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Itinerary - Yellowstone Road Trip from Denver

Our four week circular road trip began and ended in Denver and covered a grand total of 3131 miles by road and 100 miles on foot.  Three weeks was just about the right amount of time to explore some of the Wild West USA’s greatest national parks – Grand Teton, Rocky Mountain and Yellowstone – at a fairly leisurely pace.  

 

Old Faithful Yellowstone NP
Yellowstone Road Trip from Denver

Best time to visit Yellowstone

We visited in late August/early September.  The weather was glorious and the parks were not too crowded.  Visiting Yellowstone in the Summer is definitely best avoided – it is way too hot.  

All the National Parks quieten down significantly after Labour Day at the end of August, so then is a good time to go, as long as you don’t leave it so long that the snow arrives – it is a small window, RMNP is definitely the busiest park (people per square mile), so I would leave that as late into the season as possible.

The parks close up later in September in preparation for deep snowfall that engulfs the area for the whole of the long Winter in Yellowstone.  There are a couple of lodges that open in Winter though and if you are brave enough to cope with the snowfall and cold, it could be a wonderful trip.  You would still see much of the wildlife that makes the national parks exciting places to visit and the thermal springs would look all the more spectacular emerging through the snow I imagine.  There probably wouldn’t be anything like so many people around either, so if “do different” is your style of holiday, then it is worth thinking about visiting in the Winter time.

 

Yellowstone Road Trip from Denver

Top Ten "Must-Dos"

  1. Watch Old Faithful do her thing
  2. Tick Mount Rushmore off your bucket list
  3. Drive the jaw dropping Beartooth Highway
  4. Take your best shot at Artist’s Point, Grand Canyon
  5. Visit the Battle of the Little Bighorn site
  6. Have your photo taken under the Jackson Elk Antler Arch
  7. Sing “Rocky Mountain High, Colorado” as you enter the RNMP
  8. Soak up the atmosphere at Devil’s Monument
  9. Explore the Badlands and marvel at how people actually lived there
  10. Stroll around the beautiful Botanical Gardens at Denver
Elk Antler Arch Jackson
Yellowstone Chico Hot Springs Hotel
Chico Hot Springs Hotel

My Reading List for Yellowstone

Yellowstone has Teeth – A Memoir of living in Yellowstone by Marjane Ambler

Few people have experienced Yellowstone National Park like Marjane Ambler.  She lived there with her husband as part of a tiny community who worked in the National Park through the long, cold Winters.  She tells a true and otherwise hidden story of the delights and dangers of the Park – everything from bison and bear attacks to dealing with avalanches and the practicalities of living in this harsh environment.  It makes compelling pre trip reading and gives you an interesting perspective if your trip is in the benign Summer months.

Death in Yellowstone:  Accidents and Foolhardiness in the First National Park by Lee H. Whittesley

True stories are always the best and this book has a whole host of them.  It’s worth preparing yourself for the dangers that one of the wildest places on earth presents before you make the trip there.  Grizzly bear attacks, hot springs accidents – it’s all there.  Sensible travellers should be able to navigate their way through it all pretty easily though – so don’t let it put you off!

The Spirit of Indian Women – edited by Judith Fitzgerald and Michael Oren Fitzgerald

A fascinating account of how the indigenous population lived.  Do make the time to read it if you can.

The souvenir I did buy

My Packing List for Yellowstone

Don’t travel without:

ETSA Visa waiver

Hat/scarf/gloves – early mornings and late evening can be cold here, even in Summer

Sun hat/sunscreen

Pepper spray – you might not be able to take it on the aircraft, so it might be something you need to buy – or rent – when you are there.

Mosquito repellent – I got badly bitten in Grand Teton NP.

I also bought a couple of head torches, because I read in the Lonely Planet guidebook that a must do thing was a canoe trip at sunrise to the middle of a lake in Grand Teton where you should see moose around the lake as the sun comes up.   It sounds magical – and I didn’t want to be prevented from doing it by  lack of a head torch!

A more complete list of what I packed is on this post:  

What I’m Packing

Yellowstone Head Torches packing list western USA National Parks Trip

Flora and Fauna

This is just a checklist of what I actually saw – to inspire you to go – but there is potentially so much more to see here!  Search for “Flora and Fauna” to find the relevant posts.

 

  • More to follow – website under construction …
Bison America
Bison roaming free

Foodie Firsts

Search for “Foodie Firsts” to discover more about WA’s Foodie scene.

  • More to follow – website under construction! 

Useful Websites

Learning the Lingo

More to follow – website under construction!

Fascinating Facts

More to follow – website under construction!

Tips for Future Travellers

  1. The National Park annual pass is great value at $80. Buy one as soon as you arrive to get the best blue from it.

Read my full Yellowstone Road Trip from Denver:

Billings

Bye bye Billings

Billings was our choice for a “one night stand” – only because it was about as far as we could drive towards Yellowstone without stopping…

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Yellowstone