BattleDad and I have wanted to make a visit to Yellowstone ever since seeing the 3-part BBC documentary. It just looked like the most wonderful place to visit, full of wildlife and earth’s raw power. I can’t quite believe it was broadcast in 2009. We’ve watched it a few times since, and each time our desire to go to that part of the world just got stronger. I’ve mentioned this desire before on the blog.
When BattleKid came along we knew we wanted to share our visit to Yellowstone with him but we became very torn. Do we go and just take lots of pictures for him to look back on when he’s older? Or do we wait until he is older so that he can remember the trip? We also wondered if we did the trip while he was young, would it be something he would do himself in years to come, therefore helping with some of the guilt we might feel at doing this trip of a lifetime while he was too young to remember it.
By last October, our patience ran out and we decided just to book it. We felt a little guilty as BattleKid will be three and a half and will most likely not remember the trip but we really wanted to go. We started by looking into flights. Originally we planned to fly to either Billings, Bozeman or Yellowstone airport itself, all via Salt Lake City, and hire a car there. We then wanted to drop the car off at Portland Airport as we would be combining our visit to Yellowstone with Portland.
However, when considering the car hire option we saw quotes of over $4000. That is just crazy money. To take that option would mean our transport costs would be well over $7000. That was our budget well and truly blown. So, we started again and found that car hire from and to Portland airport, for a big 4×4 RV car, was $1000 for two weeks. This was a bit more reasonable and so we took the decision to fly in and out of Portland and drive to Yellowstone.
I should point out that we are not doing the entire 860-mile drive from Portland Airport to Yellowstone in one go. Once we arrive into Portland, we’ll drive 220 miles to a place called Richland in Washington state near the Columbia River. We are staying overnight before then doing the 600-mile drive from Richland to Island Park, in Idaho, which is where we are staying. Our recent drive from Santander to Southern Portugal will have been good practice for us for a full day in the car. It’ll be a long day but worth it in the end. We had considered staying within Yellowstone itself but it was crazy money.
Instead of staying in Yellowstone itself, we managed to secure a fabulous looking log cabin in the woods, through AirBnB, just outside a town called Island Park. This town is just a 30-minute drive to West Yellowstone. This base is ideally located for us and we might even see some wildlife from the cabin. We are staying there for 5 days before we slowly make our way back to Portland via Missoula and Richland again. The first two days of our USA road trip will be long and tiring but I am looking forward to our visit to Yellowstone.
With flights, car and accommodation all sorted, I started investigating what we should see and do in Yellowstone, beside the famous Old Faithful geyser. I asked a few travel Facebook groups I’m in for their recommendations. We got a varied response and here are what we’ve been recommended for our visit to Yellowstone.
Recommendations for our visit to Yellowstone
An ice cream at Mammoth Hot Springs – Mammoth Hot Springs, located some 76 miles from Island Park in the North of Yellowstone National Park, is apparently a great place to watch elk parading while enjoying an ice cream. There is also a visitor’s centre and Fort Yellowstone is also located at Mammoth Springs. You can walk on boardwalks above the thermal spring features or drive around the travertine terraces, amazing looking terraces formed from limestone. I think this is a must-do area for our visit to Yellowstone.
The Boiling River – The Boiling River is only a few miles north of Mammoth Hot Springs, it is a Hydrothermal feature, popular for seasonal bathing, where a hot spring flows into a cold river water. It is one of the few legal areas within Yellowstone that is suitable for people to bath in; the river itself, not the spring. That said, it is not always open, there is no lifeguard on duty at any time, currents can be very strong and disease-causing bacteria thrive in the warm waters and there is only one toilet. While this would have been a nice idea to do during our visit to Yellowstone, I think we might give this a miss. I don’t fancy any of us getting ill just a few days into a two-week USA road trip.
Old West Dinner Cookout – This dining experience within Yellowstone was recommended to us and it is one we are seriously considering. Leaving from Roosevelt Lodge within Yellowstone itself, you travel for 30-45 minutes by traditional canvas wagon to the cookout area where you will find the cookout site serving steaks and traditional sides. As the experience starts at dusk it is one of the best places around the Roosevelt area to see wildlife. The only drawback is the 2-hour drive back from Roosevelt to our accommodation at Island Park.
The Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Centre – This wildlife park and education centre is located just outside Yellowstone at the West entrance, just 30 minutes from Island Park. The Centre is home to both grizzly bears and grey wolves, who unfortunately cannot live in the wild. The centre offers visitors to Yellowstone a unique chance to see these creatures who act as ambassadors for their wild counterparts within the park. As we will be passing through West Yellowstone to enter the National Park itself, we will definitely be visiting this centre!
Bear World – This drive-thru wildlife park is located south of Island Park, about a 55-minute drive, in a town called Rexburg near the Jackson or Teton Gate of Yellowstone National Park. You have a chance to see Mountain Elk, Bison, various Deer, Mountain Goats, Moose and both Black and Grizzly Bears. It also boasts a petting zoo, amusement rides and bottle-feeding experiences with the keepers. I think we will be taking time to visit here too.
Other recommendations for our visit to Yellowstone
Running Bear Pancake House – This eatery located in West Yellowstone has been recommended to us for breakfast. As we will be passing through West Yellowstone most days on our way into the National Park, I think we’ll definitely try this place out. I have suggested to BattleDad that we eat here on our first morning and if it’s good, we’ll eat there most mornings on our way into the park.
Jackson Lake Lodge – Located in Grand Tetons within Yellowstone, this hotel has been recommended to us for either breakfast or lunch. It is quite a drive from where we are staying in Island Park, so we may only go there if we are nearby one day.
To save money, buy groceries before going into the park – One person recommended we buy our groceries and lunch before going into Yellowstone as everything inside the park is very expensive. We are expecting the worst and so our plan it to eat breakfast outside the park if we don’t cook ourselves. Then on our first day we’ll try somewhere inside for lunch, and if it is extortionate then we’ll do as this person has suggested. But I do think lunch near Old Faithful is a given really. I’ll report back on the cost of things inside the park in forthcoming posts after our visit to Yellowstone.
Homemade pies made from scratch – While looking at the Bear World website I stumbled across a recomendation on their site for a place called Frontier Pies in Rexburg. They make and serve homemade pies of all sorts and I think we might just stop for pie there. I quite fancy the sound of the Jumbleberry Pie or the Lemon Meringue Pie.
All of this, alongside things like Old Faithful Geyser, the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and Mystic Falls, is going to make for a jam-packed few days during our visit to Yellowstone. And this is just the start of our USA road trip. From Yellowstone, we head to Missoula and Lolo National Park. Then we plan to drive along part of The Dalles Shamrock Tour on our way back to Richland, before we head for Portland. While in Portland we want to take a day to drive along part of the famous 101, the Pacific Coast Highway.
So, our Yellowstone Bucket List looks a bit like this.
Come back after our visit to Yellowstone to see if we managed to tick them all off.