Monday, July 16, 2012

Exploring Glacier-Yellowstone-Grand Teton National Parks (Part 1 of 4)

Field of Canola Flowers, Montana
Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park are two parks which are right next to each other where visitors can experience some interesting places of both parks in one day. Glacier National Park on the other hand is quite a drive from Yellowstone National Park, about 7 hours (400 miles). However, Great Falls International Airport in Montana is quite strategically located right in the middle of Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, thus, it allowed us to experience all these majestic parks in 7 days by dividing the drive into smaller segments. Also, the drive from Yellowstone to Glacier was never boring because of the scenery, we had to pull over so many times because of the sights.
Great Falls, MT from our airplane window
Great Falls, Montana is about 2.5 hours drive from East Glacier (140 miles) and about 4.5 hours drive from North Yellowstone (250 miles). If you want to experience all three National Parks ( Yellowstone-Grand Teton-Glacier) in your visit, you can either go North first to Glacier or go South to Yellowstone (see map below- you can click on it to enlarge).  
I(also A and E) is Great Falls, MT (start and end of trip); B is Gardiner, MT; C is Grand Teton; D is West Yellowstone; and F, G and H are all in Glacier
If you have more time, you may want to add Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada in your itinerary since it is adjacent to Glacier National Park. I did not know about Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada before the trip, otherwise, we could have planned for a longer vacation crossing Canada. Maybe, next trip. 
In this post, I will start by going South first from Great Falls, MT. 
Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces, Yellowstone National Park (North)
 About 270 miles from Great Falls International Airport is Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park. The Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel is right next to the Mammoth Hot Springs terraces which you can see in the above picture. There is a total of about 4 mile hike around these hot spring terraces gaining about 460 ft of elevation. I will share more about this place of interest in another post.
Summer lodging at Yellowstone National Park is very tight. I only started planning for our trip April of this year. As early as April, all lodges inside the park were fully booked. Thankfully, 5 miles South of Mammoth Hot Springs is Gardiner, MT, a little tourist town with so many hotels. Another lodging option if lodging inside the park is fully booked is in West Yellowstone, MT. Though it is only less than 1 mile from the West entrance but it is 14 miles from Madison Junction. Madison Junction either goes North to Mammoth Hot Springs or goes South to Old Faithful and Grand Teton National Park. We stayed one night in Gardiner (strategically if coming from Great Falls), two nights in West Yellowstone ( closer to most places of Yellowstone), the other nights where on the road and in Glacier National Park.
from the top terraces of Mammoth Hot Springs
Grand Teton National Park is about 100 miles from Mammoth Hot Springs (northern part of Yellowstone). The shorter route to Grand Teton is via HWY 89 where you will pass the Lower, Midway and Upper Geyser Basins. The longer route via the Grand Loop Road will bring you to Tower Falls area, Canyon Village and Lake Yellowstone. More about these places in my later post.
 Jackson Lake, Grand Teton National Park (check Karen's Grand Teton post, for the wintry scenery of Jackson Lake)
The scenery from Jackson Lake is what visitors will see and experience first if they are entering Grand Teton from the North or from Yellowstone National Park. Because we only have a day of exploring Grand Teton, we chose a shorter day hike (6.4 miles round trip, with about 460 ft elevation gain) from Leigh Lake trailhead to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point. Again, more about this hike in later posts.
Hiker Tries to Fly to Teton Peak, from Leigh Lake to Hidden Falls Trail 
After hiking in Grand Teton, we headed back to Yellowstone, and it was my first time to take a glimpse of the very popular Old Faithful geyser in the upper geyser basin of Yellowstone National Park.
Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park (from Geyser Hill )
Unlike Karen of AVCR8TEUR, where her Old Faithful has a beautiful winter scenery, in just a month gap (she was there May I believe, while this picture was taken June 27), the surrounding is all green now minus the snow. 
After dinner at Old Faithful Lodge (though am sure there were better dining choices where we were staying at West Yellowstone, but our stomachs were so hungry we could not wait), we drove to West Yellowstone for our much needed sleep and recovery from a long day of wonderful exploring. On our way to West Yellowstone from Old Faithful Parking area, we saw this beautiful sky. We just had to find a safe pull over to take this picture. I saw something in the middle of the river, I was so excited I thought it was wildlife. It was not a wildlife but a photographer setting his tripod and camera right in the middle of the river. I am sure he had such beautiful shot. 
Roadside Scenery 
(can you spot the photographer in the river? he was done taking pictures already)
I will continue sharing the summary of our trip (or itinerary) in my next post, or part 2 of Exploring Glacier-Yellowstone-Grand Teton. Meanwhile, let me end this post with a picture from one of our hikes in Glacier National Park.
Bear Grass, Glacier National Park, MT
Helpful Links I used in planning for this trip:

Just finished writing part 2 and part 3, please click the links below:
Sights to see in the south loop of Yellowstone National Park.- please go to part 2.
Sights to see in the north loop of Yellowstone National Park - please go to part 3.
 Exploring Glacier National Park- please visit part 4 of this series.
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  1. Great shots from all the park. Thanks for sharing your trip. They are some of my favorite parks to visit.

  2. Your pictures are beautiful and I bet you wished you were able to stay longer! :) Thank you for the mention! I also posted about my brief trip to the Grand Tetons. We ate at the cafeteria of the Old Faithful Lodge.

  3. another info-packed post Beth! i so love, love, love the photos you shared in fb too. can't wait to see them here. i spotted a rainbow in photo #7!!! and that bear grass is sooooo beautiful!!!

  4. Awesome, so these are the canola flowers which we press into our healthy canola oil? Such stunning shots.

  5. I really envy you...
    U could c so many great places...
    I like the rainbow n the fly hiker pic...

  6. Yellowstone looks so beautiful in your eyes.

  7. That last photo of the Bear grass is awesome as are all the others Betchai! And yes I spotted the photographer by the river!the hiker trying to fly to Teton Peak shot makes me feel the excitement here weeee!!! And yes I see that rainbow in photo 7 too!!! Weeeee thank you for sharing your wonderful adventure with us again...can't get enough c",

  8. You get to see so many beautiful places on this earth, Betchai.

    I see the photographer in the river, the rainbow in the Old Faithful, and the high flying hiker, and they are all just beautiful!

  9. Someday I will get to visit all these parks. The wildflowers are amazing!

  10. Canola fields are just awesome!

  11. I will definitely go back to this site when we plan our trip. Helpful informations !!

    Just awesome photos Beth!!!


  12. the flowers at bear grass look simply attractive! i wonder what is that :)

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  13. This is just so awesome! The falls and also those hot water springs look so tempting. Its a fantastic post, Thanks for the virtual tour.
    Have a wonderful week ahead:)

  14. Glad you had a great trip, and bring home some spectacular photos! I want to see the Old Faithful some days! Love the last photo with beautiful flower!

  15. wow very beautiful places! I love the wild flowers! I've never seen a geyser before other than from the Pokemon series. :)