Road Trip | Yellowstone National Park in Three Days
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Three-Day Weekend to Yellowstone National Park

Over the summer my mother-in-law and 10-year old niece came to visit us in Las Vegas. As you can imagine, you run out of kid-friendly activities pretty quick here in Sin City, so we headed north to visit the country’s first national park and “America’s best idea.”

On the way you pass beautiful western countryside that you can see just outside your car window driving down I-15. Places bursting with color like Valley of Fire state park, St. George and Salt Lake City, Utah (where you should take a lunch break and eat at a Crown Burger).

We made it from Vegas to West Yellowstone in one long day, leaving before dawn and arriving to our hotel right at sunset. You should budget about 10-13 hours depending on how many pit stops you want to take. As we drove towards West Yellowstone on the Targhee Pass Highway we spotted a family of moose, including babies, out foraging for dinner at a stream. It was beautiful and we all thought it boded well for our future animal sighting chances!

Because of the limited time, we mainly stuck to the high points in Yellowstone and we did have very early mornings and late nights. I definitely want to go back when Drew and I can get some hiking in, but now that winter has settled in we’ll have to wait until summer for sure.

Highlights

  • The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, viewed from the Brink of the Lower Falls Trail
  • Old Faithful, the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center, and a guided ranger tour which left from the Center
  • Upper Geyser Basin
  • Picnic on Yellowstone Lake
  • Lookout at the Park from the top of Mt. Washburn
  • Bison galore in Hayden Valley

Tips

  • Do not approach animals. You’re in their home so respect their space.
  • Yellowstone is constantly changing and is an active thermal area. Stay on boardwalks and trails. Don’t be like this guy.
  • Pick up the daily bulletin when you enter the park for ranger-guided talks, park news, etc.

Eat

  • To save money, we packed breakfast and lunch supplies and brought them up with us from Vegas.
  • Slippery Otter in West Yellowstone. The burger was decent as were the hot wings. The pizza left much to be desired.
  • Grant Village Dining Room.

Lodging

Moose Creek Inn

Yellowstone National Park

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We left Yellowstone around noon and headed down 191 towards Jackson Hole, WY on our way to go horseback riding in the Tetons.

Because what 10-year old girl doesn’t want a horse ride? Especially through the scenic Tetons?!

The ride with Swift Creek Outfitters was about three hours long and took us through running creeks and beautiful piney woods and over steep mountains.

I’d recommend not taking your big DSLR with you (like I did) because it will just be in the way. Because, you know….you’re on horseback so it’s difficult, if not damn near impossible, to take good photos. And, the trail guide probably doesn’t stop as much as you’d like because they’re trying to keep a schedule. So while there are photo opportunities, lugging around your heavy camera just isn’t worth it (as the bruise on my hip bone will attest).

Horse Back Ride: Grand Tetons

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Jackson Hole is a super cute town (don’t miss the requisite antler arch picture) albeit touristy. If you have time, stop and browse through some of the general stores and grab some ice cream and walk around the streets.

We headed straight through to our stop off for the night, the ever-exciting Pocatello, Idaho!

Lodging

Holiday Inn Express and Suites (because points!) which has an indoor swimming pool.

The drive to Bryce Canyon from Pocatello is around six hours so we ate our complimentary breakfast at the hotel and headed out around 8AM. This didn’t leave us much if any time in Bryce, but we know we’ll be back.

You go through Salt Lake again and this time we stopped to see the Great Salt Lake, which was weird and not all that great.

It smells really bad. Like bad.

The gnats are beyond comprehension.

To top it off, there was like a mass bird suicide (actually it looks like it’s avian cholera)…so thousands of dead birds littered the shoreline.

Our niece enjoyed doing cartwheels in the lake, but you don’t really get the impact that I think you’re supposed to have without floating in it. There are (thank God) hoses and facilities to wash off after walking around in all the muck. You’ll see a big structure that looks similar to a Russian Orthodox church (called Salt Air). Behind the building are several shower nozzles and hoses.

Bryce Canyon

We wanted to get back before it got too late, so we were really pressed for time. We hit the Visitor’s Center first; it has great interactive learning displays for kiddos! Then we headed to the Rim Trail where we walked from Sunset to Sunrise points. Very easy walk. Moderate inclines. Little to no railing, so keep your munchkins close by. But you really get a taste for what Bryce has to offer and I can’t wait to go back and spend a lot of time there!

Great Salt Lake & Bryce Canyon

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So, can you do a three day weekend to Yellowstone from Vegas? Yes. And you’ll come away with love and awe for what the West has to offer.

It will leave you wanting more, though. But then again, every trip I take leaves me wanting more. 🙂

Head off and enjoy regardless of how much time you have!

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