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Yellowstone, and possibly Grand Tetons (or another location) next September

1214mom1214mom 4508 replies179 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
edited September 2018 in Parent Cafe
I am seriously considering a trip to Yellowstone next September, and right now I’m just hoping for general information. I plan to do more research, but people here have opinions I value, so I’m looking for guidance.
Assuming we will definitely go to Yellowstone, and probably stay there at least 3-4 nights.
We want to combine it with another location, and won’t want to be away from home longer than about 10 days.
We DON’T want to spend a ton of time driving. We like to hike, bike, kayak, and spend time in nature, and to eat fairly well (eat out probably once a day, usually lunch or dinner, especially if we have a kitchen in our accommodations).
We value location of place more than luxury, but we aren’t campers. (I mean we’d prefer to stay in a less luxurious place if it’s in the park, and has beautiful views and makes getting to places easier more than staying at a high end resort kind of place). I know I need to call places soon to get eat reservations for next year.
I would appreciate suggestions for where to stay (specific names of hotels or condos or whatever if known), what to consider/combine besides Yellowstone, and potential number of days in each.
Other information will be valuable as we make decisions, but right now I’m trying to work out the big picture things.
edited September 2018
44 replies
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Replies to: Yellowstone, and possibly Grand Tetons (or another location) next September

  • ski_racerski_racer 692 replies28 threadsRegistered User Member
    Jackson, WY in September will be lovely. Not as crowded as in July, and less than 20 minutes from Grand Teton. Great restaurants and lots of options for lodging. My personal favorite is the Antler Inn, but there is a wide range and the decision will probably come down to your budget. On the higher end: the Four Seasons and the Amangani. In the middle: Antler Inn, Mountain Modern, Virginian, Snow King Hotel, and more. I don't have too much experience with lower cost options, but I would check out other hotels and VRBOs. If you decide on Jackson, I can also give restaurant and activity suggestions for in Jackson, in Grand Teton, and in other nearby areas.
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  • allyphoeallyphoe 2366 replies57 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Stay inside Yellowstone. The lodges at Old Faithful and at Mammoth are both good.
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  • TatinGTatinG 6380 replies113 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    I just got back from six nights in that area. Four nights at Canyon Lodge in Yellowstone, one night at Colter Bay Village in Grand Teton and one night in Jackson. Canyon Lodge is a good location. Since I booked at the last minute we were in the cabins which look bad on the outside but the interior had been renovated and was perfectly fine for us. There is no TV or A/C in any of the lodges in Yellowstone (IIRC). There was a coffee maker but no microwave or refrigerator.. There was also poor internet and cell reception. The food at the Canyon Lodge eateries was basic, mundane and fuel for energy only. Nothing special. The new lodges at Canyon looked very nice and new. There were about six of those buildings in a cluster.

    Colter Bay cabins in Grand Teton were cute little log cabins which I liked very much. Again no TV or A/C and no hair dryers. No coffee maker. But they had a cabin called the 'guest lounge' which did have wifi. We ate dinner at the Jackson Lake Lodge bar because it has windows that overlook the river and moose habitat. I had the best meal of the trip there.

    In Jackson, we stayed at the Ranch Inn which is just a block or so from the center square. A nice motel with a large room and a balcony overlooking the street and mountain. Jackson is a 50 mile drive from the entrance to Yellowstone and Yellowstone is huge with a lot of driving itself. I would not base in Jackson for seeing Yellowstone as my preference.

    September was a lovely time to go. Really nice weather that varied from 28 degrees early in the morning to 75 in the afternoon. The aspen were turning yellow and the crowds were somewhat diminished. I went trying to hear the elk bugling with the fall rut, but saw only a few dozen elk and heard nothing. But I saw thousands of bison, pronghorn, a couple of wolves and one grizzly bear. I also saw the world's largest geyser erupt, which made the trip absolutely spectacular just by itself.

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  • greenwitchgreenwitch 8726 replies41 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    I heard from a friend that there is zero cell service within the outdoor areas of the park. If you are going with a larger group, you'll have to make plans and synchronize your watches like in the old days.
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  • TatinGTatinG 6380 replies113 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    I had very limited cell phone service. Texting (Verizon) worked. I got one cell phone call but it cut in and out.
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  • TiggerDadTiggerDad 1844 replies70 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    We stayed 7 nights in the YS, and we barely scratched the surface. Our lodgings were in the 1) Lake Lodge, 2) Old Faithful Inn, 3) Canon Lodge, and 4) Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and Cabins. With the lodgings spread out strategically, we were able to get the taste of the whole park. We then stayed a night in Jackson Hole for the Grand Teton. After spending $106 at the Motel 6 in Jackson Hole (and this was more than a decade ago), we went camping ever since and saved lots of money and had more fun doing it.
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  • TatinGTatinG 6380 replies113 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Yes, Canyon Lodge cabins were $250/night. Colter Bay was $200. But Old Faithful and Lake Lodge can get really ridiculous. I saw rooms for $500 to $700/night.
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  • TiggerDadTiggerDad 1844 replies70 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    "Yes, Canyon Lodge cabins were $250/night. Colter Bay was $200. But Old Faithful and Lake Lodge can get really ridiculous. I saw rooms for $500 to $700/night."

    My my.... the lodging price has inflated multiple-fold since I last visited the park. But the OP doesn't want to camp, I believe....
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  • HImomHImom 34202 replies391 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    We stayed at Lake Hotel in Yellowstone and loved it. There is also Absaroka Lodge in Gardiner, MT, just outside of the north entrance of Yellowstone, which we also stayed at. I believe the lodge was less expensive and had larger rooms. My dad liked that it had wifi & TV (which didn't matter to me or H). I really loved having a private tour by Yellowstone Association. They picked us up at our lodging--once at Absaroka Lodge and once at Lake Hotel. The tour was 8 hours and took us to see animals (which is what I requested). They have other options as well and it can be private or you can tour with others as well. You can also select the fitness/exertion level you prefer. I really thought that private tours were well worth it for our group of 7.

    We also liked Tetons, which are nearby. We went on a nice float trip down the river (warning--it is MUCH colder than you might think and you need to expect it to be cold & windy on the float trip if you go). We stayed in cabins in the Tetons as well as throughout Yellowstone. It was fun to stay at different places in the park--at least 2 nights or more at each location.

    You can do activities offered by Zantara in the park--horseback riding, wagon ride and other activities. We enjoyed the activities and can view the offerings on the website. We spent at day at Cody, WY and looked around the old western town. It was OK. We also went to Rapid City and saw Mt Rushmore and drove across to Yellowstone with our kids when they were grade schoolers. When we went with my folks, we didn't drive, just flew from Rapid City to MT and then drove to Yellowstone.
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  • great lakes momgreat lakes mom 2984 replies28 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Tiggerdad, camper here as well, a few years ago in September after a river trip on the Missouri out of Billings, Montana. Driving from Billings, on the Beartooth highway into Yellowstone was spectacular and I though on par with other high altitude drives such as the one in RMNP.

    Agreed on staying in different parts of the park, as driving is slow and slowed even more by the bison and other animals that wander on the roads. We stayed in the Madison area and then up by Mammouth on the way out for a night There is so much to see. Settling into the Old faithful lodge and walking the various sights in that area before busy with tour buses sounds ideal. I though September was an ideal time to visit.
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  • washugradwashugrad 1121 replies13 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    I'd highly recommend Grand Teton NP... we went there and Yellowstone the same summer and Yellowstone is like the must-do touristy part while Grand Teton is the place to kick back and relax and enjoy the stunning mountain scenery. We stayed in the Colter Bay cabins which are rustic but well-located. Depending on how many of you are going (couple vs family) you might want to also check out the Jackson Lake lodge- I think the rooms are higher-end and more of a view but less spacious and more expensive. And I'd second the Snake River float trip (we did the dinner trip and saw a moose).

    When we were at Yellowstone we stayed in West Yellowstone so I can't really help with in-park accommodations. But you are good to be making your bookings now if you want to stay inside the park.

    As far as # of days in each... it's been about 6 years since we went but I think we did something like - drive from Bay Area (overnight on the way), one night in Jackson, 4 nights (or maybe 3) in GTNP, drive through Yellowstone stopping at West Thumb thermal area and continue to Cody WY for 2 nights, then drive back into Yellowstone through the northeast entrance past the falls and on to West Yellowstone for 4 nights.
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  • momtogkcmomtogkc 728 replies19 threadsRegistered User Member
    edited September 2018
    Wanted to add - make sure you ONLY deal with the approved hotel websites for the parks. If you just google "yellowstone hotels" you will see a lot of third party sites that sell hotel rooms - to be sure you are getting exactly what you want go through the official sites. I actually liked calling because you don't talk to a reservation agent at a call center, you talk to someone in the park.

    Yellowstone - https://www.yellowstonenationalparklodges.com

    Tetons - https://www.gtlc.com or you can go directly to Dornans or Signal Mt. Lodge websites if you prefer those

    Also, it is a too early to book now but if you are interested it may help you choose a hotel - if you call the day the Old Faithful Inn opens and get lucky you can sign up to help with the flag lowering ceremony. OFI has four flags on top (you can see in the pictures of the lodge) - USA, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. They are raised and lowered each day by the hotel bell hops. Each night they let a group (I think 8-10 people) help with the lowering which is around 6pm. You get a great mini history of the hotel from the bell hop, get to go up to the crow's nest then all the way on to the roof which as you can imagine has an awesome view. I have heard they try to time it with an eruption of Old Faithful but we were not that lucky. It was a super cool experience and I am so glad we were able to do it even though it was snowing and my FL kids were freezing! If you end up staying here I will find out the exact day you can call- it took me over an hour to get through but it was worth it.

    You can see the flags in this picture

    Edited to add - I just looked a little bit on the Yellowstone site and there are rooms left next September but depending on what type of room you want you might have to play with the dates. I suggest calling if you are flexible - I told the lady what rooms I wanted (I was kind of specific since we needed two rooms and I was hoping for that suite) and she was able to find a way to work it out very close to the dates I wanted.
    edited September 2018
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  • OnwardOnward 2905 replies79 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Yes, keep checking right up to the week you leave. Yellowstone rooms become available on and off. We stayed at Canyon Lodge. Nice but basic- I think we paid $270/night. The park is huge and there are often traffic jams due to animals so plan accordingly.
    Just a suggestion, we spent several nights in Cody and really enjoyed it. We rafted, went to the rodeo and the museum there is great. They call it the western Smithsonian.
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  • TatinGTatinG 6380 replies113 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    I would recommend a guided hike by Yellowstone Hiking Guides. They are a National Geographic subcontractor and the guide is very good and knowledgeable on where the various types of animals tend to hang out. I took the Lamar Valley Hike, 6 hours, 6 miles up and down animal trails. IWe were a small group of 5 hikers. We saw thousands of bison, two wolves, pronghorn and a mountain goat. They provided binoculars, bear spray and a sack lunch.

    There are different types of Snake River float trips. The ones south of Jackson are for the fun of the rapids. It was recommended to us (although we didn't have time) to do the float trips in Grand Teton NP. They are better for spotting wildlife.

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  • mabelmabel 88 replies6 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    Before you go download the Gypsy guide tour app for Yellowstone. As you drive through the park, gives you interesting history, wildlife info and directions about what’s coming up and parking areas. Like your own guided tour!
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  • 1214mom1214mom 4508 replies179 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Wow, I knew I could count on you guys for info.
    I haven’t had time to read it all yet, but I plan to this weekend.
    To answer the question about airports, I’m not sure yet. We will fly out of Baltimore, so will depend on cost and convenience from there, in addition to exactly where we decide to go.
    The person who said we don’t plan to camp is correct, but I wouldn’t mind staying in a cabin or something similar, as long as bedding, etc. are all provided.
    We have stayed in NP lodging before, and I realize much of it is “rustic.”

    Thanks everyone.
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  • greenbuttongreenbutton 2650 replies119 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    We just did this! This spring, end of May, early June. My observations, fwiw:

    We stayed a night at the Yellowstone Snow Lodge, which shall evermore live in infamy at our house. The perceived convenience was outweighed by the cost, the very poorly run hotel, the crappy overpriced food...but you can go see Old Faithful over and over and over...We stayed at Absaroka in Gardiner and loved it -- you are at the Mammoth end of the park, just past the Roosevelt Arch. Fun little town. We had a porch overlooking the river and the mountains, No frills, but that suited us.

    GTNP we stayed at Colter Bay, that was great. Pricey, but great. Before we got there, we stayed at a place suggested here called Sleepy J Cabins in Swan Valley Idaho and I would stay there again in a heartbeat. It's outside the park and it's a drive, but it's clean and comfortable and affordable and friendly. Clean, comfortable and near a gas station. And Swan Valley itself is staggeringly beautiful.

    The road in Yellowstone proper from Norris to Mammoth is being reconstructed and that adds a ton of travel time. If you stay in Gardiner, you can see th less -busy valley , but you'd miss the geyser basins. I recommend having some "must see" items but staying super flexible. We skipped te waterfalls but got up early to avoid the crowds at Grand Prismatic. GO to your library and check out a guidebook! We had a wonderful, wonderful time. Just remember the bug spray.....
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  • TatinGTatinG 6380 replies113 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    I second the Gypsy guide app for Yellowstone/Grand Teton. It's just the right information with a touch of humor and you'll never miss your turn.

    I'd also say that yes, the Norris to Mammoth Springs road was under construction with possible 30 minute delays. I'm not sure when the work is scheduled to be finished.
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  • 1214mom1214mom 4508 replies179 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Wow, this makes planning a trip to Disney look easy.
    I see I have lots of research to do and decisions to make.
    I think I will make reservations soon, recognizing I can cancel them later.
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