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Yellowstone & Grand Teton – two great national parks

After our experiences in Cody, we finally made our way to Yellowstone National Park. Being the one of the two of us who didn’t necessarily want to encounter a bear or other wild animal at night (yes, I admit of being scared), we booked ourselves a room at the Clubhouse Inn Hotel in West Yellowstone. This is a nice little town in Montana that, as the name implies, is right at the western entrance to Yellowstone National Park, making it a great place for day trips into the park.

So to get there, we followed Highway 14 past Buffalo Bill Dam to the east entrance of the park. And there we were – indeed – at the sign marking the park entrance. Of course, a photo shoot with Gernot & Gisi could not be missing here again. 🤭

Full of anticipation of a unique natural scenery, which we have developed due to the many pictures you see in books, the Internet or social media, we then drove to the park. And were disappointed – at least for the time being. Most of the route to Lake Yellowstone makes you rather sad: Although you drive along a great panoramic route, but what you currently see here are very many colorless areas with thousands of trees destroyed by forest fires. A sight that has touched us quite and thoughtful.

To explore the entire park, there is basically the possibility to drive along the Grand Loop Drive (approx. 142 miles). This divides like an 8 into the Upper and the Lower Loop, whereby the most famous sights of the park are on the Lower Loop. Since we had only booked two nights in West Yellowstone due to our budget, we decided to just drive along the Lower Loop. We explored a part of it, the upper one, already on the way to the hotel and experienced one of our personal highlights. This will definitely always remain in our memories. Have you ever wondered what you would do if a free-ranging adult bison came towards you on a narrow bridge? 🫣 We do now …

At Yellowstone Lake a narrow bridge – the so-called Fishing Bridge – leads over the Yellowstone River to the Lower Loop. Although I had read in advance that there are often encounters with bison, but who would have thought that this happens exactly when we cross this bridge with Gernot & Gisi. As usual I drove ahead with Gisi. Already a bit before the bridge I saw that there was a traffic jam on the opposite side – but couldn’t see exactly why. When I arrived at the bridge, I knew it: There was a bison calmly strolling near the center line (but more in our lane) in our direction. I stopped and immediately activated my helmet intercom system. After a short exchange we drove Gernot & Gisi as far as possible to the right side of the road and stopped – sitting on our machines. I heard Micha’s instruction to jump off the bike to the right, just in case, but I wondered how I should do it; after all, the narrow pedestrian path was a little lower than the road. That would not have gone off without injuries. So I sat still and hoped that the bison would simply walk past us. You can certainly imagine how fast both our hearts were beating at that moment. Thank goodness the bison was not the least bit interested in us and trotted calmly and serenely past us – but of course without deviating an inch from its track. As soon as the huge beast passed us (it was in fact as big as we were on the bike), Micha checked it wasn’t coming back and we drove straight to the parking lot on the opposite side. We had to let this experience sink in. 😮‍💨 (If you’re interested in our video about it, check out our Instagram or Facebook page.)

After our pulse had calmed down a bit, we drove on the Lower Loop first northward and finally westward to our hotel. On the way, we passed some great viewpoints, such as the Mud Volcano area or the Lower Fall shown in the picture, which still rewarded us with a beautiful natural scenery – if you disregard the sulfurous smell …

Three states in one day or our trip to Grand Teton National Park

For the next day we planned a longer day trip that would take us not only through the remaining part of the Lower Loop, but also through Grand Teton Nationalpark.

After a leisurely breakfast, we made our way to the western entrance of the park and were first in a traffic jam. It was Saturday, in addition in the main season – accordingly much was going on. However, as soon as we had shown (after about 20-30 minutes) our America – The Beautiful Pass (absolutely worthwhile if you want to visit several national parks) and (important!) our IDs at one of the little houses of the National Park Service, we turned right onto the lower part of the Lower Loop; And all of a sudden there was nothing to see of the many vehicles driving into the park.

However, this does not mean that there is little going on at the known highlights in the park. In order to experience one of the eruptions of the well-known Old Faithful geyser, which was predicted for about 12:10 p.m. (+/- 10 minutes), we first made our way there – unsure whether we would make it in time. But indeed: Our timing was almost perfect. 🙏🏻 Arrived at the parking lot, we found quite far in front a corner where we could park Gisi & Gernot and from which it was only a few meters to the geyser. After a few minutes of waiting, it happened: An impressive spectacle that definitely should not be missed!

Due to the time restriction of Old Faithful, we had skipped the en route thermal springs in the park’s Midway Geyser Basin. So we drove back there again afterwards. A stop you should definitely plan for. Even if you have only a limited view of the thermal springs from the footbridge that leads through them, it is absolutely fascinating what colors nature brings out here and especially in what intensity. The most impressive is of course the colorful Grand Prismatic Spring – the third largest thermal spring in the world. But also the Opal Pool, the Turquoise Pool and in my opinion the Excelsior Geyser Crater offer breathtaking sights and photo motives. Or what do you think?

Of course, there are more geysers and trails to explore in Yellowstone, but we wanted to go further. Consequently, we drove towards Yellowstone Lake – but this time from the west. On this section of the Lower Loop we made several stops to admire the great scenery on the one hand and to watch the huge herd of bison wandering across the meadows on the other. Thank goodness the herd was avoiding the road at this point (which videos show is not always the case); after our encounter on the bridge, you can imagine we were glad not to have to drive through a herd of wild bison!

Arriving at Yellowstone Lake, we turned right onto Highway 191 heading south. This leads along the beautiful Jackson Lake with its great views of the mountains and glaciers of the Grand Teton National Park. Simply indescribable this sight! In addition, we discovered at the roadside a rather large moose, which chilled under a tree and was model for numerous photographers.

At Jackson Lake Dam we then followed the Teton Park Road at a leisurely pace and enjoyed the scenery in Grand Teton National Park. Here we can only recommend a stop at Jenny Lake – best for a longer swim. It is absolutely impressive how big this relatively “small” lake is and how clear its water is. Gorgeous!

From Jenny Lake we drove to Teton Village, where we stopped for a drink and a pee. It’s a nice little ski town that certainly provides a gorgeous backdrop in the winter. A few miles further south, we finally turned west onto Highway 22, leaving Grand Teton National Park. Via the towns of Victor, Tetonia and Ashton we headed back to West Yellowstone – a rather unspectacular route.

In all, this 265-mile (nearly 430-kilometer) tour took us through two national parks and three states: Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. An absolutely fabulous day trip! 🤩