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Our Road Trip to Jackson Hole, WY & Yellowstone National Park
We were fortunate enough to spend about a month in Utah last summer and during our stay we decided a road trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming and Yellowstone was in order. You can fly into Jackson, it’s a teeny tiny airport and was about $200 more per person when I checked. National Parks are full of educational and inspirational opportunities and if you’re close by, then by all means you should take advantage!
So…we rented a car from Salt Lake City and began our 4.5 hour journey (lord help us)! There really aren’t a lot of great stops along the way, lots of open road. There are two different routes to get to Jackson from Salt Lake City. On the way there, we drove through Park City, Evanston, and Afton and took the other route on our return trip. Evanston is the place to stop and load up on snacks and top off your tank…it’s gonna be awhile!! A fun photo stop with the kids is the State entrance/ exit signs…I mean 3 states in a span of about 30 minutes is pretty cool.
Road trips with kids can be pretty tricky. We like travel bingo, art kits, and travel games to try to beat the inevitable “I’m bored” whining from the kids. We also rely on our electronics for movies, games, and books.
Two long hours later, we arrived in Afton, a super cute little town sporting the world’s largest Elkhorn Arch. Didn’t know you were going to get to see that now did ya? They have several options to grab a bite to eat and cell phone service (woot!). We used Yelp and found a decent little Mexican restaurant with a little chocolate store next door.
Bellies full and photo taken in front of the Elkhorn Arch (I mean you have to!), we were on the road again. From here on, there is a lot more to see as far as scenery goes. You drive up along the Snake River, which in the summer, is full of people kayaking, white water rafting, and fly fishing. So…of course, my thrill seeking 10 year old jumps on the white water rafting campaign immediately…yeah, yeah…we shall see.
Finally, we arrived at the SUPER cute Fireside Cabins in Jackson, WY. My husband found these very modern cabins for us to stay in online and after a quick check of reviews, we booked one! And I am SOOO glad we did!! They are located in the front of a campground (and I am not a camper by any means…it’s just not my thing), but this was not camping! These cabins…oh my goodness…absolutely LOVED them!!
We unpacked and walked to dinner. Jackson has an unbelievable food scene, but we opted for convenience and kid friendly and boy did we find a gem!! This fantastic little Italian restaurant, Calico, was only a five minute walk from our cabin. We sat outside on the lovely deck overlooking a large field…a large field of children running and playing ball or Frisbee or tag with equipment mostly provided by the restaurant!!! What?!? Our kids sat down long enough to order drinks and choose dinner from the menu and they were off to play. They played…we ate…we drank…and it was the BEST evening.
Oh! And then…a moose walks by. Yep! How cool is that? Just chilling at dinner, and oh hey… there’s a moose! (Side note: many of us tourists were way too close to this potentially very dangerous wild animal…the locals all stayed seated and rolled their eyes and complained. It’s all good, I probably would’ve done the same thing if I was local. Luckily everybody was safe that night.)
Yellowstone National Park
So the next day, we ventured on to Yellowstone. I would definitely recommend more than a day in Yellowstone…but, that’s all we had, so we made the best of it. We saw bison before we even left the Jackson Hole area and even the kids were in awe of the beautiful scenery surrounding us. We drove into Yellowstone through the Grand Teton National Forest ($50 entry fee to both parks).
Our first stop was the visitor’s center as soon as we entered Yellowstone and another family strongly encouraged us to get the kids the Junior Ranger booklets for $3 each. Now, knowing my kids, I thought this may be a giant waste of money…but I got them anyways. And one of my kids totally proved me wrong!! My daughter was totally into it!! She completed all her activities earning herself a cool pin and badge when we popped back into the visitor’s center on our way out of the park. My son was very content taking pictures with his iPod. (And I was cool with his budding love of photography.)
We drove the large loop in Yellowstone. It really was A LOT of driving for one day and our kids were total troopers. We prepared them ahead of time so they expected it. Old Faithful, the hot springs, Grand Prismatic, the lower falls, and Hayden Valley were all amazing!
We saw up close and personal bison and long horned elk, but no bear. As crazy as it sounds, the kids sooo wanted to see a bear (probably because of all the “beware of bears” signs). It just wasn’t in the cards for us on this road trip…Next time!!
We had prepared for the traffic to be slow going while driving through Yellowstone and it ended up not being so bad. Every now and then you have to slow down for everyone trying to take a picture of an animal on the side of the road.
However, we were not prepared for the hour and a half bison jam in Hayden Valley!!!! Yes, we saw hundreds of bison, but at 6pm, our tired and hungry family was just ready to get back to our cabin. It wasn’t so funny then, but now it’s a great trip memory! When we finally got back to Jackson we had an awesome meal at the Jackson Brewing Company. This place was absolutely packed, yet they still got us in and out.
White Water Rafting
So…we did arrange a whitewater rafting excursion for our family. They assured me it was beginner friendly, so we decided to give it a go! We didn’t exactly plan ahead to do this, so we of course had not packed accordingly. Luckily, Mad River Boat Trips had everything we needed: wetsuits, booties, goPros, jackets…Everything!
And it was SO FUN! We can’t say enough good things about Mad River Rafting!
If you happen to have a GoPro…make sure you take it! My daughter sat on the front of the raft and the footage would have been so incredible!!
That little excursion took up the first half of the day and we spent the rest of the day exploring the downtown area of Jackson. We ended up eating dinner at the Million Dollar Cowboy restaurant. It was way fancier than we anticipated but the meal was delicious!
We headed back to Salt Lake City the next day. Our route home by way of Bear Lake was definitely more scenic than our way to Jackson.
Now…why do you ask did we want to stop in Bear Lake?
Well, first off Bear Lake is this most beautiful color of blue that you take notice of right away. But more importantly, it’s the home of the raspberry milkshake! I mean, how can one pass that up?? We grabbed a quick lunch and started our raspberry milkshake sampling adventure! Our favorite was from the Exxon station…random, I know. But our waitress at lunch recommended it and we all agreed, it was the best!
All in all, we had the most amazing time in Jackson Hole and Yellowstone. Have you ever been? Let me know what y’all think!
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