Montana

Yellowstone National Park

In my last post about Grand Teton National Park, I mentioned that it snowed the last day we were there. As we drove to Yellowstone the next day we noticed a lot more snow on the drive and saw that Yellowstone got even more snow than we did the day before. It’s amazing that this was June!

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Driving to Yellowstone from Grand Teton

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Amazing snow in June!

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Okay, so I guess I went overboard on taking pictures of the snow on our drive, but it was so beautiful, and after our winter in Breckenridge I just can’t get enough of snow.

Anyway, enough about that, let’s talk about Yellowstone. This is another park that we are repeating this year because it’s just so awesome and definitely worth repeating.

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Old Faithful

This time of the year it’s so nice that it stays light so late at night because we can easily go for a hike in the evenings after work. The night we went to Old Faithful we hiked the trail from there to see several other geysers.

One of my favorites is Artemesia Geyser. We saw this one erupting last time we were there, which was good timing since it doesn’t erupt as regularly as Old Faithful. We didn’t see it erupting this time, but it was still beautiful.

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Artemesia Geyser

Another favorite is Morning Glory. Even though the colors in this one are beautiful, sadly the colors are the result of visitors throwing items into the geyser. That’s just not a good thing to do.

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Morning Glory

The river walk was beautiful with little spots of steam coming up everywhere.

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I forget what this one was called, but it started erupting just as we walked by. That was pretty cool!

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Another view of Old Faithful erupting again as we finished up our hike.

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I couldn’t believe how many bison we saw this time. It was weird when we were there 3 years ago with my parents, we hardly saw any bison. This time they were everywhere! Several times blocking traffic.

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Another night we went to Grand Prismatic Spring, another one of my favorites. On the hike to the overlook we saw this aggressive bison. We know he was aggressive because we saw him chase 2 ladies that had just walked by. We stood back and waited until he was well off the path before we continued on.

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Grumpy bison

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Grand Prismatic Spring from the overlook

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Grand Prismatic Spring up close

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Hiking along the boardwalk next to Grand Prismatic Spring

A few more pictures from the Grand Prismatic area.

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Another evening we went to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. This area is so beautiful and the hike along the canyon offers some amazing views.

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Artist Point

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I see that Jake is now taller than me ūüėČ

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Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River

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Lower Falls

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I was disappointed to find that Uncle Tom’s trail that takes you down over 300 steps to get a closer view of Lower Falls was closed. That turned out to be a blessing though because we went around to the other side and went down a trail to see it from the other side. This is something we didn’t do last time so it was cool to see it from a different perspective.

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Top of Lower Falls

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Another view of the canyon

Lastly we went to see the Artist’s Paint Pots. This is something we did not get a chance to see last time.

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We stayed at the Yellowstone Grizzly RV Park in West Yellowstone, MT again. We love that park and the little town of West Yellowstone is so much fun. We also got to spend some time with 2 other Fulltime Families that were there.

Now that we’ve been to Yellowstone twice, would I go there again? Most definitely! This is one of those places I could visit over and over again.

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Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park

After leaving Glacier, we stopped for a couple of nights in Whitehall, Montana at Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park.  This was so nice because we really missed staying at state parks.  While we were visiting Grand Tetons, Yellowstone and Glacier our only options were crowded RV parks.  Pulling into our site at this state park was a welcome change.  Look at all that space!

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Lots of room for Chris and the boys to play.

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And Fat Cat loved it too!

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We did the cavern tour while we were there which was really cool.  This is the entrance to the cavern.

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Inside the cavern is a small slide that everyone on the tour has to go down to get to the next section of the cave. ¬†It was a lot of fun and the highlight of the tour for the kids. ¬†Sorry the picture is blurry. ¬†It’s hard to get a good picture of kids in motion in the dark!

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A few cave pictures.

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I liked the room all lit up in purple!

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This was a beautiful place to spend a couple of days after all the fun we had at Glacier.

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After this we moved on to Cody, Wyoming and visited the east side of Yellowstone from there, but I already wrote about that as part of my posts about Yellowstone.  You can read about that here: Yellowstone: Fishing Bridge and Cody, WY.

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Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park

While we were in Glacier we decided to make a day trip up to the Canadian side of the park called Waterton Lakes.  Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, Canada and Glacier National Park in Montana, USA joined together to become the first International Peace Park in 1932.  The Peace Park commemorates the friendship between the two countries.  I love this because my dad is from Nova Scotia and I have many friends and relatives from Canada.

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Waterton Lakes was a 3 hour drive from where we were staying near West Glacier, so we left the RV at the park in Montana and stayed in a hotel up at Waterton for one night.  This was so exciting because although I have been to Canada, I had never been to Alberta.  And our kids thought it was really fun to go to another country for the day.  Now Jake really wants to spend a summer exploring Canada, and so do I.  What a beautiful country!

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Our first stop at Waterton Lakes was Red Rock Canyon.  This was a lot of fun for the kids to climb on the rocks and Jesse even found some rock slides.

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I think it’s pretty obvious why they called this Red Rock Canyon!

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Then we got settled at our hotel before venturing out to explore Waterton Village.  The village is in the middle of the national park and it is so cute!  There are several hotels to choose from.  We stayed at Waterton Lakes Lodge because it had an indoor pool and hot tub which we enjoyed very much.  You can walk to all the restaurants and shops in the area from any of the hotels.  There were lots of deer everywhere!

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Even Bambi!

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Waterton Lake is gorgeous!

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We ate dinner at a restaurant right next to the lake. ¬†While we waited for the food the kids enjoyed playing in their “yard” and on the chair swings.

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I think I look a little tired in this picture.  This family sure knows how to work hard and play hard!

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The next day we hiked to Bertha Falls.

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Some beautiful views of the lake and mountains from the hiking trail.

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Then we toured the Prince of Wales Hotel which was stunning!

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This is the lake view from the hotel.

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I am so glad we made this little side trip from Glacier, but our time there was too short.  Like I say about most places we go, that just means we have to go back again someday.  Exploring more of Alberta is now on our ever-growing bucket list.

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More Random Pictures from Glacier

This post is basically just some more pictures of things we did at Glacier that don’t really seem to fit into a blog post all by themselves. ¬†There is so much to do at Glacier, we didn’t even get to it all so I hope to return there someday.

These first few pictures are from Avalanche Lake.  The lake was beautiful, but the water level seemed really low.

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Avalanche Lake

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Avalanche Lake

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Avalanche Lake

One evening we brought a picnic dinner to Lake McDonald.  We even met another Fulltime Family there!

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Lake McDonald

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Lake McDonald

Then one day we went to Two Medicine Lake.  This lake was good for skipping rocks.

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Two Medicine Lake

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Two Medicine Lake

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Two Medicine Lake

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Two Medicine Lake

While visiting Glacier we spent most of the time on the west side in Hungry Horse, MT at Mountain Meadow RV Park. ¬†This park is a very nice park, but unfortunately we didn’t have a great campsite. ¬†Our site was really small and un-level, and they didn’t have any other sites we could move to. ¬†What I liked about the park is it had more of a state park feel. ¬†The sites were spread out with some trees and privacy between each one rather than all lined up together like most RV parks. ¬†Many of the sites were large and very nice, so if we ever return there I hope to get a better site. ¬†And they had a really nice common area to hang out and play games or sit by the pond.

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Mountain Meadow RV Park

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Mountain Meadow RV Park

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Mountain Meadow RV Park

Finally, the boys earned their Junior Ranger badges.

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Glacier National Park is definitely one of the most beautiful places we have ever been. ¬†I really hope we can go back there again someday. ¬†Coming up next I have one last post about Glacier, or I should say it’s¬†about Glacier’s¬†sister park up in Alberta, Canada: Waterton Lakes.

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Grinnell Glacier

The hike to Grinnell Glacier was one of my most favorite hikes ever. ¬†It was also the longest at almost 12 miles. ¬†I may have gotten some complaints later from certain family members that would prefer I keep our hikes to 8 miles or less. ūüôā

We started at the Many Glacier Hotel which was designed to look like a Swiss Chalet. ¬†It was absolutely gorgeous! ¬†Unfortunately we couldn’t see much of the inside because the power was out when we got there that morning. ¬†The hallways were very dark! ¬†And even later that afternoon when we returned from our hike several hours later the power was still out! ¬†I felt sorry for the people paying all that money to stay there with no power.

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Many Glacier Hotel

Many Glacier Hotel is on Swiftcurrent Lake. ¬†We walked along this lake to begin our hike. ¬†There is a shuttle boat you can take from this point that will cut down on the miles of hiking to get to Grinnell Glacier if you don’t feel like hiking the entire 12 miles. ¬†But oh no, not us! ¬†We were going to hike the whole thing and not take the easy way. ūüôā

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Swiftcurrent Lake

Next the trail takes you along Lake Josephine.  The shuttle boat would drop you off at the other end of this lake.

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Lake Josephine

Once we passed Lake Josephine and were on the trail towards Grinnell Lake we noticed this sign. ¬†That’s always encouraging to see. ¬†We actually did see one bear, but from a safe distance.

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From here you can take a shorter hike that takes you along the shoreline of Grinnell Lake (which is gorgeous by the way) or take the longer hike up to Grinnell Glacier.  From the hike up to the Glacier you get a beautiful view of Grinnell Lake down below.

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Grinnell Lake

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Then it’s a steady climb the rest of the way up to the glacier.

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We saw a bear playing down below.  He looked so cute from our relatively safe spot up above.

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Finally we made it to Grinnell Glacier, and it was incredible!  There were even a few small icebergs floating around in the water.

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Grinnell Glacier

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It was pretty cold up there so we didn’t stick around very long. ¬†I would have liked to have stayed a lot longer and just enjoyed the view, especially after how long it took us to get there, but everyone was cold and hungry. ¬†We brought a picnic lunch but wanted to hike back down a little bit to where it was a little warmer before eating.

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As we were hiking back down I was surprised to see all this lush vegetation and greenery way up where it was so cold even in August.

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At this point we could see all 3 lakes that we passed on the way up: Grinnell Lake is the closest, then Lake Josephine and lastly Swiftcurrent Lake way off in the distance.  Knowing we had to hike all the way back there was a little disheartening just then!

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But eventually we made it back and I still think it was the best hike we’ve ever done.

The weekend we did this hike we stayed at the East Glacier/St. Mary KOA.  They have a heated pool and hot tub and we really enjoyed that once we got back.  We also worked up quite an appetite and enjoyed a delicious pizza at Rising Sun pizza that night.  There is just something so satisfying about accomplishing such an amazing hike and then having a well earned yummy dinner that night.

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Glacier: Going to the Sun and St. Mary Falls

In my first post about Glacier National Park I mentioned the long shuttle bus ride up to Logan Pass.  Because that took so long we drove our truck the next day.  What a difference!  We were up to Logan Pass within an hour, and the drive was spectacular!

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Going to the Sun Road

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At one point beyond Logan Pass we went through a tunnel that literally looked like we were “Going to the Sun”!

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Jackson Glacier

We stopped to hike to St. Mary Falls which was incredible! ¬†The trailhead parking lot was full so we ended up parking at the Sunrift Gorge trailhead just a little further down the road. ¬†That turned out to be such a blessing! ¬†I think the round-trip hike from the St. Mary Falls trailhead is only a mile or two, but from the Sunrift Gorge trailhead the round-trip hike was about 4 miles. ¬†Trust me, it’s worth it! ¬†The trail starts under this bridge. ¬†To the right¬†you can walk up some stairs to see the Sunrift Gorge, then go to the left¬†and walk the short trail to Baring Falls.

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After Baring Falls, we hiked along the St. Mary Lake which was such a spectacular turquoise color.  I was so glad we had to park farther away; otherwise, we would have missed this.

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St. Mary Lake

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We also got to see a moose along the trail. ¬†I’m not sure if you can see it, but there is a moose in between the trees in the middle of the picture below.

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Soon we arrived at¬†St. Mary Falls. ¬†Two waterfalls flowing into the most beautiful blue-green water — amazing!

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St. Mary Falls

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What a beautiful day! ¬†Next up, my favorite hike we did at Glacier — Grinnell Glacier.

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Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park in northern Montana is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. I know it seems like I say that about every place, but seriously it is!

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Going to the Sun Road is the main road that goes through the park. ¬†It’s a very scenic drive, but with many tight twists and turns. ¬†We were not sure if we should drive our big dually truck on that road, so on our first day we parked at the Apgar Visitor Center and rode the shuttle bus up to Logan Pass. ¬†The shuttle bus took a really long time! ¬†From the time we parked at the visitor center it was about 2 1/2 – 3 hours before we finally got to Logan Pass to start our hike to Hidden Lake. ¬†It took about an hour of waiting in line just to catch the first shuttle bus. ¬†That bus only takes you as far as Avalanche Lake where you wait to catch another bus to continue on to Logan Pass. ¬†During the long bus rides we realized there shouldn’t be any problem driving our own truck up that road which is what we did the next day.

Anyway, it was so nice to finally get up there and get started on this amazing hike!  The hike starts right behind the Logan Pass Visitor Center.  The beginning of the hike was crowded, but started to thin out the further we went.  These are the views at the beginning of the trail. It was surprising to still see snow in August!

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A little past this point we got our first glimpse of the incredible blue-green water of Hidden Lake.  Many of the lakes at Glacier are this beautiful turquoise color which is caused by the glacial melt.  Speaking of which, if you want to see any of the remaining glaciers, plan to come soon.  The glaciers are melting and are expected to be all gone by 2030.

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Hidden Lake

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Most of the crowds stop at the Hidden Lake overlook and turn around, but we decided to continue on the trail down to the lake.  This is not to be missed in my opinion, although the hike back up was quite challenging.

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We rested on the little beach at the bottom for awhile and enjoyed some snacks.  Just look at that beautiful, clear water!

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Chris taught the kids how to skip rocks over the lake.

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I enjoyed this spot so much; I didn’t really want to leave, but we had a long hike back and then another long bus ride back so it was time to go. ¬†After climbing back up the hill we were rewarded with getting to watch these really cute mountain goats.

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Thankfully the bus ride back went much quicker!  There was an empty bus ready for us as soon as we got back to the Visitor Center.  And on the way back down the bus driver told us he would take us all the way back to Apgar rather than dropping us off at Avalanche because this was his last ride of the day and he was going home.  What a blessing!

The next day we skipped the bus and took our own truck. ¬†That was so much faster and very scenic! ¬†I’ll write about that in the next post.

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Yellowstone: Hiking Mt. Washburn

On our last day in Gardiner, we hiked Mt. Washburn. ¬†I heard great things about this “must-do” hike from a couple of different bloggers including this one: The Best Hike in Yellowstone. ¬†I’m glad we took his¬†advice. ¬†It was a beautiful hike! ¬†It is a little over 3 miles to the summit making it a little over 6 miles¬†round trip. ¬†The uphill climb was hard work, but the views were so amazing it was worth it!

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A ranger lives at the top during the summer in the fire watchtower. ¬†Below the ranger’s living quarters is a type of small visitor center that you can go in and look at maps and information about what you are seeing off in the distance. ¬†You can even see Grand Teton from up there on a clear day!

We got a very early start that morning to make sure we could find parking at the trailhead. ¬†The beginning of the hike is through meadows and you’ll see lots of wildflowers.

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As you get closer to the top it becomes more rocky and barren.  In the picture below you can see the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

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This is the view from the watchtower.  So beautiful!

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I actually thought hiking back down was even more stunning, probably because on the way up I forgot to occasionally look behind me at where we had been.  When I remember to do that, I realize sometimes the view behind us is even better!  Since this was an up and down hike, hiking back down I saw all the views I missed on the way up.

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This certainly was one of the “best hikes in Yellowstone”! ¬†I have one more post from¬†our time in Yellowstone about our visit¬†to the Fishing Bridge section on the east side. ¬†Stay tuned!

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Yellowstone: Mammoth Hot Springs

If you are following along and missed my first 2 posts about Yellowstone, you can find them here: Yellowstone: Geysers and Hot Springs and Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

After our stay in West Yellowstone, we moved up to the little town of Gardiner, Montana which is at the north entrance to Yellowstone.  Yellowstone is a huge park and it seemed to work out best for us to move to different sections of the park rather than driving for several hours each day.

My parents were still with us for the first couple of days in Gardiner.  We stayed at Rocky Mountain RV Park.  They had a cute little mini golf course that the kids enjoyed playing with Gramma and Grampa.

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Gardiner was a really cute town just like West Yellowstone.  We enjoyed walking around town, checking out souvenir shops and eating great pizza.

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The Roosevelt Arch was cool.

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Also the beautiful Yellowstone River runs through town.

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Gardiner is very close to the Mammoth Hot Springs section of Yellowstone. ¬†We enjoyed visiting there with Mom and Dad. ¬†We walked through the lower and upper terraces. ¬†These terraces are so interesting and unique. ¬†It’s hard to see in the picture, but there is hot water running down this terrace. ¬†It’s amazing to see this and wonder how these steps/terraces were formed. ¬†It was so pretty!

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This section looked like snow! ¬†But it wasn’t snow; it actually had very hot water running down it.

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My cute parents enjoying their last day at Yellowstone. ¬†We had so much fun with them visiting with us! ¬†I sure wish they would sell their house and join us on the road. ūüôā

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I can’t even explain how amazing this place is. ¬†You just have to see it for yourself. ¬†I mean here we are in the middle of all these mountains, and smack in the middle of it all is this small section of hot springs creating the most unusual landscape.

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No, that is not snow. ¬†It sure looks like it, but it’s actually very hot!

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During the week after Mom and Dad left we visited the Boiling River. That was really fun!  You can sit in this river where the water is cold and hot at the same time.  Boiling water from the hot springs flows down into the cold Yellowstone River.  It felt really weird.  Sometimes I would feel a rush of cold river water and the next steaming hot spring water.  You had to be careful not to get too close to the hot spring water because it really was boiling.

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Another evening we drove down to Lamar Valley to try to see some wildlife. ¬†We were surprised that so far we haven’t seen very much wildlife around Yellowstone besides lots of elk. ¬†We heard Lamar Valley would be the place to see some bison and that was the truth! ¬†They were everywhere, even in the road! ¬†I was so excited to be first in line at this bison traffic stop. ¬†What a show!

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The boys earned their Junior Ranger badges at the Mammoth Hot Springs Visitor Center.  This is their 20th national park badge!

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On our last day in the Gardiner area we hiked up Mt. Washburn, but I will save that for another post as this one has gotten too long.

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Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

This is the second post of several about Yellowstone National Park.  If you missed the first one you can find it here: Yellowstone: Geysers and Hot Springs.

While visiting the Old Faithful and Canyon Village areas of Yellowstone we stayed at Yellowstone Grizzly RV Park in West Yellowstone, Montana.  This was a really nice RV park.  It was expensive, but so is everything else anywhere near Yellowstone.  We enjoyed relaxing outside with Mom and Dad after hiking in the park all day.

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The boys loved the playground.

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And we enjoyed this shelter one evening to play a game of Mexican Train dominoes.

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The town of West Yellowstone is super cute.  Everything is western themed.

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Jake even got into the western theme and bought himself a cowboy hat!

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We visited the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center where we saw several grizzlies actively playing.  The wolves were all asleep, and usually when we go to zoos the bears are usually sleeping too.  But at this place the bears were so active which made it lots of fun to watch them.

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Anyway let’s talk about the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River. ¬†We parked at the Artist Point parking lot. ¬†Artist Point is a beautiful viewpoint looking down the canyon toward Lower Falls.

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Artist Point

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After enjoying the view for a little while, we headed down the Rim Trail to get closer and better views of the falls.  This hike had some beautiful view points.

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We went down Uncle Tom’s Trail which is a staircase with 328 steps. ¬†Going down is easy, coming back up — not so much! ¬†But it’s worth it because going down gives you even closer views of the canyon and falls.

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After climbing back up the stairs we continued on down the Rim Trail a little further to see the Upper Falls.

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This was a really nice hike and not too crowded.  Most of the crowd only comes to see the viewpoint from the Artist Point parking lot.  Hiking the trail gives you many more beautiful views without the crowds.

 

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