Yellowstone Arrival and Day 1

Yellowstone Arrival Plus an Unexpected but Exciting Detour

My parents expressed interest in going on one of my trips, so I jumped at the chance to show them Yellowstone National Park. (Who knew we’d have a detour on the same day as our Yellowstone arrival?) I had been before in 2009 and thought it’d be a good park, with Loop Road, to have a good chance at seeing all the tourist sites.

Getting There

We flew out of Albany Airport and landed in Chicago. Chicago is always very busy since it’s a major hub. From there we flew to Bozeman. Bozeman is such a nice and quiet little airport! There hadn’t been enough time in Chicago to grab something to eat, so we headed for Applebee’s after we got the rental car. After a satisfying, albeit, very late lunch, we headed down US-191 to West Yellowstone.

Yellowstone arrival
View from the plane.

One of the reasons we decided to fly into Bozeman, even though it would have been cheaper to fly into Salt Lake City, was the amount of driving we’d still have ahead of us once we landed. The drive time from Salt Lake to West Yellowstone is about 4.75 hours, while from Bozeman to West Yellowstone is closer to 1.75 hours. Given the drive times, we’d basically lose two days of sightseeing flying into Salt Lake City too. Just a tip for your consideration!

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Yellowstone Arrival

The drive to West Yellowstone was uneventful. A lot of marveling at the scenery. We don’t have mountains like those in the Northeast! We did stop about halfway for a few minutes just to stretch our legs, then it was onto the hotel.

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Normally I advise staying in a rental house when touring the same area for a week, but because Yellowstone is so large and we didn’t want to do a lot of backtracking, hotels it was. We stayed at the Yellowstone Lodge, which is off the main drag, so traffic noise-wise, it was very quiet.

Mt. Haynes

We started the day with the continental breakfast offered at the hotel and then headed into the Park. We stopped at the Mt. Haynes pull-off to walk along the Madison River for a bit. Through the snow, we did manage to see the mountain and a crane in the water.

Firehole Canyon and River

After getting our fill at Mt. Haynes we continued onto Firehole Canyon Road. The Firehole River was raging. We did have to wait for a bit of a crowd to die down. One benefit to cold and snowy weather, no one stays outside their car for very long, so we normally didn’t have to wait long to have an area to ourselves.

Grand Prismatic Spring

We continued on to the Grand Prismatic Spring. The day had gotten windier and colder, so the crowds had thinned considerably. We almost had the Spring and its long boardwalk to ourselves!

Such a gray day muted the rainbow colors of the Grand Prismatic Spring, but the blues of the Turquoise Pool and Excelsior Geyser Crater could still be seen. Also, be careful on windy days…or you might lose your hat too!

We found the crowds at our next stop…

Old Faithful

Once we arrived at Old Faithful and saw the wait time for the next eruption, we were happy to wander around the museum – out of the cold and the wind. So was everyone else!

Old Faithful eruption
Old Faithful eruption

After the eruption, we had lunch out of the car and then headed back toward West Yellowstone.

Yellowstone arrival and day 1 snowy mountain

We had planned to drive through Yellowstone to get to Jackson Hole, but the road south of Old Faithful was closed due to snow. So we detoured, almost four hours of driving, through Idaho. None of us were happy about it at the beginning of the detour, but now we remark it’s one of our favorite parts of the whole trip!


We stopped at the Osborne Bridge at the Harriman State Park to stretch our legs. It was still snowing and cold and windy. But we enjoyed wandering around and crossing the bridge.

Osborne Bridge
Osborne Bridge

Then it was on to the seemingly endless fields. We couldn’t believe how few rocks there were in the fields. Not like Vermont, where every Spring we picked rocks out of the fields so the farm equipment won’t be damaged when harvesting the crops. The Vermont fields have been picked every year for around 200 years and we still find rocks to pick! But these Idaho fields? No rocks to be seen. Not even any rock piles!

Idaho fields
Idaho fields

Teton Pass

And then…and then! It was time for Teton Pass. This alone made the whole detour worth it. Wow, what views!!! Some hairpin turns and steep drop-offs, but still, the views!

Down at the bottom of the Pass is the Snake River. We stopped at Emily Stevens Park and walked over the Snake River and just enjoyed the scenery. The snow-covered Teton range was spectacular in the sunlight!

Teton Range and Snake River
Teton Range and Snake River

We arrived at Parkway Inn and settled in for the next few days.

And that’s our Yellowstone arrival and day 1! For Day 2 and the Tetons, go here.

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