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  • Writer's pictureShayna Gaman-Bean

What is the Beans' favorite National Park so far? Read on to find out! (part 1)

"Within National Parks is room -- glorious room -- room in which to find ourselves, in which to think and hope, to dream and plan, to rest and resolve." ~ Enos Mills

Any guesses yet?


Well, that's actually not an easy question to answer, because we have enjoyed every park we've been to for a variety of reasons. However, Yellowstone and the Tetons were absolutely spectacular. Let me explain a few reasons why:

  1. They are huge!! Just the shear volume to explore is hard to comprehend.

  2. Incredibly beautiful!! The up close and far away beauty is just unmatched by so many places we have been.

  3. Variety of things to do!! Oh my goodness, where do I begin as far as variety of things to do and see!! I'll share more about this below, but everything from hikes to boating to geysers to lakes to mountains to boiling mud pits.. I could go on...

  4. So many animals!! By far the most animal experiences we've had.

  5. And of course the history! First national park no less!

  6. Hot springs! This was definitely a highlight, from seeing the stunning blue pools out in nature to going to a resort to relax in the springs.

Suggested itinerary for if you only have a short amount of time (1-3 days) in Yellowstone at the end of the PART 2 post.

Here's our itinerary broken down by day (we explored the park for 7 days):

Day 1:

Today started with a 0500 wake up and a quick walk for me. Then finishing up last minute get house and pets ready stuff, loading the car and heading to Bad Bakers and Starbies for breakfast.

We were on the road at 0800, headed on 80 East most of the way. The drive was very easy. Except for Mike, who drove 1st shift, we all slept and relaxed the first 4 hours. We got gas and then stopped for potty and lunch in Winemucca at Subway.

Then back on the road at 1300 for another 4 hours until we arrived in Twin Falls, Idaho. We had a little rain on the drive, but otherwise uneventful.

We checked into our Hampton Inn Hotel then headed to dinner at Scooters. Loved this place. Great service, food, and drinks.

Then to Shoshone Falls. I don't know exactly what I was expecting, but it was not this! An expansive canyon that appears out of nowhere!

The falls are stunning.

We explored there for a little bit before heading to check out Dierks Lake, another super cool spot.

Cliff jumping!!!

Then back to the hotel for a late night swim and then ice cream and then bed.

Beautiful sunset!!

Day 2:

We slept in this morning then went to get the hotel breakfast then packed up and hit the road right at 1100.

We stopped for lunch at 1300 in Idaho falls at Panda and Subway. Then back on the road again. The drive was beautiful with a few sprinkles along the way. As we got closer to Montana the landscape changed drastically to a more mountainous land with beautiful redwood-type trees. Really hard to read the Montana sign, but here it is...

We arrived at our hotel, Gray Wolf Inn, at exactly 1600 for check in.

We threw our stuff in the room and then headed to Yellowstone.

No lines into the park this time of day, but long lines out (we later realized it was due to an animal sighting). We quickly learned that seeing a lineup of cars meant there was an interesting animal nearby and we'd get super excited!

First stop was Fountain Paint Pots where we saw all sorts of geysers, mud puts and hot springs. It was a great introduction to the park and the kids were so grossed out with the smells. HAHA!

Then off to Old Faithful. We arrived at about 1840 and lucky for us it was predicted to erupt at 1906. While we waited we watched the surrounding geysers erupt.

Old Faithful ended up erupting at 1904 and OMG it was spectacular!! It actually brought tears to my eyes it was so amazing.

Now time to find dinner. All the restaurants at Old Faithful were booked so we headed out of the park. There was tons of traffic, all because of wildlife. We ended up seeing a bison and herd of Elk.

Then we saw the most incredible sunset!!

We made it to dinner about 2100 at Wild West Pizzeria and Salon. Really liked this place! Great food and there was even a DJ playing good music.

Then back to the hotel for a quick swim at 2230.

Day 3:

Today we sort of slept in, had the hotel breakfast and headed to the park at 0900. There was a pretty good lineup of cars, but it moved quickly and only took us about 15 minutes to get into the park.

We decided to do the whole Grand Loop today starting going North.

First we went to Gibbon Falls with beautiful views of the falls and meadows.

Then on the way to the next stop we hit some traffic which was due to a mama bear and 2 cubs. So adorable!!

Next we went to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and Artist Point, the viewpoint for Lower Falls. Stunning as you would expect.

Then, we went to the Lower Falls Brink which was also spectacular. The water is so incredibly powerful. The hike was only about 1/2 mile, but it was steep coming up, so it was still quite a good workout.

Up next was the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and Inspiration Point. More amazing views there.

Then to Hayden Valley where we saw a lone bison on one side.

And a whole herd on the other.

Then a quick pit stop at Sulphur Caldron which was so incredible, but so smelly!

Next to Mud Volcano where we saw Dragon's Mouth Spring which was a huge highlight for me. Just incredible how you can actually imagine a dragon in a cave!

On the way to the next stop we saw some mule deer and elk.

Next stop was Yellowstone Lake and I am not sure what I was expecting, but it was not this! It’s more like an ocean than a lake. And it just happened to be super windy on this day. The lake is beautiful blue and oh so cold. While there is boating, no one was swimming (which is not recommended anyway because of the cold).

Kids got an ice cream treat at the store there, then onward back to the hotel to complete the loop. On the way back to the hotel, we saw lots of bison and elk and stopped to take pics of some.

We got dinner at the Slippery Otter which was just ok, nothing special.

Then s'mores at the hotel and another night swim.

What a fantastic day!!

Day 4:

Today started with a 0700 wakeup, a quick breakfast and then hitting the road for the Tetons.

We decided to do a loop starting with the longer distance way first. Of note: both ways take the same amount of time, but the way we started was longer distance-wise and mostly through Idaho.

The drive was gorgeous and one thing I loved about it was being able to see the Tetons in the distance most of the way. The Idaho farming countryside and its rolling hills are gorgeous.

We made it to Jackson at about noon, had lunch at Subway and then headed into the park.

The first stop was Mormon Row. Beautiful, yet so windy. The kids were fascinated by the history of this area. Very interesting learning why they settled in this area: good soil, protection from the wind, near water, etc.

We didn’t have much time in the park and I wanted to do a long hike, so we headed into the park (after a few stops to get views of the glaciers and mountains).

On the way into the park we had our first moose sighting which was fun.

Then onto the String Lake Trail head. Unfortunately, the parking lots were full, so we headed back to Jenny Lake which ended up being perfect. We did a 4 mile hike around the perimeter of the lake. The lake is the most gorgeous blue and there were lots of people swimming in various areas. We stopped to take some picturesque photos and then headed back to the store for some ice cream treats.

It was in the low-80s this day, but that felt toasty on our hike, so a little breeze every now and then was so nice.

By now it was about 1730 and we were so hungry, We had heard about this great pizza place in the park at Leek’s Marina so we decided to check it out. The drive there was beautiful with gorgeous views of Jackson Lake.

The pizza and brews were great and so were the views of Jackson Lake.

Then back to the mountain views for our sunset photoshoot. We got stunning views in front of the mountains.

And at the same time watched a female elk herd. It was pretty awesome. The herd kept moving closer and closer, but still a safe distance away.

By now it was about 2100 and we decided to finish our loop back to the hotel which would take us back though Yellowstone.

It was a long drive in the dark. We got some awesome views of the stars, an elk herd, coyotes, but also traffic from road construction. Twice we had to wait 10 minutes to get past 1 lane roads. Not fun at night when you’re tired, but we made it!

We got back to our hotel at about midnight and crashed hard.

Day 5: To be continued in part 2...



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