Only Cara had ever been to Yellowstone, so we were one bright eyed, giddy crew. After breakfast, we loaded into a really nice van with a tour guide we ended up enjoying immensely (shout out to Truman!), and made the drive into West Yellowstone.
It took about an hour but the drive was so beautiful along the river, past ranches and steep, tree-covered mountains, that none of us even noticed.
Our first stop was to the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone. I’m SO glad this was part of our trip. Not only did it allow the kids to run around and burn off some energy, it got us up close to grizzly bears, wolves, bald eagles, beavers, ground squirrels, and more.
This is the moment I fell in love with bears. They were fascinating to me! So beautiful. I’m so glad we saw them here, because we wouldn’t see one in the wild for the entirety of our trip. It was so neat to learn about big animals, and watch the center put bear proof coolers to the test by hiding treats inside of them and seeing how the bears handles them.
After an hour+ of exploring the center, we loaded back up for the main event- Yellowstone! We waited in a short line, maybe 15 minutes or so, and then… we were in!
Truman, after seeing us being so enamored with the animals, gave us a choice. Clearly we couldn’t see everything Yellowstone has to offer in a single day, so he asked if we’d prefer prioritizing wildlife or geothermal features. Since mom, David, Hailey, Kaitlyn, and I would be returning to the park another day, we left the choice up to Kris and Cara…. who didn’t have much of a choice after all the kids enthusiastically voted animals. 🙂
Before we went on our safari, we did stop at Dragon’s Mouth Spring to get a taste of the incredibly unique geothermal features Yellowstone has to offer. Wow; it truly is crazy to see them earth bubble and boil. I kept thinking back to how crazy it must have been to be the first explorers to the area and see these unexplained phenomenon.
The kids were all quite dramatic about the Sulphur smell, asking for peppermint lip balm to put under their noses to try and mask the scent. We also saw the Fountain Paint Pot but when the dramatics continued, we took this as our sign to move on to our animal search!
As we began to drive around the park, we’d pull over with binoculars to peer at specks in the distance, spotting a pair of Trumpeter Swans (and we geeked out since we’ve read The Trumpet of the Swan), some cranes, a bald eagle, some female elk, and a couple far off bison.
We were all quite pleased with our finds and stopped to enjoy a picnic lunch to refuel. Ready to go again, we headed back out and hit the jackpot- a small herd of bison just chilling next to the road. It was incredible!!
We really got a since of how big these animals are, got to hear the low grumbles they produce, and even see a little one wake up from a nap and scamper to its mother. Knowing they are wild animals and that close was invigorating… though Truman warned us some of the people were a bit too close and as we were leaving, a bison made a short charge towards those people. I’ve never seen a crowd scramble so quickly!
Still on our high from our bison experience, we loaded back into our van. Truman took us to an overlook and we all unloaded and began to wander up the path. Having a guide, I was just along for the ride and not paying close attention to where we were going, so my jaw dropped when I realized we were at the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.
It was mammoth! Like everything in the national parks, pictures hardly to it justice, but I snapped one anyway. We continued up the short path which revealed the Lower Falls of Yellowstone, the largest waterfall in the park at 308 feet tall.
We gawked, took some pictures, and I committed to planning a return trip when we had more flexibility to do more hiking. I would have loved to hike the rim or down to the falls. Absolutely beautiful!
Yellowstone is so large that these adventures filled our day, and after the waterfall, it was time to make our two hour trek back to the ranch. We played a lot of the game Contact on the way to entertain the kids.
Our tired crew thanked Truman, took quick showers, and headed to dinner at Horn and Cantle.
What a fantastic day it was!