Suggestions for Grand Tetons, Yellowstone & Environs -TRIP REPORT ADDED

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Jim Stewart
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Suggestions for Grand Tetons, Yellowstone & Environs -TRIP REPORT ADDED

#1 Post by Jim Stewart » April 16th, 2019, 10:05 am

I am in the very early stages of putting together a first-ever visit for us to this part of the country for September. Just booked our RT flight to SLC on points this morning and going from there. We like to hike (up to a few hours), I am hoping to do some fishing (either unguided or guided), and we do not mind doing some driving tourism. Would welcome tips and suggestions on lodging, destinations, activities, etc. for this area or nearby. Planning a two week trip overall. Thinking two weeks might be overkill for this area, so also have in mind possibly splitting our two weeks between this area and a visit to the Utah parks (Bryce, Zion, etc). What do you think? Thanks.


Note: Took our trip in September and added some notes and pics about it below. 10/6/19
Last edited by Jim Stewart on October 6th, 2019, 11:01 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Suggestions for Grand Tetons, Yellowstone & Environs ?

#2 Post by Alan Rath » April 16th, 2019, 11:57 am

Two weeks would (and should) be a nice amount of time to do both Yellowstone and some subset of Utah Parks - though they are in opposite directions, and will involve a fair amount of driving (make sure your car has unlimited miles). Bryce is at the top of my list for Utah, though it is the farthest away. Arches and Canyonlands are very worthy of visiting, and a little easier on the driving. I may be alone in saying Zion is not my favorite of the parks.
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Re: Suggestions for Grand Tetons, Yellowstone & Environs ?

#3 Post by T Welch » April 16th, 2019, 2:08 pm

Crowds thin out after Labor Day so traffic isn't as bad. Also, the cooler weather gets the bison and elk moving to lower elevations so the wildlife viewing is excellent. You might want to consider a loop (either direction) which includes Idaho, West Yellowstone, Yellowstone Park, Grand Tetons, Jackson and back across the mountains to Idaho and SLC. Some of the most famous trout streams in the world are along this loop: Henry's Fork in Idaho, the Madison, the Snake, etc. You could stay 2-3 days in the Last Chance/Island Park area and fish the Henry's Fork. Then maybe 2-3 days in West Yellowstone day tripping to fish the Madison and Firehole. You might want to visit the NE part of Yellowstone to see the Lamar Valley and fish Slough Creek (a bit of a hike in bear country). Then head South toward Jackson, maybe staying at Jackson Lake or Jenny Lake Lodge. Jenny Lake is beautiful and you can take the boat over to Cascade Creek for some day hiking. You can float the Snake to simply enjoy the views of the Tetons and wildlife or to fish. Jackson is a fun town, but like West Yellowstone will probably still be pretty crowded. Fishing side trips might include Montana to fish the Beaverhead or Big Hole, or south of Jackson to the Green River. This whole area might be my favorite place to visit.
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Re: Suggestions for Grand Tetons, Yellowstone & Environs ?

#4 Post by dbailey » April 17th, 2019, 2:04 am

Just got back from a trip that included a heli tour of zion and bryce. Utterly spectacular, Zion even more so than Bryce for us. Imagine both would be hot as hell in September though.
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Re: Suggestions for Grand Tetons, Yellowstone & Environs ?

#5 Post by Adam Noble » April 17th, 2019, 6:28 am

I don't know if you can fit Antelope Canyon in there, but I'm dying to go there myself. Just got back from Grand Canyon last weekend. I (and the family) had a great time-Shoshone Point is a nice little walk that was much less crowded than others. We stayed overnight in Sedona on our way there and would recommend that as well.

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Re: Suggestions for Grand Tetons, Yellowstone & Environs ?

#6 Post by Paul McCourt » April 19th, 2019, 6:40 am

dbailey wrote:
April 17th, 2019, 2:04 am
Just got back from a trip that included a heli tour of zion and bryce. Utterly spectacular, Zion even more so than Bryce for us. Imagine both would be hot as hell in September though.
I’ve hiked in and camped in Bryce late September early October. Warm, but not real hot during the day but at about freezing at night.
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Re: Suggestions for Grand Tetons, Yellowstone & Environs ?

#7 Post by Terry H a r r i s » April 28th, 2019, 10:59 pm

Truett has some great suggestions. My more recent fun trips to GTNP or GellystoneNP have all been either in June or in September. For September, be prepared for the possibility of the parks shutting down if an early snow storm rolls through (happened to us in 2013, both parks closed early, and the foot of wet, heavy snow finally caught up with us as we were hauling the boat up out of Hoback Canyon south of Jackson; was sunny and dry by the time we got as far south as Rock Springs). Main thing, just pay attention to weather reports once you are there.

For lodging, you may have some challenges trying to book this late if you are trying to stay in either NP, but particularly Yellowstone. With Yellowstone we managed to do it one year but only by booking our first 3 nights at Grant Village on West Thumb followed by 2 nights at one of the old Yellowstone Lake Lodge rooms. However, once we actually checked in we asked the reservation person to keep an eye out for cancellations there in Grant Village, which happened and allowed us then to stay all 5 nights there. Grand Teton we managed to stay in cabins at Colter Bay. Also, lodging in either park runs spectrum from beat/primative to pretty nice.

For guided fly fishing I once booked a trip with High Country Flies in Jackson (based upon a personal friend's recommendation). Originally it was to float the Snake, but there were problems with the dam and water levels on the Snake, so we opted instead to float the Salt River, that runs from south-to-north through Afton. It was wonderful, but that was probably 15 years ago. For floating, be flexible in the end. All my fly fishing in either park has been from my buddy's fishing boat. But, as Truett suggests, there's a ton of river fishing in that area that is world class - were it me, I would seek out a good local fishing guide for any river/stream fishing in that area, especially considering the thermal activity in some of those areas and the grizzly bears.

Both are beautiful parks and so enjoy, however the plans work out!
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Re: Suggestions for Grand Tetons, Yellowstone & Environs ?

#8 Post by Dave Sankaran » April 29th, 2019, 11:50 am

I've lived at least part-time in Jackson area since 2002, so I'm happy to help in whatever way I can. I'm there pretty much for the fly fishing, hiking, scenery and animal spotting. So I'm glad to see those all on your list.

Re whether or not to supplement the "greater yellowstone area" visit with time at the Utah parks...well...that's a toughie. If you really want to relax and spend the time, then you will not run out of things to do in GYA in two weeks. Otoh, if you like to see a lot of things and keep moving, then visiting Bryce and Zion (or Arches or Capital Reef, etc etc) is certainly doable.

That said, its a long drive from GYA to Bryce/Zion. I winter in Scottsdale and summer in WY, so I do that drive 2x per year. I overnight in that area on my way south and its basically a whole day drive from Jackson to Bryce.

I LOVE bryce (Zion is cool, but so damn crowded - its a small canyon) and Arches is "okay" and I've been to all of the parks in UT and AZ and WY many, many times. I guess my strong bias (from experience) is to spend two weeks in GYA and call it good.

With 2 weeks in GYA, I'd recommend:

- Stay in Yellowstone for a 4-5 days (I like the Yellowstone Lake Lodge Cabins or the Yellowstone Lake Hotel). Its likely 90%+ full already, but there will be some openings, especially at the hotel since its the most expensive property in the park. Go to dinner at the Lake Hotel regardless of where you stay. You must make a reservation for dinner! Go early and listen to the piano player with a cocktail or glass of wine while looking over the lake prior to dinner.

- Stay in Teton Village (or Jackson town) for 4 days (all of the hotels there are okay or better). From there you can go into Jackson for sightseeing, but you are also at the entrance to Grand Teton park and all that entails. You will be using the "moose-wilson" road entrance. Not many people know its there.

- Stay at a dude ranch - Like Triangle X - for 4-5 days.

- Don't stay north of yellowstone or in West Yellowstone (yuck). Stick to Jackson Hole and inside Yellowstone. (all of the inside lodging is managed by one company - be careful of hotels/motels/etc that "say" they are inside yellowstone. They are not.

- Take a "scenic" float with Barker Ewing from Deadman's bluff put in on the snake down to Moose. Take the late afternoon one or early morning. Bring along beverages. Its awesome. Don't miss it.

- Don't bother with the "whitewater" float UNLESS you do the rubber ducky small kayaks. Those are fun in our small snake river canyon rapids, whereas the large rafts just roll over the small rapids. Yawn. Rubby ducky = fun.

- Hike from String lake to Inspiration Point. Don't hike from the Jenny Lake boat (its a zoo). Rather, go north to string lake and hike southwest along the northshore of Jenny lake towards the Grand Teton. Then go up the falls. Great, great hike.

- Oh, that reminds me. TAKE bear spray. Especially in September. Wear it on your hip when in either park. No joke.

- Important - bring good binoculars. Keep them near you in the car and in your backpack when hiking. A must.

- In yellowstone, drive thru Lamar valley to the northeast entrance. Stop along the distant cliffs to watch mountain goats.

- Go thru Hayden Valley as many times as you can - its the most likely place to see Griz or Wolf from the road/car.

- Old Faithful is crowded, but worth it. As is the entire gyser basin. Take the "one way" road along the lower firehole river. (most people don't even know its there).

- Great day picnic places abound. Some are even not crowded...PM me when you get closer and have your itinerary sorted and I'll give you some ideas.

- Fly fishing. Yeah, imho, its the best trout fishing area in our country. By a large margin (again, imho). I keep a list of rivers to fish (not even the lakes) and its over 3 pages now. They range from 2 yards wide to giant rivers. There are a number of great guides, I know many personally and can give you some recommendations via PM when your schedule is sorted. Btw - which dates in Sept? There is a large competition for charity in early Sept and I try to stay off of the large rivers (snake and southfork) at that time and shortly thereafter. Not to mention all the best guides are in that tourney and thus not available. Anyways, I can refer you to great guides and also give you some spots to try on your own.

Okay...so...IF you decide to do the "driving tourism" and hit Utah and GYA, let me know. I have done just that several times and have learned of some great scenic routes. Some are obvious, but a few I stumbled across and they were memorable.

So...let us know where you land on that and we can give some better, more detailed advice. Despite my bias to GYA, you certainly can do 1 week in Utah and 1 week in GYA.

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Re: Suggestions for Grand Tetons, Yellowstone & Environs ?

#9 Post by Dave Sankaran » April 29th, 2019, 11:55 am

oh - just remembered - get Becky Woods books on hiking in the GYA. I don't know if there are updated versions, but I got them when I moved there and they are a bible of great hikes.

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Re: Suggestions for Grand Tetons, Yellowstone & Environs ?

#10 Post by T Welch » April 29th, 2019, 12:39 pm

Dave, do you know Howard Cole, formerly of High Country Flies?
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Re: Suggestions for Grand Tetons, Yellowstone & Environs ?

#11 Post by Dave Sankaran » April 29th, 2019, 1:05 pm

T Welch wrote:
April 29th, 2019, 12:39 pm
Dave, do you know Howard Cole, formerly of High Country Flies?
No, I don't recall that name. I've been in their shop (the old one and the post merger one) so its possible I've met him.

I have fished with Worldcast mostly over the past 10 years. Back in the early 2000's I fished with Jack Dennis's guys and the Westbank guys (back when i fished the snake a lot). Just found some guides at WC that I really enjoy fishing with and I mostly get guides on the southfork and they have the most permits and their guides know that river well.

I started fishing with Jack himself about 5 years ago (he's on his own after selling the shop and only fishes with a few clients nowadays), he a lot of fun too and has forgotten more about fly fishing than most of us every know. Its great to be on the river with him.

There are loads of talented guides and good guys up here, no doubt.

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Re: Suggestions for Grand Tetons, Yellowstone & Environs ?

#12 Post by T Welch » April 29th, 2019, 1:11 pm

Howard was partner with Jimmy Jones until they sold the store (10 years ago?) and didn't guide. I think he worked a while for Jack Dennis before HCF and again after the sale. He was my fishing buddy here in CA until he moved to Jackson 30 years ago. Helluva fisherman.
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Re: Suggestions for Grand Tetons, Yellowstone & Environs ?

#13 Post by Terry H a r r i s » October 5th, 2019, 3:16 pm

Jim, any update or pics? [cheers.gif]
His wife told a 911 operator that she used a pruner "good for pruning roses" and that James's bleeding wasn't enough to create the "sign of the cross, or write sinner" . . . .

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Re: Suggestions for Grand Tetons, Yellowstone & Environs ?

#14 Post by Jim Stewart » October 6th, 2019, 10:30 am

Terry H a r r i s wrote:
October 5th, 2019, 3:16 pm
Jim, any update or pics? [cheers.gif]
Thanks for asking Terry. We had a very good trip.

We flew into Jackson WY on the evening of Sep 8th, picked up our rental car and dropped it off exactly 2 weeks later on Sep 22nd at Salt Lake City airport. Five nights in Jackson, two nights in Yellowstone NP, 5 nights in Springdale UT near Zion NP, and a couple of solo nights. Lot of driving between places and hiking when we were there. We both have never been to this part of the country and we were really impressed by the beauty and the sense of space.

Grand Tetons NP. Tourists even in September, but easy to get away from crowds on many trails. Just a spectacular area with the big boy Grand Teton hovering above the other peaks. Enjoyed both cloudy and clear views and being outdoors hiking for up to a few hours. Took a Snake River Fly Fishing Float trip. Lots of cutthroats in the 9-14”. My wife caught her first fish on what was her introduction to fly fishing. Had a quick passing hail storm nail us for about 10 minutes while we were on the river, which was strangely enjoyable.
taggart lake.jpg
Hike to Taggart Lake
shane come back.jpg
"Shane, come back!"
jim on snake.jpg
Stoic Jim
snake jac fish.jpg
Excited and shaking Jacqueline
snake float.jpg
Beautiful Snake River

Jackson. Obviously a bit touristy, but not overwhelmingly. The town has a nice vibe, big art gallery presence along with a little cowboy kitsch. We enjoyed our stay at the Marriott Springhill Suites (on points BTW). Dining for us was low key, but we enjoyed Bin 22, Snake River Brewing and Hand Fire Pizza. Bin22 has an interesting concept of a Tapas style communal table restaurant combined with a retail wine store. Buy your wine at a reasonable price and bring it over to your table to have with your meal. Like the communal table idea for socializing a bit too. No corkage. Also enjoyed the DQ in town more than once after hiking.
Yellowstone NP. Although not in our original plans, we switched things around to spend a couple of nights in the park. Stayed at the Lake Yellowstone Hotel, which is an historic property, but a bit behind the times in amenities. Our stay in Yellowstone was enjoyable, but seemed more like sightseeing – i.e. see Old Faithful, see the Bison, see the Prismatic Spring, see the Canyon, etc . . . Most enjoyable part for me was buying a fishing license and doing a little fishing in a few spots off the road. No fish for me, but I did see a guy pull in a beautiful Yellowstone cutthroat.
Salt Lake City Overnight on the long drive from Yellowstone to Springdale/Zion. Very enjoyable driving stretch in Southern Wyoming, by the way. Stayed downtown in SLC. It was a Sunday night and the area had a strange semi-empty vibe. Obvious and impressive presence of the LDS church. Homeless problems even here. Drove down to Zion the next day. Could not believe how long the unrelenting urban sprawl stretched southward. It felt like 50 miles. Stopped at Kolob Canyon about an hour north of Spingdale and ended up doing a few hours of hiking there. This is actually the northern/less visited part of Zion NP.
Springdale. We stayed five nights at the Marriott Springhill Suites (again on points!). Same basic style as the Jackson property but spectacularly situated and more open common spaces and some nice additional amenities like pool, hot tub, deck with firepit, etc. Highly recommended. Nice town, can recommend Oscars Cafe and the Noodle & Pizza for restaurants. We used this as a base to take day trips to Zion, Bryce and a few other places. Managed to do a little reservoir fishing one day but again with no luck. Hiking in Zion and Bryce were the highlights for sure.
springdale springhill.jpg
Springdale Hotel Breakfast Room View

Zion NP. Majestic and dominating cliffs of all sorts rise above you. Incredible beauty just driving through and pulling off. Did quite a bit of hiking, but none too strenuous. Our favorite turned out to be a quiet, uncrowded trail called “Watchmen”. We also enjoyed the views on the short “Canyon Overlook” trail but it seemed a bit like being in the line at the top of Everest at times with the line of people. Great sense of awe in this NP.
zion canyon outlook.jpg
Canyon Overlook Trail View
zion watchmen.jpg
Watchmen Trail

Bryce NP. This is the yin to Zion’s yang. Spectacular beauty, but more intimate/inviting. Here you look down and hike down into the canyon from above. In Zion you look up and hike up since you are in the canyon. We did a couple of trails here. Highly recommend the “Wall St/Navajo/Queens Garden” trail taken counterclockwise. We would not pick a favorite between Bryce and Zion. Different experience.
bryce magic 1.jpg
Magical Bryce
bryce magic 2.jpg
More Bryce Magic

Capitol Reef NP. We originally intended to do the big 5 southern NP’s in southern Utah, but dropped the two near Moab to have a couple of days in Yellowstone. So, this was our last Utah NP on our way back to SLC. Did some stream & lake fishing on the drive from Springdale through the Dixie forest. Stayed in nearby Torrey. This NP is unpretentious, but beautiful anyway. Not the superlatives of Zion and Bryce, but if they did not exist for comparison, this place would be a bigger destination. We took a single relatively short hike and did the scenic drive.
capitol reef.jpg
Typical Capitol Reef Scene

Drove back to SLC and flew home the next morning.

Cheers,
-Jim
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Re: Suggestions for Grand Tetons, Yellowstone & Environs -TRIP REPORT ADDED

#15 Post by Terry H a r r i s » October 6th, 2019, 11:30 am

Great pics and story, Jim!! Looks like you guys had a wonderful time! [cheers.gif]
His wife told a 911 operator that she used a pruner "good for pruning roses" and that James's bleeding wasn't enough to create the "sign of the cross, or write sinner" . . . .

Oh, and I pay money to those ITB

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Re: Suggestions for Grand Tetons, Yellowstone & Environs -TRIP REPORT ADDED

#16 Post by T Klonoski » October 8th, 2019, 5:04 am

Thanks for putting together this interesting report. First-rate photos.
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Re: Suggestions for Grand Tetons, Yellowstone & Environs -TRIP REPORT ADDED

#17 Post by Michael Martin » October 8th, 2019, 5:32 am

Thanks for posting.

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Re: Suggestions for Grand Tetons, Yellowstone & Environs -TRIP REPORT ADDED

#18 Post by M. Dildine » October 8th, 2019, 2:10 pm

Thanks for posting this Jim. We returned from Jackson last week and loved it. Toured Yellowstone, white water rafted the Snake, and enjoyed hiking in the Tetons. We plan to return next year!
Cheers,

Mike

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