Family trip to Grand Teton and Yellowstone


May 16, 2016
About a year ago I asked for Yellowstone advice ( and a number of you were very helpful.

We were able to get reservations in both parks so there wasn't as much driving. I did not really want to go to Grand Teton, but it was high on my wife's list. I wanted to do lots of hiking, but my kids and wife were more short distance orientated. In addition, my sister from CO and my mother from FL joined us for 3 nights in Grand Teton and then the first night in Yellowstone. That provided a major distraction for the family, but also interfered with my hiking plans :)

I thought about breaking this up into parts, but I was too lazy, so I just copied from my blog.

Warning: Way too many photos of sunrises, sunsets, and details of geothermal stuff and flowers. Also, not enough photos of bears (didn't see any) and only a couple moose photos (only saw one).
7/7 - 7/22/21
couple nights - Lyons CO before the trip really started
3 nights - Colter Bay (GTNP)
1 night - Old Faithful (YNP)
1 night - Grant Village
3 nights - Canyon Village
1 night Billings MT
2 nights Custer State Park
1 night Sioux Falls

We drove up from CO and as we got close to Grand Teton, the smoke became more obvious. We checked into our Colter Bay cabin and walked over to the lake, tons of smoke. It made for a nice sunset, but not really what we were hoping for.

I woke up early the next day to catch the sunrise at Oxbow Bend. Tons of smoke, the sun struggled to appear. About a half hour after sunrise, another photographer wandered over and asked if I thought the light was going to get better. Sadly, no, I think this is it.

Kind of amazing what modern software can uncover in a RAW image. It turns out that there were mountains behind all the smoke.

Later, we drove over to Two Ocean Lake for a dayhike. We got out of the car and were swarmed by mosquitos. I asked my wife were the bug stuff was and she said back at the cabin, everyone but me had doused themselves before getting in the car. I said ok, no big deal, since I'm not usually too bothered by bugs. We made it about a mile (and ~50 bites) before I gave up and we turned around.

Meadow near Two Ocean Lake

The next morning we were up early for a float trip on the Snake River. Thankfully, a lot of the smoke had disappeared.

The last morning I woke up early and walked down to the lake for one last view, still lots of smoke, but a pretty morning.

And then off to Yellowstone. We got checked into our Old Faithful room and went to check out the Fountain Paint Pot area. It was swarming with people, but it was a good introduction to geothermal stuff.

I think this is along Firehole Lake Drive

White Dome Geyser

Then back to check out Old Faithful, the sunset made it easy to mostly ignore the massive crowd of people also waiting for the geyser.

And then Old Faithful went off on schedule. I was hoping the clouds would not get too thick and got lucky with both the geyser and sunset.

My sister, my kids and I took the long way back to the hotel to enjoy the atmosphere a little bit more.

Later (about 10pm), my sister and I walked over to check out Grand Geyser for the predicted eruption. I was surprised how many people were there, but it was cool to see in the dark, but no photos.

Next morning, I woke up early to check out the basin before the crowds arrived and catch the sunrise. I only saw one other person in the hour or so I was out.

It was a beautiful morning along the Firehole River.

Then we went to check out the Grand Prismatic Overlook. It was about 10am when we got to the trailhead and the steam obscured/hid a lot of the colors of the pool.

That afternoon, my sister and I walked the boardwalk up towards Morning Glory pool ...

... walked past Grotto Geyser, but nothing was happening ...

... then up to the overlook to get a different view of Old Faithful ...

... then over to Solitary Geyser (which we both really liked) and then back to the family at the hotel.

Solitary Geyser isn't big or impressive, but it is entertaining with its one big bubble that comes so frequently. We probably hung out there for 20 - 30 minutes waiting for "one more bubble".

We only had one night at Old Faithful, so it was time to head to Grant Village for the next night. We said goodbye to my mother and sister and headed off. I wanted to show my kids a little bit more of the Upper Basin, so we parked at the Biscuit Basin lot and then headed towards Morning Glory Pool.

Morning Glory Pool

And then over to Riverside Geyser which was going off just as we got there.

While watching Riverside, I looked over and noticed that there was something going on near Grotto Geyser, so my son and I wandered over while my wife and daughters enjoyed the shade near Riverside.

A couple other geysers in the area were going off at the same time

Everyone was getting tired, so we headed to Grant and got settled in for an uneventful night.
The next morning we checked out of Grant Village and headed towards Canyon Village, stopping at the West Thumb Basin along the way.

Fishing Cone and Yellowstone Lake

We also did a short hike at Storm Point

We got checked in at Canyon Village and then headed over to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon

The next morning we drove over to the South Rim

Dayhike by myself (Cascade Lake and Observation Peak)

Fire Tower on Observation Peak

Even with the smoke/haze, you can still make out the south rim

Back to the Canyon for sunset

Bison don't read signs :)

Drove down to the Hayden Valley to see what we could see

Great sunset over the Hayden Valley

Heading back to the hotel, there was this elk on the side of the road

Next morning, we drove over to the Norris Basin

All of us walked explored the Back Basin and then my wife and kids relaxed in the shade while I explored the Porcelain Basin.

Steamboat Geyser

Looking over Porcelain Basin

I really liked the Porcelain Basin, there are lots of little details if you slow down a bit (which was easier because it was just me and my camera).

My son and I really like mudpots

Then up to Gardiner for lunch and Mammoth Hot Springs

I got a little carried away with the terraces :)

Back to the Canyon for sunset

I woke up early our last morning to catch sunrise from the North Rim

It was still early so I drove over to the South Rim

And then I decided to drive down to the Hayden Valley, I'm glad I did since I got to see this moose in the distance.

We headed out the Northeast entrance. Along the way we got to see a couple bison up close (right out the car window)

Lamar River


Bad decision making :)

My wife saw the warnings for the Beartooth Highway and got freaked out (she hates heights), so we took the Chief Joseph towards Billings. It is a very beautiful drive, but I still need to see the Beartooth.

After Billings, we headed towards Custer State Park with a detour to Devils Tower. Traffic was horribly backed up, so we turned around, stopped at a pull-off and took a couple photos.

We also stopped at Mt Rushmore. I didn't want to, but the kids thought it sounded neat. They were not impressed and would not recommend it for anyone else ;)

The Black Hills are very pretty, but Custer State Park had tons of people.

Sylvan Lake is very photogenic

The next day, we did a short dayhike with what felt like a million other people, the flowers and views were great.

After a couple of days in the state park, it was time to head home. We made a short stop at Badlands National Park.

Cliff Swallows under a covered sign display next to the parking lot

I think this one was hurt, it showed no sign of moving when I took this photo.

I asked one of the rangers about seeing prairie dogs and she laughed and said if you look, you will see them. She was right :)

We also saw a couple Pronghorn

I'd like to spend at least a couple nights at Badlands and do some real hiking, but it was time to hit the road. We decided a good stopping point was Sioux Falls. My wife and I enjoyed a morning here 15 years ago and thought the kids would like running around the area. We had dinner and then wandered a bit, enjoying the falls and the sunset.

Remains of the old mill

And then another long day of driving and we were home.
Wow - glad you went so I can enjoy your awesome photos! Especially like the one of the kids in chairs looking over Sylvan Lake. Some really nice photography - now I have spring fever.
I liked the Firehole river shots and the shots of Mammoth. Tons of god-rays with the clouds and smoke too.
Looks like a great road trip.
Beautiful Pictures Scott!

The sun rays were some of my favorites.

Looking forward to seeing what you have to offer when it comes to your other Yellowstone trip!
Lots of super cool photos- thanks for sharing. Such a wonderful trip for the kids, hope they enjoyed it.

I just had to look up photos of bighorn vs pronghorn, think the color of the bighorn threw me off too, but nothing escapes @Outdoor_Fool !
The bird- to me it looks like a young bird, just fledged.... they act like that in our yard. They can't always fly well, won't move, fuzzy feathers, grumpy look (kind of like @scatman when an e-bike passes him ;) ).
@Outdoor_Fool thanks for the correction, at least I identified the bison correctly :)

This wasn't a trip I would have normally planned since I don't like crowds. But, I really enjoyed the front country of Yellowstone (not so much Grand Teton). Looking back, I glad that the smoke cooperated for Yellowstone.

Glad everyone liked the photos. I'll eventually process my Sept Yellowstone photos, but first I have 10 days in SEKI to sort through :)
@Outdoor_Fool looking online for pronghorn vs bighorn, the photos of bighorn are what I expected, large circular horns. My photos have much smaller horns. Are these young bighorns? Or female? Or something...? Where are the big "circles"?

Wow wow wow - so many fabulous photos! I loved reading your TR and reliving wonderful memories of a similar trip we took with our kids in 2005. While enjoying your photos, I had many thoughts to share and now don't remember them all, but here are a few:
- So clever of you to try those smoky photos as black & white - I love the way the mountains showed up in the background! I enjoyed your other black & white photos, too. I never remember to try that.
- Even though you had to accommodate others' needs/preferences on your trip, I hope you enjoyed the iconic scenery. When my kids were little, I really wanted them to fall in love with these amazing places and felt it was more important for them to have a good experience than for my husband and me to do what we would have done otherwise. (In addition to reasonable hike lengths, unlimited candy and snacks helped them have a good experience, too.) I guess we succeeded, as just yesterday my younger son (22) said he really likes the hiking trips we've done together and is glad we never made them go to Disney World. :)
- I love your flower photos.
- I love your sunrise/sunset photos.
- I never heard of Sylvan Lake. Hope to explore the non-Rushmore Black Hills someday...
- Love seeing your son (I assume it's your son) throw the rock in the water - that was always something my boys did. Ok, I'm feeling old now. Thanks for sharing!
Remembered a couple more things:
- We loved the mud pots, too. Your photos of them are terrific!
- Your close-up shots of Mammoth are great - I have to do a better job of remembering to get up close for that kind of thing.
- How nice that you could go back to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone over and over again. What an incredible area that is.
@Outdoor_Fool looking online for pronghorn vs bighorn, the photos of bighorn are what I expected, large circular horns. My photos have much smaller horns. Are these young bighorns? Or female? Or something...? Where are the big "circles"?

your photos show female bighorn ewes. Pronghorns looks totally different
I wanted to add that my kids (and wife) loved Yellowstone and the rest. The big problem is I am a little more "enthusiastic" with more stamina than the rest of my family. They probably would not have enjoyed longer hikes and my general goal is to "train" my kids to be backpacking buddies once they are older and have a good time in the process. In a way, Yellowstone is perfect for this since the front country is so amazing/photogenic.

thanks for everyone's help planning this trip
Yellowstone is perfect for this since the front country is so amazing/photogenic.
We picked Yellowstone and the Tetons for our kids' 1st trip out West for this very reason. We wanted to make sure they wouldn't be bored and saved Glacier, Rocky Mtns, etc. for when they were older and would be able to appreciate the "plainer" hiking in the mountains. Now in their 20s, they both love hiking, so I guess our plan worked! (It helps that they're both super athletic and great runners.)
Looks like you made good use of your time through the park. You saw a lot. I really like the smoky landscapes, but glad you also had some clear skies later on. I see lots of favorites in your collection including Steamboat, Porceline basin and the golden mammoth terraces! Thanks for sharing. Soon your kids will be old enough to appreciate the backcountry with you. Until then, you are doing a good job getting them hooked on the wonders visible from the road.
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