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Looking for ideas for our road trip to Wyoming

We plan to visit Yellowstone and Grand Teton. We will have about 4-5 days. Any must see places or routes? Thanks!

Posted by
6763 posts

Driving? Flying?
One time we flew to Great Falls, MT stayed in Montana at Big Sky. Another time we drove from Denver and stayed in Jackson,WY. Stunning scenery in Grand Teton. Are the Park lodges open? They are usually the best places to stay. We spent so much time driving in and out of the parks each day.

Posted by
1694 posts

We will drive into Wyoming from Fort Collins, Colorado. May enter Yellowstone from Cody. Our plan eventually is to drive to Missoula, Montana.

Posted by
8456 posts

When are you planning to travel?

If you are leaving to go toward Missoula, I’d do Ft Collins to Jackson or Grand Tetons, then work your way north thru Yellowstone.

I’d do 2 nights in Jackson, 1 at OF and 2 in Gardiner or Mammoth. If you can add a day I’d add it to OF area.

The park lodging is currently partially open. Book in park lodging only thru Xanterra at www.yellowstonenationalparklodges.com Do not book thru the 3rd party bookers that come up first on a google search as they charge a 10% booking fee and have horrible cancellation policies.

In park dining is carry out only with shortened hours. Bring a cooler.

If you are going soon be aware of some road closures. In just the last hour the road between West Thumb and Old Faithful closed due to a wildland fire. There is a closure due to an overturned gas tanker/fuel spill between Fishing Bridge and Mud Volcano which is supposed to reopen this week. There is a season long closure between Canyon and Tower Junction for road construction.

https://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/parkroads.htm

There is a huge cold front dropping through Monday afternoon/evening that is supposed to bring frigid temps and snow to the area. This may affect the road closure due to fire.

The park has had record visitation this year so reservations are imperative. My guess is that visitation won’t drop off until winter weather starts impacting roads. Last year the first intermittent road closures for wintry conditions started Sept 20. Some years it’s not til Oct 5-6.

Posted by
4792 posts

We went to Yellowstone last September and the roads and parking lots were very crowded. I think staffing had been cut after August and no one was directing traffic in and out of the popular parking areas. At one point we couldn't leave an area because incoming cars were blocking our exit, we might still be there if a few motorists hadn't taken charge and made a few others back up. We stayed at Canyon Village, we've stayed at the Lake Lodge before and liked it better. But wherever you can get in. I agree that staying right in the park is better -- saves a lot of time and gives you a (relatively) more "natural" experience.

I also agree about entering from the south, Jackson and Tetons, rather than from Cody. Cody seems really the long way around for you, and it's a long way from there into the most scenic and interesting parts of Yellowstone.

Our favorite places include Signal Mountain and Jenny Lake (Grand Teton), West Thumb and Norris Geyser Basins, and Lamar Valley (Yellowstone).

Posted by
5704 posts

If a fan of the film Close Encounters of The Third Kind then Devils Tower is a must. Very unique.

Otherwise In Jackson stay at the 49er Inn.
Good food at the Jackson Hole Grocer and Cafe.

Posted by
775 posts

The shortest way from Ft Collins is through the Wind River Range. Fantastic scenery.

If you go thru Cody you'll loose a day at the Buffalo Bill Museum, and the drive up the switchbacks into the park is really slow if anybody in a camper is attempting it. (Think 15 mph for hours.)

There are dozens of guide books on the park and Tetons, so I'm going to leave that to them. But if you leave the park going north go out the West Gate and take 191 thru Big Sky to Bozeman. Again, fantastic scenery.

Posted by
8456 posts

I think staffing had been cut after August and no one was directing traffic in and out of the popular parking areas

In normal years Interpretive Rangers start being cut after Labor Day and again Sept 30. They never hired up to strength this year and never opened Visitor Centers although since late June they’ve set up information tables at the VC entrances and staffed them with Rangers for parts of the day.

There was quite a traffic jam yesterday due to a fire/smoke related road closure east of OF. Apparently for a while traffic was backed up from the OF entrance to the Lower Basin. This is not from any official source but was noted on the GeyserTimes app.

I’ll also add that the fastest way from West Yellowstone to I90 westbound/Missoula is to take US 287 to Ennis, then continue on it to just past Harrison MT. Take the short cut noted by the routing to Butte onto MT 359 to the Cardwell exit. There is road construction on US 191 between West Yellowstone and Big Sky so expect slow downs if you choose this route. I’ve driven from North Idaho to Yellowstone dozens of times (often twice during the summer season) and have tried every permutation!!

Posted by
583 posts

I just drove up Hwy 26 from Riverton, WY through Teton Pass to Victor, ID. The Wind River Range is beautiful. The OF wildfire smoke just about obliterates the Tetons. Idk when you plan to make the drive but If Grand Teton NP is any indication Yellowstone will be nuts.

Posted by
8456 posts

The smoke from the Lone Star fire near Old Faithful should clear out some tomorrow as a very sharp cold front moves thru the area. There is forecast to be rain and snow in the OF area plus overnight temps on Tuesday AM around 20F at OF which will knock down the fire a bit and settle some of the smoke.

Trotter if you are in the area tomorrow be mindful of the weather tomorrow afternoon/evening. If you are staying in Victor and drive over Teton Pass to the Grand Tetons monitor that situation. That is a pass that closes quickly, especially with all the visitor traffic right now. I'd want to be back over Teton Pass before 5PM.

Posted by
1694 posts

Just got back. Has a wonderful car trip. Unfortunately, there was quite a bit of smoke in Wyoming and Montana. Could hardly see the Grand Tetons. But beautiful scenery from Dubois into Grand Teton and many enjoyable stops in Yellowstone. The boadwalk trails out of Old Faithful were fantastic. The scenery before the northern exit to Gardiner was also fantastic. We then enjoyed our trip home, especially enjoying our stop in Butte. Thank you all for your help with our planning.

Posted by
4792 posts

Glad you had a good time despite the smoke. (We would have kept it all out here on the coast but it kept drifting east.)

And thanks for the follow-up report. Few people do that, but it's nice to see.

Posted by
993 posts

Go to Jackson and spend a couple of days in the Tetons and then head north to Yellowstone. The Tetons are more dramatic and Jackson is a fun town. Yellowstone is larger with more key sites including the Old Faithful area, Grand Prismatic Spring, Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, and Mammoth Hot Springs. I'd do them in the order given with different lodging each night along the route. Then you can head out through Gardiner to I-90 to Missoula.

Posted by
993 posts

Whoops - just noticed you already made the trip. Glad you enjoyed it!