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   Introduction

US midwest states mapAfter a superb trip to neighouring Arizona and Utah some years earlier, a return to Colorado to explore the other side of the Rockies was always on the cards. When we looked at planning the itinerary, it became obvious that an inverted horseshoe route, taking in a more northerly area, was suited to our needs. This would then include the Rockies themselves, the Badlands of South Dakota, and most importantly, Yellowstone National Park. This meant an arrival at Denver in Colorado, and a departure from Salt Lake City. As usual in the States, distances are much greater than we are used to in the UK and even Europe as a whole, with the greatest journey being around 10 hours between Rapid City in South Dakota and Yellowstone. This did mean that we experienced a variety of impressive National Parks, with scenery and wildlife in general as the main target, and birds more or less seen as an incidental to this.

The bases used on our journey were Estes Park, which is a characterful small town right next to the entrance to the Rocky Mountain National Park, Rapid City, a functional place plonked in the centre of the Custer National Park (or Mount Rushmore if you are in the typical tourist trail!) and the Badlands, and West Yellowstone for the first few days for Yellowstone National Park (again, better for the Old Faithful brigade and also Grand Teton National Park), with a finish off in Gardiner for the North Entrance of Yellowstone (better for access to the wildlife richer North loop). We hired our car beforehand, and the midsize we wanted was inexpensive and more than adequate for its task - don't believe the usual upgrade rubbish that offers a more powerful engine for the mountains. A sat nav unit was indispensable for driving - we bought an expansion SD card for North America for our own portable Garmin unit in the UK for around 45, which was a lot cheaper than hiring at the car firm.

June is probably an ideal time to visit the area. We noticed that many of the park roads, particularly in Yellowstone, are closed right up until May, presumably due to Winter snow, which was still evident in the peaks. We had been keeping a close eye in the weather before we left and expected it to be quite cool with variable precipitation. The variability in this became evident. We had almost unbroken sunshine throughout, with temperatures up to the 90'sC in the Rockies, and 80'sC elsewhere. However, we arrived at Yellowstone in sleet and the temperature gauge showing only a few degrees above freezing. A heavy rain shower fell in Rapid City one late evening. The watch word is to be prepared - the gloves, hat and mac may be necessary at this time of year on any given visit. We did experience a few minor bites from insects, but these were generally not a nuisance.

   Accommodation



Denver - Embassy Suites. The airport seems to have been built fairly recently, and with it a clutch of attendant hotels with complementary shuttle services such as this. The free breakfast was immense, including freshly cooked omelettes and pancakes. The surroundings are worth a look prebreakfast, since the hotel is next to some open land.

Embassy Suites

Discovery Lodge

Estes Park - Discovery Lodge. This is a privately run hotel, built at the start of a run of chain lodgings, which also means it is a closer walk to town. They have an emphasis on environmental awareness, and the rooms are very comfortable. Main downside is that this was the only place we stayed at which didn't include breakfast in our booking, and had no air conditioning. On the other hand, there was quite a bit of birdlife in the back yard to keep up interest. Estes Park is not only handy for Rocky Mountain National Park, but is not a bad place to stay in itself, offering an interesting array of restaurants.

Rapid City - Best Western Town & Country. Much like the rather soulless town itself, the hotel is purely a means to an end, and no better or worse than any of the other chains along this quite busy stretch of road. Breakfast was "included" with our booking after a fight, but is merely a $5 voucher towards breakfast at the adjoining diner.

Best Western

Yellowstone Lodge

Yellowstone. We originally booked all 5 nights at the Yellowstone Lodge in West Yellowstone, since this small town is next to the more popular West entrance to the park. The room we were given was large, and the location on the edge of town, only a short walk from the rather limited choice of restaurants (Bullwinkle's is probably the pick of them). After deciding on the Wolftracker day in the park, where the favoured entrance is the North one, we had 2 nights in the Yellowstone Village Inn on the outskirts of Gardiner. This was again absolutely fine, and I would recommend taking a meal at The Mine, a family grill just across and down the road.

Yellowstone Village inn

Fairfield Suites

Salt Lake City - Fairfield Suites and Hotel. Take your pick for one of the many airport hotels here. Complentary breakfast and free airport shuttle is probably a standard, and the location and lodging suited just fine.

 

Home

Paintings gallery

Video clips

Images

DVD

Contact

Site map

Links

Content

Introduction

Rockies

Dakota

Yellowstone

Wolves

Tetons

Species list

Text only