wednesday, May 18 - San Jose to Jackson, Wyoming

We wake up early for our 6:15am flight from San Jose. We flew to Salt Lake City then onto Jackson, Wyoming. All our flights were on time with no issues. We left a cool, cloudy San Jose to arrive in roughly the same conditions in Wyoming.

We sat on the side of the plane viewing the snow covered Teton Range, a very pretty site. The valley floor of Jackson Hole was mostly free of snow. 

Once deplaned and luggage in hand we picked up our rental 2011 silver VW Jetta. We were out of the airport by 1:40pm.

We drove north to Moose where the entrance to the park is located. We stopped at the new main Visitor Center before paying our park fee at the gate (good for 7 days) and entering Grand Teton National Park.

We then hit the Teton Road north stopping at a few vista points along the way. We bypassed The snowy Jenny Lake to the Signal Mountain area where we had lunch at the bar. From the restaurants view we could see that huge Jackson Lake was mostly frozen over. 

After lunch we drove south noticing that the road to the top of Signal Mountain road was closed due to snow! That was one of my planned destinations. We countinued south to north Jenny Lake area and drove the one-lane road that skirted the lake. We stopped at the Jenny lake lookout were we viewed a very frozen lake at the base of Grand Teton and cascade canyon. The scenery was very picturesque in the wintery landscape. I originally wantd to take a boat across Jenny Lake to hike to Hidden Falls, but the boat operations were cancelled due to the lake conditions. Plus all the trails around the lake were covered in feet of snow which required snow shoes to traverse (which we didn't have). To our surprise at this viewpoint we were greeted by a bald eagle. We took many pictures then were on our way.

We headed south toward the park entrance, stopping at the nearby chapel. The chapel had a gorgeous view of the Tetons through a large window behind the alter. We then left the park and headed toward Jackson. By then the sun reappeared. As we drove south we saw bison in the open fields, and elk in the distance. In town we headed to our hotel, the Wort, just one block from the town square. By this time it was around 4:30pm. We checked into room 218.

We didn't unpack since were only staying one night. We then hit the town out toward the square and their famous antler arches. We walked around and did some shopping before freshening up before dinner. We decided to dine at the Cadillac Grill. I had a gin and tonic and then an organic salad with a bacon wrapped filet mignon for the entree. Toby had shrimp scampish over noodles.

After dinner we waked across the street to take photos of the famed Cowboy Bar lite up in lights and neon. We then had ice cream at Moos across from the square for dessert, this seemed funny since the temps outside was in the 40s. We then walked back through the park back to the hotel. We stopped at the Silver Bar for one more drink. We sat along the famed bar embedded with Silver Dollars.

Above a view of Grand Teton (peak on left) and Cascade Canyon between Grand Teton and Mount Owen (on the right).

  • View of the Tetons from our plane as we enter Jackson Hole valley

  • Toby entering the airport in Jackson after we just deplaned

  • Toby and the Grand Tetons

  • Alan and the Grand Tetons

  • The Teton range

  • Our rental car, a new 2011 VW Jetta

  • On the back porch of the Signal Mountain Lodge overlooking Jackson Lake

  • Mount Moran

  • Toby at the Jenny Lake Overlook

  • Alan at the Jenny Lake Overlook

  • A bald eagle by the Jenny Lake Overlook

  • Cottonwood Creeks flows from Jenny Lake

  • Toby on the bridge over Cottonwood Creek

  • Alan on the bridge over Cottonwood Creek

  • The chapel by the entrance of the park

  • View of the Teton range from the chapel's alter

  • View of the Teton range from the chapel's alter

  • Checking into our hotel, the historic Wort Hotel

  • Our room at the Wort, it's large!

  • Toby and Alan at the antler arches

  • FWEE at the antler arch

  • Welcome to Jackson Wyoming!

  • Loved the gnarled wood by the Cowboy Bar

  • Our hotel, the historic Wort Hotel

  • Having a drink before dinner at the Cadillac Grill

  • Toby and the Cowboy Bar

  • Such a cuddly grizzly bear

  • The historic Cowboy Bar in downtown Jackson

  • An antler arch lite up by my camera's flash

  • Having one last drink at the Silver Bar Saloon at our hotel

 

Day 2 - Thursday, May 19 - Grand Teton

We wake up after a restful night at the Wort. After we packed our stuff we head down stairs for breakfast at the hotel's Silver Dollar Grill. After breakfast we walked through gift shops and around town checking out cool and colorful buildings. We walked across the street and captured ourselves on the city webcam! We then headed back to our room and checked out of the Wort Hotel. It was around 10:30am. 

We hit the road north toward Grand Teton. The sky was mostly overcast with a brisk wind. We stopped to take photos of the park sign then headed over to Mormon Row. There we took photos of the old home remains and barns. Afterwards we stopped at the main Visitors Center to inquire about a hike with less snow coverage. The ranger mentioned the hike to Taggert Lake would be best.

We headed toward Taggert Trailhead and proceeded on our hike. The hike started with relatively dry conditions but as we ascended toward the lake the snow coverage increased. The hike was around 1.5 miles each direction with a gradual elevation gain. As we got closer to the lake the trail was completely covered in snow but footprints made it easy to follow. We finally reached the lake which was mostly covered in ice, but so quiet and serene. There was a bridge the spanned an unfrozen portion of the lake. We then backtracked through the snow to the parking lot. The hike wasn't tough but hiking through snow made it more challenging. Once back at the car we had to change out of our wet socks and hiking boots. The time was around 1:30 pm.

We drove south through Moose back to the main highway and headed north. We stopped at the various pullouts for photos. We stopped at Glacier View, Teton Point, and Snake River Overlook. I tried to reenact an old photo from the our family trip when I was 13. Ansel Adams took a famous photo from the Snake River overlook. We then made a quick stop at the historic Cunningham Cabin. On our drive north we stopped at Oxbow Bend for some photos then later stopped at an open field where we encountered a huge herd of elk. We stopped to take photos of the elk then a herd of bison crossed the road behind us next to the parking lot toward the field of elk, real neat!

We continued north stopping at Colter Bay for some snacks. Then we headed north along the frozen Jackson Lake soon exiting Grand Tetons Park. As the road ascended so did the depth of the snow on either side of the road. 

We entered Yellowstone through the south entrance which just barely opened a week earlier. We headed north through a snow covered landscape, skirted Lewis Lake, and over the continental divide. We approached Yellowstone Lake and the West Thumb geyser basin where we stopped. This was our first geothermal feature. We encountered a coyote as we parked the car. There was a lot of snow still on the ground but not around the hot springs. There was a chilly bite in the air and the breeze off the frozen lake didn't help. But we were amazed by the colorful hot springs and deep blue pools. 

It was now time to head to the Old Faithful area and the inn. By this time it was around 5pm. We checked into the inn and into our room, #115 on the second floor. Were staying in the old historic portion of the hotel, with shared restrooms. We walked around the hotel eploring the lobby and found myself at a bar soon ordering a sapphire and tonic. We then decided to get something simple for dinner since it was around 7pm. We walked to the Old Faithful lodge cafeteria which was in a large building not far from the inn. The food was fine and the cafeteria was quiet since we missed the dinner rush.

The next eruption of Old Faithful was around 8:00pm, so we walked around the chilly geyser basin before sitting down in the freezing air waiting for the eruption. The geyser erupted slightly after 8pm. The solid overcast skies and steam from the eruption all seemed to blend together, not making for a great photo. We then headed back to the hotel to warm up.

We headed to the main lobby area to relax. We find a bench on the second floor were I pull out my iPad and update the day. Of course I got another drink!

Old barns along the Mormon Row section of Grand Teton park. Many famous photos have been taken from these vantage point with the dramatic Teton range as a backdrop. (click image to open in separate window, then double click image to view full size)

  • Toby driving into the park

  • At the entrance sign to Grand Teton National Park

  • Old barns along Mormon Row

  • Toby and Alan from Mormon Row

  • Old barns along Mormon Row

  • Old barns along Mormon Row

  • Horses by one of the lived in homes along Mormom Row

  • Old barns along Mormon Row

  • The beginning of our Taggert Lake hike

  • The trail crosses one of the many creeks from the lake

  • There is more snow now!

  • Hiking through the snow toward Taggert Lake

  • Taggert Lake

  • The trail crosses a portion of Taggert Lake

  • Frozen Taggert Lake

  • Toby and Alan at the end of our Taggert Lake hike

  • Trying to mimic a pose I did decades earlier...

  • An old photo of my family at one of the turnouts

  • At the Teton Point Overlook

  • The Snake River overlook

  • Toby and Alan at the Snake River overlook

  • Cunningham Cabin historic site

  • A herd of Elk seen from the Elk Ranch Flats turnout

  • Toby with a herd of bison at Elk Ranch Flats

We couldn't hike around Jenny Lake but did hike to a bridge which crossed the outflow river from the lake. (click image to open in separate window, then double click image to view full size)

  • A bison and her calf

  • Toby at Oxbow Bend turnout

  • A very frozen Jackson Lake

  • The park sign from the south entrance

  • A snow shrouded sign from the south entrance

  • A coyote strolls the parking lot at West Thumb Basin

  • Alan at Black Pool

  • Toby at Black Pool in West Thumb Basin

  • The spectacular colors of Black Pool

  • Fishing Cone at West Thumb Basin

  • Colorful Bluebells Pools in West Thumb Basin

  • The historic Old Faithful Inn, the park lodge that started it all

  • Our bed in room #115

  • Our wash basin in room #115

  • Inside the Old Faithful Inn

  • Inside the Old Faithful Inn

  • Inside the Old Faithful Inn

  • Inside the grand lobby of the Old Faithful Inn

  • Toby at the doors of the Old Faithful Inn

  • We have our first dinner at the cafeteria at the Old Faithful Lodge

  • Empty dining area at the Old Faithful Lodge

  • Me in roughly the same spot as the old photo (as seen on my phone)

  • Old photo of our view while waiting for the eruption

  • Early evening eruption of Old Faithful

  • Early evening eruption of Old Faithful

  • Early evening eruption of Old Faithful

Day 3 - Friday, May 20 - Yellowstone: Mammoth Springs and Tower Falls

In slept with ear plugs since the walls were thin, I think that helped me sleep. I was awake by 6:00 and stayed awake. Toby soon awake and we got ready for the day. To our amazement it started to snow. One ready we had a quick breakfast at the snack bar. We both had numerous cups of coffee and their granola yogurt cups, I also got the fresh fruit which was good. 

We noticed the next eruption for Old Faithful was around 8:25am. By this time the sun was partly out and patches of blue sky were showing. We headed out to the geyser and waited for the eruption. We had better contrast for good photos this time. After the eruption we stood in front of the geyser to get captured by the live webcam!

Once our backpacks were ready we headed to the car and drove to the visitors center. We didn't stay long just long enough to get some informative brochures. We then hit the road, it was around 9:35am.

We headed north toward Madison stopping first at Midway Geyser Basin to see the spectacular Grand Prismatic Spring and other features. I reenacted a photograph from 1977 where my mom was sitting by the bridge. We walked along the wooden boardwalks viewing the numerous features and taking various photos of Grand Prismatic Spring. The sun was trying hard to break through the clouds.

Next on the drive north we stop at Lower Basin Geyser Basin to the Fountain Paint Pot area. Here we explore the bubbling mud pots listening to them gurgled.

Back in the car we continued north toward Norris. We made an unplanned stop at Gibbon Falls and was amazed by the power and force coming from this waterfall. We were glad we stopped. By now the clouds were solid grey and rain started to fall.

We continued on the road toward Norris Junction and then toward Mammoth Hot Springs. Along the way there was a traffic snarl in an open field in Swan Lake Flats, here we saw at a distance a family of Grizzly Bears. It looked like a mother and two cubs. I did my best to take photos! Back on the road we headed toward Mammoth but got slowed down by a family of bison walking up along the highway at Kingman Pass.

Once at Mammoth we walked along the boardwalks on the lower terrace area. The upper terrace drive was closed. Many portions of the springs were dry leaving behind stark white terraces. There was some activity on the lower portion facing the dormant cone geyser. Here the terraces were vibrant in color. 

We then had lunch at the Mammoth Springs dining room an art deco inspired dining room. This is in the historic Fort Yellowstone Historic District.

After lunch we hit the road toward the north entrance to exit the park briefly. Once past Montana and out of the park we took photos of the famed Yellowstone "Roosevelt" arch. This was the original and once only entrance into the park. On the drive back into the park and to Mammoth Springs we took our required photos by the state line signs.

Once past Mammoth we drove east toward Tower Falls passing through some gorgeous unspoiled land. We saw numerous signs of wildlife like bison, antelope, elk and even black bear. We arrived at Tower Falls and took our photos, that was also the end of the road. The road over Dunsraven Pass was closed. We backtracked on the road heading back to Mammoth. On the drive back we stopped at Calcite Cliffs Overlook which had spectacular views of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. The view was along the edge of some dizzying tall cliffs. On the other side of the ravine we could see antelope.

We drove towards Norris where we decided to stop at the Norris Geyser basin to check out the hottest spot in the park... literally. Steamboat Geyser is located here, the parks tallest at over 300'. We walked the entire basin before the weather became rainy. 

On the drive back to the hotel it showered at times and we had to slow down for bison in the road. We arrived back at the hotel around 6:00pm. We freshened upbefore our dinner reservations at 8pm, but there was a slight delay. To kill time hit the gift shop, but soon our buzzer went off. For dinner we had a wedge salad,then I ordered the tuna special (not the best), Toby had the trout. We also had dessert, I had the mango sorbet and Toby had the sundae.

What a full day, it's time to call it a night!

 

Grand Prismatic Spring in the Midway Geyser Basin just a short drive north of Old Faithful. The bright colors of the spring was reflecting on the steam like a rainbow. (click image to open in separate window, then double click image to view full size)

  • Morning eruption of Old Faithful

  • Morning eruption of Old Faithful

  • At the Old Faithful Geyser sign by the visitor center

  • At the Old Faithful Geyser sign by the visitor center

  • Morning at the Old Faithful Inn

  • At the bright red doors of Old Faithful Inn

  • Sitting at the same spot my mom did decades earlier

  • Old photo of my mom by the bridge at Midway Geyser Basin

  • The bridge over the Firehole River at Midway Geyser Basin

  • Toby strolling the Midway Geyser Basin

  • Grand Prismatic Spring in Midway Geyser Basin

  • Alan at Grand Prismatic Spring

  • Toby at Grand Prismatic Spring

  • Toby and Alan at Grand Prismatic Spring

  • Toby and Alan at Grand Prismatic Spring

  • Walking along the boardwalk at Midway Geyser Basin

  • Old family photo of my dad, my brother and I at Midway Geyser Basin

  • Spring water flowing inthe Firehole River at Midway Geyser Basin

  • Silex Spring in Fountain Paint Pot Trail in Lower Geyser Basin

  • Gurgling 'Red Spouter' on Fountain Paint Pot Trail

  • Gibbon Falls on the Gibbon River drops over 80 feet

  • Toby and Alan at Gibbon Falls

  • Lone bison walking on the road north of Norris

  • A roadside bison encounter

  • Grizzly bears in Black Swan Flats near Mammoth Springs

  • Grizzly bears in Black Swan Flats near Mammoth Springs

  • A herd of bison walking up the road by Kingsman Pass

  • A herd of bison walking up the road by Kingsman Pass

  • Terraces at Mammoth Hot Springs

  • Colorful flows from Mammoth Hot Springs

Detail of the intricate and colorful terraces formed at Mammoth Hot Springs. (click image to open in separate window, then double click image to view full size)

  • An active spring spills water over color ridges at Mammoth Springs

  • At the terraces of Mammoth Springs

  • The dining room building for the Mammoth Springs Lodge

  • Having lunch at the Mammoth Springs Lodge dining room

  • The historic Roosevelt gate from the north entrance in Montana

  • Park sign from the north entrance in Montana

  • Brief visit to Montana

  • Entering back into Wyoming

  • A black bear as seen from the road

  • Tower Falls is a 132 foot waterfall

  • Tower Falls. The water from Tower Creek flows into Yellowstone River

  • Old photo of Tower Falls taken from family trip

  • Alan at Tower Falls

  • Toby at Tower Falls

  • Toby at Calcite Cliffs overlook

  • Across the ravine were numerous pronghorn antelope

  • Yellowstone River as seen from the Calcite Overlook area

  • Blacktail Deer Plateau area of northern Yellowstone

  • Bison grazing along the road in the Blacktail Deer Plateau area of the park

  • Another bison walking in the road

  • Steamboat Geyser, the parks largest, sporatically spraying water

  • Me at a similar basin overlook from an old photo.

  • Old photo of my brother and dad at an Norris Basin overlook

  • Toby in the Porcelain area of Norris Geyser Basin

  • Green runoff from Constant Geyser in Norris Geyser Basin

  • Colorful blue springs in Porcelain area of Norris Geyser Basin

  • Having a drink before dinner in the main Old Faithful dining room

  • The hallway that accesses the main lobby

Day 4 - Saturday, May 21 - Yellowstone: Canyon and Lake side

I wake up feeling like I'm coming down with a cold. I feel better once I'm up and ready for the day. We head downstairs to the snack shop for coffee, yogurt, and fresh fruit and were ready for the day.

This morning we were going to tour Upper Geyser Basin by our hotel. We started by watching Old Faithful erupt at 9:30am. The skies were cloudy with a solid grey cover. After Old Faithful erupted we tried to get to Riverside Geyser which was scheduled to erupt at 10:00am. We hurried to the other side of the basin passing a group of high school kids. But when we arrived at the geyser we found out it erupted early at around 9:30, same time as Old Faithful, oh well. We walked back slowly checking out the various features that we zoomed on by earlier. We walked back to the hotel to get ready for our road trip.

We hit the road north again toward Norris. From Norris we headed east toward Canyon Village. I didnt realize as we kept driving we were rising in elevation. Once at Canyon there was snow everywhere and feet deep. We were hungry and since it was lunch time we had lunch at a 50's style diner where we both have cheeseburgers. By now it was almost 1pm, we stop at the Visitors Center where the ranger said the various hikes I wanted to do were closed due to snow. Oh well.

We head to the North Rim drive which is now counter clockwise one way. There were only two stops open, we stopped at Lookout Point which had great views of the waterfall. It seemed more water was pouring over the falls probably due to all the recent snowmelt. We then went to the Grand View Point which had the views up the canyon. I had photos here when I was a kid, I tried to reenact those photos. We then drove on the South Rim drive to view the Upper Falls and then we drove to Artist Point. Here we took numerous photos from this famous spot.

We then left Canyon Village and drove south toward Lakeside. We stopped at Sulpher Caldron and Mud Volcano. Here the geothermal features were eating away at the parking lot. Before we approached Yellowstone Lake we stopped at Fishing Bridge and walked a little on the bridge. We were hoping to see elk or moose here, but didn't. We then drove to Lakeside Village where we strolled the shores of frozen Yellowstone Lake and then through the historic colonial style hotel, Lake Hotel, which is right on the lake.

On the road again we head south skirting the lake and we stop again at West Thumb and quickly tour the colorful hot springs we enjoyed when we first entered the park. It was time to hit the road and drive back to our hotel. By this time the sun was braking through the clouds.

It was a little past 5:00, we were able to catch an Old Faithful eruption, which had great afternoon light from the sun. We then walked around the Upper basin area seeing Castle geysererupt. The geyser was erupting  at a distance but it just kept going and going.

It was dinner time and our reservations was at 8:30pm, we sat almost in the same area. After dinner while resting in our room the hotel's fire alarm went off! We were one of the last people to exit the hotel into the cold air. The emergency didn't take too long and soon we were back in the hotel warming up and relaxing.

 

Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River spills 308 feet. Notice a small ledge covered in snow on the right of the falls, this was the trail I wanted to take but was closed, it's called "The Brink of Lower Falls" and would have been dramatic to view. Next time. (click image to open in separate window, then double click image to view full size)

  • Early morning eruption of Beehive Geyser seen from a distance

  • Spasmodic Geyser shooting up water around 10 feet tall

  • Morning Glory Pool in Upper Geyser Basin

  • Toby on one of the paths over the Firehole River in Upper Geyser Basin

  • By Beauty Pool in the Upper Geyser Basin

  • Lower Falls as seen from Lookout Point

  • Lower Falls as seen from Lookout Point

  • Me by the same (or similar) sign my brother stood by decades ago

  • Old photo of my brother by the Grand Canyon sign

  • Me reenacting the pose at roughly the same spot decades earlier

  • Old photo of my family at Grand View point

  • Toby and Lower Falls at Lookout Point

  • Alan and Lower Falls at Lookout Point

  • Lookout Point on the north rim drive

  • Looking up the canyon from Grand View on the north rim drive

  • Upper Falls from the south rim drive

  • Lower Falls as seen from Artistic Point

  • FWEE at Artistic Point

  • Toby and Alan at Artistic Point on the south rim drive

  • Lower Falls through some trees at Artistic Point

  • A lone bison walking on the road

  • Historic touring coaches back in operation

  • By a large frozen Yellowstone Lake

  • The elegant Lake Hotel in Lake Village

  • The sun room in the Lake Hotel

  • Toby by 'Black Pool' in West Thumb Basin, the colors were wild

  • Clear blue water of 'Black Pool' in West Thumb Basin

  • Old Faithful eruption, this time with the sun

  • Old Faithful eruption

  • The bridge over Firehole River by our hotel

  • Old Faithful Inn and a geyser

  • Walking along the boardwalk in the Upper Basin area by the hotel

  • Long eruptions of Castle Geyser seen across the river in Upper Basin

  • Old Faithful eruption from second story balcony over entry way

  • Our windows face the parking lot, second floor from wing on the left

  • Dining room of Old Faithful Inn seen from second floor

  • Main dining room seen from second story

An afternoon eruption of Old Faithful Geyser lit up by the afternoon sun. (click image to open in separate window, then double click image to view full size)

Day 5 - Sunday, May 22 - Trip home

I again wake up feeling slightly sick. But after taking medicine I start to feel better. We wake up around 6:30am and continue packing our luggage. We then head downstairs to get some coffee and our usual yogurt with granola and some mixed fruit.

We checked out around 8:20 and hit the road. The morning sky was patchy with more hints of blue than in past days. We drove back toward West Thumb and then toward the south entrance.

Once out of Yellowstone we headed south along Jackson Lake toward Colter Bay where we filled up for gas and hit the restroom. Aterwards along our drive south we made numerous stops to photograph the Grand Teton range since the sun was illuminating the snow capped range in perfect morning light. We did see large herds of elk and bison along the drive. We stopped at Snake River viewpoint for some excellent photos of the range. After numerous stops it was time to head to the airport.

We arrived fairly early at around 11:10am at the Jackson Hole airport and had time to kill before our 1:35pm flight. We had a cheeseburger lunch during our wait. Our flight left on time and arrived in a sunny Salt Lake City. We had to walk from one end of the airport to the E terminal on the other side of the airport, we took our time since our San Jose flight was scheduled to depart at 4:40pm.

We have quite an adventure exploring the vast wilderness of Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Park and absorbing all the features that make these parks spectacular. It was Toby's first trip to these parks and my second, but this time I think I'll remember it better. The trip was a bit cooler than anticipated but we were prepared. We didn't do some of the hikes and trails that we wanted but made up in other ways. The large animals and the numbers of animals we encountered was breathtaking. Best of all was to see such vast amounts of unspoiled land and to view a landscape similar to what pioneers saw when they explored this region over a century ago.

Snake River Overlook of the Grand Teton Range with the Snake River meandering through the foreground. (click image to open in separate window, then double click image to view full size)

  • View from near Elks Ranch Flats

  • Grand Teton range from Snake River overlook

  • Toby and Alan at Snake River overlook

  • Fwee at Snake River overlook

  • Toby at Teton Point

  • View from Teton Point

  • Passengers deplane the jet we'll soon be taking to Salt Lake