THT Series: Yellowstone National Park – Where No Connection Meets Real Connection

As my husband and I mapped out our trek across the United States of America there is one thing we knew for sure…. Yellowstone National Park was a MUST!

Our bucket list was calling and so we must go.

We had a timeline to meet, as many military/PCS moves do, so we had to be very intentional with our bucket list but when it came to this particular stop we decided to take our time. Time being relative that is.  We allowed ourselves to have 3 days and 2 nights to fully immerse ourselves in all that is Yellowstone. Now, if anyone has been to Yellowstone previously, you know that two days is not a lot of time to explore this beautiful piece of the country but we do what we can right?

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Official Map of Yellowstone National Park

Our goal was to stay at the East Entrance of Yellowstone and then leave through the West Entrance when we departed for our next adventure. BAM, multiple birds with one stone! (Disclaimer: no birds were actually harmed during the experience of this journey).  Armed with a plan we set off to find our lodging…

Here are a couple things we realized quickly:
  • Yellowstone lodging (inside the park) books up super quick; like its probably better to book a year in advance for summer kind of  quick
  • It is more expensive to stay in the park if you are looking for a hotel/resort feel (camping I can’t speak to because that wasn’t our deal)

All of that is fine if you have the time and/or money to be able to enjoy it but that wasn’t us so onward we went. We ended up at the best little place which also happened to be the closest place you can stay to the East Entrance of the Park!

Our Lodging:  Pahaska Tepee Resort, home to Buffalo Bill’s Original Lodge

Let me break it down on why we totally LOVED staying here and why it was the perfect fit for our family.

First and foremost, the price was right on point with what we wanted to spend and it was available. I mean thats half the battle right? Another perk was that they offered us a military discount, score!

In all seriousness though, the biggest draw for us was the tone the resort set. No wifi and TV in the room, wildlife that roamed the grounds, cabins that were completely simple and rustic, trail rides, a crystal clear sky for star gazing and an on-site restaurant with home cooking meant more to us than we really understood at the time. We were able to disconnect from the world for a short while and get back to what the present felt like.  We were able to show our son and remind ourselves about the importance of connecting to one another and nature.

Yellowstone in the summer can be SUPER crowded but it is still a wonderful experience. I will talk about what times worked and didn’t quite work for us in the different sections. Another interesting thing about the area is that it may be really hot during the day but that temperature will drop at night. Just a heads up for packing! Our recommendation would be to get there at first light or stay until the evening.  At those times things have tendency to be slower, on the people front, and more active animal wise. Also, a great tip is to grab your America The Beautiful Pass at the gate because it saves a bunch of time plus it is free for all current military branches, reserves, and national guard. Feel free to click the link for more information!

Now, let’s talk about some of our highlights from our trip!

Yellowstone Lake:

We were super surprised to find this little spot on the lake and when we arrived no one else was there so we had the little beach to ourselves. You are able to park right next to the beach area and walk on out.  It was beautiful and the water was cold which was a welcome relief from the heat during the summer. Needless to say they wanted to put some bathing suits on and dive right in! However, we didn’t pack any because we didn’t know this existed and they were fine splashing around with their fingers and toes.

Mammoth Hot Springs: 

Oh y’all let me tell you… we (mainly me) were not prepared for the hike you need to take to reach these beauties, especially in the summer when it is like a bigillion degrees out and you are in dry air.  What is this thin, dry air you speak of? Well let me tell you from a  native sea-level dwelling, humid air breathing, post-baby delivering person’s perspective… it is rough and I could have died (yes, I may be exaggerating on the death part). Ha! However, it is worth every minute. It was crowded because we arrived right around lunch time so I would recommend picking a different time.  Side note: there is a little town close by that becomes SUPER packed for lunch so bring lots of water (I cannot stress this enough) and maybe a picnic lunch to avoid that.  There is not much coverage from the sun and, in June, it was intense.  Our daughter is pictured without her hat but that lasted for about .5 seconds even with super sunscreen on.

Old Faithful:

This was a must do and so fun for our son! The shot we did catch of Old Faithful blowing off some steam was through the window because we were inside eating lunch.  Needless to say we must have been pretty hangry for us to miss that in person. It is much easier to access than Mammoth Hot Springs and there is plenty of seating for the show. There is also plenty of room to run around for the littles, the education center to kill some time and provide relief from the heat and the inn is located there as well.

Grand Canyon of Yellowstone:

These shots are from Artist’s Point in the Canyon Village Area and it is one of the most popular locations in this area.  There are so many different things to do here and, in all honesty, you could probably spend a couple days just exploring this place. There are Upper and Lower Falls to visit as well as an education center.  It was drivable and super easy to access for our little’s so that is why we chose this particular spot. I was a nervous wreck because our son likes to climb rocks that are really high in the air and I constantly thought gravity was going to reach up and grab him.  So note, keep an eye on the littles if they are adventurous like mine.

Wildlife:

These are the show stoppers in the park right?! Literally, they stop traffic and it gets pretty backed up and, for me, thats the best way to sit in traffic.  The bison take no prisoners, as you can see in one photo, and they will get pretty close to you.  They will run at you if you make them uncomfortable so please remember keep your distance. The mountain goats we found only in the East Entrance to the park and I happened to catch them just by chance.  They are elusive and they blend in really well!  The wildlife are most active first thing in the morning and in the evening so if your main goal is to see them then make sure you pick those times.  We saw grizzly bears, black bears who had cubs, lots of moose, bison, foxes, mountain goats, deer, we missed the wolves but they were there, and elk.

Our amazing experience here was hard to leave.  We enjoyed turning everything off and just watching the magnificence unfold around us; there was such peace amid all of the tourism.  Honestly, there is so much to see and we didn’t even touch half of it so when you make your plans know that there will never be enough time and that is okay.  You can always go back!

We do plan on heading back there the next time we move across the country so I would love for you to drop me a comment in the post about some things we may have missed, your experience, thoughts, tips and tricks!

Until Next Time,

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