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      04-21-2024, 07:16 AM   #1
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Yellowstone Summer Trip

Taking the family to Yellowstone this summer. Going to the Grand Tetons as well. Any other suggestions or tips - this place has always been a great resource, so had to ask. Would love to drive something sporty but will be driving a full size F150 on this trip.
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Sounds pizzagatey.

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      04-21-2024, 07:57 AM   #2
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We went to Yellowstone in mid-September a few years back. Stayed in West Yellowstone which we thought was going to be a disappointment but turned out to be fine. We wanted to stay in the lodge but it was booked - however a late snowstorm closed most of the park roads and snowed in the folks there - we were able to do a few things in West Yellowstone anyway. There is a wolf, bear, bison zoo or rescue there which is the safest way to see these animals up close.

We entered from the south, after going through the Tetons which are beautiful. Took some time at the gate going in with binoculars to see some bears off in the distance. Herd of elk on the side of the road was pretty cool, some bugling. Of course we saw Old Faithful (yawn). I was with someone with limited mobility so we stayed close to the roads, but there are plenty of great trails throughout the park. Views, wildlife, trees and other interesting plants.

We plan to go back and spend at least a week there. Will definitely stay in the lodge. Even if it is run down as some national park lodges are, or overpriced, it is central.
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      04-21-2024, 08:49 AM   #3
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We dropped into the Tetons and Yellowstone on a weeklong road trip last July. It was a last minute thing after a Hells Canyon jet boat trip was canceled by the vendor, we needed something else to do with our days. So ours was just a 36 hour driving tour, walking through Jackson then driving through the Tetons, into Yellowstone in the afternoon and out the next morning.

We stayed at the Old Faithful Inn which we booked last minute on Expedia. Paid like $500 but it was so worth it to stay in the park and that location in particular. Dinner in the lodge - pretty amazing history and ambience. Like the post above, we came in through the south gate in the afternoon after passing through Grand Teton. There was no line, no wait to do it that way. You can purchase a gate pass ahead of time and I would do it, but I don't recall that it saved much time. When we left Yellowstone through the northwest gate in the morning, cars were literally bumper to bumper for MILES winding their way into the park. We were so glad we did it the way we did. Grand Tetons are a sight for sure with huge views from the road such that you can get a lot from just a drive. Much of Yellowstone is more typical mountain driving with trees closing in the views, so you have to make a little more effort (ie stop and get out of the car) to see things. I am an early riser so I was up at 5am walking the Old Faithful geyser area and started the day completely by myself - so cool.

The crowds the way they were, just hordes of people in both parks mid summer, I was very glad to have done it the way we did. If I was to spend more time, I would go in September or early October.
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      04-21-2024, 10:59 AM   #4
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Probably one of my favorite places in the world (that I've been to anyways). We have been twice. Once in the summer like end of June early July and once right when the parks opened end of April. Totally different experiences each time.

In the summer the crowds were just insane. We saw very little of Yellowstone in the summer because it seemed to have a lot more people than the Tetons and honestly I'm just not a horde of people person. Plus you couldn't get parking at any of the stops etc. Still what we did get to see was beautiful. We accidentally did a 6 mile hike trying to see a waterfall without having to take the ferry (because of course it was packed and no parking) and that was one of the highlights since not many people were on the trail. Keep in mind this was in the before times 2019 so probably even more packed now.

Anyways in the summer I honestly thought Tetons was 100x more enjoyable than Yellowstone. Less people, IMO more beautiful and we saw way more animals in the Tetons. However when we went in April I felt the opposite. First both parks were pretty much empty. Still snow on the ground and cold as fuck but totally worth it to have the parks to ourselves. We went with our moms and some older people so we weren't going to be doing any hikes or anything like that anyways. In April we enjoyed Yellowstone more and saw more animals there than at Tetons.

While the parks are next to each other they are pretty big, especially Yellowstone so I would recommend staying some time near each. The ideal setup IMO would be to fly into Jackson Hole (beautiful airport) and stay in Jackson Hole while visiting Tetons. Then go to Yellowstone and stay in West Yellowstone or near one of the other entrances when visiting Yellowstone. Or if you can stay at the Old Faithful Inn even better. They have other lodging inside the park also.

I would also second the recommendation of the bear sanctuary in West Yellowstone. Probably would not go out of my way, but if you stay in West Yellowstone it's worth checking out.

This was the patio area of the place we rented in West Yellowstone in April.



April in Yellowstone



Summer Tetons



Summer one of the inns or lodges in Tetons





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      04-21-2024, 12:40 PM   #5
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Just in case you don't know...most NP require timed entry permits. If you haven't reserved them by now you maybe SOL. If you think about camping at all it's to late to book. Now a way around the timed entry is to get there very early before slots start. We did this for Rocky Mountain NP and many other parks. You'll really want to do that anyway because all parks are unbelievably crowded in the summer...so much so we won't even go until the season is over in the fall. We went to Suislaw NP that's usually packed but we went in November, we literally had the park to ourselves. Makes it feel like an actual adventure. My in-laws went to parks during summer and they couldn't believe the difference in photos. Mine had no people in them.
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      04-21-2024, 05:18 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Our03z4 View Post
Just in case you don't know...most NP require timed entry permits. If you haven't reserved them by now you maybe SOL. If you think about camping at all it's to late to book. Now a way around the timed entry is to get there very early before slots start. We did this for Rocky Mountain NP and many other parks. You'll really want to do that anyway because all parks are unbelievably crowded in the summer...so much so we won't even go until the season is over in the fall. We went to Suislaw NP that's usually packed but we went in November, we literally had the park to ourselves. Makes it feel like an actual adventure. My in-laws went to parks during summer and they couldn't believe the difference in photos. Mine had no people in them.
Ugh are they doing that at Tetons and Yellowstone? Is it all year or only the summer? When we went we just had our yearly pass both in 2019 and 2021 no issues getting in. In 2019 we went in the RV and yeah no way we were going to be staying in the park last minute like that. We actually found a really nice RV park almost an hour outside Tetons in Dubois. We actually had a great time in that little town. They had a crazy 4th of July parade... so many old tanks and other military vehicles... probably don't want to fuck with Dubois.

The only bears we've seen was actually on the drive into Tetons from Dubois. We saw one large grizzly on a hill side and we saw a baby bear running through some field.
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      04-21-2024, 05:21 PM   #7
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When I was a kid in the 50s, we lived in Casper and Billings and went to Yellowstone, Teton, and Glacier on a couple of occasions each. All three regions are bucket list-worthy, that's for sure.

I went back later for a three-day hike in the Tetons with my dad in '83, and went to all three again with the wife in '98. I got as close as Cody in '21, but having been before I didn't want to deal with the park crowds. I feel very lucky to have been able to enjoy them before the current crowd management systems were put in place.

While bear and bison are always wonderful to see, if you have the opportunity to see a herd of pronghorn antelope on the move you'll have seen something very special. I think the Wikipedia entry for that species is worth the read: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pronghorn.

One thing to be aware of is in that part of the country winter weather is never far away. This data is from the west edge of Yellowstone Lake:

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      04-21-2024, 06:15 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by dreamingat30fps View Post
Ugh are they doing that at Tetons and Yellowstone? Is it all year or only the summer? When we went we just had our yearly pass both in 2019 and 2021 no issues getting in. In 2019 we went in the RV and yeah no way we were going to be staying in the park last minute like that. We actually found a really nice RV park almost an hour outside Tetons in Dubois. We actually had a great time in that little town. They had a crazy 4th of July parade... so many old tanks and other military vehicles... probably don't want to fuck with Dubois.

The only bears we've seen was actually on the drive into Tetons from Dubois. We saw one large grizzly on a hill side and we saw a baby bear running through some field.
Correct, most parks require it including those. Only one I haven't seen it at is The Great Sand Dunes in Colorado last year. My in-laws were at those parks in August and it required time permits. They also had to sleep in their car a few times due to no hotels or camp grounds having vacancy. Like I said the way around it is to enter BEFORE the time slots start. Getting the America the Beautiful pass with the mirror hanger is a must in order to do this.

I've been to most of the major and many smaller NPs and the crowds now are unbearable. No way I would go during peak season. Wife and I spend about 3-4 weeks a year exploring the parks and always in off season. Hotels are about 25% peak cost as well. Tetons is an issue in off season as many roads close for winter.
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      04-21-2024, 08:00 PM   #9
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Make sure you check out the Boiling River - we really enjoyed it...

There are tons of places to explore that are not the main (crowded) attractions - just drive out and find places to explore.
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      04-22-2024, 07:18 AM   #10
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We've been a few times, for me it is the most amazing place in the world that I've ever been to (and I've been a lot of placed). You need to get off the road in order to really feel the majesty and scale. If you do, you will totally feel like you are no longer the top of the food chain and the master of your domain, it is wild. We usually go the week our school lets out (my son is a senior in high school this year, so he was a sophomore last time we went). The early summer is nice because the weather is still cool, crowds haven't spiked yet and the animals mostly have babies.

There is stat that something like 95% of Yellowstone visitors never get more than 200 yards off the road.

My suggestions (PM me if you want details, I have old itineraries, etc):
Fly into Jackson Hole and stay at a nice hotel in Jackson day 1 / 2: we like the Cloudveil but we are Marriott loyalists. Depending what time you get in, you should be able to spend an afternoon in the Tetons hiking a bit. You may want to hike behind the visitor center at the Snake river towards evening, there will be a very good chance you'll see a moose (pic below of the mama/baby we saw). Go to Hatch for some Mexican food and Tequila drinks for dinner.

Next Day start early and do the hike to Delta Lake (a cut off from amphitheater lake trail). It is a long, climbing hike but you wind up at a lake at the base of the treeless portion of the Grand Teton peek. On the way back down detour onto Garnet Cyn trail a bit, amazing views. You should 100% see pronghorn at the base of the trail / on the drive in. They are everywhere here.

Day 2 check out early and drive through the Tetons up to Yellowstone. Swing by Jenny lake to see it (underwhelming) and grab lunch up by Colter bay and overlook the park from the North. Head into Yellowstone. Stop by Old Faithful and check that box. Be sure to follow the boardwalks back to the left - that's where all the pretty hotsprings (like morning glory) are. We stayed 2 nights at the Lake Yellowstone hotel area and worked the southern half of the park from there.

Day 3 goto the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and plan some hiking from various trailheads (not just Artist Point). If you head that way early you'll see a lot of wildlife along Hayden Valley. Be sure to stop along the way to check out Mud Volcanos,etc. On the way back definitely plan some time to watch Hayden Valley for wolves / bear, the elk and bison herds, etc. If you like to fish, book some time with a boat rental and nab a bunch of invasive lake and rainbow trout.

Next Day, drive the opposite direction from the lake and go to Grand Prismatic (see pic below and notice all the tourists on the main boardwalk). The boardwalk will be MOBBED with people. Look up the Grand Prismatic overlook hike and take that up to a hill overlooking the spring from behind. Much more impressive views and less people. The Fairy Falls hike there is pretty cool too.
I'd suggest from Grand Prismatic head up to Mammoth for the remainder of your stay in the park and use that as a base for the North side. If you want non-park food drive out to West Yellowstone. It's very touristy but has a ton of average restaurants.

If you want a break the next day drive out of the park to Gardiner. Grab some Elk Chili at Wonderland. Gardiner and North has some fun horseback riding / whitewater type of excursions that can be a nice break from heavy hiking. The drive to Gardiner from Mammoth is your best place to see bighorn sheep.

From Mammoth Hotel - one of our favorite hikes was the beaver pond trail loop. We had quite a grizzly bear experience there...
You can spend an easy half day walking the Mammoth Hot Springs and area behind them, it's pretty neat.
Definitely spend a day out in Lamar Valley. Best wildlife viewing in the park. If you go all the way out 212 to Barronette Peak you should be able to see mountain goat.

Head back to Jackson and relax before heading home.
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      04-22-2024, 10:05 AM   #11
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We are heading to Yellowstone for our second trip in 2 weeks. You could not pay me to go there between Memorial & Labor day, you will spend majority of the time in bumper to bumper traffic in the park or waiting for a parking spot. We went in October last year and did everything from Mammoth to Old Faithful in 1.5 days. This time we'll do the other half. Stayed at Snow Lodge in the park and Mammoth this next time. Been to Tetons also.

There are restaurants in the park, without reservations you won't be able to go, but most of the food is gamey so every night we went to West Yellowstone for dinner.

Its an amazing place but during tourist season its a nightmare, best to stay in the park no matter the cost but you need to book almost a year in advance.
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      04-22-2024, 02:50 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Josh-PA View Post
Definitely spend a day out in Lamar Valley. Best wildlife viewing in the park. If you go all the way out 212 to Barronette Peak you should be able to see mountain goat.
This is a six-minute video showing why the Lamar Valley is worth the trip.

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      04-22-2024, 08:31 PM   #13
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Thank you we have air bnb’s reserved all over the place - the photos look stunning. Glad I have a new wide angle lense to bring on this trip to share some epic shots.
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Sounds pizzagatey.
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      04-23-2024, 12:36 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Our03z4 View Post
Just in case you don't know...most NP require timed entry permits. If you haven't reserved them by now you maybe SOL. If you think about camping at all it's to late to book. Now a way around the timed entry is to get there very early before slots start. We did this for Rocky Mountain NP and many other parks. You'll really want to do that anyway because all parks are unbelievably crowded in the summer...so much so we won't even go until the season is over in the fall. We went to Suislaw NP that's usually packed but we went in November, we literally had the park to ourselves. Makes it feel like an actual adventure. My in-laws went to parks during summer and they couldn't believe the difference in photos. Mine had no people in them.
Quote:
Originally Posted by dreamingat30fps View Post
Ugh are they doing that at Tetons and Yellowstone? Is it all year or only the summer? When we went we just had our yearly pass both in 2019 and 2021 no issues getting in. In 2019 we went in the RV and yeah no way we were going to be staying in the park last minute like that. We actually found a really nice RV park almost an hour outside Tetons in Dubois. We actually had a great time in that little town. They had a crazy 4th of July parade... so many old tanks and other military vehicles... probably don't want to fuck with Dubois.

The only bears we've seen was actually on the drive into Tetons from Dubois. We saw one large grizzly on a hill side and we saw a baby bear running through some field.
Timed entries are not required at either park.

Last edited by snowbimmer; 04-23-2024 at 02:33 PM..
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      04-23-2024, 02:30 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by floridaorange View Post
Taking the family to Yellowstone this summer. Going to the Grand Tetons as well. Any other suggestions or tips - this place has always been a great resource, so had to ask. Would love to drive something sporty but will be driving a full size F150 on this trip.
I've been to Yellowstone 7 times. Even saw bears back in the day. My trips have been probably once in the spring, 5 times in the summer, once in the fall. One of my best trips is when my car broke down in West Yellowstone. The part took 3 days to get there. So, we rented a car and just went inside the park for three days. Saw everything.

The summer is insanely busy. September is just as nuts because the weather is cooler, but the empty nesters flock there, thinking there will be less people - - but it's still packed.

Depending on your route in, both entrances from the east are nice.
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Hwy 14 is quite scenic (blue), but if you can get yourself to Red Lodge (a very fun town in it's own right) take Hwy 212 (red): The Beartooth Highway. It's an amazing road that eventually tops out at nearly 11,000 feet - so it may not be open until July.
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Tower Jct down to Canyon Village is very nice. The big waterfalls are here. Try to go to all the viewpoints on both sides of the river. Spectacular.
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The road in Yellowstone is a big figure 8. Continuing south will loop you past Yellowstone Lake and the marvelous Yellowstone Lake Lodge.
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Coming back up the other side gets you to Old Faithful. Its ALWAYS jammed, but there's lots of parking at the lodge. You just have to tough out the crowds.
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The lodge is busy at spouting time
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A little further north is the Grand Prismatic Spring. It has a tiny parking lot for thousands of people. They park all along the road. I bailed in 2017, but last year we said "Dammit, we're seeing it." We ended up walking over a mile to get to the lot. It's worth it.
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Norris Geyser Basin is in the upper west side loop. There's a big parking lot - always jammed - and an auxiliary lot with another mile walk. We were there just as it was getting dark and made it into the main lot. Most people had left.
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Mammoth Hot Springs is at the upper NW corner. Also very crowded, also a bit disappointing. It's not the fun bubbly mess I remembered as a youth. It's now mostly dried up - I wouldn't make this a priority.

The Tetons are quite spectacular. The problem is haze during the summer from forest fires. They really blot out the beauty of the mountains.
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Jenny lake is worth the trip
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The Jackson Tram out of Teton Village near Jackson is fun. You go up to 10,000 feet. Lots of views and hiking. Again, the haze can make it not as worthwhile.
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You just gotta be patient on a trip like this. I've noticed several major parks recently are just being loved to death.
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      04-23-2024, 03:02 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by snowbimmer View Post
Timed entries are not required at either park.
Huh, I just checked and sure enough. Very interesting, I saw they were doing it this year. Don't know how I feel about them not, going to make it even worse.
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      04-23-2024, 03:12 PM   #17
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Huh, I just check and sure enough. Very interesting, I saw they were doing it this year. Don't know how I feel about them not, going to make it even worse.
Yeah, Yellowstone is ripe for it. But, it's such a big park and the sites are scattered all over the figure 8. I headed in from W. Yellowstone on a fabulous September morning last year. I worried about a long wait at 8:30 am. There was one car ahead of me.

Then I got to the Grand Prismatic Spring and realized everyone was already there.🤣
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      04-24-2024, 09:46 AM   #18
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Quote:
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Yeah, Yellowstone is ripe for it. But, it's such a big park and the sites are scattered all over the figure 8. I headed in from W. Yellowstone on a fabulous September morning last year. I worried about a long wait at 8:30 am. There was one car ahead of me.

Then I got to the Grand Prismatic Spring and realized everyone was already there.🤣
That's one of the things with that place. There might be 8 bazillion people in the park on any given day, but if you take a hike over the first hill that blocks the roadway you probably won't see another person for the remainder of the trail (not at a tourist stop).
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      04-27-2024, 11:04 PM   #19
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Be prepared to drive... A LOT! The last time we were there a few years ago we drove 300 miles in the park! It's a very large park and everything is spread-out. You will enjoy every minute of your time there.

Oh... be VERY careful driving at night. Deer don't cross only at "deer crossings."

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      04-28-2024, 07:45 AM   #20
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Yes - We will likely do around 1,000 miles or more on this trip, don’t want to ram into any wildlife for sure, always a good reminder.

My cousin said they went through a full on blizzard in July one time in YS. Hard to imagine.
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Sounds pizzagatey.
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      04-28-2024, 07:48 AM   #21
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I have been more times that I can remember as a kid, a few as an adult. Like the post above, lots of driving. I like to say Montana has allot of nothing between a little bit. I really say nothing between nothing, but it's all great scenery.

Well worth the trip.

There is also heading north up to Glacier National Park. Always beautiful there and different than Yellowstone. But it's a good day drive just to get there, but well worth it as well.
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      04-28-2024, 07:36 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by ezaircon4jc View Post
Be prepared to drive... A LOT! The last time we were there a few years ago we drove 300 miles in the park! It's a very large park and everything is spread-out. You will enjoy every minute of your time there.

Oh... be VERY careful driving at night. Deer don't cross only at "deer crossings."

Interesting factoid.... Elks eyes don't reflect headlights. They are much harder to see crossing the road compared to deer
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