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Wildlife, Mountains, and Serenity...the Perfect Combination to Heal the Soul!

Updated: Sep 25, 2021


"Where is Mama Bear?" - Grizzly 399 Quadruplets

I call this photo, "Where is Mama Bear?" The are four cubs born to the famous grizzly bear known as 399 in the Grand Teton National Park. She is a 25 years old that has had over 21 cubs in her lifetime and one of the few grizzly bears that has had quadruplets in the Tetons/Yellowstone ecosystem. We were fortunate enough to see 399 and her cubs several times during our vacation to the Tetons during late summer/early fall, 2020.


Taking a vacation during a pandemic can be risky, but in August 2020, after I had suffered the loss of my mom in March; had a total knee replacement in June; lost my Godmother in July; and then lost my beloved dog, Lambeau in August, we decided to test fate and head to the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, and Glacier National Park. We took off in our truck with plenty of hand sanitizer, face masks, and Clorox wipes, and headed for the Tetons. It was a beautiful drive and when we arrived in the Tetons, we came upon a traffic jam with photographers everywhere. We knew we must be in for something special. The park rangers were keeping people back and asking people to pull over where they could find parking. We asked about the commotion and we were told, "the most famous bear in the Tetons/Yellowstone area is going to cross the road!" Sure enough, it was 399 and her cubs crossing the road at Oxbow Bend. The park rangers had the situation under control and do what they can to keep the people and the cars from getting too close. It was an amazing site to see the crowds of people, the traffic jam and the enthusiasm of everyone waiting and watching. This set the tone for our entire trip. Once we had that first glimpse of 399 and her four cubs, our entire trip was all about the 399 bear family!


“Grand Teton National Park is my favorite of the national parks. It is easy to find your way around the park; the wildlife are abundant; the weather is beautiful during the late fall/early summer; and the mountains are majestic! I don't think I could ever get tired of seeing the beauty of this park!"

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE THREE NATIONAL PARKS...


GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK


Grand Teton National Park Photos from left to right: view from Oxbow Bend; Teton Mountain Range from the parking turnout near Oxbow Bend; Snake River and Teton Mountain Range at Oxbow Bend turnout; Grizzly 399 and her four cubs crossing the road at Oxbow Bend; Jackson Lake; Moose Entrance; Moose sighted along Moose-Wilson Road; Tetons Mountain Range; black bear eating mulberries near Moose Entrance; Cinnamon juvenile bear near Moose Entrance; Teton Mountain Range; Famous Grizzly Bear 399; Moose near Wilson, WY outside of the park in the Snake River.


Grand Teton National Park Photos from left to right: Grizzly 399 at Oxbow Bend; Oxbow Bend view of Teton Range; Moose along Moose-Wilson Road; Teton Range with horses; Kelley, Darrell and Starr with Teton Range in the background; Prong-horn Antelope; Moose in Wilson, Wyoming before entering the Moose-Wilson Rd.; Prong-horn Antelope; the roaming buffalo; Oxbow Bend and the Teton Range reflection; Moose on Moose-Wilson Road; and moose in the Rendezvous Park near Wilson, Wyoming at dusk; Jenny Lake; 399 Cubs climbing the hillside; Caribou with a big rack; and one of 399 cubs eating berries.



Lodging near Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park is a gorgeous park with close proximity to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Jackson Hole is beautiful and about 30 minutes from the park entrance but the lodging is expensive. The rooms book up quickly and can easily be over $300 or more for a very basic hotel room a night during the summer and early fall. Our first trip in late August, we stayed in Victor, Idaho, which is 42 miles west of the Grand Teton park. It is a pretty drive through the mountains in a small and pleasant community with hotel rooms at less than one-half the price of the hotels in Jackson Hole. We stayed at the Cobblestone Hotel and Suites in Victor. It was a super clean and fairly new hotel that allowed dogs! We had Starr with us. We drove from Victor daily to the park and took the Moose Wilson Road into the park which is on the south end. It is a good drive through the park to get to Oxbow Bend but the views are amazing and you may see wildlife along the route. This is a great way to see moose and bear along the Moose Wilson road and a short cut into the park. The road is partially paved and part gravel with many potholes. Drive slowly! But it is best you drive slowly anyway so you can watch for wildlife!


When and Where to See Wildlife in Grand Teton National Park

People always ask how to see wildlife and how do I get the photos. My advice, be PATIENT and have a good 35mm camera and zoom lens! I have a Canon Rebel T7i with a Tamron 150mm to 600mm zoom. I also have a 18mm to 400 mm Tamron lens. Good photos take time and a lot of luck. In general no matter your park or location, going out early morning just after sunrise and taking a break mid-day and then going back out around 4:00 late afternoon until dark are the best times of day to see Moose. They say that about bear too but we have seen the bear at all times of day. That does not necessarily hold true for moose. Moose tend to come and hang out in marshy areas in the evening hours. In any event, no matter what you see for wildlife, respect their distance to keep you safe and to keep them safe.


In all of my Grand Teton research they said that Oxbow Bend was a place to see moose but we didn't see one moose in that location. Moose-Wilson Road was the best location to see moose in the evening hours. You may also spot bear along that road both morning and evening. Pilgrim Creek area and Colter Bay are other areas you may see black bear or grizzly bear. 399 supposedly had a den in the Pilgrim Creek area so we spent some time driving that gravel road but never had any luck spotting her there.


YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK

Yellowstone is a much larger park than the Grand Tetons with many more sites to see. We drove from where we stayed in Victor, Idaho to Yellowstone. It was about a 2 hour drive. Points of interest are further apart and it takes much longer to drive from point to point. The points of interest are marked well in the park and their is usually ample parking. We have toured Yellowstone with our five children many years ago and did all of the points of interest. Our main purpose now is to find wildlife and take photos!


The wildlife was few and far between for us in Yellowstone. The buffalo were roaming and we saw one moose, but for the most part, we didn't see the abundance of animals that I believed we would see. But it is a beautiful park with many individual sites to tour.


Yellowstone photos from left to right: Grand Canyon of Yellowstone waterfall (4 photos); geysers along the John D. Rockefeller highway; bison along the roadside coming into the park from the south entrance on the John D. Rockefeller highway (4 photos); Moose in Lamar Valley; Mud Volcano; Eagles along the Lewis River toward the South Entrance and Old Faithful; bison along the road; and prong horn.


Photos from left to right: Bison and the traffic jam in Lamar Valley; Mammoth Hot Springs; deer at Mammoth Hot Springs; and the Moose in Lamar Valley.


Lodging near Yellowstone National Park

There are many hotels at the West Entrance of Yellowstone park. We stayed in West Yellowstone and drove into the park daily. Rooms are expensive and the small town is bustling with restaurants, supermarkets and gift shops. We stayed at the Kelly Inn. It was clean, updated and allowed dogs. Packing a picnic lunch for the day while touring the park is highly recommended. The drives are long between visitor centers and there are plenty of areas to pull off to enjoy a picnic. Watch for wildlife. We had a bison come from across the street right up to our truck.


When and Where to See Wildlife in Yellowstone

We only spent two full days in Yellowstone. We have been there before many years ago with our children and knew that the park covers many miles. There are a lot of people and it takes time to get from one end of the park to the other. Lamar Valley is where we saw the bison and the moose. We were not fortunate enough to see bear or wolves. We also wanted to see an owl and supposedly owl are abundant in Yellowstone but had no luck. I was told you need to be there at dusk and look near the bottom of the trees to see an owl. Needless to say, we weren't successful. But the key to seeing any wildlife is being at the right place at the right time and patience!


GLACIER NATIONAL PARK


We drove from West Yellowstone to Whitefish, Montana which is about 6 1/2 hour drive. We stayed in Whitefish, about 30 minutes from the entrance of Glacier National Park. The east entrance of the park into the Blackfeet Indian Reservation was closed due to COVID-19. It didn't inhibit our visit. The rest of the park was open and the vistas and views were breathtaking. The park is not wide open terrain like Yellowstone or Grand Tetons. You are driving in a mountain range winding up hill or down hill and you have to watch for mountain bikers. Personally, I still prefer the Grand Teton National Park because it is easier to get around and the wildlife are more abundant, but if you love mountain views, Glacier National is the place. We have been to the Glacier National Park on the British Columbia side in Canada and it is just as beautiful too, but due to COVID-19, we could not cross the border.

My favorite location in the park was Logan Pass. The mountain goats are usually grazing and the views are spectacular. There are several trails to walk or hike and there is a visitor center. The traffic can get very congested because of the uphill incline and the number of visitors. We visited the park two days but after driving it twice and only seeing mountain goats and no other wildlife, we decided to check out early and go back to the Grand Teton National Park.


Glacier National Park Photos from left to right: Entering the park from the west entrance and driving east toward the St. Mary's Visitor Center. There is only one main road to drive through the park so these are photos along the route.


Lodging Near Glacier National Park

We stayed at the Best Western in Whitefish, MT about 30 minutes from Glacier National Park. The rates were reasonable and they allowed pets.


When and Where to See Wildlife

We didn't have much success seeing wildlife in the Glacier National Park. We saw mountain goats but no bear or moose. The park was crowded, many cars and bikes and the trails were also crowded. We were told by Lake McDonald Lodge you could see wildlife but we didn't have the luck that day. Logan pass is where the mountain goats hang out and according to my research, a great place to see bear. Again, we didn't have much luck.


GRAND TETONS, YELLOWSTONE AND GLACIER NATIONAL PARK DRIVING ITINERARY


Denver to Glacier National Park August 2
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TIPS TO TRAVEL ECONOMICALLY AND GET THE MOST FOR YOUR TIME AND MONEY

I also get asked many times, "How do you travel so often and keep it affordable?" A few tips are below:

  • For me, planning and researching is part of the excitement of the trip! Visioning is so much fun!!!

  • I plan all of my own trips and research, research, research on the internet. I utilize TripAdvisor, Frommer's, and blogs from other travelers to find the information I need for my trip. I do ALOT of reading and researching. It takes patience to plan a good affordable trip!

  • I have a budget in mind for each trip and challenge myself to stay in the budget. Depending on the location, I typically start planning and booking hotels, cars, etc., approximately 9 months out. Hotel prices usually get more expensive the closer to the trip unless you are willing to do a last minute internet deal. Car rental and airline prices also go up the closer it is to your trip. Occasionally you can get a last minute deal but something else may be more expensive and you are really not saving. I like to plan!

  • For hotels, I use Booking.com, or Priceline.com. I look for hotels with good reviews, pay when you stay, and free cancellation in advance.

  • We have done all-inclusive in a couple of tropical locations years and years ago but found that we do not eat and drink enough to make it worth the extra expense. We like to go off site from the hotel and experience the local cuisine and traditions. We have not done all-inclusive in the last 15 years. However, all-inclusive is wonderful if you want to stay at the resort for all meals, not rent a car, and have the hotel shuttle you to your destinations. That has worked for us in Jamaica and it was very relaxing! But I would not drive in Jamaica so all-inclusive was the smartest option! If you enjoy all-inclusive, the earlier you book the trip the lower the price. Unless you are game and are not a planner, and are willing to travel where the last minute deal is advertised. Then you could get a great all-inclusive deal!

  • If we are flying, I use the Skyscanner app to check airfare prices and I try not to buy until about 60 to 75 days out. There are times where I will by earlier if the price is super reasonable. I usually do not book on Skyscanner. It will tell me the site that is the most affordable to purchase the tickets and if it is a more well known trust site, I go directly to the site to purchase the tickets. Many times Skyscanner will take you right to the airline website. Skyscanner will search all airlines and will sort by price, times, shortest trip, etc.

  • Have a credit card that gives you miles or hotel points. We will use points for many of our trips. We are American Advantage members and have an Advantage credit card. We try to fly American as often as we can to earn points and then use those points for future airline tickets. Our credit card is tied to our Advantage numbers and awards points as well.

  • We drive if the location is in the United States and we can drive and sightsee along the way. If we need to rent a car, we reserve online using Booking.com, Orbitz.com, or Priceline.com. They are usually the most reasonable. I watch for specials and never book a luxury vehicle! We also have a credit card with a low limit that we use for vehicle rentals that provides insurance as a credit card benefit. We always decline the insurance when we are in the United States. If we are traveling out of the United States, we check with the credit card if the insurance is valid internationally. We have found it is valid in Europe, Canada, U.S. Virgin Islands, but in other locations, we are forced to purchase the liability insurance from the rental car company.

  • While there are free maps online for most destinations, I always go onto Amazon and buy a map of my destination, especially if it is international. I do not buy maps for tropical Caribbean islands. I just get one when we arrive. But for countries like Costa Rica, Panama, Belize, England, Canada, Germany, France, etc., I always purchase a good map. As you do you research, you can use the map to highlight the places you want to visit and the sites you want to see. I have it as a reference later for putting my memories and photos into a photobook!




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