Friday, April 5, 2013

Epic Road Trip: Days 22,23,24,25 - Yellowstone National Park

After our hike up Mt Timpanogos, we drove up to Kaysville to stay with Oscar's parents for a couple nights to celebrate Oscar's older brother William's birthday. If you've been keeping up with our Epic Road Trip up until now, you're probably expecting us to take a little vacation from our vacation and do a little relaxing. But no! Oscar's younger brother Phillip's wedding wasn't for another week, so we took our first trip up to Yellowstone.

Our first stop was Idaho Falls. I loved seeing the Idaho Falls temple in the background. You can also see the steeple of the nearby stake center.

Our next stop was at upper and lower Mesa Falls. Both are intense falls, but the view of lower Mesa is pretty distant. We were able to get up close and personal with the upper falls, though I actually thought the views from the slightly further viewpoint were better.

We didn't leave until after 11am church on Sunday, so we made it into Yellowstone fairly late and set up our tent in the dark. Fortunately our tent is easy to assemble and Oscar is awesome at assembly. Unfortunately it gets pretty cold in Yellowstone, even in the middle of summer. After being spoiled by 3 nights in a house, we were not thrilled about camping again, particularly with the cold nights. I was wishing for a hotel room, but anywhere within the park itself is pretty pricey. To get a cheap place outside of it, you're asking to drive quite a bit each day just to get in and out of the park.

 The next day we drove up to see the Yellowstone Valley. We saw lots of bison and pretty plains along the way.

 Our first stop was, of course, Lower Yellowstone Falls. Super gorgeous!


This one was on my bucket list long before I became an avid waterfall chaser. 

There's a short but super steep hike down to the base of the falls. Coming back up those stairs was exhausting, but it was worth it to see the falls up close.

Afterwards we took the small hike to upper Yellowstone Falls. It's an impressive waterfall, but it's dwarfed by its lower counterpart. In this picture with the angle of the sun on it, it just looks like a bunch of light shining on the river.

After seeing the falls, we drove out to a viewpoint of the grand canyon of the Yellowstone.

After Yellowstone Valley, we drove up to the Mammoth Hot Springs area and passed a few pretty waterfalls along the way. Tower Falls is on the right and Undine Falls is on the right. Tower Falls would be more impressive from the base of the falls, but the trail was closed leading down to it.

Here are some of the features of Mammoth Hot Springs. Everything burns like cigarette ash. It creates white mud bubbles and even (like the pic above) a few blue ones.

Look how stripped bare the trees are here!
This is the view of the valley from the hike.up to the hot springs
Some of the different colored pools. They were so pretty they made me want to hop in for a swim. If only it wouldn't burn me to death...

The middle one that's caved in reminds me of cuddling puppies :)

So pretty, so deep, and so hot. If you drop something in there, it's gone for good!

On our hike to Mystic Falls, we saw an additional side trail that took you to the top of valley in a loop. We nearly always take loop trails when they're an option, and this one was pretty cool. If you look close, you can see Old Faithful erupting way in the distance. 

Pretty Mystic Falls

And finally, good "Old Faithful!"

After we saw the eruption, we took a stroll down to the Morning Glory pool, also featured at the beginning of this post.

Some of the cool smaller geysers and pools we passed on the way.
In the pic on the far right you can see Old Faithful erupt again from the trail back.

This Sulfur Cauldron was close to our campground at Bridge Bay
And of course we checked out several waterfalls while driving around. Gibbon Falls (right) and Kepler Cascades (left) were pretty decent considering it was August. There were several falls we opted out of looking for since they practically disappear by this time of the year.

Firehole Falls (right) and Lewis Falls (left) look like the same falls when you see them together. They're not even close to each other in the park. Firehole Falls is also geothermally heated while Lewis Falls is ice cold.

I really liked the West Thumb Geyser Basin. The Geysers actually meet up with Yellowstone Lake, and you can see them underwater.


On our final day, we woke up super early since we had a 16 mile hike into the Yellowstone backcountry and a long drive home. We saw a lovely sunrise come up over Yellowstone Lake

We stopped off at Moose Falls at the very southern edge of the park before exiting the park to drive the hideous Grassy Lake road up to the Union Falls trail. The review we read said 4 wheel drive was preferred for this drive but not necessary. We disagree. We're surprised our Prius survived that 10 mile trek. Good thing the waterfall was amazing!

In order to get the the falls, you have to ford a river, so you really don't want to try it until late July or the river will be too fast. Bring some good water shoes and a swimsuit. You'll want them again for the naturally heated Scout Pool near the falls.

But oh how glorious this falls is! It's called Union Falls since 2 rivers (though it looks like 3) converge together in the same drop. The hike wasn't too awful as far as steepness goes, but it is long (about 8 miles each way), and the uphill is on your way back. That's not a terribly pleasant trek to take after you've just been incredibly comfortable relaxing in the refreshing Scout Pool (below).

And we enjoyed seeing the mountains of Grand Tetons National Park as we drove south back to Utah.

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