If you have been reading my website at endlessroaming.com you would be aware that I have been blogging and photographing about my 8-month road trip around the world in 2019. This is the final leg, my 4-week road trip in the North West of the USA. It was now headed into Yellowstone National Park and then would need to work out which direction to head afterwards.
I was up early in the morning and hopped down to the kitchen for all the best a Motel 6 has on offer, unlimited coffee, creamer (which if you are unaware is a somewhat revolting white powder substitute for milk), flapjacks, eggs, and Coco Pops, this was a healthy start to the day. I finished and jacked up on sugar and caffeine I filled up the car with petrol and headed towards Yellowstone National Park. For the unaware there are five entrances to the park, I was coming in from the North East Entrance which is widely regarded at the most scenic of the entrance points. I knew this as it was my second visit to the park, the first being in 2012 when I stayed in Yellowstone for an evening. This time around I wasn’t so fortunate and would be staying at a yet to be determined location.
The drive into Yellowstone is visually spectacular, first driving through a few small towns along the way where deer were occasionally crossing the road. I then started to ascend the Beartooth Mountain Range, the tallest of these mountains being Granite Peak at nearly 11,000 feet. The Beartooth Highway measures 68 miles in the distance and is regarded as one of the most majestic drives in the USA. There was virtually no traffic, the highway full of sweeping turns etched on the side of these mountains and a seemingly endless amount of stop-off points to take in the views. I crossed over the border from Montana into Wyoming stopping off to look at the mountains, lakes, and wildlife. After 3 hours or so I came to the end of the road at the National Park entry point and using my season pass I purchased at Glacier National Park (see https://endlessroaming.com/2020/01/14/roaming-usa-in-and-around-glacier-national-park-montana/) and drove on into Yellowstone.
I continued driving and when the road I was on intersected with a much more popular Easterly entrance point road the traffic and tourists moving about the area dramatically increase. The traffic slowed down as tourists were crossing road taking snapshots of the wildlife, so I pulled over by the side of the road and joined in. First I saw a large herd of buffalo, and as the day progressed there were dear, horses, moose and lots of birds, also a few wild bears though I could not get up close enough to get a quality photos and walking closer to the bears is considered dangerous apparently.
I joined the sloI joined the slow-moving convoy pass through the Lamar Valley and after a few more hours made it to the NPS Centre at Grant Village and decided on having some morning tea. I purchased myself a graphic t-shirt, had a coffee and mapped out my day which at this stage was up to roughly 6 hours, I was running out of time. When staying in Yellowstone a few years ago this was the Village Id stayed at, it’s a large resort-like complex with wooden buildings, a supermarket, bar, restaurant, and huts. I very much enjoyed my previous stay as I had a lot more time to take in the park but unfortunately, this time around the Australian dollar was low against the American I couldn’t afford to book it again. As I was on a tight schedule I finished up my caffeine fix and continued on my way.
Planning Yellowstone is easy, just follow the loop, I headed west to the Norris Geyser Basin and joined the enthralled crowds walking on platforms overlooking the massive geysers, some blowing off plenty of steam, others just bubbling away with lots of orange and blue colours reflecting within the pools. There was also plenty of dead plant life, appearing frozen from all the salt and sulphur in the air, it was a strange smell. I then headed onto the Lower Geyser Basin, yet more geysers, walkways, and tourists milling around the place. Back in the car and I then drove to the famous Old Faithful. Old Faithful was surrounded by tourists, the geyser is scheduled to erupt between 44 minutes to 2 hours and can shoot up to 180 feet in the air showering the spectators on a windy day. It’s a pretty awesome sight and a major drawcard for the park.
By the time I watched Old Faithful erupt it was mid-afternoon and it was time to decide as to which direction I would take on my road trip which would finish up in Las Vegas. I had two ways to go, the first being south past the Grand Tetons to Jackson’s Hole an onto Denver then west or second through the state of Idaho to Reno Nevada then south. There were major drawcards to both routes, I have driven through Denver, Santa Fe, the Grand Canyon previously and knew this would be a more expensive and a longer distance trip. I have also visited Reno and Yosemite previously but had not spent any time in Idaho, so nonplussed I flipped the coin and it came up Idaho, so that’s the way I went. I exited the Western Entrance to Yellowstone, watching wildlife grazing on the wide-open plains and headed towards Idaho Falls.
On the way I passed the impressive Grand Tetons to my left, Ive visited there previously including heading up a cable car to top the top of the mountain (a story for another time) and it was a shame I couldn’t visit again. By the time I reached my hotel I worked out I’d been on the road for 12 hours total, so of course, after check-in, it was off to the pub. Idaho Falls has a small downtown area, I was staying one side of the river and the downtown was the other side, in between are the Waterfalls, there was no height to them but there are many and with parkland on both sides of the falls makes for a lovely evening setting. After walking around the falls I headed straight for a boozer, I found the people to be very friendly and after a few hours was taken on a pub crawl through the quiet streets. I proved to be a novelty as not too many Australians make it this way so there was a fair bit of accent mimicking going on. Not sure when I got to bed but woke up quite late the following morning.
Worse for wear I continued on my drive through Idaho stopping past Twin Falls, it seems that Idaho has a lot of waterfalls, Twin Falls are located in a State park on the outskirts of the city. I descended into a canyon and wow, there they were, unlike Idaho Falls they are tall in size and there are more than two (or twin) running off the Snake River Canyon. I was truly impressed with the size of them, the park with its canyon, freshwater swimming, and greenery made for a great way to spend the day swimming and hiking through the canyon. I spent a few hours there recovering from a lack of sleep due to Yellowstone and beer enjoying the sun. Refreshed after a swim and a nap it was back in the car for a few nights in the next and onto my next destination, Boise.
Boise proved to be excellent fun, with a population of nearly 230,000 people, it was the bBoise proved to be excellent fun, with a population of nearly 230,000 people, it was the biggest city Id visited since leaving Spokane a few weeks previously. The downtown area was calm during the day and then fired up at night with plenty of bars, restaurants, outdoor promenades and at the centre of the State Capital building. I spent days walking the Boise River Green belt, a large parkland with plenty of trees lining the river and heading downtown checking out interesting merchandise including purchasing a few old American road signs and T-Shirts to pack in my suitcase for the trip back to Sydney. The evening I met local people who were more than happy to show me the sights of the city, I proved to be as much of a novelty in Boise as I was in Idaho Falls. It’s rumoured that Australian accents are popular in America, my experience within tourist cities such as LA, New York, Seattle, this isn’t the case, Boise, however, my Aussie twang seemed very popular.
After a few days, it was time to long haul it to my next city, Reno in Nevada. It had proved to be a wonderful week, driving the epic Beartooth Highway into Yellowstone and experiencing the wildlife, geysers, surrounding forests and environment with. Then there was the excitement of flipping a coin to see where to next and I feel fortunate to have visited Idaho, not necessarily a destination for a lot of foreign tourists. I loved the waterfalls and also the friendliness and laid back cities that Id visited. If you would like to go somewhere not so typical then Idaho is a fantastic option, whether it’s in the north like the town of Sandpoint (see the previous blog) or in the south such as Boise, the state is well worth exploring and, I hope to get back there one day. Hope you enjoyed the blog, I’ll have another out soon(ish)