Yellowstone National Park
The drive from the Tetons to Yellowstone was quite lovely and we made it into the park around dusk. We tried to stop at the West Thumb, but it was closed for what we would later find out was a fire in a building with batteries (yikes!). So instead we continued on to our cute yellow cabin at the Lake Yellowstone Hotel. We got our stuff in and went to the hotel lobby to listen to some live piano music and take in the views and historic site. This hotel is officially on the National Trust for Historic Preservation and has some very cool history if you want to check out more, click HERE.
The next day we made our way to the lower loop of Yellowstone after grabbing our Júnior Ranger workbooks at Grant Village Visitor Center. We decided to head strait to Old Faithful with a quick stop at the falls near there. We made it to Old Faithful with about 10 minutes to spare, which in my book was just about right. We enjoyed the geyser (the kids especially got a kick out of it). Afterwards we walked the boardwalk all around Old Faithful - so many hydrothermal events happening! It really almost feels alien-like. Such a cool experience (except it definitely wasn't cool outside, in fact it was over 80 degrees)! So naturally we needed to grab some ice cream at the Old Faithful Inn, which is another amazing building in Yellowstone. It has huge timbers and stone with almost fairytale feel about it. We enjoyed our ice cream and then explored the different levels of the Inn.
After our refreshing treat, we headed to the Midway Geyser Basin and Upper Geyser Basin. Highlights included Biscuit Basin (sapphire pool), Grand Prismatic (although I'd love to see this from above - next time!), and Fountain Paint Pot (which was the kids favorite! I mean who doesn't love bubbling mud exploding into the air?! Click HERE for Kasen's review of the Fountain Paint Pots). We then continued up to Madison and out to West Yellowstone for a yummy dinner at T. R. Burgers and Brats. After dinner we continued the rest of the lower loop, unfortunately we had to skip some great spots because it was getting dark.
The next day we had breakfast at the Yellowstone Lake Lodge before heading out to the Upper Loop. This was a day for wildlife! It started off with an amazing herd of bison (or as it is often referred to: buffalo) - over 100+ right off the road! Very cool. We then made it to Dragon's Mouth and Mud Volcano. We really liked these, they were very different and dynamic. This stop also included a geyser, but we didn't time it very well and just missed the eruption. We did run into a great ranger who talked to the kids and let them take the temperature of the pools with her laser thermometer. She discussed how the pools aren't actually boiling, but instead bubbling from escaping gas. They asked great questions and learned quite a bit about the area.
We then headed to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and took in some amazing view. The Yellowstone Falls were truly breathtaking as well as the canyon. You really do get to see such a variety of things in Yellowstone!
We then headed to Canyon Village to grab some food and check out the Visitor Center. As we were walking around we could see some storm clouds gathering and sure enough, as we were looking at the displays in the Visitor Center the power wend out! We headed outside as the lightning flashed and thunder roared. We were able to get some food at the market just before the sky broke open and it started absolutely POURING rain. Kyle braved the weather to go get our car and we scrambled in and toweled off. After some lunch the sky began to lighten up and we headed back on the Upper Loop towards Tower-Roosevelt. On the way there Kyle and Noelle decided to stop and check out the Tower Falls. As they hopped out of the car we could hear some faint thunder and then a storm cloud descended, but this time with HAIL. Needless to say, that was a quick visit to those falls! Our tour continued east toward the East Entrance. We could only go about six miles on that road though because of the flooding that happened earlier this past spring.
From there we travelled to Mammoth Springs which was also amazing and otherworldly. So many cool pools and terraces. Kids did pretty good, although they were getting tired (and to be honest, so were we!). We pushed on and continued the loop with a quick stop at Noriss Geyser Basin and a spectacular sunset. As we were driving back we happed upon an enormous buck elk with huge antlers - so majestic! It was a great ending to a long but fantastic day.
We woke up our final morning to no power. The storm apparently took a bunch of trees down. We got packed up and headed to the Fishing Bridge, but they had no power there either. Luckily there was a booth there that had the kid's Junior Ranger pins for finishing their books - so they got to add their fourth pin to their ever growing collection.
Then, as a fabulous last hurrah, as we were headed out of the park we came around a bend and up on a rocky ledge about 10 feet above us - lo and behold - there were four big horn sheep! It was truly amazing to watch them as they walked, butted, and moved around. We just sat in awe and watched for 10 minutes. Definitely a great way to end our trip!