We flew into Bozeman on United from Chicago, however you can also fly into Jackson Hole or even Salt Lake if you don’t mind a longer drive. We arrived to Yellowstone on October 13th.
After picking up our rental car and having lunch at MAP brewery we drove down to Gardiner, MT where we stayed at the Absaroka Lodge. In October many of the lodges in the park are shutting down plus you don’t have wifi or great service in the park so we wanted to stay in town.
We had some time that evening before sundown so we went ahead and ventured into the park, paid our entry fee ($35), got our map and went to Mammoth Falls (only about a 20 min drive from town). There were Elk everywhere so be cautious and give them their space.
That was about all the time we had with the sun still up so we got some pizza from Yellowstone Pizza Company for dinner and stopped by Gardiner Market to grab beer and snacks for the next day. Lots of things are shut down in the park either because the season is mostly over or due to Covid so we decided to stock up on road trip snacks for the next couple days. This saved us tons of time searching for food.
We really want to make sure we saw Wildlife so we drove over to Lamar Valley and wow did we get our wish! There were herds of Bison everywhere! We saw them wandering through the valley and crossing the street multiple times. We even got in a bit of a traffic jam on a bridge because they were standing on the bridge blocking everyone from driving through. It was an amazing thing to experience. Traffic was one of the main reasons I decided to go to Yellowstone in October. I’ve heard it’s terrible in the summer and you spend hours backed up because of how many other travelers are visiting the park.
After seeing all the Bison we went over to Nolan Springs and then we headed East to see the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone! We went up to Artist Point to see it from afar, then headed down to Lookout Point to do a short hike down closer the falls. It was gorgeous and well worth seeing from different vantage points!
First we checked online to see when Old Faithful was going to erupt next (it goes off about every 60-90 minutes) and made our way down south through the park. We got there just in time to see it erupt and were about to walk along the trail nearby when we saw a bear!!! It was real close and definitely closer than the 100 yards they suggest you distance yourself from bears but we watched it walk along for a minute and took a video. We then decided to leave and not walk along the trail because that’s where the bear was heading – it even walked along the path for a moment before going into the woods. We said uh uh not today!
Next we ventured down to West Thumb to see Yellowstone Lake and it was gorgeous!
As we made our way back to Gardiner we saw tons of geysers. We stopped at Biscuit Basin, Black Sand Basin and the Grand Prismatic Pool. It’s really nice that everything is marked so well and that you can walk through it all on the wooden paths. The ground and the water is very hot so be careful not to touch or step onto the ground.
The sun was setting as we left the park and we got some amazing shots. The photos don’t do it justice but are still beautiful.
After we checked out of our hotel we decided we wanted to cross off Grand Teton National Park from our list as well so we drove all the way through Yellowstone again and then all the way through the Tetons. The views of the mountains were stunning!
We had dinner at Roadhouse Brewing Co. in Jackson Hole, WY and then got some coffee for our long drive back to Bozeman.
Tips for you Trip
•Make sure to bring layers! I wore thermals under either leggings or jeans each day. Bring something that can cover your ears and stay on well. I was actually happy to wear my face mask since it kept my face warm.
•I wish we had bought binoculars since we didn’t venture out into the woods much it would have been nice to see further out and possibly catch some more wildlife sightings.
•You get a map when you pay at the entrance ($35) and everything has signs so if you’re just going to do all the highlights you don’t need to plan much. You’ll be totally fine just driving through the park each day and stopping along the way.
•Constantly be on the lookout for wildlife. You’re in their territory so drive cautiously and be aware of your surroundings while walking around. Also be respectful of their home and their space. We saw a few people get way too close to the Bison and the Elk. You don’t want to threaten them!
•You can definitely see all the highlights of the park in 2-3 days!
•If I were to do it again I would stay the first 2 days in Gardiner and then the last day in Jackson and possibly fly out of that airport instead of going back to Bozeman. This would have saved us a lot of driving time.
Hopefully this guide helps inspire you to plan your trip to Yellowstone & The Grand Tetons!
-The Hoppy Flight Attendant
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Check out my last post: 7 Essential Tips for Traveling During & After the Pandemic