My suggestions - Part 2

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Posted by Ballpark Frank ( on 07:13:47 08/07/17

In Reply to: Trip Plans posted by Red Hot Mama

On Wednesday, be sure to drive the Upper Terrace Loop. It might be worth parking at the main parking lot above Main Terrace. Then, walk down the boardwalk to the Canary Spring area, which is where much of the current activity has been taking place in recent years. If I had to, I would trade away the planned walk at Forces of the Northern Range in exchange for this walk. Be sure to check out the recently renovated Albright Visitor Center. If the weather is nice, you might want to eat your picnic lunch at one of the tables behind Albright and Officer's Row. There are usually a number of them spread out on the lawn between Officer's Row and the Admin. Building. Of course, any elk rut activity can trump other activities in Mammoth proper, like doing the walking tour of historic Ft. Yellowstone. Stop at the Undine Falls overlook when you head east from Mammoth. Don't be surprised if Wraith Falls is a bit underwhelming. In June, it was roaring, and quite the attraction. By October, it is likely to be a mere shadow of its former self. I would echo what Granite Head has suggested regarding the Northeast Entrance Road and all that it has to offer. Lamar Valley and Little America (sprawling open area en route to Lamar Valley) have been called the "Serengeti of North America" for good reason. To miss that area would be tragic, given that you have almost a week in Yellowstone! I would suggest you go all the way to Cooke City, Montana, just a few miles outside the Northeast Entrance on at least one of the days you are up north. Eat lunch or dinner up there for a change of pace. (The Terrace Grill is fast food, and unlike the Geyser Grill, not as good, IMHO.)

Regarding Thursday, this is where exercising a bit of schedule flexibility might be beneficial. If you opt to take most of the activities you planned for Sunday between Madison and Norris, and sprinkle them among the other days that you are heading up the Gibbon Canyon, you will not only break up the potential long drives to Canyon, Mammoth, or beyond, but you will buy valuable time to enjoy those more distant places. Be aware that the mother/daughter team of Raspberry and Snow, popular grizzly bears, have been showing up along the East Entrance Road with some regularity. My experience over the years says that the East Entrance Road, between Fishing Bridge and Sylvan Lake is a good place to see grizzlies late in the year. The Storm Point trail is excellent! The Natural Bridge trail, given the length, and one single feature at the distant end, is expendable, particularly if it means the difference between getting to explore the East Entrance Road and possibly see bears. For beaches, you can't beat the sandy expanse right behind the Fishing Bridge Visitor Center. We have used it for multiple generations of pre-schoolers, and they love it. Of course, in early October, it will likely be way too cold at that elevation for any serious wading in the lake. Mud Volcano is a must-see. You don't necessarily need to walk the entire trail system all the way to Sour Lake, but know that kids love mud pots, even "big kids". After you head east on the East Entrance Road, past Mary Bay and Sedge Bay, look for the Lake Butte Overlook road off to the left, on the north side of the road, just past the Nine Mile parking lot (which is on the right). This 1 mile drive to a scenic overlook is well worth the diversion. If you have clear skies, you can see the Grand Tetons in the distance, besides most of Yellowstone Lake and numerous other mountain ranges, including the southern Gallatins and the Washburn Range. This reminds me. You definitely need to schedule a drive over Dunraven Pass if it is still open, between Canyon and Tower. At times, the sprawling meadows on the north side, above Antelope Creek, rival Hayden Valley and Lamar Valley for wildlife watching opportunities and the views are spectacular.

My suggestion for Friday would be to expand your itinerary to incorporate the areas you left out, particularly the East Entrance Road and the Northeast Entrance Road. Having said that, you also need to be prepared for the likelihood of at least one or two bad weather days. That is when having some idea in your head about backup plans can pay dividends. In October, we locals tend to rely heavily on what I refer to as the "Lower West Side" (geyser basins and such between Old Faithful and Madison Junction) and the north end of the park for relief from harsh weather, which is almost always worse on the east side, due to the higher elevation. Geyser gazing is a good activity for crumby weather, providing you don't have to sit around in a snowstorm for an extended period (although we have done that on occasion).

Also, get the kids that are old enough to participate in the Junior Ranger program enrolled as early as possible in the trip, so they will have adequate time to complete the educational and fun activities prescribed in the tabloid they will be given. You can sign them up at any visitor center, including the one co-located with the West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce, which is close to the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center.

This is probably plenty to digest for now. Feel free to come back with clarifying questions.


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