View Full Version : Help me Plan my Yellowstone Trip

01-29-2012, 10:44 AM
Ok, a little history.....this has been in the works for over 3 years now. I missed the reservation call in dates for 2011 bookings and couldn't get a room, so we did Disney again instead. Last May I was on the phone the minute the first day of bookings open and was able to get The Old Faithful Inn (geyser side) for 5 days this August. After much going back and forth we almost cancelled the whole trip again because the airfare is crazy! We were flying into Jackson Hole (only a two hour drive to the Inn) with a stop in Minnesota for $860 each !!!!!! We finally decide on flying into Salt Lake City non stop for $560 each. Then driving the 5 hours to Jackson Hole. We want to stay there for two days. Then we will drive the three hours to the Inn at Yellowstone for five days. From there we are driving back to the Salt Lake Airport.

So I have alot of questions for those of you in the area or have visited before. I'm sure these aren't everything, but at least a start.

1. We need to rent a car at the airport. Someone told me that in that area they don't offer unlimited mileage. I have never rented a car without unlimited mileage. How does that work?

2.How is the drive from Salt Lake to Jackson? We did Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon before and it was easy. Are there places to stop along the way? Is it hilly or flat? High altitude? Anything we should know? Is it really 5 hours?

3. What fun stuff in Jackson did you do? Did you do an organized tour? I saw some raft trips that looked fun, but we wouldn't want White Water Rafting. Just something calm that I could take a camera. Should we book in advance? Are there any Old West shot out shows that are good? Is a day trip to the Grand Teton's a good idea? How far is that park and what did you see there?

4. We need to book a hotel in Jackson for two nights. Any suggestions? How about places to eat? I'm a vegetarian, but my son and husband eat meat.

5. Once in Yellowstone what did you do? We have five days. We like to do alot of walking, but are not hikers. I believe we will be near the South enterance, but we have a car and can go anywhere. Did anyone do the morning safari? That looks cool. Any suggestions on other organized tours? No A/C in the rooms or hotel, this I'm a little worried about since it is August. Any trouble with getting too hot? I don't do humid well. How am I going to make out.

6. How about places to eat? I booked the Old Faithful Inn Dining Room all five nights just so we have a place to go, but the menu looks too fancy/weird for us. We had the same problem at the Grand Canyon. Where did you eat?

7. Any other tips for staying in Yellowstone. Anything special we should pack? What kind of clothing should we wear?

8. We are driving back to the Salt Lake airport the day before our flight leaves. I was told from Yellowstone it is a 6 hour drive. Is that correct? The next day our flight doesn't take off until 5:30. Is there anything fun and close to the airport to do for a couple of hours? Originally I looked into Salt Lake for a couple of days instead of Jackson, and nothing caught my eye, did I miss something?

9. Any suggestions for a hotel in Salt Lake City that is close to the airport? Is there a hotel right inside of the airport?

Thanks for any help you can give!!!!!!

01-29-2012, 12:47 PM
Beware, Yellowstone may become you new favorite destination.

Rental cars should have unlimited mileage from SLC, if not the usual charge is 5 to 10 cents per mile.

The drive from SLC to Jackson Hole is beautiful and hilly. You are in the mountains now. It is about 5 hours.

You can visit Tetons NP from Jackson Hole or hit it on the way to Yellowstone. It can be a drive-though park just taking in the turn-outs, or you can stop and take some short hikes. Make sure to stop off Antelope Flats road to see Morman Row. This is a group of old homesteads and barns with the Tetons as a backdrop Well worth seeing.

Once in Yellowstone have a good plan. The park road system is laid out in a figure eight. Make sure to hit Lamar Valley which is on the NE Entrance road. Figure on a day at the Canyon area and a day in the Old Faithful area.
Temperature that time of year should be from the 30's in the mornings to the upper 70's to low 80's in the afternoon. No big need for AC.

There are small places to eat near Old Faithful Inn. I agree, the food at the Inn is expensive and odd at times. The town of West Yellowstone at the west entrance offers the most options, but that will be too far out of your way most days. There are also places to eat at Canyon, Lake,and Mammoth.
I would recommend picking up a throw away strofoam cooler so you can pack some food into the park for lunches.

Plan on at least 6 hours to return to SLC. Remember all driving times do not include stopping for suprises along the way.

Just ask any specific questions or PM them to me.

01-29-2012, 03:41 PM
I ordered some planning material from the Yellowstone Association- still a work in progress for us, airfare and time constraints being biggest issue. T he material I got include trail maps, wildlife guides etc. I honestly can't say how much it was but I'm sure no more than $30, just google Yellowstone Association, sign up for their free newsletter also.My DH and I both went there as preteens and can't wait to share it with our DD, hopefully before she goes to college!

01-30-2012, 12:28 AM
Dave hits the nail on the head for most of your questions.

Regarding the mileage - if it's not unlimited, the odometer reading is taken when you get the car and when you turn it in. Usually, you will have a certain amount of miles "free" per day, with each extra mile being so many cents. For example sake, use 100 miles and ten cents. If you have the car for five days, times 100, gives 500 miles. If you bring the car back with 750 miles, and it's 10 cents a mile, you'd owe ten cents times 250 miles.

Roads are not straight and flat, so average miles per hour may be much slower than you may be accustomed to. And you may want to pull over and take pictures a lot too. :blush: Also, road construction may slow down your progess.

At the Tetons we've done short hikes - be aware of how the altitude may affect you - and also done the Visitor Center. If you have kids, there is a program - the Junior Ranger program - for kids up to age 12. You can go to www.nps.gov/yell and probably find a link to the Yellowstone junior ranger program. We like to attend ranger led hikes and programs because we learn so much about the particular park.

Within Yellowstone, there are so many things to do, that you will not be able to do everything - much like Disney. As Dave said in his post, the road is like a figure 8, and around these loops, there are the areas in Yellowstone which are almost 5 major big parks themselves, like Canyon, Mammoth, Old Faithful, Lake, etc.

Each time we've been, we have picked 3 areas to explore - we like Canyon, Mammoth and Old Faithful - both the geyser and the Visitor Center. Travel time between the main areas and around the two loops of the figure 8 are slow - perhaps averaging about 40 miles per hour. You want to go slow and take your time, because you never know when you will see an animal (photo opp) or if someone ahead of you will brake suddenly because they saw an animal.

You might check to see what the entrance fees are for Grand Teton and Yellowstone. It may save you some money to buy an annual pass.

Early mornings and evenings could be cool - you could want sweatshirts or light jackets. If, like me, you are apt to be cold at night, you may want a scarf and perhaps light gloves. During the day, you may be quite comfortable in shorts and t-shirts. But since you'll be in the west, were the air is dryer, you might be just as comfortable in jeans all day. Layers are best.

Jackson is a tourist destination, so you will find plenty of places to stay and eat, even vegetarian. We have found neat places to eat by asking locals, after we arrived. At Yellowstone there are other places to eat, besides the Lodge.


01-30-2012, 07:21 AM
You might check to see what the entrance fees are for Grand Teton and Yellowstone. It may save you some money to buy an annual pass.

The entrance fee is $25.00 and is good for both parks for seven days. It's like a park hopper.:thumbsup: So don't lose the receipt. I believe they staple to your park map.

The Yellowstone Association web site has day hike books and booklets available.

01-30-2012, 09:09 AM
Thanks everyone for the tips so far! I am writing everything down and keeping it in a folder.

Has anyone done the guided tours....safari or rafting?

01-30-2012, 09:14 AM
1. We had a meeting in Grand Teton and during the 5 days I was there I put close to the limit of free miles on the car. If possible I would rent out of Salt Lake.

2. We drove from Salt Lake to Yellowstone, it was about 6 hours. It was pretty flat, I don't know how it is going from Salt Lake to Jackson.
It was mostly wide open spaces, nothing much to do.

3. You can drive through the Teton's up to Yellowstone. Stop at Jackson Lake Lodge it has some beautiful sceneary. There is a dinner rafting trip down the Snake River. It was so much fun, it was organized by the Jackson Lake Lodge. The drive from Jackson Lake Lodge to the south entrance of the park was 1 hour, it's about another 45 min. up to Old Faithful.

4. If possible stay in the Grand Teton National Park.

5. Here are the links to my trip



6. We found that eating in the cafeteria's was fine. The food was good and not that expensive.

7. We had snow in Dunraven's Pass when we were there. We packed clothes for cold and warm weather. Mostly it was in the 70's but at night it gets cold. Pack your binoculars. The speed limit in the parks is slow so be prepared to have it take awhile to get from A-B. Although it may only be 30 miles be prepared to take about 1 hour to get there. Animal traffic jams slow you down immensely.

9. No hotel inside the airport, we always stay at the Hilton. All the hotels are clustered together.

When I was there in late September most of Hayden Valley was closed to hiking because of bear activity. I asked the park ranger and he said that over the past couple of years the population has really come back.

You're really going to enjoy Yellowstone.

01-30-2012, 03:21 PM
After checking into it again, car rentals out of Salt Lake are unlimited mileage. What had the limited mileage is when we had planned on flying into Jackson airport and renting from there.

Great advice from everyone....keep it coming!

01-30-2012, 09:12 PM
Sounds like you've got a great trip planned.

Echoing what someone said earlier, I think it's a great idea to pick an area for the day and spend all (or at least most) of the day there. There are a lot of 'tour bus tourists' that you'll see get out of their cars, walk the 200 yards to take their picture, then get back in the car and go to the next location. Sure they'll see some of the highlights of Yellowstone, but they really miss out on a lot.

You could spend a whole day in the Canyon area taking the walk/hike along the rim on one side and down to the brink of the lower falls, then go around and take the walk along the rim on the other side. There are pullouts along it and a lot of folks will do the drive 1/4 mile, get out, take pictures, get back in car, drive another 1/4 mile, get out again..... routine, but the trail there runs that whole length and then some and I'd definitely recommend doing that instead.

Same thing with the Norris area, if you take all the boardwalks / trails around the Norris geyser basin and check out the museum at the Norris campground that'll fill an entire day. Same at Mammoth and the Old Faithful area and (well you get the idea). Take it in rather than rushing to the next picture spot.

When you're staying at Old Faithful in addition to the boardwalks in the immediate geyser basin I enjoy the short hikes to Black Sand basin and Biscuit basin (if you look at a map of the Old Faithful area you should see where they are) rather than getting in the car and driving there. It's just a nice way to get away from the crowds, away from the loud motorcycles and streams of RVs and cars without being too far away from anything.

If you get a nice warm day consider spending the afternoon swimming in the Firehole River (swimming area is along the Firehole River Drive). Warm(er) water and just a really neat experience.

I think all of the whitewater rafting companies also offer calmer float trips. I know we took one of those when I was a kid and I'm sure it's still ongoing. I would probably prefer to wait until it gets close (maybe 3-5 days out) to book that so you can see how the weather looks. An 80 degree sunny day on the river is heaven, a 55 degree rainy one is quite the opposite. While in Jackson be sure to stop by the town square to see the elk antler arches made from antlers dropped during the winter on the national elk refuge nearby.

Have a great time, I'll be there in late June and I can't wait! :thumbsup:

01-31-2012, 09:20 AM
Do a search for "Yellowstone Today", it's the official park paper for each season. The summer issue won't be available for awhile, but there are archieved copys available.

Also do a search for "Ranger Led Programs at Yellowstone". This will give you an opportunity to take hikes with rangers and attend talks. Tag along with rangers on their walks, it can be worth your while.:thumbsup:

01-31-2012, 06:01 PM
We have enjoyed many Ranger led walks and several night time programs. If you are staying on property there should be some evening learning experiences.