I love it when friends and family visit! Not only does it mean spending precious time with loved ones, it also gives us even more incentive to shake off possible doldrums from being inside for the last few months, to get outside and unveil this magnificent Yellowstone-Teton area to our visitors. Honestly, it really doesn’t matter how many times a particular guest has been here; there are always new and exciting sights to show off. And, when you think about it, who doesn’t appreciate a repeat performance of feasting the eyes on the area’s plentiful natural wonders like the Grand Teton Mountains, Mesa Falls, the Henry’s Fork, Snake & Teton Rivers, and of course, Grand Teton & Yellowstone National Parks.
My buddies arrived at the Jackson Hole Airport and were immediately impressed with how thoroughly everyone they came in contact with was practicing recommended COVID 19 guidelines. They found the same commitment to keeping guests safe when they arrived at their temporary home-away-from-home, Teton Springs Lodge & Spa. It is refreshing, especially when you watch the news and become witness to how many folks across our great country are indeed seemingly not paying homage to protecting one’s self and others. One of the great pleasures of staying at Teton Springs is the personal interaction and camaraderie one can always expect from the terrific staff at this hotel, and now that’s necessarily kept to a bare minimum. Hopefully it won’t be too long before “social distancing” is simply a bad memory and we can express ourselves as freely as we like.
This east coast contingency was thrilled with their 1-bedroom suite at Teton Springs. They certainly didn’t expect the accommodations to be this elegant, with so much room for everyone in the group to spread out. I’m not sure why they were surprised as they studied the web site for months and were duly impressed with everything Teton Springs Lodge and The Bronze Buffalo Sporting Club had to offer within this magnificent complex. The sizable living room/kitchen area allowed everyone to feel comfortable when myself and a few other locals joined them in their unit for dinner. There’s definitely room to spread out. That’s yet just another huge plus for staying in these self-contained suites; you can cook to your hearts’ content or simply order take-out. There are so many terrific options right in downtown Victor. This group always seemed to choose the take-out option. However, one evening we dined on the patio at Warbirds Café with the Teton Mountains in plain sight.
My buds were barely out of the car when they asked, “what direction are we headed in tomorrow?” I knew that Yellowstone was one of their top priorities and being neophytes to this Rocky Mountain area, they were surprised that we had a few very viable options on how we could enter Yellowstone. Not to mention the fun we could have along the way, whether we headed north or south. To maximize their adventure and give them the flavor of what treasures lie within this region, I decided to take them first into Yellowstone thru West Yellowstone and save another day for the eye-popping sense of arrival one gets with entry through the south gate via Jackson Hole and Grand Teton National Park.
Unfortunately, there is never enough time for visitors to our neighborhood to experience all of the marvels we sometimes take for granted here in Yellowstone-Teton territory. At least not on one trip. So, I had to pick and choose how we would spend the limited number of days they had. I wanted them to have sufficient time in Yellowstone to truly savor what many consider to be the greatest wonders on this continent. So, we headed north early in the morning but first, a quick stop in the hotel’s Sage Café for fresh brewed coffee and a yummy grab-and-go burrito sandwich for the road. Tom, the Sage Café manager, mentioned that he was whipping up biscuits and gravy. They would have to wait until tomorrow. The Sage is also open for lunch and updated menus are posted on Facebook.
We’re more or less following the Grand Teton Loop Road Tour, which has been recognized by the Tourism Industry as one of 10 most scenic drives in North America. When followed, this route takes one from a starting point in Victor, Idaho (that’s us) to Yellowstone through West Yellowstone and the west gate, touring the park and exiting the park through the south gate, and back to Victor. This would obviously be a mega day of travel with little time to explore. This excursion is something to be savored, like a fine wine, so everyone agrees it’s smart to save the Jackson Hole, Grand Teton National Park and the southern portion of Yellowstone for another day.
We deviated a tad from the official Loop Tour and hopped off the main drag, Highway 32, with my sites on one of my most favorite attractions in eastern Idaho, Mesa Falls. I prefer the back way into Mesa as it’s a road less traveled and takes you through the never-ending dry farms of Teton Valley & Ashton. There are fields of wild poppies sprouting up in clusters along this route and the Grand Teton Mountains are in full splendor for much of the way. As we cruise Highway 47, the old Yellowstone Scenic Highway, and right before you cross over the Warm River Bridge, stop to view (and feed if you’re willing to part with some of your lunch; these guys go crazy for bread!) the massive trout before heading into the Caribou-Targhee National Forest. This is a “no fishing zone,” and the trout know it so they’re bold and seemingly anxious to show off for an audience.
There’s plenty of parking at both the Lower & Upper Mesa Falls entry points or better yet, take the short, easy trek along the nature trail that connects the two thundering falls. They are indeed magnificent as well as being the last undisturbed waterfalls of consequence in the west. I try to visit the falls at least once a year; it’s a sight that never fails to fill me with awe and a deep appreciation for this entire ecosystem.
We head into West Yellowstone and don’t take much time to cruise the many shops and restaurants that line Main Street. Yellowstone beckons. Once inside the park you’ll follow the Madison River, considered by many to be one of the best trout-fishing streams in America. And indeed, plenty of wading fly fishermen share this stretch of river with grazing elk & deer. With few stops it only takes an hour to reach the Upper Geyser Basin, home to Old Faithful, arguably the most famous of Yellowstone’s geyser. Just in this Upper Geyser Basin alone over 150 geysers exist in one square mile. Another loop worth doing is the Firehole Canyon Drive, the only swimming area in all of Yellowstone complete with its own waterfall. It’s a two-mile one-way road and incredibly scenic and always check before packing that swim suit. Frolicking in these waters depends on how heavy the runoff is in any given year. Sometimes the Firehole opens late in the summer or not at all. It’s a safety thing but a highlight for visiting Yellowstone on a hot summer day when it is an option.
I drag my exhausted friends back to Teton Springs, this time taking the main highway. It’s even prettier on the way home as the sun sets brilliantly over Island Park and the majestic Henry’s Fork Lake. Back in Victor, we order take-out from Big Hole Barbeque and the air immediately fills with the enticing aroma of B-que ribs & brisket. It was a beautiful evening and we enjoyed dinner in the gazebo directly in front of the hotel entrance. It’s always fun rehashing what an amazing day we just had and to plan tomorrow’s adventures. Another great day in the neighborhood, no matter what direction you take.