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day trips outside Yellowstone/GT

Epsom, United...
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day trips outside Yellowstone/GT

A few questions about day trips *from* Yellowstone and Grand Teton.

1. Given that we're interested in scenery (especially views from on high and waterfalls) and wildlife (and we're happy to day-hike to see them if there's time), what are the must-do day trips outside Yellowstone and GT? (We're not so interested in history or, er, human activity, so even though the Buffalo Bill Centre sounds fascinating, we probably wouldn't go for a trip to Cody.)

2. (From Cooke City,) is it better to do the Beartooth/Red Lodge/Belfry/Chief Joseph loop clockwise or anti-clockwise?

3. (From West Yellowstone,) is it worth doing a day exploring stuff off highway 20 south of West Yellowstone. I'm thinking some or all of Mesa Falls, Big Springs and Bechler (for a short walk round Cave and Bechler Falls, perhaps in a loop or perhaps a short there-and-back from Cave Falls) and whatever else is doable in a day and recommended.

Many thanks for your help.

Some back-story ...

I'm planning a 2-3 week "holiday of a lifetime" trip to Yellowstone and GT from 1 September next year (starting and finishing at Jackson airport, a few days south to north in GT followed by a sort of anti-clockwise tour of Yellowstone finishing at Old Faithful). In planning our trip, we pretty much decided not to do any fun stuff outside the parks lest we end up wanting to go for 2-3 months!

However, reading this forum has provided lots of brilliant help and advice, in particular in response to some questions I've asked, but also from reading other threads. It's the latter that's the problem and I have weakened and cracked! I've seen so many people wax lyrical about the Beartooth and Chief Joseph highways that I think we'll add another day to our itinerary to cover it (hence question 2 above).

We've already got a night booked in a very reasonably priced and very well reviewed B&B in Cooke City (Skyline Ranch) anyway, so it would be easy to add a second night. Besides, for nearly all of the trip, we'll be staying in cheaper cabins and hotel/motel rooms so it will be nice to be somewhere where we're a bit more pampered a bit longer!

I've also read about Mesa Falls and Bechler and wonder if they are worth a day (hence question 3).

And having opened the floodgates by considering stuff outside the parks, and at the risk of it turning into a 2-3 month trip, I can't help wondering if there is more we should consider - hence, question 1!

Many thanks for any help you can give me.

PA
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1. Re: day trips outside Yellowstone/GT

Even though you are not interested in the Buffalo Bill Museum, a trip outside Yellowstone toward Cody would give you some UNIQUE scenery that you will NOT see in the park. Leaving the EAST entrance (toward Cody), the drive gives you scenery that includes many 'hoodoos' - towering rock spires that are beautiful & impressive. It is about an hour's drive from east entrance to Cody, where you could have lunch & return to the park OR make a day trip by looping up Chief Joseph Highway from Cody. The hoodoos are very cool - this route is called Buffalo Bill Scenic Highway - check it out!

And the Beartooth Highway is AMAZING - enjoy!

Atlanta, Georgia
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2. Re: day trips outside Yellowstone/GT

Be sure and spend a day in Jackson at the south end of the Grand Tetons. It is a nice town with good restaurants and a nice museum. I also agree to spend a day in Cody. The rodeo and Buffalo Bill museum are a must see imo.

Yes driving the Beartooth Hwy and Chief Joseph Hwy is amazing. It is one of the top ten scenic byways in the US.

N. Idaho
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3. Re: day trips outside Yellowstone/GT

I don't remember how many days you have?

I would probably do an out and back on Beartooth instead of coming around by Belfrey, just because I find Beartooth looks different depending on which direction you are heading, then an out and back on Chief Joseph, unless you decide you want to loop in thru the East entrance per BlueHighways' suggestion.

Mesa Falls to me is a 3rd tier sight. Very nice, but only after you have exhausted everything in Yellowstone. I will say I have never been to the Bechler area, so can't comment on the scenery there. Big Springs is neat, but I have only visited on snowmobiles from West Yellowstone.

You can also loop out to Quake Lake from West Yellowstone for a couple of hours. I will say it does give me the creeps to drive underneath that huge rock slide area, so I always avoid that road, lol! After you do Quake Lake, head west, turn left on 87 toward Henry's Lake and Island Park, then when you hit 20, take a left back to West Yellowstone. That give you a corner of Idaho.

From West Yellowstone you could also drive north on 191 to Big Sky which is a ski resort area.

Really, except for Beartooth, none compares to a day in Yellowstone in my book.

Pam

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4. Re: day trips outside Yellowstone/GT

Pam,

I think the OP is planning a 2-3 week trip to Yellowstone and the Tetons.

Epsom, United...
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5. Re: day trips outside Yellowstone/GT

Thanks for your replies folks ...

Good call on the Buffalo Bill Highway, bluehighwaysPA. We've got a fairly light day from Lake Village to and from the East Entrance so we can easily add an excursion out of the park (though probably only to Wapiti around where the Shoshone NF ends). I did a bit of research online to look at pictures, Google Streetview, etc. The hoodoo called Henry Ford Rock is visible from the road, though I don't know if it's easy to get the angle in the picture below. It looks extraordinary and I can see why it got the name. But is it just me, or has ol' Henry got a little bearcub on the backseat with him as he drives into Yellowstone?!

…bbhc.org/cdm/…27

Thanks for the Jackson tip, PeachBelle8288. We will be staying there for a night and will probably be there a couple more times for supplies, dinner, etc. As it goes, rodeo is about the one thing that gets recommended a lot that doesn't really grab us. (We would do the Buffalo Bill Centre in Cody but, really, we gotta draw the line somewhere!)

D0bby, I like your idea to do the Beartooth and Chief Joseph as out and backs (I'm guessing to Rock Creek Vista and Dead Indian Pass respectively though if anyone thinks better ...). I don't think it will increase the distance significantly and my partner does tend to get nervous when I drive looking out the back window. A bit more seriously, it will stop us having to swerve to and from the pullouts on the left of the road all the time.

The possible loop by Hebgen, Earthquake and Henry's Lakes looks good, D0bby, but per your advice (and the fact that no one is jumping up and down insisting those lakes or Mesa Falls, Big Springs, Bechler, etc. are a must do) we won't plan it in. However, since the Old Faithful/West Thumb road may be closed at Isa Lake next September, we may end up exiting Yellowstone through West Yellowstone and looping down to Teton Pass to get back to Jackson (it doesn't look significiantly further than looping through Canyon and it would be good to travel different roads back South, see Mesa Falls, get a different perspective on the Tetons, etc.)

N. Idaho
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6. Re: day trips outside Yellowstone/GT

Why are you thinking the road between Old Faithful and West Thumb will be closed?

Yes, laughing about looking out the back window. It is also not good to drive looking thru binoculars scanning for wildlife!

Pam

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7. Re: day trips outside Yellowstone/GT

We stopped at Mesa Falls in August, but only because it was on the way from Idaho Falls to Yellowstone. While the falls are nice, I don't think they merit a day trip - I think your time is better spent in the Tetons, Yellowstone, or the Beartooths.

The Beartooth Highway is a beautiful drive and if you have time, I would recommend stopping at Island Lake and taking a walk/hike.

I don't know if I would do this as a separate day trip either, but we did enjoy Granite Falls and hot springs (we were camping there for a few days though, so a little different from taking a day trip).

Epsom, United...
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8. Re: day trips outside Yellowstone/GT

parkplanning.nps.gov/projectHome.cfm…

Reading information at the link above, it looks like Isa Lake bridge (between Old Faithful and West Thumb) needs rebuilding. The original plan was to build a temporary road bridge during the works. However, to reduce costs, environmental impact and overall working time, an alternative plan is being considered that would close the road at Isa Lake from 2 September 2014 until the start of the Winter season, and from the start of the 2015 Summer season until 11 June 2015.

In case anyone's interested, I enquired with the NPS when the decision would be made (it affects my planning) and they said it won't be until Congress agrees a budget and suggested it could be March/April 2014.

N. Idaho
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9. Re: day trips outside Yellowstone/GT

Holy cow Simon, you really got deep in to that website. I had not seen that at all!

I would still recommend going via Canyon especially if you are interested in wildlife as that sends you thru Hayden Valley again. In my mind, repeated trips thru Hayden are a bonus. The more trips thru Hayden the more likely you are to see wildlife.

Pam

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10. Re: day trips outside Yellowstone/GT

Hi Simon.

Since no one has mentioned it, I'll say that you might want to make a quick stop at the National Elk Refuge right on the outskirts of Jackson while you're there, perhaps on your way into town after you get your rental vehicle if you're staying there your first night. There might not be any (or at least many) Elk there yet - especially on your way in as opposed to your way out 2-3 weeks later - but even if you don't see anything from the platforms it has my favorite Visitor's Center in the Greater Yellowstone area, which is a great introduction to the region when you first arrive.