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post #1 of 34 Old 10-19-2014, 08:17 AM Thread Starter
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Planning trip to Yellowstone NP... What do we need to know?

As the title indicates I'm in the beginning stages planning a family trip to Yellowstone NP for next summer (early August time frame, probably 4-5 days) and we're thinking about potentially camping out at one of the campgrounds in the park. We've camped before, but not for this long of a stint or in this region (a few days at a time outside of Bryce Canyon and at the Grand Canyon).

How much off a concern is wildlife whether camping or hiking? I've heard that we should all make sure to have bear spray with us in the event we have an encounter.

As far as replenishing supplies I'm assuming they have a general store in the park to get food/firewood/ice/etc?


More or less I'm looking for any sort of tips/suggestions/recommendations can anyone share who has visited the park and camped out there?


Thanks in advance...

Kevin

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post #2 of 34 Old 10-19-2014, 08:45 AM
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take lots of bacon grease and spread it around the camp site.......
Lots of places in and out of the park to get supplies. Not sure there is any tent camping inside the park. Most campgrounds require hardsided campers. Gardner on one side W Yellowstone on the other. chance of a bear encounter is slim at best. I have been going to the park a couple times a year for many years and never had an issue. there are a better places then Yellowstone to see cool stuff. hit Cooke City goose lake etc. No crowds and free camping.
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post #3 of 34 Old 10-19-2014, 08:46 AM
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The wildlife is a bit of a concern. I don't expect to be attacked every time I go out into the wilderness, but it's better to be prepared, just in case. Consider having bearspray for each member of your party. Also, follow the food storage rules (this includes soaps/shampoos/toiletries).

The cabins at Tower Junction are a nice alternative to camping. Also, the chuck-wagon cowboy dinner ride located at Tower Junction was a great experience.

There are several "general stores" in the park, but depending on where you stay, it might be a significant drive to get to one. There are some services in the "gateway" towns (Gardiner, Cooke City, West Yellowstone, Cody- sort of) but keep in mind that these are very small towns with not a lot in the way of services.

Yellowstone is HUGE. Most people who have never been here have no idea just how big the park is. Just driving through the park from one side to the other takes hours. Just a heads up. When planning your activities, plan to group them together by region. Different regions have different attractions. Also, plan when/where/what you'll eat. Feeling a bit hungry, then realizing it's a two hour drive to any food service, sucks. Even more so to get there and they're closed.

I've not camped in the park, as the way they do it is not really camping to me, too many people.

Things to not miss: Between Mammoth and Gardiner there is a spot in the river (where the Firehole River meets the Gardiner River??) where you can soak in the hot waters. Kind of an outdoor natural hot-tub.

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post #4 of 34 Old 10-19-2014, 10:10 AM
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Yes, you can camp inside of the park. Just one or two camp grounds are hard-side only. This is due to bear activity and the public insisting on using the camp grounds. Camp spots are first-come-first-serve and fill up fast that time of year. Get into the park and first thing is to stake out a camp spot. Between 9 - 10am ish is the best time. This is when people move out. If you wait till afternoon or evening everything is full and you will have to drive out of the park for the night. Bring cash, small bills, for the camp fee. There are envelop/tag things to fill out and mark a spot as used. The money goes in the envelop and in a metal box back near the CG entrance when you find a spot. Showers are available in some CGs. I would highly suggest the Madison campground for its location. Firewood in boxes is available but not cheap. You can also gather wood that is dead and down but around the campgrounds it is pretty well picked over.

There is the possibility of the hotels around old faithful. These require reservations and are not cheap but an option none the less. If you do get stuck without a camp spot West Yellowstone (out the West gate) is your closest and best bet.

There are stores in every village, not cheap though. They just do not look like stores from the outside, especially of your from other areas of the country. It is a good idea to stock up in a town before you enter the park. Crossing the park is SLOW and takes time. You will get tired of the traffic jams due to buffalo.

Like has been stated the place is huge. Do not miss the top loop (mammoth, norris, canyon village, and tower-roosevelt). The West part of the lower loop has most of the volcanic activity, Madison to West Thumb. Don't bother with the East side of the lower loop unless it is the shortest path to get in or out of the park.

If you can fit it in go over beartooth pass when going in or out of the park. It is out the North East gate and you come out in Red Lodge MT. Second to that you can take dead indian pass that comes out closer to Cody (and you go right by my house on that route). Dead Indian pass is out the NE gate also you just take a right instead of a left outside of Cooke City. The East gate to Cody is nice as well. Maybe go in one way and out the other?? A drive South to the Grand Tetons is always nice as well when you are in the park.

I know life is busy and you may be limited to when you can go but I suggest going late or early season. End of May or middle September. You will see a lot more wildlife from the roads early season. Late you will have great weather, all roads are open, and you miss the crowds. No matter what time of year take a light to medium coat with you.

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post #5 of 34 Old 10-19-2014, 12:47 PM
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x2 on taking the Beartooth Pass if you can. Yellowstone is great, but Beartooth Pass is worth the trip alone, plus there are some nice out-of-the-way places to camp up there albeit outside of the actual park.

I prefer to go in the late season, the week after Labor Day is best everything is still open, but there are not nearly as many visitors. You're likely to feel like you have the place to yourself. August will have tons of people, but that's OK, it's still an awe-inspiring place. Too early in the season and you can run into closures from lingering winter weather.

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post #6 of 34 Old 10-19-2014, 12:51 PM
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Oh, and you find yourself passing through Cody, WY. The all-you-can eat prime rib buffet at the Erma doesn't suck.

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post #7 of 34 Old 10-19-2014, 08:48 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the info guys.

We're kind of limited on when we can go, plus it's kinda been our thing to do this time of year since it is when got married since what kicked off the tradition.

Now with the campgrounds in the park, am I understanding that all require a hardside case to store food or us that only certain campgrounds? If not storing in a hard case is storing in vehicle sufficient, like in bed of truck under a hard paneled tonneau? Would think this would be fine, but not sure. I've been told by the wife that any campground we choose it needs to have some ammenities like bathrooms with running water and access to showers. We're going to have our daughter who will be 3.5yo at that time and likely her first time camping and ad to that that we are not the hardcore roughing it types.

Now in early August how is the typical weather up there? What I've been able to glean tells me moderate during the days and chilly at night. Aside from that, I s there much rain that time of year?

Currently not sure what route we'll take to Yellowstone from Chicago. I'm planning some side trips on the way there and on the way back so it'll just be a matter of what I plan for what part of the trip I guess.

Thanks again!

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post #8 of 34 Old 10-19-2014, 09:18 PM
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Wyoming weather is real random. The weather in the park in August could be anywhere from 70-90 degrees during the day and 45-60 during the nights. It usually doesn't rain day after day but scattered thunderstorms are common. You should plan on bringing warmer clothes because it really can snow at anytime of the year here.
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post #9 of 34 Old 10-19-2014, 09:27 PM
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All campgrounds inside the park will require following the food storage rules. Some provide steel enclosures for this purpose.

A quick call or email to the park will lead you to the right camping facility, as well as being able to clarify all the rules.

August *should* be warm during the day and chilly at night, will not much rainfall, but being Yellowstone, anything can happen. Be prepared.

http://www.nps.gov/yell/contacts.htm

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post #10 of 34 Old 10-19-2014, 10:22 PM
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Originally Posted by kkuntz01 View Post

Now with the campgrounds in the park, am I understanding that all require a hardside case to store food or us that only certain campgrounds? If not storing in a hard case is storing in vehicle sufficient, like in bed of truck under a hard paneled tonneau?

Inside of a vehicle is acceptable, bear boxes are in all camp sites as well. No food or water can be left out in the camp.

I've been told by the wife that any campground we choose it needs to have some ammenities like bathrooms with running water and access to showers. We're going to have our daughter who will be 3.5yo at that time and likely her first time camping and ad to that that we are not the hardcore roughing it types.

This varies from GC to GC. The ones that have showers will be for RVs. Mid-size ones will have restrooms and water spigots scattered in the area, not one per camp site. Primitive sites have no water and 'latrines' basically a hole in the ground with a seat on top.

Now in early August how is the typical weather up there? What I've been able to glean tells me moderate during the days and chilly at night. Aside from that, I s there much rain that time of year?

That is a dry time of year but come prepared for low 40's and rain/wind proof jackets.

Currently not sure what route we'll take to Yellowstone from Chicago. I'm planning some side trips on the way there and on the way back so it'll just be a matter of what I plan for what part of the trip I guess.

Thanks again!
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post #11 of 34 Old 10-19-2014, 11:09 PM
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Wyoming weather is real random. The weather in the park in August could be anywhere from 70-90 degrees during the day and 45-60 during the nights. It usually doesn't rain day after day but scattered thunderstorms are common. You should plan on bringing warmer clothes because it really can snow at anytime of the year here.
We had a hard freeze at the end of august and beginning of sep this year
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post #12 of 34 Old 10-20-2014, 06:50 AM
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you ought to see what a vehicle looks like when a bear decides it is a recyclable lunch box lol.
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post #13 of 34 Old 10-20-2014, 07:18 AM
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post #14 of 34 Old 10-20-2014, 09:04 AM
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lol. that is what I am talking about, bears think of them as those little pull off top pudding cups.
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post #15 of 34 Old 10-20-2014, 01:00 PM
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I agree on staying in the camper cabins at tower near the lamar valley. Ask for one by the creek with a potbelly stove and cook on their grills! Stayed there three nights last July. Bear, elk, bison, and deer walked past down the creek every morning. Saw a huge grizzly just about a mile up the trail. The campgrounds can be overun. Great place to ride or hit the cookout. This was Roosevelt's favorite area. Also that may be the best resturaunt in the park. Still its very far from the geysers and even the falls. We came from the south so hit them on the way in and out from teton with a whole day at mammoth. x2 on a swim in the firehole. Expect to spend a whole ton of time getting from place to place and then want more time at each site. There are stores in the park but only if you can live on jerky, chips, dinty moore and crackers......the one at old faithful has some quality beer

If your crossing the park to grand teton check out the tent cabins at Colter Bay.

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post #16 of 34 Old 10-21-2014, 07:24 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks, for umm, giving me the warm and fuzzy's about camping out at Yellowstone... Funny how the first thought through my head when I see that pic is if those fools locked their car.

I'll have to do some reading and research, but thinking the one of the Xanterra campgrounds in the park would be more our speed. Obviously the more popular and crowded, but that's fine with us.

Of course Plan B if we choose not to camp would be to try and find a rental in one of the towns near by. We'll see though, at the moment we've got plenty of time as crunch time will probably come around Feb. for trip planning.

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post #17 of 34 Old 10-21-2014, 08:39 AM
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Thanks, for umm, giving me the warm and fuzzy's about camping out at Yellowstone... Funny how the first thought through my head when I see that pic is if those fools locked their car.

I'll have to do some reading and research, but thinking the one of the Xanterra campgrounds in the park would be more our speed. Obviously the more popular and crowded, but that's fine with us.

Of course Plan B if we choose not to camp would be to try and find a rental in one of the towns near by. We'll see though, at the moment we've got plenty of time as crunch time will probably come around Feb. for trip planning.
it was locked lol. you think your punny window glass is stopping a bear lol. This is not all that uncommon in bear country. I have seen photos of smaller cars where the bear has tore thru the sun roof and demolished the insides. Hell they will eat your seats because you farted in them after eating French fries lol. Locked cars are like pudding snack packs.
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post #18 of 34 Old 10-21-2014, 08:41 AM
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way off topic but saw a wolf on lolo pass yesterday. Crossed the road right in front of me just on the Idaho side. He was a big son of a bitch. Wife and I were hiking.
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post #19 of 34 Old 10-21-2014, 08:49 AM
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My intent was not to scare you off. But to make you more bear aware. Bear encounters are fairly rare, but once in a while, all too often lately, a tourist puts himself in a bad spot and gets himself hurt or killed. They almost always track down and kill the bear as well. It's a no-win situation.

Practice safe food storage. They say in a car is OK, but I wouldn't. Bring/buy plenty of bear spray. Millions of people funnel through here every year without getting mauled, you can too.

Some of us live out here all the time without being eaten. We rarely even see a bear. But, leave your trash out overnight once and the bears will remind you that they are out there.... that, and they are constantly crapping in my yard.

If you get up nearer Glacier NP give me a shout.

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post #20 of 34 Old 10-21-2014, 09:00 AM
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way off topic but saw a wolf on lolo pass yesterday. Crossed the road right in front of me just on the Idaho side. He was a big son of a bitch. Wife and I were hiking.
I've got a whole pack of them here (Prospect Creek drainage off of Thompson Pass). Something like 20 or so that the FWP are tracking/monitoring. Those suckers are scary and HUGE. We've never had any trouble, but the kids get an armed escort to the bus, just in case.

Here's one taken on the backside of the mountain in front of my house:



Smaller one with a Jeep for reference:


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post #21 of 34 Old 10-21-2014, 09:09 AM
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bear shots:



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post #22 of 34 Old 10-21-2014, 09:44 AM
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yes more chance getting run over by a Bison in the park then encountering a bear. I have lived in Montana for 55 years and spend as much time in the outdoors as I can and I can only think of once where I ran into a grizzly bear. lots of little black bears and about everything else. I have not seen many wolves altho I have come across their destruction. I was on the Lolo Motorway a few years ago and came across a fresh moose calf that was still warm that had been ripped to shreds and still pumping blood out. we were on motorcycles and I am sure the wolves did not go far. I wanted to stick around but my buddies were in a hurry for some reason. I have been on the Thompson pass many times and seen so many moose up there I am sure it is prime wolf habitat. Smoke a pack a day I always say.

I think mr. Griz there got hit by a truck by Lincoln if I am not mistaken.
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post #23 of 34 Old 10-21-2014, 10:34 AM
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I think mr. Griz there got hit by a truck by Lincoln if I am not mistaken.
Yep.

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post #24 of 34 Old 10-22-2014, 09:00 PM
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From central Illinois, we drove out to Cheyenne in one day (1000 mi). We had to avoid SD on the way out because of sturgis. The second day we drove into Cody. We stayed in Cody (The Cody) all but one night when we stayed at the Lake Hotel $$$$$. It was nice though.
I think you can do the north loop in one day. (We did it on the way out). I'd plan to spend a day on the west side of the south loop starting at old faithful early in the day before it gets busy. Brink of the falls is awesome, but I would not try it with a 3 y.o. Unless you are in good enough physical shape to carry them up 600 ft of steep trail. August is mating season for the Bison. They are the most dangerous animal in the park, especially at that time of the year. Make sure to attend some ranger talks. They are very informative. We ate subs at old faithful, buffalo burgers up at canyon and the cafeteria at Lake lodge. I didn't think the food prices were unreasonable.

I liked the museum at Cody. We spent a whole day there. Our family also liked the rodeo in Cody. It's every night.
When we headed home we did go out Beartooth pass - late in the afternoon. Then we stayed in Sheridan. That was a long drive. We stopped at Mt Rushmore for about an hour and then drove to Wall where we stayed the night. The next morning we went into Badlands and spent 4 1/2 hours. We stayed in clear lake Iowa then got back on Sunday. So it was an 8 day trip.
For the do over I would have skipped going out to the town of west yellowstone. I was disgusted we wasted time driving there. I would rather have seen the tetons.
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post #25 of 34 Old 10-22-2014, 09:54 PM Thread Starter
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Yeah I wish we could pull the road warrior 12+ hour days, but that may have to wait a few years until # 2 can handle it. We used to be able to pull that off when it was only # 1, but since # 2 came into the picture she's makes it known when she doesn't want to be in the car. As it stands I know we're going to be pulling at least 4 days at Yellowstone, fit in somewhere whether it be on the way there or on the way back I want to try and work in the Minuteman Missile NHS, Badlands again (though taking in a trail that run through the park), Mt. Rushmore, Devils Tower, Crazy Horse and maybe Custer SP since we missed that on our first trip through the area. Anything in around the Rapid City area we'd be hitting after Sturgis avoiding most of the 2 wheel crowd.

So far we haven't completely decided on a route there or back though my interest is getting piqued with Beartooth Pass and I'd love to see the Grand Teton's. So much to see, so little time.

With the main goal being to camp out we just need to decide what campground will be best for us with relation to what we plan to do with in the park. Ideally something that is centrally located to the main things we plan to see or do. The few that we're going to be considering are Bridge Bay, Grant Village, Madison and Canyon. What I need to find out about any of those campgrounds is what if any things we need to consider with storing food. If there are bins at/near the campsites for storing food or what we have to do considering we're likely to have a bunch of food with us and ideally would not like to have to be concerned about an animal tearing our new truck apart trying to get a snack because we chose to store out food supplies in the truck.

Sure my rig has seen the trail, but I wheel it like a soccer mom looking for a parking spot at Nordstroms.
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