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Making the most out of Yellowstone?

Discussion in 'Americas' started by Biddles, Dec 31, 2019.

  1. Biddles

    Biddles Suck it easy!

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    To be clear this is not a motorcycle trip! I'm trying to make the most out of about 5 days at Yellowstone with my girlfriend. We're in the very beginning stages of planning it out, and we don't have a date planned yet so any recommendations for a great time to go would be appreciated. We figure we'll fly in, rent a car and try and get different AirBNB's out there as I'm sure there's some cool places to stay. Any advice to get the best out of this trip would be appreciated. Also if there's any type of motorcycle rental that would be amazing.
    #1
  2. Strong Bad

    Strong Bad Former World's Foremost Authority Supporter

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    As popular as Jellystone is and as fairly remote as it is, what you are planning is going to be pretty expensive. How far are you willing to drive to get there? Fly into Bozeman, Idaho Falls, or Jackson?

    Go either before schools get out for summer break or after they start back in the fall. Crowds in the more popular areas of the park are s nightmare in the peak season.

    No bike rentals close to the park that I know of. Again the park is not very close to any substantial population center. Idaho Falls is the largest close to the park, and I’m not sure they have any rentals.

    Jackson will have your Air B&B if anywhere close does
    #2
  3. MattLikeyBikey

    MattLikeyBikey Been here awhile

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    World class destination requires significant study and planning. Some main suggestions:

    • Stay in the park as close to center as poss.
    • Figure 8 pattern is a great way to travel the roads - study the map - you'll see the 8.
    • Learn what animals you want to see and when they come out. Hint - dusk and dawn are great times. There are great locations as well.
    • If there's a "buffalo jam" - there's likely a good animal to see - not just a bison; keep it slow and keep distance
    • Don't go adjacent to Sturgis - this will be the 80th I believe. Too many crazies and 1% dirtbags.
    • There will be tourists and locals of all walks - Native Americans; I even saw Amish there; I tried to speak with them when I could
    • There are infinite things to see right off the road but there are plenty of hikes that will take you to even more magical places
    • Bisons and old world buffalos are all ruminants with multiple stomachs and from the family "bovinae" whence we get the word Buffalo, so the word Bison is merely semantics; I prefer to call 'em Buffalos much to the chagrin of many :topes
    #3
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  4. Jamie Z

    Jamie Z I'm serious. Supporter

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    I haven't yet been to Yellowstone. I planned to go back in October, but a cold snap and heavy snow caused me to put off my plans.

    This past summer I spent three days at Arches National Park. I studied up a bit before I left, and then I downloaded an audio tour to my phone. When I got to Arches, I first took a drive through the park using the audio tour, which showed me all the interesting places and included a few short hikes. It was a good way to familiarize myself with the park. Then I spent the next two days returning to places I'd seen or heard about on the audio tour to explore further, including some longer hikes.

    I have no affiliation, but the audio tour I used is here: https://gypsyguide.com/

    There are numerous other audio tour apps. I picked that one based on reviews. I was really impressed and I plan to use them again.

    My plan when I visit Yellowstone is to do the same thing: Download the audio tour; spend a day exploring and familiarizing myself with the park through the audio tour, and then dig deeper into the things I'm interested in.

    Jamie
    #4
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  5. Yinzer Moto

    Yinzer Moto Long timer Supporter

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    The park is huge and remote, it takes a long time to go from one end to the other.

    If you can secure a bike rental, it is a really great way to see the sights. Many of the popular areas have limited parking, a bike can slip past the line of people waiting for parking and park at the front.

    Try to include a drive over beartooth pass.

    All accommodations require reservations well in an advance, including campgrounds. There will be no independent accommodations within the park, once inside the park, it is best to plan to spend a night or two in the park. It takes too long to exit the park.

    Forest fires are common and can close parts of the park. We had to take a 200 mile detour because of a fire one summer.
    #5
  6. Jamie Z

    Jamie Z I'm serious. Supporter

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    This is not accurate. Most campsites in the park are first-come, first-served.

    Here’s a link: https://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/campgrounds.htm

    In the summer months, that webpage lists the time of day that all the campsites are taken, and it’s usually sometime in the morning, You do have to plan ahead if you don’t reserve a spot. Plan to get there early to grab a campsite.

    Jamie
    #6
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  7. kantuckid

    kantuckid Long timer

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    Yinzer has it nailed. Given the parks size and traffic, the time factor is a limiting thing, plus the reality that you'll not drive by or near much that the parks has to offer, so it's tough place to cover in that few days, especially if you commute from outside. Lodging is a big choice followed by whats there you want to see. The majority of people who visit NP's never see whats there as it's not beside the road where they mostly go. Even day hikes will get you up close and personal and away from crowds with a wild place like Yellowstone. FWIW, it's not my favorite parks but well worth the two times I've been there. In vacation season it's a VERY busy place, expect traffic jambs, etc.. I'd be surprised if camping isn't already full on the reservation system there by now for busy season. When it's cold maybe one can get in?
    I faintly remember an article I read over 30-40 years ago in NG magazine that told about how over crowded that park is. They even have their own jail there. Sometimes I wonder why the critters don't pack up and leave?
    #7
  8. Yinzer Moto

    Yinzer Moto Long timer Supporter

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    Oops, it has been a few years since we were there. I remembered having to make reservations. We usually travel in a direction and don’t do loops, so we wanted to make sure we had a place to sleep at the end of the day.
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  9. Yinzer Moto

    Yinzer Moto Long timer Supporter

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    I forgot about the traffic on the roads, that is another reason the bike is nice, passing is much easier on a bike. There will be traffic jams where people are taking pictures of the Buffalo. Bear sightings will really clog the road up. A bike can slip through.

    Most of the roads are 45mph speed limit but there are people who drive 15 or 20mph. It is nice to be able to slip past them. Especially on dirt road where they may drive 5mph.

    The jail is still there in Mammoth springs.
    #9
  10. Oldad

    Oldad Been here awhile

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    If you don't plan well you can spend all your time driving within the park. I believe the speed limit is something like 35 mph so it takes hours to get from one end of the park to the other. Most of the time you also encounter traffic stopped to view wildlife crossing the road. When we were there a few years ago we screwed up and did not allow for the slower travel speeds and missed getting a first come first served campsite by just a few minutes. Ended up at a motel just outside the park in Montana.

    Camping reservations are encouraged, but some campgrounds are fcfs. Just get to the campground as early as possible.
    #10
  11. scootac

    scootac Just a Traveler

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    Motels in Gardiner MT MAY be less crowded, but still would make reservations.
    Go before June or after beginning of Sept. to avoid the worst crowds. At least in a car, you can stay late or get there early to see wildlife without as much concern for hitting them.
    Going in/out the east entrance is a nice drive.
    Have patience in the traffic jams.....way too many idiots that have never been outdoors!!!
    But....it's worth it!
    #11
  12. pratered

    pratered Jackpiner Supporter

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    Definitely come to Yellowstone before or after the summer rush, I prefer the fall - nice sunny days, cool nights, just be prepared for a brush with snow.
    I know there is motorcycle rentals in JH, part of the EagleRider chain with HD and BMW. Pretty sure you could find a rental in Bozeman/Livingston area.
    The park could certainly occupy you for a full five days but, I like some of the gateway towns too, like; Redlodge, Cody, West Yellowstone and Jackson. Check their calendar of events, I know Jackson has a Fall Arts Festival.
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  13. knight

    knight Long timer

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    One of the issues with going to Yellowstone NP in September is that the park is full of seniors citizens
    And everyone gets on the road early to beat the traffic
    Many of the scenic overlooks lack pull throughs, drivers when leaving these parking spots are required to reverse into traffic
    I suggest you have a lunch packed

    One of the ways to avoid some traffic ,is to time your departure from Old Faithfull for 10 minutes before the next eruption

    During the second week of September 2019 , all campgrounds were full and they were lined up 10 deep, at 5am waiting for a campsite to become available

    Lots of free camping , 10 to 15 miles outside the park in just about any direction , most accessed by roads not suitable for large RVs and rental cars,
    but awesome for motorcycles
    #13
  14. Gustavo

    Gustavo Motociclista Errante

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    I've been to Yellowstone twice in the last couple of years. Once in June and once in September. September was much better as there were less people and traffic to deal with. Not no traffic, but easily manageable. Both times we stayed outside the park because it worked better for different reasons, but I agree with @MattLikeyBikey, if you want to maximize your Yellowstone visit, stay in the park. We stayed in Cody once, it's an hour and a half just to get to the east entrance... OTOH, there is more to do in Cody in the evening than there will be at any of the lodges/campgrounds in the park. So, your ideal place to stay will depend on what your priorities are.

    Add a +1 to driving at least to the top of Beartooth (although, that may make you wish you had ridden there... :ricky) and if you have the time, all the way down to Red Lodge. The road and scenery is completely different on either side of the pass. Add Chief Joseph Hwy to that too.

    Most tourists stay on or very close to the road. It doesn't take much of a hike to find yourself alone in the wilderness, which is amazing considering the number of people you see at the parking areas.

    I have no doubt that you can't see "everything" Yellowstone has to offer in 5 days (maybe not even 5 weeks), but if you do your research, you'll figure out quickly what are the attractions you are most interested in, so focus on those areas. You'll get a pretty good overview in 5 days. If you are like me, this will be just the trip to figure out where to go next time... :deal

    And watch out for these guys, they don't just act like they own the road, they actually do...
    [​IMG]


    Gustavo
    #14
  15. kantuckid

    kantuckid Long timer

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    Senior citizen- that would be me...:wink::gerg Stereotyping seniors will not win you friends I'm afraid. Yes, your correct that we often travel in September as do many people who don't have kids in school. Find a better thing to bitch over like bad drivers? Honestly, if I see an animal there I'm very unlikely to be the first person to stop. Back to humans of all ages. :nod
    #15
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  16. Biddles

    Biddles Suck it easy!

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    Wow thanks for all the advice as usual guys. I didn't want to say this in the first post, but I'm considering proposing to my girlfriend here. I'm trying to find the best spots to do it. Definitely plan on renting a motorcycle now.
    #16
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  17. Yinzer Moto

    Yinzer Moto Long timer Supporter

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    Congratulations, plenty of epic spots to do that at. I am sure you can get someone to take your pic in front of something as you pull the ring out. Then you have an excuse to go back. I went 3 years in a row and every year, some of the features were different.

    49F6EB18-D3B2-49B3-B8C2-15861806A910.jpeg
    #17
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  18. Type301

    Type301 Adventurer Supporter

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    #18
  19. eakins

    eakins Butler Maps

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    Soak at the Boiling River Hot springs during the sunset and your world will be complete!
    Head back to Gardiner, MT for the night and you'll sleep well.
    #19
  20. eakins

    eakins Butler Maps

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    Thoughts
    - north east entrance has the most Bison
    -drive the Beartooth to Red Lodge
    - see above for a soak
    -crowds can be brutal, will be brutal. Best time? Hard to say, late September if you're lucky no snow yet. Or maybe late August as kids back in school.
    -pick area section by section to visit and stay at the next surrounding support towns as you move along.
    - stop at each area and walk and really explore. Take all the side roads and the 1 dirt road.
    -hike at times away from the crowded areas to get some peace and quiet
    -spend time in the Tetons! You might like it better. Hike along Jenny Lake. Visit Mormon Row for the pic. Do a river float. Party in Jackson. Drink at the Cowboy Bar.
    #20
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