Wyoming: Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and Jackson Hole
Fly in/out: Salt Lake City (SLC)
Recommended ages: 5 and up
Ball Park Price: $800/person for up to 5 travellers (airfare not included)
Best Season: Summer
Time Zone: MTZ
DAY ONE: Fly into Salt Lake City, Utah. (SLC) Pickup RV from Access R.V. Pick up groceries/supplies on the way out of town at a Walmart Supercenter six miles from airport. Drive one hour north to Crystal Hot Springs private campground. Enjoy natural hot springs pools and water slide for the evening.
DAY FOUR: After breakfast, drive to Yellowstone National Park and stop at West Thumb Geyser Basin. Walk the built trail over a maze of great geysers. On the shore of Yellowstone lake, stop at Bridge Bay Campground for one night.
DAY FIVE: Spend first part of the day in Yellowstone and visit the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Drive to Cody, Wyoming for 1.5 hours and set up camp at Ponderosa Campground. Go to the Cody Rodeo. Get there at 7:00 p.m. for kids activities. Walk to shops and restaurants in Cody Wyoming.
DAY SIX: Plan to get an early start and drive the Beartooth Highway. This is the longest driving day of 5-6 hours of driving. Stop and enjoy the historic mountain town of Red Lodge, Montana. End up in Madison Campground in Yellowstone National Park. Before dinner head over to Old Faithful in late afternoon and tour Old Faithful. Have dinner at Old Faithful Inn at 7:45 p.m.
DAY SEVEN: Use Yellowstone Alpen Guides for a full day Yellowstone NP tour. Include the boiling river hot springs in the tour.
DAY EIGHT: Depart for Gallatin National Forest just 30 minutes outside of Yellowstone. Head to Rainbow Point campground in the Gallatin National Forest.
DAY NINE: Break camp and drive to Jackson Hole about a 2 hour drive. Take a mid-day white water rafting trip with Jackson Hole Whitewater. The white water rafting includes a 8 mile 3.5 hour white water rafting trip with rapids. Check in at Jackson Hole Campground. Enjoy dinner in Jackson Hole at Bar J Chuckwagon.
DAY TEN: Spend the morning in Jackson Hole and drive three hours to Bear Lake Utah.. Swim and enjoy the beach on the lake they call “The Caribbean of the Rockies.” Camp at Bear Lake Rendezvous Beach State Park. If time allows, rent a jet ski or boat to enjoy Bear Lake.
DAY ELEVEN: Break camp and drive to Salt Lake City for a 2.5 hour drive from Bear Lake. Return RV and fly home.
- Crystal Hot Springs was a great first stop in our RV driving journey. It had many outdoor activities for the kids to burn off steam and enjoy a great evening swim in natural hot springs.
- Grand Teton National Park and the Colter Bay Marina offered a variety of outdoor activities for the whole family to enjoy. Of course the views were breathtaking but the lakes and trails for swimming, hiking and kayaking was the perfect variation for two days. We had our first bear sighting in Jenny Lake. The inspiration point hike at Jenny Lake was a tiny bit strenuous but very worthwhile.
- Yellowstone is magical and mammoth sized. The first national park in the world is 3,500 square miles of pristine park that spans across three states. When you’re driving within Yellowstone, it just keeps going. It’s hard to pinpoint which stops are worth doing because of availability of time and hiker’s endurance. Yellowstone is divided in two loops; the southern and northern loop like a figure eight. . Each loop takes about 11 hours to circumvent without long stops. We divided it so we spent our first stop in the lower loop and on the way back in a full day exploring most of the northern loop.
- Take a step back in time and visit “Old West” Cody, Wyoming. This allowed a break in taking in scenery at Yellowstone and provided for a little more hands-on activities for the kids. Learning about the history of this area strolling through Cody and stopping at Buffalo Bill Museum (5 museums in one) was a treat. The Rodeo experience bordered a little too much on being too rough on the animals for our kids.
- The Beartooth Highway scenic drive was our longest but our best drive. The Beartooth All-American Road passes through national forests and the Beartooth Mountains. The road itself is the highest elevation highway in the Northern Rockies with pristine views of untouched alpine landscapes and dotted with lakes and streams in the space of a million plus acre wilderness.
- Jackson Hole area and Blue Lake Area end the trip beautifully with a lot of active water sports. This really caps the end of a summer vacation nicely.
- Because Yellowstone sits atop one of the largest volcanic fields on the planet, most of the world’s geysers can be found within the park boundaries. The Old Faithful geyser is one of the most well known in the world and well worth viewing at least once with the kids. Old Faithful currently erupts on average every 60-90 minutes. An eruption is
Old Faithful expected eruptions are posted at the visitor center. We made reservations at the Old Faithful Inn to be able to watch two eruptions. (See Eateries)
- North of Mammoth Springs in Yellowstone, (about an hour) is the “boiling river” where a large hot spring known as Boiling River enters the Gardner River. The hot and cold water mix in pools along the river’s edge. You’re allowed to bathe in the river during daylight hours and experience the eerie quality of being in cold water and walking a few feet and being in warm hot springs. Bring your bathing suits, towel and water shoes for this excursion. The downside is there are very few changing areas for after the experience but with an RV you have your own spot to change. For more information, read this section of the Yellowstone National Park site.
- We enjoyed all the watersport activities including kayaking on Jenny Lake in Grand Teton, but our most memorable was white water rafting in Jackson Hole. The kids were put to work on this trip with level 3 rapids and our guides were great.
We cooked many meals on the campground at night. By travelling with another family, we alternated who cooked appetizers/desserts and entrees. The downtime of cooking a meal while the kids helped or played versus waiting in a restaurant was a highlight for us. Plan ahead and follow many recommended camping recipes found on the KOA website.
For when you’re tired of cooking, we enjoyed the experiential dining experience at these restaurants:
- Ranch House Restaurant, Colter Bay Marina
- Old Faithful Inn Dining Room allows viewing of Old Faithful while enjoying a casual family meal. Well worth the experience.
- Bar J Chuckwagon in Jackson Hole is a down-home barbeque style family night out with daily entertainment by Western Wranglers. Bring a cowboy hat and enjoy the experience.
- For R.V. rentals, we enjoyed the Access RV out of Salt Lake because we received new RV’s. Request that with your rental. We had a “Class C RV with a slide out” which was a nice feature.
- One of the advantages of being in the park campgrounds for Teton and Yellowstone is to try and get an early start and beat some of the crowds. Some of the best wildlife viewing is in the early morning.
- Prepare for all temperature ranges and bring multiple rain and fleece layers for this vacation. We had thunderstorms, hailstorms (with spectacular rainbows) and some cold nights often slipping into the mid 40’s, so be prepared for all weather. The upside is you can just drive a few miles in a different terrain, and you’ll face a different weather story.
- Driving through these often congested areas in an RV was more ideal than a car. You can log many miles and still enjoy games, snacks and leisure time in the RV.
- Spotting wildlife is exciting and memorable but not very frequent because these national parks are so vast. A wildlife spotting can be rare depending on luck mostly. If it’s a priority, talk to the park rangers at each of the visitor’s centers. They often can give advice on the wildlife in the area with information on recent sightings. And of course, if there are a milieu of cars on a turn off area or stopped at the side of the road, they’ve often spotted something.
- Prepare kids for stinky sulfur geysers that some kids say smell like an awful restroom. If any kids have sensory issues, bring a bandana for covering if needed.
- Plan at least six months ahead to reserve campsites. Request spaces together. There definitely is a roughing it mentality in travelling with an RV. But the outdoor life of cooking on a grill while throwing a baseball or renting bikes provided by the campgrounds can be ideal for some families.
A lightweight easy to dry shoe versatile enough for hiking, biking and kayaking is a bonus when laundry is not readily available!