Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks border each other and both are part of the greater Yellowstone region. After breakfast, we drove to Yellowstone. The famous neighbor definitely seemed to get more visitors and we had to wait a bit as cars backed up waiting to get into the park.
Once in the park, the main road eventually splits and becomes a figure eight. At various points of the figure eight, there are visitor centers. These visitor centers anchor campsites, hotels/lodges, restaurants and gift shops.
The biggest mistake people underestimate is the size of Yellowstone. Even if you’re not planning on doing extensive hiking, it’ll still take you a few days to tour the park and see the highlights. We stayed four nights and I felt like this was a good introduction to the park.
Our first stop was the Grant Village visitor center. Here, I bought the kids their junior rangers books. That’s right, in Yellowstone, you have to buy both the junior ranger books and as well as the young scientist books. We also stopped at the Post Office here to mail back one of our suitcases.
Close to the Grant Village Visitor Center is the West Thumb Geyser Basin. Here you can see some amazing thermal features that Yellowstone is famous for. We took a walk on the boardwalk. I was a little nervous because i read a news story last year about someone falling into a thermal feature, so I had a talk with the kids ahead of time about always staying on the boardwalk or marked trails and not goofing around.
The two older kids loved it. The youngest not so much. He complained about the smell. There is a bit of a sulfur smell around all the thermal features. If you or your family is sensitive to smell, it may bother you.
We then ate a snack at the parking lot and then drove on to the Canyon area of the park.
On our way to the Canyon part of the park, we drove through Lamar Valley. This part of the park is famous for wildlife viewing. If you have a scope, you can set it up early in the morning or evening to see if you can see wolves. We saw a ton of bison.
By now the park was getting really crowded. Traffic was inching. At one point we accidentally turned on South Rim drive and it took us a few minutes to be able to turn around. Finally, we made it to Canyon Village. Once at Canyon Village, we check into our campsite and set up our tent. We ate a picnic lunch at the campsite.
Then we got back into the car and drove to South Rim road. On our way, we saw a bear crossing the road! By the time we got to parking lot, it was late afternoon. We parked the car and had planned to head to Artist point. I had thought Uncle Tom’s trail was closed, but it turns out only the parking lot was closed. We were able to park at the parking lot near Artist point and walk over to the trail head.
Uncle Tom’s trail is a fun trail but it can be difficult for some. The trail itself isn’t too difficult, but then you arrive at the metal staircase, which is preceded by a scary warning sign. We decided that we would be able to climb down. On the way back, we could take it slowly and take breaks if needed, but it was doable.
The view is amazing. Once at the bottom you get a close up view of the canyon. While there were other families hiking the trail it was also relatively less crowded than Artist Point.
By the time we got back to the car, we were tired from the hike. Luckily, Artist Point is less of a hike and more of a walk from the parking lot to the lookout. It’s totally worth it. By the time we got there, the crowds had gotten even smaller.
It’s a great place to take pictures of the canyon.
Finally we headed back to Canyon Village. The night before, the showers closed before we had a chance to bathe, so our priority was to take showers before we ate. In Canyon Village, you pay at the desk and then you can use the showers however long you need to. (Glacier is on a timer).
The showers are attached to the laundry facility, so we threw in our clothes as well.
For dinner, we went to the little grocery store/gift shop called Canyon Village General stores. We ended up buying some quick meals like ramen noodle soups, etc. to enjoy on the picnic benches outside. There’s a microwave that the store lets you use, but it can get pretty crowded so patience is the key.
Afterwards, we went back and got our laundry. We were planning on going to a ranger talk, but we were pretty tired so we ended up just going to sleep.