Many people have asked me questions about our trips, so I will try and answer them here:
- Q: How do you come up with the loops?
- A: As described in the About Us section, my father planned out many month long adventures for us growing up. I condensed some of these trips into smaller loops. The goal is to maximize the different National Parks visited.
- Q: Why are there so many stops?
- A: Some destination trips concentrate on only one place. The idea behind 10 day loop is to experience a piece of many different parks so that future destination trips can be catered better to one particular spot. For example, we enjoyed Grand Teton and if we have the opportunity to take a long weekend, we may return back here, but we wouldn’t have known for sure if we didn’t see many locations on the longer 10 day loop trip.
- Q: Where do we stay?
- A: We enjoy camping, but due to the limited time in each stop and the consideration of flying all our gear out, we don’t tend to camp on these trips. Our first choice is a lodge or cabin in the actual National Park where we visiting. If that doesn’t work out, we stay in a middle-tier hotel chain, generally with continental breakfast.
- Q: How do we plan meals?
- A: If breakfast isn’t included with the lodging, we tend to go small with breakfast bars, yogurt, and fruit. Lunch is almost always sandwiches or other pre-made meals for thrift and ease of picnic stops on the road. Dinner usually ends up being out, and we generally search for micro-breweries because they tend to be locally owned and offer a feel for the area. Snacks during the day include trail mix, dried fruit, and granola bars.
If you have additional questions, please post them here and I will do my best to answer.
Our last stop was a day drive though Grand Teton National Park. The suspense of seeing these massive, jagged mountains built as we sat behind a flagger for 30 minutes to allow road construction between Yellowstone and Grand Teton on the Rockefeller Parkway. Once we arrived, we saw the peaks from across Jackson Lake. Not the view we were used to seeing, we continued down the trail. The Jackson Lake Lodge was stunning, a true upscale establishment far different than the rustic feel of the Yellowstone lodges. As we made our way into the center of the park, we took the Signal Mountain road for a different perspective. This was very disappointing as the trees have overgrown the view from the top, making it something I would recommend avoiding. We then made the Jenny Lake loop and enjoyed lunch in the shadow of Grand Teton and Mt. Owen, still both with some snow in late August. The ranger at the Jenny Lake visitor center directed us to the Schwabacher Road turnout. There, we saw the view of the Teton range that is displayed on most post cards and posters from the area. You can see how our shots turned out in the previous post.
Though I wish we had more time in Grant Teton, we made a quick stop in Jackson Hole to see the highly recommended ski town. Unlike Steamboat Springs and other ski towns, there wasn’t much to do in the summer time, so we got on the road back to Salt Lake City. The GPS decided that since we had seen the scenic route for many locations so far, why not continue. Rather than a simple path to the interstate, it directed us through many twists and turns of local Idaho highways. After driving through the Soda Springs of Oregon Trail fame, we found our way to the interstate and got into Salt Lake late in the evening.
It was a great end to our third 10 day loop, and hope to try out another soon.
Update from Grand Teton National Park will be coming soon, but here are the photos.
Friday started with a drive from Billings over Beartooth Pass into Yellowstone National Park. Beartooth Pass reaches an elevation of over 10,000 feet at it’s summit and was a very narrow windy road to the top. Once we reached the top, we saw alpine lakes and jagged mountain peaks. The descent down into the park led us to Lamar Valley, where we saw herds of bison, many out on the main road. We continued on to the main section of Yellowstone. We had reserved a frontier cabin at Yellowstone Lake Hotel. Dinner was light fare at the country store followed by some sunset animal sightings of bison, elk, and deer.
Day two in Yellowstone was geyser-centric, starting with Old Faithful. As we waited for Old Faithful to erupt, we saw Castle Geyser erupt to almost 200 feet, a feat that occurs about once every 13 hours. We had some family not with us tune in to the Old Faithful Web Cam to see us and watch the geyser erupt. After seeing Old Faithful go off surprisingly early for the scheduled time, we made the three mile loop to Morning Glory Pool and saw other geyser, including Grotto Geyser and Giant Geyser on the way. Lunch was a hearty meal from the Old Faithful Lodge cafeteria.
After lunch, we popped in to some of the other geyser trails, including Grand Prismatic Pool, Excelsior Geyser, and Fountain Paint Pot. We finished the afternoon with a steep hike to the brink of the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River. After a light dinner, it was back on the search for sunset nightlife. Though we found some good locations for moose, but did not end up spotting any. We tried to best to pack up, with only one day at Grand Teton National Park remaining.
Sorry for the delay in updates. Thursday was a long drive day with two national monument stops. The first was right when we got into Wyoming, Devil’s Tower National Monument. At almost 1000 feet, it soars over the plains around it. We did a short loop around and had lunch while watching climbers attempt to summit.
We then drove across northeast Wyoming, into Montana, our fifth state of the trip. We stopped off at Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument (Custer’s Last Stand). Luckily, there was a ranger about to give a talk. It was dramatic and theatrical, and extremely educational! He gave a 45 minute speech about the history of the conflict and about the battle. We strolled around the monument and then headed to Billings for the night. We are in Yellowstone now, but with little wifi signal, I’ll update more tomorrow.
Today was one of the easier days of our trip, with under 70 miles to the national park and a hotel stay at the same place as the night before. We drove to the far side of Badlands National Park and made our way on the park loop. We stopped at the first trailhead and hiked for about an hour throughout all of the mounds and valleys of that area of the Badlands. The rock was surprisingly strong despite its delicate appearance. After our tour of the different overlooks throughout the park, we turned onto the Sage Creek Rim Road. We drove down the gravel road five miles with a final destination of “Robert’s Prairie Dog Town”. However, when we arrived at the prairie dog town, it was overrun with a herd of bison numbering over 800! The largest herd in the park, we saw the noble animal in it’s original habitat.
After leaving the park, we followed signs to a Cold War missile silo run by the National Park Service. It was a Minuteman II missile silo surrounded by a small fence barely noticeable from the road. It was one of 150 nuclear missile silos in the area that was active from the 1960s through 1991. The site is normally a self-guided tour, but there happened to be a ranger present who gave us an overview of the history. It was extremely educational.
Finally, we made our way to Wall Drug. It was exactly as I remembered it, many small touristy shops with the same cheap souvenirs throughout. It was humorous and we left with over a pound of fudge.
Dinner tonight was at the Firehouse Brewery in Rapid City followed by some indulgence into the Wall Drug fudge. Tomorrow is a drive to Battle of Little Bighorn (Custer’s Last Stand). We are also looking at a small detour to Devil’s Tower National Monument in Wyoming. The camera battery is dead, so more pictures to come after we charge the battery.
Today’s drive of 350 miles was quite tiresome. There is only so much of eastern Wyoming worth seeing. But once we arrived to South Dakota, our real tour started. We decided to make the first stop at Wind Cave National Park. A smaller National Park, most of the attractions are underground. The cave system is the 4th largest in the world. We arrived fairly late and opted for the 4:30pm tour, which lasted 1 hour. It was a very nice introduction to the cave systems and allowed views of the different intricate cave features, such as boxwork, popcorn, and frost.
We considered driving through Custer State Park to see the bison herds, but we saw a few on our way out of Wind Cave, so we continued on to Mt. Rushmore. We arrived around 6:30pm, with the sun beginning to set. We did the 1/2 mile loop and arrived back at the ampitheater in time for the 8:00pm lighting ceremony. It was a very nice ceremony with many veterans and active service people being honored. We arrived late into Rapid City, but should be well on our way to Badlands National Park tomorrow. Might stop off in Wall Drug too, just to show the others all of it’s touristy quirks.
Here are some of the pictures from day 3 in Rocky Mountain National Park.