Are you ready to get outside this summer but aren’t sure where to go? Is Yellowstone National Park on your bucket list? Today we share why we may skip one of America’s most famous parks and what we might do instead, plus we give you our insider tips for visiting America’s national parks.
What’s the deal with Yellowstone
We find it easiest to break this down in Pros and Cons!
Okay, maybe we wouldn’t actually skip Yellowstone National Park, but we wouldn’t base ourselves there for a major trip.
First of all, the wildlife is some of the best in the country. We saw all kinds of animals on our trek through the park. Most notably, we saw grizzly bears, bison, elk, moose and brown bears! We even have a really fun story about Shelly coming face to face with a wolf (but you’ll have to listen to the podcast for that one!).
Another great part about Yellowstone is the geothermal activity. These include things like geysers (Old Faithful, anyone?), Mammoth Hot Springs and the Grand Prismatic Spring. All of these are incredible to witness and are only found in Yellowstone.
Okay, so what about the Cons?
Yellowstone is absolutely massive, we spent over 7 hours driving in one day. Actually we wrote a whole article about how we did Yellowstone in 24 hours.
Another downside is that the park is really designed for sightseeing from your car, some overlooks and boardwalks but not as much about hiking and other outdoor activities. That’s not to say you can’t find your fair share of outdoor activities, it just didn’t seem like the park was as focused on that as some other we’ve been to.
It’s also extremely popular, which means busy. We got stuck in more than a few traffic jams due to wildlife sightings—we often coin phrases (kinda like an inside joke) that we say over and over again in our trips and ours here was: just another buffalo! We constantly got stopped by long lines of cars looking at buffalo on the side of the road. This made getting around very difficult since the entire park is covered in one lane roads.
In terms of camping, the campgrounds were also extremely busy, with little to no privacy and with a lot of people who don’t necessarily know camp etiquette. We’re no professional campers but things like, quiet hours, are definitely a thing to know and follow in a campground!
So where would we go instead?
Easy- the Grand Tetons, and here’s why:
- Its less than an hour to Yellowstone from the Tetons, and this is definitely where I would base myself for the trip
- You won’t be driving as much- it’s not nearly as big but is filled to the brim with beauty and activities
- This is a lot more active of a park, there’s some amazing hiking trails, kayaking, fishing, rafting, etc. This is more of the outdoorsy experience I was expecting from the National Parks
- The campgrounds are probably still busy- they are both popular parks! They both have food court options if you’re not one to cook your food over a campfire.
- One of our favorite hikes ever was Jenny Lake, this is where we hiked with black bears and moose. This was a great “choose your challenge” type out and back hike. This hike could be 2 miles long or 10, it just depends on how much you want to do that day!
Visiting a National Park this summer? Here’s our tips!
– watch for parks that require reservations. This is leftover from COVID and you don’t want to be disappointed like we were trying to visit the Rockies!
– You can download park maps from Google Maps while you still have internet access! A lot of parks have very limited internet access. This is a brand new feature from Google Maps and it is a gamechanger.
– All Trails is a great app for finding good hiking trails. We have the free version and we use it very often
– If you’re going to hike in bear country, be bear aware. Read all warning signs and follow directions. Because we were just a group of two (three is recommended) we always carried bear mace.
– If you’re going to visit more than one park or going to be in and out of parks for multiple days- I would recommend the America the Beautiful pass. It’s $80 a year and includes unlimited admissions for your whole car. They also have deals on senior passes, disability passes, veterans and 4th graders!
America’s National Parks are some of our very favorite places in the world and exploring them should be on every travelers bucket list! Do you have a favorite park? Tell us over on instagram @thetravelmores .. If you’re a lover of this podcast- do us a 1 minute favor and leave a quick review! It helps us continue to bring these tips and tricks to you every other week. See you next time on the Travel More Podcast!