Jackson to Yellowstone

Mesa Falls, Idaho
Upper Mesa Falls, Idaho

A large berry fire had closed the North Entrance of Grand Teton and the South Entrance of Yellowstone, our obvious route. A detour into Idaho was required to reach Yellowstone’s West Entrance, thus adding an unexpected new state to my tally. The drive wasn’t a huge amount longer, but we had no idea about sights along its route, whereas the road north through Grand Teton had many obvious stopping places. Here, social media came into its own. I’d been keeping an eye on both parks’ Facebook pages for news, and one helpful user commented that anyone taking the western detour should consider visiting Mesa Falls. That was our plan made for us!

Along the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway we stopped first at the overlook for Lower Mesa Falls – we’d be able to hike down to them later in the morning.

A short distance along the road was Upper Mesa Falls where the Big Falls Inn (built around 1915) now serves as a visitor centre. There is also a network of board walks taking you to the Upper Falls and their attendant rainbow.

From the parking lot, the one-mile Mesa Nature Trail takes you to the Lower Falls which we had looked down on earlier. Thank you Facebook commenter, we loved Mesa Falls!

After a lunch stop at the Angler’s Lodge in Island Park, where I had possibly my favourite veggie burger ever, we crossed back into Wyoming and continued on to Yellowstone. Before long, a line of cars stopped at the roadside signalled our first wildlife sighting – elk and a very lazy looking bison.

Our final stop of the day was Norris Geyser Basin. Our eyes popped out on stalks and remained there the entire week we spent in Yellowstone, which is basically the caldera of a giant volcano. We watched the earth’s surface literally boiling at our feet, through geysers, springs, mudpots and fumaroles, and had a constant smell of sulphur in our nostrils. We have so many pictures, I’m not sure how I’m going to whittle them down for the next few posts. In the meantime, here are some highlights from Norris – first, Porcelain Basin. The colours are caused by the different minerals and algae present in the water.

Back Basin is home to Steamboat Geyser, the world’s tallest active geyser. Major eruptions (300 feet) are rare, the last one being two years ago, but we certainly saw it ejecting water for 10-20 feet. We thought this was awesome till we went to Old Faithful a few days later!

After a long day, we arrived at our accommodation, Canyon Lodge, to be brought down to earth with a bump. It had one huge advantage – location: the main road in Yellowstone forms a figure of eight loop and Canyon Lodge is very central. It’s also the largest lodge in the park and the only place we could get in for a full week, but my advice would be “don’t stay there”. Built in the 60s, it has massively expanded since then in terms of accommodation and the services haven’t kept up. Our room was 15 minutes walk from the dining room up a pot-holed unlit road and, although superficially attractive, wasn’t terribly comfortable either (one hard chair). I could go on and on, but John has written a very scathing review on Trip Advisor so if you’re thinking of going to Yellowstone, read that!

If I were doing it again I would stay a few days in the south of the park at Old Faithful and a few days in the north at Mammoth Springs – if we could get in. However, we didn’t let the lodge dampen our enthusiasm for the park and packed as much as we could into the next few days.

Next up – Yellowstone Canyon itself.


46 thoughts on “Jackson to Yellowstone

  1. Suzanne et Pierre October 31, 2016 / 13:24

    Sorry to hear about the fire and that you couldn’t spend more in Grand Teton. There was also a fire when we went but it only create smoke & fogs along the mountains and we weren’t prevented from travelling within the park. Nice pics of your detour and Yellowstone is indeed very beautiful and eye-popping.

    We also stayed in the Park at Lake Yellowstone Lodge and it wasn’t very good either and overpriced but as we were there in late September most of the other options were already closed for the season. The food was overpriced and not very good either. Maybe it has improved since we stayed there in 2006


    • Anabel Marsh October 31, 2016 / 13:34

      Thanks Suzanne. There were also fires to the west of Yell wstone but they didn’t cause us any problems other than a day or two of smoke as you had. We saw the lodge at Lake Yellowstone but didn’t go in – nice position on the Lake but it sounds as though, other than that, it was much the same as Canyon in terms of quality. Xantera has a monopoly in the park so I guess you can like it or lump it!


      • Suzanne et Pierre October 31, 2016 / 13:58

        The Lodge did indeed have a nice position and from the exterior is quite nice being an historical building but the rooms were old and not very comfortable. Monopolies are never good!

        But on the plus side, the sky at night was glorious and we saw the milky way in its full splendor!


  2. hilarymb October 31, 2016 / 13:58

    Hi Anabel – well I guess you lose some and win some … the Mesa Falls seem a great alternative. Frustrating about the room – but sometimes that’s the way it happens … at least Yellowstone didn’t disappoint. The colours are incredible aren’t they … cheers Hilary


    • Anabel Marsh October 31, 2016 / 14:28

      Thanks Hilary – incredible indeed, and it only got better!


  3. Pit October 31, 2016 / 14:02

    Hi Anabel,
    Yellowstone for sure must be an experience. I sure hope we’ll make it p there some day. Glad you enjoyed the park, if not the accommodation.


    • Anabel Marsh October 31, 2016 / 14:29

      It was a great experience – we didn’t spend much time in the lodge anyway, there was so much to see!


  4. Liesbet October 31, 2016 / 14:28

    One of the great things about this country is that there is something to see everywhere. But, you have to know about it or find it. I’m glad you found the falls on your detour to Yellowstone. The internet is a good guide. And Back Basin is a nice little preview – or teaser – of what is to come in the next blogs, I presume…


  5. joylovestravel October 31, 2016 / 17:15

    Loved Yellowstone – our eyes were on stalks the whole time there too. Great to revisit in your post. Our accommodation experience was no better, we couldn’t get into any of the lodges and booked a cabin. It was possibly the worst place we have ever stayed, still shudder when I think about it.


    • Anabel Marsh October 31, 2016 / 17:28

      Hmm, bad accommodation seems to be a thing there! I guess that’s not what you go for but it still rankles that they can get away with it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • joylovestravel October 31, 2016 / 17:48

        Absolutely, I though we were just unlucky but it seems not….. We were there 16 years ago and it still makes my skin crawl, shows how bad it was!


  6. Val Hunter October 31, 2016 / 18:45

    We were really lucky to stay at Old Faithful when we visited. The building and location are so amazing that it was easy to forgive any minor shortcomings.


    • Anabel Marsh October 31, 2016 / 19:13

      I wish we had – we could have probably got a couple of nights there but with 3 weeks on the road we wanted at least one place that we could unpack!


  7. Heyjude October 31, 2016 / 19:18

    Looks amazing! I think the accommodation in any of these parks can be a bit ropey as they have a monopoly. We stayed in an expensive place at the Grand Canyon and I wouldn’t say it was great, the motel in Bryce was also mediocre and the food basic. The best was staying outside the park at Zion in a B&B in Springfield. But you don’t always get a choice. And fortunately you are out most of the time.


    • Anabel Marsh October 31, 2016 / 19:57

      We have also stayed in lodges in Grand Canyon and Bryce, as well as Zion and Shenandoah. None were wonderful but they were all better than this! But yes, you’re there to explore so just have to put up with it.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Retirementallychallenged.com November 1, 2016 / 00:26

    Beautiful pictures! It has never occurred to me to visit a park’s Facebook page (or that they would have one in the first place) for information and updates. What a great idea! I wonder if the lodges are too focused on being “rustic,” and not on the need for comfort.


    • Anabel Marsh November 1, 2016 / 08:03

      Facebook and Twitter are very good for keeping up to date – if you can get on to them while travelling that is! In Yellowstone we could only get wifi in the bar and even then we had to pay for it, another moan. I don’t know why this lodge gets it so badly wrong: we’ve stayed in older ones which have been more comfortable. It comes back to the monopoly again and again – one company runs all the park accommodation so they’re only in competition with themselves.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. restlessjo November 1, 2016 / 07:14

    In the scheme of things I don’t suppose iffy accommodation is all that bad. Just look what you saw! I loved the falls but was gobsmacked by what follows. You can’t get everything right 🙂


    • Anabel Marsh November 1, 2016 / 07:54

      No, hindsight is a wonderful thing! And I have a great walk for you next week. Even better falls too.


  10. BeckyB November 1, 2016 / 11:10

    Stunning . . . . I love geothermal places. Only visited a few and Yellowstone is not one of them! Simply glorious shots and wonderful descriptions that I can almost forget the hardness of your chair!


    • Anabel Marsh November 1, 2016 / 13:13

      It is! Several waterfalls we saw seemed to have their own personal rainbows.


  11. Ann Coleman November 1, 2016 / 14:04

    Sounds as if the detour turned out to be a good thing, since you saw those beautiful waterfalls. And I hadn’t realized just how interesting Yellowstone Park was. Of course I’d heard about “Old Faithful,” but I didn’t realize how many other areas had the water bubbling out of the ground, too! I’ve always thought, vaguely, that I should get to Yellowstone some day, but after reading your posts about this area, I’m now firmly committed to going. So thanks for the advice on the hotel, as well! Looking forward to reading more!


    • Anabel Marsh November 1, 2016 / 14:26

      Oh, Ann, I’m sure you would be amazed! The whole place is bubbling away, and what astonished me was the number of different ways to bubble in close proximity to each other.


  12. Sarah Ferguson and Choppy November 2, 2016 / 03:23

    Paul and I visited the two Mesa Falls on our honeymoon – it was a detour so he could visit Idaho for the first time. It was well-worth the detour to us! I love the continued reminders of that trip!


    • Anabel Marsh November 2, 2016 / 07:20

      We were really pleased to discover them. We might not have known they were worth the detour if it hadn’t been for the helpful guy on Facebook.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Jessica (Diverting Journeys) November 2, 2016 / 15:16

    John’s review made me laugh, but it really does sound like an awful hotel. How could they not have lids on the toilets?! And that buffet sounds dreadful. Hope the scenery at least made up for it!


    • Anabel Marsh November 2, 2016 / 15:43

      He didn’t hold back, did he? He’d been making notes all week and just pasted it all in rather than doing edited highlights. Or lowlights. But, yes, it was worth it for the scenery!


  14. Blue Sky Scotland November 3, 2016 / 01:51

    Mesa Falls look amazing as do the Yellowstone photos. Shame about the lodge. Having very low standards I’m perfectly happy with four walls, a roof, a fire and a floor to put my sleeping bag on. Mind you that kind of accommodation is mostly free so If I paid good money for a room I’d expect a decent standard of presentation in return.


  15. ventisqueras November 4, 2016 / 00:00

    è una grande esperienza fare un viaggio così bello nella selvaggia natura
    splendide immagini


  16. rosemaylily2014 November 5, 2016 / 04:22

    What wonderful photos though sorry the fire prevented you from seeing some of the planned sights. Good luck sorting through the photos – you must be spoilt for choice! 😀


  17. Denzil November 6, 2016 / 16:43

    I just had to go and read John’s review! Amazed he gave it two stars; maybe he was feeling generous.


    • Anabel Marsh November 6, 2016 / 18:04

      I think he felt sorry for the staff! Most of them were really nice and doing their best within the system.


  18. jazzfeathers November 27, 2016 / 20:12

    WOW! That’s a lot for just one day, and what beautiful places!

    I hope I’ll be able to see a gayser one day. It must be an experience in itself 🙂


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