Road trip to Yellowstone (from CA)


My family (3 teenagers, husband and I) is taking a road trip this month. We leave Central California, go through Elko NV (1 night), Pocatello ID, in Jackson WY (2 nights). While in Jackson, we'll spend 1 day each in Grand Teton (someone told my husband that there's a nice short hike to Jenny Lake) and Yellowstone, then I'd like to head to Cody WY (1 night) for Buffalo Bill museum and daily rodeo, then if real ambitious up to Missoula MT (this seems so far, but I want to see Big Sky country) then home by the 8th day. What I'd like to know is what spots should we not miss. Do you know of local eateries that you love in these areas? Yellowstone probably deserves more of our time but we're just trying to experience a fraction of the area and then we can always come back someday. I have misplaced my AAA travel book but there is a shrine in ID on our way. Do you know of any shrines off the beaten path that should not be missed? If you have some ideas to share, please do, so I can put them on my itinerary. Thanks so much!


Do you know of any shrines off the beaten path that should not be missed? If you have some ideas to share, please do, so I can put them on my itinerary. Thanks so much!

You do not want to miss the Buffalo Bill Museum in Cody WY.... the history of the West doesn't get any more gut wrenchingly real than that collection of authentic artifacts, for sure.

Bozeman MT is much closer to Yellowstone and more fun than Missoula.... Bozeman has got the Museum of the Rockies!

The biggest best Catholic shrine in the entire West is The Grotto in Portland OR

For the world's biggest collection of rosary beads, check out the Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center in Stevenson WA: (across the Columbia and some miles upriver from The Grotto)


Thank you for your reply. We have the Buffalo Bill museum in our itinerary but I appreciate that you endorse it because I wasn't sure if we wanted to go all the way out to Cody. We'll be coming home back through Idaho and Nevada, but when we next travel to Oregon, for sure, we'll go to the shrine in Portland. I think we'll go to Mass at Our Lady of the Mountains in Jackson as we'll be in Jackson over the weekend. I'll have to study my map for Bozeman... I think I'll have to postpone Montana for another trip, but thanks for the tip.


Sorry I don’t know any restaurants…
there is not much out there where we were. We did the packed frozen sandwiches, stop and shop at a market, camp, and grill thing. There are long stretches of nothing much out there where growing teenagers do best if you’ve packed plenty of frozen sandwiches & nuts & dried fruit.
In Yellowstone you can easily get stuck in traffic… especially if something like a buffalo herd decides to cross the road. Make sure you’ve packed plenty of water and food for the teenagers so they don’t start chewing on each other while waiting for the buffalo and the traffic!
Have a good trip!


Thank you for that advice. We are traveling by car, so it's motels and restaurants. I will pack granola bars, dried fruit and lots of water. I'm hoping to see the buffalo, you are the 4th to mention that they saw buffalo while traveling through.


I have no advice, but it sounds like soooo much fun! Have a good time!


Thanks so much. I'm very excited to spend the time with our teens. I love summer vacation when they're home, everything is so much more relaxed.


[quote="kr2005, post:5, topic:204167"]
Thank you for that advice. We are traveling by car, so it's motels and restaurants. I will pack granola bars, dried fruit and lots of water. I'm hoping to see the buffalo, you are the 4th to mention that they saw buffalo while traveling through.


You will see plenty of bison. Bears have been plentiful this year and may still be around in large numbers this month. The only problem with bears is that when they are close to the road, you get traffic jams. I was there in May and, based on what I saw when there were very low numbers of visitors, I would really dread the bear jams that will take place in July.




If you have time, try to stay a night in pray, MT at Chico Hot Springs. It's in the paradise valley just north of Yellowstone. Between Livingston and Gardiner. It is my favorite place on earth! They have a fantastic restaurant there... it's a little spendy for the food, but the lodging is reasonable! My daughter, Madison, was named after the Madison river that flows through the valley. I highly recommend it!

They have a pool that is fed by hot springs. We used to go there in the winter and have snowball fights in the pool.



We spent 6 nights in Grand Teton and another 6 nights in Yellowstone 3 years ago. The experience of a lifetime!

First, feel free to PM me with any questions.

Grand Teton Hikes at Jenny Lake to Hidden Falls is very nice and fairly short.

You can take the boat from the “main part” of Jenny Lake across the lake and then hike up (which is what we did). The trail goes miles beyond that as well should you want to continue on. If not - just head back. We went miles beyond and it’s spectacular. Just beware of bear should you go that route.

You can hike around Jenny Lake to get to the Hidden Falls Trail as well. Obviously much longer. One time we took the boat over and then walked around the lake to get back.

The best view of the Tetons is from Jackson Lake Lodge - which is not far from Jenny Lake. The back of the Lodge overlooks Willow Flats and the Tetons. Keep a look out for bear and moose sightings down in Willow Flats while looking at the Tetons - especially at dusk.

Do not miss the view from Oxbow Bend (again easy to get to).

Yellowstone is a playground for wildlife and geology.

Besure to walk the boardwalk in the Old Faithful Area. Gysers galore (not just Old Faithful).

Check out the Mudpots!!! They are incredible. Off the top of my head I’ll say they are in the Old Faithful Area but am not positive.

Check out the Canyon Area - The actual Canyon! The view as actually on many famous photos I’ve seen - probably as much as Old Faithful is.

Near the Canyon Area is where we saw a great many of the Buffalo - though they can be anywhere you are. Hayden Valley is where traffic came to a complete stop most days waiting for heards of Buffalo to cross.

Lamar Valley is where the Wolf are - but unless you have a lot of time they can take hours to spot.

Whenever you see a traffic jam in either Tetons or Yellowstone - 99.9999% of the time it’s due to wildlife.

Never put your camera away and you are sure to get pics.

In all we have pics of the following:

About 30 feet away from a mother Grizzly & 3 cubs (way too close)
3 black bear hanging around up in a near by tree
Elk - they are just everywhere!
Moose - mostly spotted in the evenings and mornings
Buffalo - like the Elk - in a ton of places

Local eateries are similar to any other National Park - each are have their own “things”.
For the most part (with few exceptions) it’s generally family friendly / reasonable priced food. The neat part of sit down style is you can be waited on from people all around the globe who speak English well and are interesting to talk to for culture.

Jackson Lake Lodge has a fancier restaurant but also has a cool Cafeteria Style restaurant in addition to a bar"ish" style.

Yellowstone - all the areas have their own diner / cafeteria.

Other than Jackson Lake - we ate pretty simply with what was offered at the various places.

Have a great time and I can’t wait to go back some day. Must see the Redwoods, Yosemite and Glacier National Park first though.


Orogeny - yes, those summertime Nat'l Park traffic jams. But how else are we to see the spectacular sights! I don't look forward to that, but at least I know in advance and know to be patient.
Tundramom - exactly what I'm looking for! Thank you for the recommendation for the restaurant. i'd like us to have at least one special dinner on the trip. I'm sure there are lots of places in Jackson also.

dontknow - Thank you for the great (!) recommendations. These are great. You must have had a fantastic trip with 6 days in each park! wow! I'll be going over all the places you mentioned so that I can map out the best route. We won't be able to hit them all as we'll only be spending a couple of days at Yellowstone. I'll be pm'ing you for sure.


I second the recommendation for the Buffalo Bill Museum in Cody. My husband and I just returned last month from a Yellowstone trip and we made a day trip to Cody for the museum. We also did a day trip to Bozeman for the Museum of the Rockies. If the dinosaur exhibits aren't of interest, they have an awesome temporary exhibit of Leonardo da Vinci's inventions, some of which are built to scale and they are interactive.

As for Yellowstone, this is a great time to go. You definitely want to see the Old Faithful area. Plenty of geysers in the Upper Geyser Basin which is where Old Faithful geyser is located. The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is another beautiful area, as is Mammoth Hot Springs, Hayden Valley and Lamar Valley. OK, it's all beautiful.

We stayed for 10 days and it wasn't long enough.


We made the trip from San Diego back in 06. It was wonderful! Always wanted to see it & we made a saga out of the trip to MI to visit family. We didnt realize it at the time we were heading up there, it was just about the 1st day of bike week in Sturgis & alot of bikers took the scenic route through the park we took. I cant really point out any one thing to see because it was all so breathtaking. I hope you get much more time than we did, we spent more time in the Dakotas with Rushmore, Devils Tower & Sturgis. The 1st thing we did when we got into the park, was pull off on a side road along the river. We got out & the 1st wildlife was a bald eagle fishing in the river a few feet in front of us. We had never seen one in person. Lots & lots of bison! Expect bison traffic jams, we got stuck in 2 but it was fun. They geysers were amazing! All I could think of was giant caldera, underfoot, please dont blow til I am many states away!
We did a big trip, 26 states & Canada & Mexico. Took 3 weeks & San Diego was beautiful to come home to. Good luck & best wishes!


Thank you to everyone for your trip “do not miss” advice! We returned Wednesday and yes, one could spend days, no, make that weeks, doing this kind of trip. We saw some beautiful country/farmland/wilderness and some pretty desolate stuff in Utah and Nevada but even those areas have their own beauty. Grand Teton was my absolute favorite - just so majestic and we enjoyed whitewater raft ride south of Jackson (WY). We all went and enjoyed the different views from the river looking up. Saw bald eagle, osprey and a beaver. Saw bison coming back one afternoon from Yellowstone. They were out in a field. We only spent 1 day in Yellowstone (Old Faithful) so we didn’t see much. I think staying in the park at dawn and dusk would have afforded us more wildlife sighting so we didn’t see many animals (no moose or elk, no bears). The time spent together with my family was the best part and it was a great time. We went to Mass at Our Lady of the Mountains in Jackson. Would love to see Jackson Hole in the winter some day.


I'm so glad you enjoyed the trip. We are planning to visit Yosemite next year, which I've been told is prettier than Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons.

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