Since we crossed the border into the USA, we've hit up Glacier, Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. Our minds were completely blown by the diverse geography, wildlife, and of course the plethora of outdoor activities that these parks had to offer. So if you haven't experienced one of the National Parks yet, don't wait! If you're like Jenna, start reading up on the Parks and plan your trip as soon as rationally possible. If you're like Josh, just drop everything, get in your car, and do it now! You can figure it out on the way! Either way, make the drive to explore a National Park and we promise it'll be worth it.
This park is the wet dream of any avid fly fisherman or hardcore back country hiker. For the rest of us, the result of staying here too long is you will think you’ve become an avid fly fisherman and hardcore back country hiker. The best part of Glacier is definitely its raw natural beauty. With jaw-dropping vistas at every corner, it’s a wonder that this Park has no development – way to go US Parks Service! You should certainly drive the Going-To-The-Sun-Road like the rest of the crowds. But when you want to find solitude, be sure to check out the West slope around Bowman and Kintla Lakes.
Yellowstone’s got it goin’ on. Surely there is no more accessible place with such uniquely rich naturalism. You could literally drive around Yellowstone for five days without getting out (as some tourists do) and still leave satisfied. Do you like hot springs? How about a dip in the Boiling River? Or maybe wildlife is your thing. If so, head to the Lamar Valley, where we experienced herds of bison being epic, a grizzly bear fishing, pronghorn antelope frolicking, a black bear and two cubs playing in the trees, and a wolf pack cruising the plains – all within the first 24 hours of entering the park! Later, we encountered a group of mountain goats head butting. One bison tried to kiss Lux through the truck window and another came to our campsite to play with Arjuna! And then there’s the geysers, pools, springs and other associated volcanic awesomeness. Although Old Faithful is a must-see, we found it to be a little, well, old. If you can time it right, hit up Beehive Geyser, Grotto Geyser, and definitely make the 5 mile bike or walk to see Lonestar Geyser. Our favourite hike was Mount Washburn where you earn incredible panoramic views of nearly the whole park. When you include Yellowstone Lake and great fly fishing, not to mention the thousands of things we didn’t even get to, it’s no wonder they limit the amount of time you can stay in the park during the summer!
The Tetons are like the shy little sister to Yellowstone: perhaps less outgoing and popular, but surprisingly more sexy. The way these mountains explode out of the surrounding lakes and plains is nothing short of breath taking. This park is worth seeing in its own right, but you can also use it as a respite from the hoards in Yellowstone. If your heart desires, you could conquer much of this park in only a couple of days. You may find yourself drawn again to the back country partaking in extreme mountaineering, or simply basking lakeside in the inescapable granite monoliths. Make sure your camera battery is charged, because your desire to fully capture the glory of the Tetons on film will be insatiable.
Here are a few helpful tips we learned during our stay in the National Parks:
1.The early bird gets the worm:
We can’t stress this point enough. Even sunrise isn’t too early. Be the first ones up to beat the crowds, the heat, and receive a more unimpeded experience of the landscape and wildlife. The steaming springs and geysers in Yellowstone are especially mystical at dawn. Also, it’s important to note that most campgrounds are full by 11am – the good ones at 8am.
2. For the frugalists:
Fill your gas tank, stock your food supplies, and load up on your favourite fermented beverage far outside the park. (Supplies for s’mores would easily run you $40 including firewood at one of the Yellowstone markets.) Free camping is impossible within park limits, but you can drive just outside the park boundaries and find somewhere to pull off and sleep if all you need is a crash spot. We also had luck splitting a campsite in the park with another couple who were tenting and got some great campfire company as well!
3. When it comes to kids, bring your Swiss Army Knife:
A seemingly easy excursion can quickly become a potentially endless adventure, as there is something that warrants your or your child’s attention around every corner and in every hole. A bounty of snacks and drinks, ample sunscreen, and a plethora of clothing options are a must every time you leave your vehicle. But don’t worry, the smile that light’s your kids’ faces when they see their first geyser and that first sip of cold beer at the end of the journey will far outweigh the burden of your hiking backpack.