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. 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 🙂


  2. 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.


  3. 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! 😀


  4. ventisqueras November 4, 2016 / 00:00

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


  5. 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.


  6. 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!


  7. 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

  8. 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.


    • Anabel Marsh November 1, 2016 / 13:13

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


  9. 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!


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