Yellowstone and Grand Teton tips

Discussion in 'Let me tell you about my trip' started by JoshMacdonald, Jul 9, 2017.

  1. JoshMacdonald

    JoshMacdonald New Member

    28
    3
    Jul 23, 2014
    We just got back from an amazing trip to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. We got so much good information from this site I thought I would pay it back with some key highlights and things we learned. This may get a little long but I’ll try to keep it to the highpoints and things that’ll help others.

    1: Get up early, We were up at 5am and on the road by 6am. That meant we were traveling the long distances around the park with almost no traffic, saw lots of morning heards of elk, bison, and pronghorn, and we saw most of the sights with little to no crowds. Crowds started around 11 ish and we were so thankful to avoid the swarms of people as we usually wrapped up at 1 and headed back to camp to relax by 3ish.

    2: We used the Gypsy app throughout our vacation and is was a HUGE help. For $8 the app uses GPS (no cell reception needed) to tell you about interesting drives, attractions and nature/history/science facts throughout both parks. Our family loved it and we saw so much more because we had it. I highly recommend it.

    3: In Yellowstone we stayed at Bridge Bay. It was pretty well centralized, but not perfect. Early drives made it better. Try to get in loop G or H. The others were either tent sites or in a wide open field with absolutely no separation between sites.

    4: Before we entered the park on our drive up we went to the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center at the West entrance. It is a preserve with mostly zoo-like exhibits. Find feeding times and go then, otherwise it isn’t worth the money.

    5: On day one we did the drive from Mud Caldron, through Norris to Gardner in one day with lots of scenic drives and pullout along the way. Day two was all of the Grand Canyon stops then the Beartooth highway and through Cody for the 5 Museums at the Buffalo Bill Center. Day three was all of the Geyser basins. A fourth day might have given us a bit more leisurely pace but the holiday meant we had to move on if we were to find a FCFS site in the Tetons.

    6: Food rules are very unclear for pop ups in the park. Being on a 2 week trip with 4 people, we had a LOT of food. We asked for clarification from the attendant at the check in building. He told us to not leave our food in the pop-up or in the cab of our pickup (the bears could get into either). There was only one small (2x2x4) bear box for 5-6 sites, so the attendant told us to leave our food in the bed of the truck or on the ground. Then the Rangers took our food while we were out and issued us an $80 citation. The rangers had no better suggestion for me except put it in the truck and hope my neighbor’s food was more easily accessible. I’m still working on appealing that.

    7: In the Tetons, we stayed at Signal Mountain. It was great. It wasn’t too busy (Colter was) and it wasn’t too remote (Gros Ventre, Atherton Creek, Lizard Creek were all really remote).

    8: Jenny Lake was ridiculously busy by 9am. We rented a Kayak on Jackson Lake at the Signal Mountain lodge and had the little corner of the lake to ourselves for 2 hours.

    9: We hiked the North Jenny lake trail and up to inspiration point. The North portion of the loop is 1.7mi and was hot and muggy without tree cover (fire damage). The summit trail was 1 mile of switchbacks. It was a bit of a challenge but my 11 y/o and I did it no problem. We also saw a moose just off the trail on the way back.

    10: The Jackson Rodeo was fun (we saw it on July 4th) and hanging it out in Jackson was pretty fun too. The 6pm shootout was fun for the kids but avoid that intersection from 5:45-6:30 or you are stuck for a while.

    11: We river rafted on the Snake river with Luis and Clark Rafting. It was a fun trip and even my skittish 14 y/o daughter said it wasn’t as bad as she had worried about.

    12: We bought the tram pass at the Jackson Hole Ski Resort. It was a fun place to spend about 2-3 hours walking around but could get expensive if you want to do all of the tourist stuff. Buy the passes online and save some money with a 7 day window of time to use the passes.

    13: We decided to leave a bit early and hang out in Park City for 2 nights and 1 full day. We spent more than we usually do at the Olympic park to do their adventure package for my son and I. We had a blast. Historic Main street was a fun evening of walking and stopping in shops. Typical tourist stuff but it was a cool setting.

    14: If leaving the parks and heading south (we were returning to Phoenix) go via the 89 and 80 south and join the 15 at Provo. It’s easier on the brakes than joining the 15 further north at Mcammon. A fellow camper from Salt Lake gave me that advice.

    We loved our vacation and we had a great time. Hopefully these little pointers help someone else have as good a time as we did. It is a beautiful area of the country and we spent a good amount of time just enjoying the views, scenery and time together. Oh, and it wasn’t 120 like it was in Phx.
     
    Badixon and JoePAz like this.
  2. f5moab

    f5moab Retired from the Federal Government

    1,022
    231
    May 7, 2013
    Eastern Idaho
    Looks like good info, I cannot say since for me, it is only a few hours drive to Yellowstone and less to the Tetons and both are used as shortcuts to other destinations anymore and primarily after labor day/before Easter.

    As for food, I travel with two dogs so food is an easier job to handle. If no bear box, I leave the human food in the fridge and have never had a problem with any Rangers but that is in Forest service (I do not camp in Nat. Parks), and that include Shoshone and Custer NF which are very heavily populated grizzly territory. Dog food and human food that does not fit into the small fridge, goes into the back of my truck at night and when I leave the camp. However I do have a fiberglass tonneau cover so it helps to seal it up. If there is a bear box, I use it.

    However, this one has me scratching my head? It is just as fast either way, probably a few minutes difference, it's the brake thing that I wonder about.

    "14: If leaving the parks and heading south (we were returning to Phoenix) go via the 89 and 80 south and join the 15 at Provo. It’s easier on the brakes than joining the 15 further north at Mcammon. A fellow camper from Salt Lake gave me that advice."
     
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2017
  3. MsMac

    MsMac Active Member

    278
    59
    May 19, 2016
    When we stayed at Grant last year, we kept our food in the back of our truck. There were very few bear boxes available.

    That's really surprising to me that the attendant told you to just leave the food on the ground. Unless the rationale is better that then the bear ripping through the pop-up or into the cab of the truck to get at it?
     
  4. Arlyn Aronson

    Arlyn Aronson Active Member

    317
    32
    Jun 11, 2014
    Huuuummm we have friends in the area and passed through Yellowstone twice, a few years back. Seems they told us we couldn't stay in the park using our pop.....
     
  5. MsMac

    MsMac Active Member

    278
    59
    May 19, 2016
    As far as I know, the only campground in Yellowstone that doesn't allow PUPs is Fishing Bridge. Only hard-sided units allowed there. That's also the only campground that's open year-round- so the "no pop-up" thing would make sense if you hit the park outside of the summer months.
     
  6. f5moab

    f5moab Retired from the Federal Government

    1,022
    231
    May 7, 2013
    Eastern Idaho
    Friends were wrong. First time I camped there it was in a tent. As already noted Fishing Bridge does not allow popups and that is due to the high concentration of visiting grizzlies.
    However, some of the other campgrounds may be closed periodically to popups if there is a large bear population in that area at that time.
     
  7. BirdsNest

    BirdsNest Active Member

    142
    32
    Jun 12, 2017
    Utah
    I'm a bit confused about that as well. I don't know what the road looks like between the Grand Tetons park and Idaho Falls (or Mcammon) since I haven't made it over to that park (yet), but once you are on I-15 it's just gentle slopes all the way south. The drive on Highway 89/I-80 is definitely a prettier trip past Bear Lake and through Provo Canyon, but it's also a lot harder on the brakes...
     
  8. JoshMacdonald

    JoshMacdonald New Member

    28
    3
    Jul 23, 2014
    We were relying on the 'expertise' of the SLC native listening in on our conversation. He said the 89/I/80 was prettier and easier on the brakes. He also said it was 30 min shorter. We hadn't done either drive before so we went with his input. As it was, the 89/I-80 wasn't hard on our brakes at all with the electric brake and only minimal down shifting needed. Once it joined the 15 the drive was very easy. Maybe it was the stretch North of that junction that he was referring to bring hard on the brakes?
     
  9. f5moab

    f5moab Retired from the Federal Government

    1,022
    231
    May 7, 2013
    Eastern Idaho
    It was just the brakes statement that made me curious. Both routes are fairly flat for WY and ID road, Hwy 30 does go out of the way, heading NW out of Montpelier but the time is probably within 10 minutes since you do have more time on the interstate. But it can be rather boring to be so flat.

    Now if he was telling you to avoid going west on WY22/ID33, I could see a reference to brakes since that route takes you over Teton pass, one of the steepest grades in the USA (about 10% up and down) and then over 31/26 to I-15 south of Idaho Falls. I personally love Teton Pass and drive it about 4 or more times a year just to hop over the Jackson to visit and have lunch, but also to take the very long way to Cody WY, to keep from going near to Yellowstone.
     
  10. chambo

    chambo Active Member

    286
    64
    Apr 27, 2015
    Southern California
    Great recap, thanks for sharing. Bummer about the ticket.
     
  11. shuang2

    shuang2 Well-Known Member

    1,073
    32
    Apr 20, 2010
    Very good suggestion! We are from Phoenix too and are planning going visit the two park again next year. Thank you for sharing!
     
  12. molanginaeda

    molanginaeda Member

    241
    4
    Sep 26, 2015
    Good info. I'll need it on the next visit. Thanks for sharing.
     
  13. JoshMacdonald

    JoshMacdonald New Member

    28
    3
    Jul 23, 2014
    Update on Ticket: County Prosecutor was mortified at the advice I was given, but told me the fine is a slam dunk to proceed with prosecution since A: food was left outside and B: a citation was issued. He said I might appeal to the judge and get it waived, or he could increase the fine. I decided to cut my losses and just pay the $80.

    More importantly, no one had any better suggestion for me for food storage. DON'T leave it outside, DON'T put it in your pop up and DON'T leave it in the bed of your truck. They know bear boxes aren't plentiful enough or large enough. So... leave it in your locked car if you have more than the communal boxes can handle. If you don't have room in your vehicle (Like us), your on your own.
     
  14. JoePAz

    JoePAz Active Member

    121
    58
    Mar 28, 2017
    Phoenix, Arizona
    Sorry to hear about fine. Kind of make is hard when you can't leave food anywhere. Good info on this thread as I plan to go up there next year.
     
  15. Snowman

    Snowman Member

    71
    2
    Jul 12, 2017
    Boulder, CO
    We camp in Rocky Mountain quite a bit and this year has been particularly troublesome for bears (blacks, not browns). They've been adding bear boxes like crazy but still don't have one at every site. Our instructions are to put it INSIDE the TV and cover it up. Apparently the bears are pretty nosy and if they see a cooler inside the vehicle, they'll do what they can to break in. We're also instructed to sleep with our keys handy so that we can hit the panic button if a bear got interested in the vehicle. We tow with a suburban, so the interior space isn't really an issue. We load the action packers and coolers in the truck then cover with a blanket. Our site was spared :smiley:
     
  16. unclemark

    unclemark Overland Park, KS

    358
    8
    May 15, 2014
    Overland Park, KS
    Yellowstone's reserved campgrounds, hotels, and restaurants are operated by a single concessionaire corporation, not by wildlife biologists. The confusion and hassle over grocery storage in the campgrounds and the limited access to food boxes in the reserved CGs (as well as the restaurant advertisements in the campground restrooms and shower houses) are all designed to put money in Xanterra's bank accounts as you give up on camp cooking and head for their restaurants. I suspect the bear stories are mostly bunk. And as you know, the federal fines put money in the local county government coffers. Look at it from Xanterra's perspective: They have less than three months to make their year. It appears to me that the smaller, primitive, FCFS, government-run campgrounds have a food box at every site.
     
  17. f5moab

    f5moab Retired from the Federal Government

    1,022
    231
    May 7, 2013
    Eastern Idaho
    I agree with most of what you say in regard to the National Parks and their concessionaire; however a the NPS will open/close campgrounds if there is a possible bear problem (or other reason) and the Park service has a few wildlife biologists in any of their large parks.

    And the bear stories are not bunk out her in WY/ID and MT. Some of the FS campgrounds just outside of Yellowstone, Red Lodge MT, Wind Rive Range area, are closed quite often to soft sided trailers due to heavy grizzly population in the area. Had that happen a few years ago in the Wapiti campground east of Yellowstone; they closed it to soft sided trailers. The Host from the site might notify the service that there are bears causing problems, but it is primarily the service (NP/Forest) that determines if the site will close.

    Most of the FS campgrounds in the Shoshone/Custer NF do have bear boxes.

    The majority of forest service campgrounds I have camped in UT/CO/WY/MT/ID are run by private companies just like the National Park campgrounds. Country wide I believe the figure I read is around 40% are run by private companies and the number is growing. The only ones that I have come across out here are the smaller sites; basically in the middle of nowhere, hard to get too or at high altitudes.
     
  18. CO Hiker

    CO Hiker Active Member

    230
    28
    Dec 6, 2015
    Colorado
    Just stayed 4 days in YS with our PUP. Fishing Bridge is the only hardside required CG. We had just left the campsite, Grant Village, but had to go back and get something from the camper. When we arrived, we were handed a yellow slip for violating the no containers left outside rule! We had just washed our 1gal cooler and left it to dry. They're quick on the draw but considering we just had a 2nd black bear put down in Colorado Springs for pillaging, I begrudgingly get where they are coming from. Dogs, you better have on your hip at all times and not step in to the camper for a second without it. 4-6 year olds on kick scooters on the other hand, can run amuck - or as I like to call them, meals on wheels!
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2017
  19. Snowman

    Snowman Member

    71
    2
    Jul 12, 2017
    Boulder, CO
    We are headed to Yellowstone for Labor day and have a reservation for our PUP at Canyon. No issue there.
     
  20. larryinseattle

    larryinseattle New Member

    24
    3
    Apr 16, 2017
    Thanks for the update on Yellowstone. We camped there two years ago and left some containers drying and we were given a written warning and our containers were put in a bear box. No food was in the containers. After that, we were very quick to store everything in the tow vehicle.
     

Share This Page