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Yellowstone National park & West Coast Driving trip

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May 28, 2009
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Yellowstone National park & West Coast Driving trip

could use your help gathering some info.

planning to visit around late July and enter through the East entrance. looking for things to do (watching geysers etc) and accommodation within the park or something just outside. are a couple of days enough to take take in the sights.

basically the plan is to drive north and head in Alberta(whats the best exit point from the park).

pls share any info.

TIA
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Sep 8, 2006
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Richmond
everylittlecent wrote: could use your help gathering some info.

planning to visit around late July and enter through the East entrance. looking for things to do (watching geysers etc) and accommodation within the park or something just outside. are a couple of days enough to take take in the sights.

basically the plan is to drive north and head in Alberta(whats the best exit point from the park).

pls share any info.

yellowstone is the 4th most visited national park in the US. there's TONS of information out there for what to do, where to stay and how to do about doing it.

there's plenty of accommodation ranging from camping to high end resorts in and around the park. it's impossible to make a suggestion without knowing:

a) budget
b) your form of transport (RV or car from the sounds of it)
c) demographics of your group
d) intention of the trip
e) length of stay
f) interests (nature, animals, natural scenery, mountains, lakes, volcanic activity etc)
g) your preferred accomdation (camping, RV, resort, B&b)

if you want, you could see everything in a day. 1 1/2 or 2 days at a more leisurely pace and you can walk a few trails and experience sunset/sunrise.

there are a number of guidebooks which have tons of information on exactly what you are doing in terms of national parks. try checking out the local library.

my suggestion to you would be to invest in a national park pass. its $80 and lets you into all of the national parks/historic sites in the US for a year for everyone in the vehicle. stop by and see glacier NP on your way to alberta.
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emmpeethree wrote: yellowstone is the 4th most visited national park in the US. there's TONS of information out there for what to do, where to stay and how to do about doing it.

there's plenty of accommodation ranging from camping to high end resorts in and around the park. it's impossible to make a suggestion without knowing:

a) budget
b) your form of transport (RV or car from the sounds of it)
c) demographics of your group
d) intention of the trip
e) length of stay
f) interests (nature, animals, natural scenery, mountains, lakes, volcanic activity etc)
g) your preferred accomdation (camping, RV, resort, B&b)

if you want, you could see everything in a day. 1 1/2 or 2 days at a more leisurely pace and you can walk a few trails and experience sunset/sunrise.

there are a number of guidebooks which have tons of information on exactly what you are doing in terms of national parks. try checking out the local library.

my suggestion to you would be to invest in a national park pass. its $80 and lets you into all of the national parks/historic sites in the US for a year for everyone in the vehicle. stop by and see glacier NP on your way to alberta.



First of all thanks for taking the time to write a more detailed reply than my post. let me answer some Q's you posted.

A. looking for something like $100 per night per family accommodation. it really doesn't matter as this isn't something we will do everytime so budget is very flexible.
B. Full size SUV
C. 4 adults & 4 kids (9-13 yrs old). we have done many drives together (east coast, down south etc and are flexible)
D. driving to the west coast (details given below)
E. like to spend 2 days in the park staying inside. again we can add another if need be.
F. natural scenery, volcanic activity, geysers etc. doesn't have to be kids specific
G. B&B or someplace we can can crash for the night with washroom facilities.

I will outline the entire tentative trip below so basically will enter the park through the east entrance and leave through north. depending on where we stay for the night we need to book accommodation when we travel up north and need to know how far we could drive. again dont want to do more than 500kms. how big a distance from the east entrance to the north.

this is what we intend to do and if folks have done any part of it pls share your thoughts. ideas, particularly folks in AB and BC. listing major stops along the way. some stops will include stops inbetween which are not listed.

toronto- south dakota - YNP - Calgary (Drumheller, banff gondolo, columbia icefields)-- drive through rockies (lake louise-- hells gate and down to Vancouver -- seattle-- redwood forests-- SF --utah-- Nebraska and back.

we have 4 weeks to do it starting mid July.
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sorry nothing to add except that's one of my dream trips! :lol: hopefully you can post a report afterwards....
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Apr 27, 2005
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We spent 1 entire week in Yellowstone a few years ago and loved it and can't wait to go back. We found 1 week was not long enough to see the entire park but you can sure stop at a few of the points of interest you are thinking in a coulpe of days.

Old Faithful can take as long as you want - from a couple of hours to the whole day. If you are entering the park from the east entrance then i would try and have your first day in the park close to Old Faithful. You are going to have a hard time finding accomodations within the park this late - they really fill up fast. Old Faithful Lodge is amazing but it could already be booked up. You could always find something in West Yellowstone after a day at Old Faithful - there are plenty of hotels there.

We also spent time in Mammoth Hot Springs area and that is at the North Entrance - we stayed in Gardiner while up in that area. That would be a good exit point from the park on your way to Alberta.

Also something to remember - the driving distances are not far but they take a long time! It is a very busy park and you are lucky to average 30 mile an hour through out the day. There is always buffalo, bears and elk walking on the roads and holding up traffic!

I love your trip out line BTW!! We have done most of it but in different trips - we went from Seattle to Vancouver to Calgary! What an amazing country we live in and I love exploring it.
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Hi,

Hells Gate isn't very spectacular in the summer because of the lower volume of water running through the passage. A more interesting drive would be to turn south at Sicamous & drive thru the Okanagan Valley. Turn West at Kelowna/Westbank to continue on to Vancouver.

http://www.hellobc.com/en-CA/default.htm
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raptorfan wrote: sorry nothing to add except that's one of my dream trips! :lol: hopefully you can post a report afterwards....
sure thing. will help others who have similar ideas/plans
chasbos wrote:
Old Faithful can take as long as you want - from a couple of hours to the whole day. If you are entering the park from the east entrance then i would try and have your first day in the park close to Old Faithful. You are going to have a hard time finding accomodations within the park this late - they really fill up fast. Old Faithful Lodge is amazing but it could already be booked up. You could always find something in West Yellowstone after a day at Old Faithful - there are plenty of hotels there.

We also spent time in Mammoth Hot Springs area and that is at the North Entrance - we stayed in Gardiner while up in that area. That would be a good exit point from the park on your way to Alberta.

Also something to remember - the driving distances are not far but they take a long time! It is a very busy park and you are lucky to average 30 mile an hour through out the day. There is always buffalo, bears and elk walking on the roads and holding up traffic!

I love your trip out line BTW!! We have done most of it but in different trips - we went from Seattle to Vancouver to Calgary! What an amazing country we live in and I love exploring it.

great info. yes old faithful is out. the plan is to enter YNP at noon on day 1 and come back out and stay in Cody, head back in the next day and do the sightseeing (need to nail down what exactly we need to do) and stay the night at Gardiner and if needed spend a few more hrs on day 3 and head north.
Fraser River Rat wrote: Hi,

Hells Gate isn't very spectacular in the summer because of the lower volume of water running through the passage. A more interesting drive would be to turn south at Sicamous & drive thru the Okanagan Valley. Turn West at Kelowna/Westbank to continue on to Vancouver.

http://www.hellobc.com/en-CA/default.htm

thanks. nothing is cast in stone and looks like same driving distance and if you feel this is a much better drive we'll change our plans.


again if there is anything else that folks have done/seen along our route pls feel free to chime in.
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Apr 27, 2005
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ontario
Cody is lots of fun - see spent a whole day just relaxing and not driving anywhere!! We stayed at the Cody Cowboy Village and it is right beside the rodeo pen where they have a rodeo every night in the summer. The Buffalo Bill Historical Museum is also very interesting and every night around 6:00 they do a old west showdown in the middle of town!
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I would have sugguested spending the first night at Gardiner MT or West Yellowstone, rather than doubling back to Cody (Fishing bridge to Cody = 75 miles = about 80 mins drive one way) as you'll have to cover the same distance again the next morning. That's almost 3 hours driving time that could be better spent within the park. Fishing Bridge to Gardiner is only 58 miles. As an alternative, Fishing bridge to West Yellowstone is 70 miles.

The main road in Yellowstone is essentially a big loop shaped like a figure 8, so you want to be as close to the loop as possible (Fishing Bridge, Canyon, Tower Falls, Mammoth, Norris, Madison, Old Faithful). It's approx 4 days to see all big attractions or 1/4 the park each day.

Alternative 1
Day 1 (1/2day ). Fishing Bridge towards Old Faithful (as far as you can get) and overnight in West Yellowstone
Day 2 (full) . Old Faithful (pick up where you left off), Madison, Norris towards Mammoth and overnight in Gardiner
Day 3 (1/2 day) Mammoth and perhaps Tower Falls, exit Gardiner

Alternative 2
Day 1 (1/2 Day) Fishing Bridge, Canyon, Tower Falls toward overnight in Gardiner.
Day 2 (Full) Mammoth, Norris, Madison, towards Old Faithful, overnight in West Yellowstone
Day 3 (1/2 day) Old Faithful, exit at West Yellostone or Gardiner
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l69norm wrote: I would have sugguested spending the first night at Gardiner MT or West Yellowstone, rather than doubling back to Cody (Fishing bridge to Cody = 75 miles = about 80 mins drive one way) as you'll have to cover the same distance again the next morning. That's almost 3 hours driving time that could be better spent within the park. Fishing Bridge to Gardiner is only 58 miles. As an alternative, Fishing bridge to West Yellowstone is 70 miles.

The main road in Yellowstone is essentially a big loop shaped like a figure 8, so you want to be as close to the loop as possible (Fishing Bridge, Canyon, Tower Falls, Mammoth, Norris, Madison, Old Faithful). It's approx 4 days to see all big attractions or 1/4 the park each day.

Alternative 1
Day 1 (1/2day ). Fishing Bridge towards Old Faithful (as far as you can get) and overnight in West Yellowstone
Day 2 (full) . Old Faithful (pick up where you left off), Madison, Norris towards Mammoth and overnight in Gardiner
Day 3 (1/2 day) Mammoth and perhaps Tower Falls, exit Gardiner

Alternative 2
Day 1 (1/2 Day) Fishing Bridge, Canyon, Tower Falls toward overnight in Gardiner.
Day 2 (Full) Mammoth, Norris, Madison, towards Old Faithful, overnight in West Yellowstone
Day 3 (1/2 day) Old Faithful, exit at West Yellostone or Gardiner

yes true it doesnt make sense to head back to Cody!! I think i will try Alternate 1 since we are heading north on day3. I would infact prefer to stay 2 nights in Gardiner instead of spending a night at West Yellowstone and the other at Gardiner since unloading and loading back the vehicle itself takes some time but i guess since time is of essence I would rather not double back on a route that we had driven before.

truly appreciate all the suggestions as this is the only place I am a bit concerned about booking accommodation since if i leave it till late I might be out of luck.
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Apr 27, 2005
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There is absolutely nothing in Gardiner - 1 restaurant really and 1 main hotel (Best Western) which was where we stayed with our family of 6 and they offered suites.

West Yellowstone has way more to offer in places to eat, stay and things to do. There is a bear sanctuary there that was interesting and we went to the funniest show at the local theater one night.
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Gardiner is much much smaller than West Yellowstone. I think there's also a Super8 and a Comfort Inn in Gardiner. There's also B&B and guest ranches in the area. From what I remember, West Yellowstone fills up pretty fast, but Gardiner in no where near as popular. There's also a room finding service for Yellowstone that you can use. They can find places even when everbody else is full

Heading north from Gardiner, there is the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman MT at Montana State University (Dinosaurs exhibit)
http://www.museumoftherockies.org/

A detour to Glacier National Park (US)/ Waterton Lakes (Cdn) is not that far. You would proabaly need to overnight around either Helana MT or Great Falls MT depending on how much of the day you spend at Yellowstone/Bozeman

http://maps.google.ca/maps?f=d&source=s ... 403809&z=7

The "Going to the Sun" road in US Glacier Nat Park (Saint Mary) can get pretty busy
http://www.nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/gttsrfaq.htm

You could overnight at Waterton Lakes Nat Park (cdn). BTW, the US/Cdn border crossing at Chief Mountain isn't open 24X7
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Thanks again. so from what I gather there isnt much in Gardiner. looking at distances from Gardiner and West yellowstone it looks very similar. and if most of the attractions are near west Yellowstone I would rather spend 2 night there than split them. It will be much easier on us as well.

heading up north the plan was to spend the night at lethbridge AB (again just wanted to break the drive and nothing important there for us) but as L69Norm as suggested alternatives I will look closely and maybe alter the routes. need to be closer to Calgary at the end and the route through Lethbridge seems a bit more bigger and thats why i chose it.
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Gardiner to Lethbridge is about 7 hours driving time. I'm assuming that you would be spending about 2-4 hours in Yellowstone before proceeding onto Lethbridge?
Probably add an additional 3 hours for breaks and meals = 12- 13 hour day. It's doable. I believe one of the hotels in Lethbridge has a waterpark

Did you have the drive from Ottawa to Yellowstone figured out?
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Nov 29, 2006
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We also are planning to go to YSP, Grand Canyon, Utah etc. in this July, but our routes are different, We will fly out from Buf to LAS, then rent a car for 2 weeks from LAS, drive up through Utah, Utah has so many national parks such as Zion NP, Bryce NP, Arch NP etc. then go through Salt Lake City, then to YSP, then back down to Grand Canyon North Rim. We already booked our 2 nights in YSP last year because our dates are so specific and must plan accordingly, we will stay at Canyon Lodge, East entrance, cost around $90 for the room for 4, 2 double beds with private bathroom. Here is the website that you can book YSP accomodations:

https://ynpres.xanterra.com/cgi-bin/lan ... 1;0;010;?/

Most of July dates are already sold out. Good luck.

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