Moon Yellowstone & Grand Teton
Hike, Camp, See Wildlife
By Becky Lomax
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- Flexible Itineraries: Adventure-packed ideas ranging from one day in each national park to a week-long road trip covering both
- The Best Hikes in Yellowstone & Grand Teton: Detailed descriptions, individual trail maps, mileage and elevation gains, and backpacking options
- Experience the Outdoors: Marvel at the steam-spewing Old Faithful geyser or take a horseback ride to panoramic lakeside views. Hike through alpine forests to rushing waterfalls and catch a glimpse of wild bison, elk, wolves, or bears. Bask in the colorful radiance of Grand Prismatic Spring or stroll the boardwalks along Mammoth Hot Springs. Climb to Inspiration Point for breathtaking views of Jackson Hole and Jenny Lake, explore the quirky nearby towns, or discover the best spots to hit the slopes during the winter season
- How to Get There: Up-to-date information on gateway towns, park entrances, park fees, and tours
- Where to Stay: Campgrounds, resorts, and more both inside and outside the park
- Planning Tips: When to go, what to pack, safety information, and how to avoid the crowds, with full-color photos and detailed maps throughout
- Expertise and Know-How: Explore both national parks with outdoors expert and former park guide Becky Lomax
- Resources on Covid-19 and traveling to Yellowstone and Grand Teton
- Helpful background on the indigenous culture, landscape, plants and animals, and history of the region
Visiting more of North America's national parks? Try Moon Glacier National Park or Moon USA National Parks.
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DISCOVER Yellowstone and Grand Teton
10 TOP EXPERIENCES
Planning Your Trip
AVOID THE CROWDS
IF YOU’RE LOOKING FOR…
YELLOWSTONE IN-PARK LODGING
GRAND TETON IN-PARK LODGING
In the Parks
The Best of Yellowstone and Grand Teton
YELLOWSTONE IN ONE DAY
GRAND TETON IN ONE DAY
WHERE TO SEE WILDLIFE
Welcome to the land of fire and ice. The earth’s tremendous forces have made Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks a volatile landscape. The parks bear the marks of ancient seas, volcanic heat, tectonic upthrusting, and ice scouring. Even today, they shake and roar.
In Yellowstone National Park, rumblings of a supervolcano boil to the surface—spewing, spitting, oozing, and bubbling. Steam rolls from vividly colored pools, muddy cauldrons burp smelly gases, and blasts of hot water shoot high into the air. The cantankerous landscape gushes with spouters like iconic Old Faithful.
In Grand Teton National Park, toothy spires claw the sky in one of the newest mountain ranges in the Rockies. Glaciers have chewed the terrain, leaving lakes, bowls, and canyons to explore. Towering thousands of feet high to culminate in the Grand Teton, mountains dwarf all that roams across the floor of Jackson Hole.
Throughout the Greater Yellowstone area, sagebrush prairies make wildlife easy to spot. Bison, elk, antelope, wolves, and even grizzly bears enchant visitors. Blue-ribbon trout fishing streams, hiking trails, alpine lakes, bicycle paths, white-water rivers, and epic ski slopes all create a four-season recreation paradise to explore. The town of Jackson, which anchors the Jackson Hole valley, offers an urban base of operations for the region’s myriad recreational bounty.
Come to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks—for the classic experience of the West.
10 TOP EXPERIENCES
1 Watch Wildlife: Spy elk, pronghorn antelope, bighorn sheep, wolves, and bears—but most of all, look for the largest herds of bison in North America. Your best bets are Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley or Hayden Valley. In Jackson Hole, aim for the National Elk Refuge.
2 Get High in the Tetons: It’s one thing to look up at the mighty Tetons; it’s a bigger wow to be standing on them. Backpack the Teton Crest Trail, ride the Aerial Tram at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort to the summit of Rendezvous Mountain, or, if you have big ambitions, climb the Grand Teton.
3 Marvel at Grand Prismatic Spring: Absorb the radiance of the largest and most colorful hot spring in Yellowstone from Midway Geyser Basin boardwalk or the overlook on the Fairy Falls Trail.
4 Look down into Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone: Admire this giant chasm from scenic rim overlooks on the north or south side and take in the power of rushing water at the Upper and Lower Falls.
5 Set Your Watch by Old Faithful: Watch Yellowstone’s most reliable geyser shoot up to 8,400 gallons of hot water as high as 185 feet.
6 Explore the Winter Landscape: Drive into North Yellowstone, go skiing, or take a Snowcoach ride.
7 Hike a Teton Classic: This three-part adventure takes in a boat ride on Jenny Lake, the trail to Hidden Falls, and views from Inspiration Point in Cascade Canyon.
8 Paddle below the Tetons: Scenic paddling doesn’t get better than this! Canoe or kayak on Jackson Lake in the shelter of Colter Bay…or to get more intimate with the scenery, go for Jenny Lake.
9 Drive Teton Park Road: From multiple turnouts on Teton Park Road, you can spot small glaciers, view the grandeur of the toothy peaks jutting up from Jackson Hole, and admire the big ones: Mt. Moran and the crowning 13,770-foot Grand Teton.
10 Walk along Mammoth Hot Springs: Stroll the boardwalks amid varied travertine terraces as sulfur fills the air.
Planning Your Trip
Where to Go
From the North Entrance near Gardiner to the Northeast Entrance at Silver Gate and Cooke City, a two-lane park road snakes east across North Yellowstone. Anchored in the west by Mammoth Hot Springs, the road follows the Yellowstone River past sagebrush plateaus to Tower-Roosevelt, through the remote Lamar Valley, and across the Absaroka Mountains. This is the only park road that remains open year-round, providing winter access. The Mammoth Campground is also open year-round.
Old Faithful and West Yellowstone
The town of West Yellowstone hosts the busiest park entrance and the most services. As the road enters the park, it follows the Madison and Gibbon Rivers, passing campgrounds at Madison and Norris. South of Madison, it is geyser paradise: Volcanic features include Fountain Paint Pot, the Grand Prismatic Spring, and the most famous hydrothermal of all—Old Faithful Geyser. The Old Faithful area is home to three park lodges, including the architecturally rustic Old Faithful Inn.
Canyon and Lake Country
The park hub of Canyon Village links Yellowstone’s east and west sides. Here, the Yellowstone River cuts deep into the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Prominent points and rim-side hikes yield epic views of plunging waterfalls below. South of Canyon Village, the road follows the Yellowstone River through Hayden Valley, prime wildlife habitat. At Yellowstone Lake, miles of shoreline host marinas, campgrounds, and lodging at Fishing Bridge, Lake Village, and Bridge Bay.
Heading east, the park road crosses the Sylvan Pass to the East Entrance and on to Cody. Continue south along the lakeshore as the road curves around West Thumb and past Grant Village, climbing over the Continental Divide to the park’s South Entrance and into Grand Teton National Park.
North Grand Teton
Rugged Mt. Moran greets visitors entering Grand Teton National Park along John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway. Below Mt. Moran sits Jackson Lake, home to a native trout fishery. The lake’s eastern shore sports lodges, hiking, horseback riding, marinas, and visitor services at Colter Bay Village and Jackson Lake Lodge. South of Jackson Lake, the road splits east past wildlife-rich Oxbow Bend to the park’s Moran Entrance, while the Teton Park Road heads below the Tetons.
South Grand Teton
From the Moran Entrance, US-26/89/191 offers year-round access south to Moose Junction. Floaters on the Snake River can take in views of the toothy peaks, while history buffs will want to explore the scenic buildings of Mormon Row.
From the Jackson Lake Junction, the Teton Park Road (May-Oct.) tours past Jenny Lake, with views of Teewinot and Mt. Owen. Trails such as Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point climb through canyons to take in waterfalls and lakes, while the rugged Teton Crest Trail trips through thin air along the mountain spines. Teton Park Road terminates at the southern Moose Entrance.
Jackson Hole is a year-round recreation mecca. The valley encompasses the towns of Moran, Moose, Kelly, Wilson, Teton Village, and Jackson, as well as Bridger-Teton and Caribou-Targhee National Forests.
The town of Jackson serves as a base for adventures, with year-round services and accommodations, and famous western saloons like the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar. The nearby National Elk Refuge is one of the best places for wildlife-watching.
In Teton Village, snow season brings skiing and snowboarding to Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, where visitors can ride the Aerial Tram to the 10,450-foot summit of Rendezvous Mountain.
West of the Tetons, the Teton Valley stretches into Idaho and back, with tiny towns like Victor and Driggs. The Grand Targhee Resort balances hiking, sightseeing, and biking in summer with skiing in winter.
Big Sky, Montana, is the closest gateway to Yellowstone, with access to the park’s North and West Entrances. Red Lodge, Montana, serves as the eastern springboard for the scenic Beartooth Highway to Yellowstone’s Northeast Entrance. Cody, Wyoming, offers a Wild West base of operations for Yellowstone’s East Entrance. In Wyoming’s Wind River Valley, Dubois is a stop on the way to Yellowstone’s South Entrance and Grand Teton’s Moran Entrance—a route that crosses the Continental Divide at Togwotee Pass.
When to Go
Summer sees the most visitors, with July and August luring the biggest crowds. All park lodges, campgrounds, and visitors centers are open. June through early July buzzes with mosquitoes, while July through early August brings on rampant wildflowers. August also yields the best high-elevation hiking in the Tetons, and warmer days produce less steam for better hot spring viewing in Yellowstone. Most park roads are open.
In winter, deep snows turn the parks white. Alpine skiers gravitate to Jackson Hole while cross-country skiers tackle groomed and untracked trails in both parks. Most park roads are closed (Nov.-late Apr.), with the exception of the park road between Yellowstone’s North and Northeast Entrances plus the road between Yellowstone’s South Entrance and Jackson. Touring in Yellowstone is via guided snowcoach or snowmobile, while lodging is available at Mammoth Hot Springs, Old Faithful, and towns surrounding the parks.
Mid-April offers car-free park roads to cyclists before roads open to vehicles in late April or May. As the snow melts, fields of yellow glacier lilies emerge. Come in May for bison calving season, or June to spot bighorn sheep ewes with newborn lambs and grizzly bears foraging along Yellowstone Lake. By May, most park roads start to open and visitor services return. Days may be rainy and cold, and some trails remain snow-covered into June.
Cooler, bug-free days yield pleasant hiking with thinner crowds. Come in late September for the elk rut, when bulls gather harems to prove their dominance and their bugles break the nighttime quiet. Sporadic snowstorms can close park roads, and some services close.
Before You Go
Park Fees and Passes
For each park, the entrance fee is $35 per vehicle ($30 motorcycles; $20 pedestrians, cyclists, and skiers) and is good for seven days. Other fee options include the Annual Park Pass ($70) for Yellowstone or Grand Teton, and the Interagency Annual Pass ($80), which is good for all national parks and federal fee areas. U.S. fourth graders, those with disabilities, and military personnel can get free interagency passes, and seniors can buy lifetime interagency passes ($80). You can also buy your entrance pass in advance online at www.yourpassnow.com.
YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK
Yellowstone has five entrance stations:
• North Entrance (US-89, near Gardiner) is open year-round and provides the closest access to Mammoth Hot Springs.
• Northeast Entrance (US-212, west of Silver Gate) provides access to Tower-Roosevelt and the Lamar Valley. Winter snow may temporarily close this entrance, and roads east of Cooke City close in winter.
• West Entrance (US-20, West Yellowstone), the busiest entrance in the park, opens mid-April to early November and admits only snowcoaches and snowmobiles in winter.
• East Entrance (US-20), located between Fishing Bridge and Cody, Wyoming, opens mid-May to early November.
• South Entrance (US-89/191/287), on the border between Yellowstone and Grand Teton, opens mid-May to early November.
GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK
Grand Teton has three entrance stations:
• Moran Entrance (US-26/89/191 and US-26/287) is open year-round and offers access from the east.
• Granite Canyon Entrance is on the south end of the Moose-Wilson Road between Teton Village and Moose. Seasonal access varies.
• Moose Entrance (Teton Park Rd.) provides access to the southern region of the park and is open year-round.
To guarantee lodging, camping, tours, or dinner reservations for anytime in summer, make reservations at least 12-18 months in advance. For winter travel plans, make reservations 9 months in advance.
Xanterra (866/439-7375 or 307/344-7311, www.yellowstonenationalparklodges.com) operates two winter lodges (Mammoth and Old Faithful Snow Lodge), nine summer lodges (Canyon Lodge, Grant Village, Lake Lodge, Lake Yellowstone Hotel, Mammoth Springs Hotel, Old Faithful Inn, Old Faithful Lodge, Snow Lodge, and Roosevelt Lodge), and five campgrounds (Madison, Grant Village, Canyon, Bridge Bay, and Fishing Bridge RV Park).
Grand Teton Lodging Company (800/628-9988 or 307/543-2811, www.gtlc.com) operates four summer lodges (Jackson Lake Lodge, Colter Bay Village, Jenny Lake Lodge, and Headwaters Lodge) and two campgrounds (Headwaters and Colter Bay RV Park).
For reservations at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and in the town of Jackson, contact Jackson Hole Central Reservations (800/333-7766 or 307/733-2292, www.jacksonhole.com) or Jackson Hole Reservations Company (800/329-9205 or 307/733-6331, www.jacksonhole.net).
In the Parks
Out of the eight visitors centers, the largest ones are Old Faithful Visitor Education Center (307/344-2751, Old Faithful Village) and Canyon Visitor Education Center (307/344-2550, Canyon Village).
The main visitors center is the Craig Thomas Discovery & Visitor Center (307/739-3399) at Moose.
Of the 12 campgrounds in Yellowstone, the largest five accept reservations (Xanterra, 307/344-7311, www.yellowstonenationalparklodges.com) 12 months in advance:
• Madison (278 sites, early May-mid-Oct.) at Madison Junction.
• Canyon (270 sites, late May-mid-Sept.) in Canyon Village.
• Fishing Bridge RV Park (340 sites, early May-late Sept.) in Fishing Bridge.
• Bridge Bay (432 sites, late May-early Sept.) near Lake Village.
• Grant Village (430 sites, late June-late Sept.) on the West Thumb of Lake Yellowstone.
Campers without reservations should head in early morning to the park’s first-come, first-served campgrounds: Mammoth (85 sites, year-round), Indian Creek (70 sites, mid-June-mid-Sept.), Norris (100 sites, late May-late Sept.), Tower Fall (31 sites, late May-late Sept.), Slough Creek (23 sites, mid-June-early Oct.), Pebble Creek (27 sites, mid-June-late Sept.), and Lewis Lake (85 sites, mid-June-early Nov.).
Backpackers and boaters can reserve a backcountry camping permit in advance (www.nps.gov/yell, $25, Jan.-Oct.). First-come, first-served permits are available 48 hours in advance ($3/person/night).
Grand Teton’s five campgrounds are all first-come, first-served and include Lizard Creek (60 sites, mid-June-early Sept.), Signal Mountain (81 sites, early May-mid-Oct.), Jenny Lake (49 sites, early May-late Sept.), Gros Ventre (350 sites, early May-early Oct.), and Colter Bay (350 sites, mid-May-late Sept.). Claim sites in the morning.
Colter Bay RV Park (Colter Bay Village, 800/628-9988, www.gtlc.com, mid-May-late Sept.) and Headwaters Campground & RV (Flagg Ranch, 307/543-2861 or 800/443-2311, www.gtlc.com, late May-Sept.) accept reservations 12 months in advance.
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- On Sale
- Sep 6, 2022
- Page Count
- 440 pages
- Moon Travel