Yellowstone and Grand Tetons National Parks- plus SLC/Park City and Antelope Island State Park Utah
Updated: Jun 9
How many states can you say you've been to in a week? I think this may be my record- this trip Joe and I flew into Salt Lake City and spent a few days with my brother exploring SLC, nearby Park City and Antelope Island State Park. Then, we were off on our road trip, which took us north through Idaho, where we stayed in West Yellowstone while exploring Yellowstone National Park. During the days in the park, we spanned Montana and Wyoming. From there we headed south and east to Grand Tetons National Park- and stayed in Jackson, Wyoming. Although we did a ton of driving, we also got to see so much and the car time was not bad with all the amazing scenery!
Friday: Arrived into SLC- had dinner at Lake Effect with my brother Matt. Joe's flight was delayed so he did not arrive until Saturday morning (stupid connections!). Lake Effect had a super huge bar, extensive cocktail list, really good atmosphere, decent tapas style dinner options. It is tough to find good cocktail bars in Utah- so if that's what you are looking for check it out. From there we went back to Matt's house and bar hopped to a few other places within walking distance of his place - Wasatch Brew Pub and Hopkins Brew Pub (both these places I would also recommend for cocktails, beer, wine) Weird thing about Utah- you can buy your first drink at a bar with no food, if you want more, you will have to order food- unless it has a certain license-so if you are bar hopping- plan accordingly!
Saturday: Woke up very hungover and decided to go on a hike (always a great idea). Matt took me to one not too far from his place called the Living Room hike. Only 2 miles, took about an hour (again, I was hungover) but it was a good, somewhat steep hike that took us to a really nice point overlooking SLC. From the hike, we headed to Finn's for breakfast- a cute diner on the corner of Matt's street, and then headed to the airport to pick up Joe and our rental car for the week. The 3 of us headed to Park City for the day, it was only about a 40min drive from Salt Lake. We had lunch in Park City at The Bridge which was pretty good - had a Brazilian flare to their food and drinks. We also checked out High West distillery just off the main drag, which was a really cool spot for cocktails (not just High West cocktails either- full bar was available and some apps as well). After a little shopping and wandering, we headed back to SLC, and did our second hike of the day - Neffs Canyon trail. 2 miles up and back, took about an hour, could have definitely kept going but it was getting late and we were ready for dinner. For dinner we checked out BTG wine bar- which I would recommend for some good food, good wine, good atmosphere in the city. We then walked to London bar belle club, and after that the Copper Onion. London bar definitely turned into a lounge/club later on, but Copper Onion looked like it would also be a good option for dinner if you are in the area.
Sunday: The weather was a little iffy in town, so we headed to Antelope Island for the day where, even though it was only an hour away, the weather was much much better. We spent a good amount of the day at the park- checking out small trails like ladyfinger and buffalo point for some good views, and then doing Dooley's Knob trail which took about an hour for the 3 mile hike. There was a second option on this trail to do about a 6mile up and back hike, however the weather towards the end of the day started to turn, so Dooley's was good for the day. Back in Salt Lake we had lunch at Hall Pass which is a fancy food court downtown- Joe got some pho and Matt and I got food from the lobster roll place (the Connecticut roll was really good, pass on the calamari and fries). From there we headed back to Wasatch and Hopkins Brew Pubs for happy hour, and ended the night back downtown for a late dinner at Eva (also tapas style, highlight of the meal was the fried chicken tapa dish).
Monday: We knew we'd be in the car for a good amount of the day, so Joe and I went for a morning run at Sugar house park, about a mile from Matt's house. It did the trick, and after our Chick fil A breakfast, we were on the road to West Yellowstone. It took us about 5 hours with multiple stops to get to our Airbnb from SLC. After checking in, we walked down to the small town, bought some groceries, checked out some shops, then had dinner at Serenity Bistro which I would not recommend. It was not great, the food was bland, the place was small, a bread basket that came with 4 very tiny pieces of bread we were charged $4.50 for- and they were out of half the menu. Just skip it. We then tried to fill up on ice cream instead and went to the Espresso ice cream house across the street. Not a ton of options in West Yellowstone, so if you are looking to check out Yellowstone NP- I would suggest (even though the drive would be longer) staying in Big Sky or Bozeman Montana and driving south to the park, or staying in Jackson Wyoming and driving north. However, the advantage of staying in West Yellowstone is it takes about 5 minutes to arrive at the park entrance- so depending on what you are looking for out of your home base this may work for you, or check out another option.
Tuesday: Huge day at Yellowstone. We entered the park at 7am and didn't start heading out until after 5pm. But we saw and did so much. We used the gypsy app for a self guided tour- highly recommend this- it really helped us figure out where to stop and what was worth seeing. We started out at Firehole falls for a quick lookout (apparently you can swim here in season, only one of two spots in the park that permits this), then did a quick drive through a field of Bison, then checked out the Pink pots, Grand Prismatic, Biscuit basin, and then headed to Old Faithful because seems like it needed to be done. We checked the box and watched Old Faithful erupt- we did a quick hike up to Observation point (only .5 miles up) and watched it go off. Then we walked around some of the boardwalk around the park to see all the geysers. After the Old Faithful section, we drove all the way to the Grand Canyon area (which is so cool, about an hour from Old Faithful, but worth it). Stopped for a snack at the visitors center there- really terrible food options all throughout the park so BYO snacks. Headed to the Upper and Lower falls, south rim trail, did artists viewpoint- pics here are a must! From there we went to the Fishing Bridge area and hiked the Elephant Back trail- which was very very snowy and really tough! We did about 4 miles in 2 hours, got off trail because of the snow, if there was a viewpoint we missed it- got some views of Yellowstone lake, but not sure if I'd recommend this one. After that crazy hike we finally decided to head back to West Yellowstone, it had been a really long day. We had dinner at Wild West Pizza in town- decent enough- sat at the bar since there was a wait. Again not a ton of options in town so this was better than most.
Wednesday: Another packed day at Yellowstone! We headed north this time towards Norris Geyser and Mammoth Hot Springs. First stop was the Norris Geyser area- with a few stops along the way at Gibbons Falls, Beryl Spring, and then taking some time to walk around the Norris geysers. After that was Mammoth hot springs, which was super cool and weird, another place we took a good amount of time to explore. In that area we got snacks once again the visitors center/cafeteria terrace grill, which again sucked, and then went for a hike right by there on the Beaver Lake loop trail. We only made it about 2.5 miles in, when we ran into a Grizzly bear on the trail, so we obviously did not make the full loop and had to turn around and go back the way we came. Kind of discouraging but obviously the right thing to do. All the warnings about carrying bear spray and staying away from the wildlife- is for good reason. After this adventure we drove a little towards Tower, the north part of the loop in the park, but turned back after Undine falls since there wasn't much to see and it started raining. Back in West Yellowstone, we had dinner at the Slippery Otter pub, which was the best of the 3 restaurants, but still not saying much being the best of the basic.
Thursday: We said goodbye to West Yellowstone and started our next journey to Jackson, WY. The drive took us about 3 hours, we initially tried to drive through Yellowstone south into Grand Tetons NP and then to Jackson, but for some reason the traffic was really bad in Yellowstone even at 7:30am, so we decided to go around the parks the long way. Only ended up being 3 hours with stops, so not bad at all! We headed straight to the park and hiked the Taggart lake and Bradley lake loops- which were the first trailheads we saw when you entered the park. Getting into the park was easy- no lines - but the trailhead parking lots were pretty packed. This hike was relatively easy- took us about 2 hours to do 6 miles. Really nice views of the mountains and lakes. After we headed into Jackson and grabbed some mediocre snacks at Cowboy Coffee and Pearl St Bagels. Dinner later at the Local was extremely good- highly recommend this place for great cocktails and food. Dessert we grabbed from Moo's ice cream (long lines but probably worth it), stopped at Spirits and spice in town to pick up a bottle of wine, then met my brother at the Airbnb- walked about 20 mins back into the town, and had some drinks at the Million dollar Cowboy bar (very touristy western themed with saddle seats/live music but you kinda gotta do it) and then The Rose lounge (only place open late in town at the time).
Friday: Yellowstone was great for checking out all the geothermal features and weird paint pots, geysers, etc- Grand Tetons was all about the hiking! Today we did a mega long hike- the Jenny Lake loop trail- which included hidden falls, inspiration point, a little trek into cascade mountain, and of course all the way around Jenny Lake. We took a short detour so we didn't have to go back the way we came towards Spring Lake, which added a mile or so onto the hike. The majority of the hike was pretty easy flat around the lake, but all the offshoots added some uphill challenges and great viewpoints. The 9 miles took us about 4 hours, so it really took up most of the day. After we cleaned up we headed back to Jackson square- Matt and Joe wanted to watch the reenacted shootout that happens every day at 6pm in the square (acting!) Very cheesy- then had dinner in the town at Bin22 which was so so good. It is connected to a wine shop which you can buy your bottles from retail and have them with your meal (real money saver). The food here was excellent and it was so cheap! After Bin22 we headed back to Moo's, waited again in line for ice cream, then went to the Roadhouse brewery grill for drinks. They mercifully closed at 10pm so it cut our night short.
Saturday: One last morning hike before driving back to SLC airport (which took 5 hours from Jackson). We opted for a hike right by the Airbnb, did have a parking lot and proper trailhead even not being officially in the park. We did the Crystal Butte trail- 1.5 hrs, 3 miles with 1.5 being basically straight up. It was the most challenging hike of the trip- but the views!!! Totally worth it- you could see Jackson town as well as the Tetons- so so nice.
We had a hell of a time getting back home with some flight cancellations, but if you are ever stuck in the SLC airport- White Horse was actually very very good for dinner.
Two more National Parks checked off the list- we had such an amazing time exploring both of them!