Categories
Domestic

Yellowstone Travel Guide

Adaleta Avdic is holding a paper coffee cup with the Yellowstone National Park map on her lap.

Yellowstone Travel Guide

May 23, 2021

A trip that’s been on the list for a while. The Mr is a big fan of national parks, state parks and the general outdoors. While I prefer to sip wine in a romantic European city, with cobblestone sidewalks, I do enjoy the nature for a little peace and quiet. With that said, I am sharing the details of our trip (all planned by Aaron) but I also included our thoughts and reviews on the various places we visited, restaurants we ate in and more. If you have specific questions that we did not cover, please leave it in the comments and we will circle back with you (and if it's a great question we'll add it to the post for the long-term.)

May 23rd, 2021: Masks were not required once we left the airport, and when we were not in any public transportation (e.g. Lyft). Montana had just officially removed its mask mandate a few days before we landed, and everything was very open in Bozeman. The restaurants had signs saying masks required, but in 9/10 cases the staff weren't wearing masks, so we did not use our masks much in Montana.

Where We Stayed

We stayed in Bozeman in an Air BnB. When it comes to accommodations, we flip flop between hotels and Air BnBs but we wanted a more authentic experience this time around. Staying in a farmhouse felt very Montana, and gave us a bit more of that true Montana experience. It was approximately $250 per night, with all the amenities we could imagine. This farmhouse was the front house to a larger barn where the owner of the property resides. She was super responsive via Air BnB messages, but also close enough to help us when we needed something in person. We have a specific style we look for with Air BnBs, especially since I like to take images and enjoy the spot and this checked all the items on our list. Not to mention the peace and quiet of the countryside was much better than being downtown with the ruckus and kids (I sound like I'm double my age right now but peace and quiet is so important for us especially on a vacation where we want to rejuvenate and recharge.)

The Drive to YellowStone

The drive from the outskirts Bozeman is gorgeous. We had a slight advantage because we were out in the countryside so it was smooth getting to the highway and hitting the road west. It is about an hour and a half, and we had the pleasure of driving through it in different weather conditions. It was sunny, cloudy, raining, snowing, hailing, misting and pretty much everything else you can imagine but it was so beautiful in every climate.  

Big Sky was a stop we made on both drives since it is on the way to West Yellowstone. Specifically, we took a little rest break at Caliber Coffee. They have excellent breakfast burritos, that we as Arizonians are not used to because of the unique flavors. Black beans, sausage, potato, eggs, cheese and there was something about them that melted together and tasted like a potato stew. Throw in an Americano for Aaron, and a latte or cappuccino for me and this was perfect for our quick on the go mornings. This became our morning routine on the drive from Bozeman to the West entrance of Yellowstone.

We took the main loop to Yellowstone Lake, and then took the roads via the north entrance. 

On Day 1, we stopped at:

Madison Area: We drove the Firehole Canyon Drive which is approximately one mile (1.6 km) south of Madison Junction. This one-way drive descends between two lava flows to the Firehole River. Firehole Cascade is at the far end of the drive.

Old Faithful: We didn't make the geyser eruption but if you want to see this, make sure to read about the timings the day before and then monitor the day of. The eruption happens approximately every 90 minutes, but does vary so you want to call the number, monitor Twitter or download the Yellowstone National Park Service app. One of these sources will give you a great estimate so you can plan your timing around the eruption.

West Thumb

Bridge + Yellowstone Lake

Mud Volcano: This was definitely one of our favorite stops because it was so unique and unlike a lot of the other geyser activity. 

On Day 2, we stopped at:

Mammoth Hot Springs (all the way at the north entrance)

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

Norris Geyser Basin

Gibbon Falls


Which Entrance We Used

The first day we went, the west entrance was quite busy, and while it has multiple entryways, the weather was great so it was crowded (can't imagine what it's like IN season so keep this in mind if you go June through September (with a few closures happening later in October.) We were early on the season which made sense given it snowed quite a bit on day 2 of our trip and stuck for a few days. For anyone reading this, we were in Yellowstone end of May so it was surprising that it snowed so much, but it's not completely unexpected or unheard of. ATVs were not available, small pop-up stands inside Yellowstone were closed since it wasn't season, and there were other outdoors activities not available due to weather and seasonality. 

At the time of our visit (end of May 2021) the north entrance had a single lane in and single lane out, so it gets backed up, especially in the morning when everyone wants to get in. In addition, this entrance will be under construction for the rest of 2021 so my recommendation would be to leave through the north entrance if you're staying in Bozeman but try to enter through one of the other entries. 

Where We Ate

We personally didn’t find a lot of spots to eat inside the park due to the off season, so we packed our lunches. 

Since we visited the end of May, a lot of amenities were not available due to the fact that the season is not yet upon Yellowstone. In June is when everything starts to really kick off. 

We recommend packing your lunch and bringing snacks with you. Here's a quick grocery list for you (perfect for the roadtripping):

Fruit

Sandwich bread

Sandwich meat

Cheese

Mayo/mustard

Local wine or beer

Half & half

Chips & dry snacks

Water bottles

In terms of spots in Bozeman, we did have dinner in town each night. Here's a quick breakdown of each experience.

Revelry 4/5

We enjoyed this one quite a bit. It was the first intro to the dining scheme, and the ambience was everything. Aaron ordered a rueben sandwich, and I did the angus beef dish which was insanely good. Of course our food was alongside cocktails and we polished it off with dessert. 

Blackbird

Aaron’s rating 5/5

Ada’s rating 4/5

Aaron devoured his pizza, and loved his beer. I ordered a red wine mix from Sonoma and it tasted like sangria so I wasn't fond of it, and I wasn't in awe persay. 

Montana Ale Works

4/5

We weren’t the most enthused about our seating arrangement, due to the loudness of the dishes being placed in a black bin in the back (by the bathrooms) but overall, the food was delicious. Lots of drink options too, and the beers were delicious. Aaron ordered an 8% beer that came in a 16 oz, for only $6, which is unheard of in Arizona so we noticed beer is quite cheap.

What Wildlife We Saw

The nature sightings are everywhere. We saw so much wildlife, and got really lucky with a view of the sightings, as they are less rare:

Deer

Elk

Grizzly bear

Bison (lots and lots)

Bighorn sheep

What Wildlife We Saw

The nature sightings are everywhere. We saw so much wildlife, and got really lucky with a view of the sightings, as they are less rare:

Deer

Elk

Grizzly bear

Bison (lots and lots) 

Bighorn sheep

Things to Note

The water (even the tap water) is crisp and fresh, and it really tastes so good. 

Surprisingly, your dollar doesn’t go as far as you would think. Prices are comparable to major cities. For example, we spent over $100 for groceries but we didn't necessarily get anything major (snacks, some bread, meats and cheese for sandwiches) so keep that in mind. Meals can be $15+ for a burger and fries and then upwards of $30 per plate when getting angus beef, wagyu, strips, bison, fish, etc. However, beer was cheaper to order (and buy in the grocery stores) than other cities we've visited. For example, you can find a 9% beer at 16 ounces for $6. In Tucson alone, that would be a couple bucks more. 

There’s no sales tax in Montana, which is enticing when it comes to shopping. 

Have you ever been to Yellowstone? What questions do you have?

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comments

I’ve never been off the east coast, but one of these days I’d really like to get some traveling done. It’d be wonderful to visit Yellowstone and other national parks eventually. I love the idea of staying in a secluded Airbnb and taking in the sights and sounds of nature without anything else to distract. Getting “off-grid” for a bit would be a dream for me right about now!

This is such a great detailed post. I love the tip about downloading the Yellowstone app, especially to time the eruption. That would be so cool to see! Your pictures are beautiful & the views are insane! Who knew that MT didn’t have sales tax!? I didn’t! That’s Awesome… Time To Shop 😉

Yellow Stone is on my bucket list of places to visit within the States. Thanks for sharing your experience. Can’t wait to visit one day.

definitely saving this for later! we just did Glacier National Park last year and it was amazing. Yellowstone is definitely on our bucket list!

xx rebecca // thecrystalpress.com