Yellowstone family trip planning

wsp_scott

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May 16, 2016
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Thanks for everyone's suggestions so far, especially about the mosquitos. We have shifted to the middle of July and everything is booked.

3 (maybe 4 nights) at Colter Bay GTNP (going rafting one morning)
1 night Old Faithful Inn
1 night Grant Village
3 nights Canyon Lodge
- told you my wife didn't mind spending money :)

and then a couple nights in Custer State Park on the return home

I'm getting "nervous" about the crowds in Grand Teton. It looks like all the day hiking tourists (me on this trip) get squeezed into the Jenny Lake area or Colter Bay area. I know there are going to be people but I'd like to avoid feeling like I'm in a line at Disney World. Any suggestions for less crowded day hikes? String Lake and Leigh Lake sound interesting as does Two Ocean Lake, any thoughts?

I might get a day hike by myself in GTNP, Hermitage Point would be right out the door, but I suspect there is something better with a big climb to views, maybe Paintbrush Canyon? Any suggestions for a long day maybe in the Teton Wilderness? The Huckleberry Mountain Lookout looks like it would avoid crowds and provide views, comments?
 

Rockskipper

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Jack Turner has two books out about that area: Travels in the Greater Yellowstone and Teewinot. Both are really good reads and the second one covers some hikes that he did, though they were multi day packs. Both will add immensely to your enjoyment of the area. He is now the head of Exxum but used to be a guide up the Grand.

As for spending money on the big lodges, I think everyone should stay in them at least once. Next time see if you can book the Yellowstone lodge. They’re part of the experience, Then next trip you can get away from the crowds by backpacking.
 

Jackson

I like to go outside.
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May 31, 2015
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Thanks for everyone's suggestions so far, especially about the mosquitos. We have shifted to the middle of July and everything is booked.

3 (maybe 4 nights) at Colter Bay GTNP (going rafting one morning)
1 night Old Faithful Inn
1 night Grant Village
3 nights Canyon Lodge
- told you my wife didn't mind spending money :)

and then a couple nights in Custer State Park on the return home

I'm getting "nervous" about the crowds in Grand Teton. It looks like all the day hiking tourists (me on this trip) get squeezed into the Jenny Lake area or Colter Bay area. I know there are going to be people but I'd like to avoid feeling like I'm in a line at Disney World. Any suggestions for less crowded day hikes? String Lake and Leigh Lake sound interesting as does Two Ocean Lake, any thoughts?

I might get a day hike by myself in GTNP, Hermitage Point would be right out the door, but I suspect there is something better with a big climb to views, maybe Paintbrush Canyon? Any suggestions for a long day maybe in the Teton Wilderness? The Huckleberry Mountain Lookout looks like it would avoid crowds and provide views, comments?
I was going to recommend the Teton Wilderness even before I read your last paragraph. Way less people, more wildlife. Hiking in the Brooks Lake area would be a really good way to spend a day. Jewel Lakes would be a fun destination, or you could try summitting the Pinnacle Buttes if you want to gain more elevation.

I am pretty sure @scatman has been to the Huckleberry Mountain Lookout, so he could weigh in on that as a day hike.

Another interesting one more on the western side would be trying to summit Whetstone Mountain. You probably wouldn't see a soul most of the way, but maybe a grizzly bear or two. That's where Scatman and I saw a grizzly in fall 2019. You also would probably have to plot the route because I'd bet not a lot of people have gone to the summit. Haha. I just thought it looked like a cool, pretty straightforward one from down below when we walked alongside it. And the views have to be very good from up there.
 

scatman

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Thanks for everyone's suggestions so far, especially about the mosquitos. We have shifted to the middle of July and everything is booked.

3 (maybe 4 nights) at Colter Bay GTNP (going rafting one morning)
1 night Old Faithful Inn
1 night Grant Village
3 nights Canyon Lodge
- told you my wife didn't mind spending money :)

and then a couple nights in Custer State Park on the return home

I'm getting "nervous" about the crowds in Grand Teton. It looks like all the day hiking tourists (me on this trip) get squeezed into the Jenny Lake area or Colter Bay area. I know there are going to be people but I'd like to avoid feeling like I'm in a line at Disney World. Any suggestions for less crowded day hikes? String Lake and Leigh Lake sound interesting as does Two Ocean Lake, any thoughts?

I might get a day hike by myself in GTNP, Hermitage Point would be right out the door, but I suspect there is something better with a big climb to views, maybe Paintbrush Canyon? Any suggestions for a long day maybe in the Teton Wilderness? The Huckleberry Mountain Lookout looks like it would avoid crowds and provide views, comments?

@Jackson's Huckleberry Mountain Lookout is a good suggestion. I'd attempt it from the Sheffield Creek side as it is only about 11 miles roundtrip. You will have a good climb of over 2000 feet heading up the ridge though. The Arizona Creek approach is around 22 miles roundtrip, but this route is an excellent opportunity to see grizzlies.
 

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wsp_scott

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861
So it looks like some of the Yellowstone trip may be falling apart. Xanterra took our reservation (and deposit) back in December and now is saying that staffing issues mean it might not be able to honor the 3 nights in Canyon Lodge which screws up the return part of the trip in Custer SP.

I think I have convinced my wife that we could camp for those 3 nights if the hotel reservations fall through. Of course all of the reservable campsites are already booked which leaves walk-up sites. I know that some of you have experience car camping in the park.

1) How hard is it to get a walk-up site in the middle of July on a Thursday? (Norris and Tower Fall are shut for 2021).
2) My wife would probably prefer running water and flush toilets which means Mammoth. How hard would a walk-up be there?
3) Is there a campground that you would recommend besides Mammoth? We will have hotel nights in Old Faithful and Grant Village if that matters.
 

Rockskipper

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Walk-up sites are probably close to impossible, unless you sit on the fence like a vulture and watch. Mammoth Campground no longer takes walkups, reservation only. Don't know about the others. The hotels would be a stroke of luck if someone cancelled, but unlikely. Like @Outdoor_Fool suggested above, you could check Headwaters (Flagg Ranch) for sites, as it's close to Ystone, within striking distance of Old Faithful, but you'll probably have to settle for a dry cabin at best.

If it were me, given that your wife prefers comfortable digs, I would start looking for an Airbnb or VRBO in Gardiner or W. Ystone (Gardiner's better, more character and cheaper). You could also check reacreation.gov every few hours for cancellations. They do happen but book quickly. Also, Gros Ventre in the Tetons often has open sites, but by reservation, if you look a lot you might snag one. It's within a reasonable distance of Old Faithful.

Some of the campgrounds in the area still have first-come sites, but they're generally not in the parks. recreation.gov will give you a list if you put in the area and select the filter for camping.
 
Last edited:

Yvonne

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Have you looked at Headwaters Campground at Flagg Ranch? Also the KOA in West Yellowstone. That's where I found some last-minute camping last year.
I would also check the campsites in the park each day. There are cancellations each day. You might have to stay and camp at several campgrounds during your 3 -day stay, but it's common to have cancellations all the time
 
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