Monday, September 11, 2017

A Trip to Yellowstone National Park - Traveling to the Park

We stayed in the town of Cody, WY.  Travel to Yellowstone is pretty straight forward by taking route 14/16/20 west.  It's a straight shot.

Before we get into too much of the trip in and the time of day travels, let me get this out of the way.

Cell phone service.  
We all rely on our cell phones.  Not only for communication, but for GPS, maps and data service.   About 10-15 miles out from Cody, you'll notice that the cell service is very spotty at best and usually non-existent.  Make sure that you have a basic grasp of how to use a map.  Cell service is not only spotty on the trip to the park, but within the confines if the park as well.    The higher elevations and the major areas like Mammoth, Old Faithful have better service....but for the most part don't expect it or rely on it.

If you want to use an electronic map of some kind I recommend using a dedicated GPS (I chose the Garmin Oregon 600t) or a car GPS.  The paper map they give you at the entrance of the park worked well for us too, getting to oriented and driving in the right direction when you are ready to go from place to place.

For those interested, I have Verizon as my cell service provider.  I did have a few people ask me about my reception.  There were places that we got a goo enough 4G signal that my wife was able to video call her family in Ohio.  Some others stated that they got no service anywhere in the park.  Your mileage will vary depending on the device and service provider.

Travel from our Airbnb lair to Yellowstone

It is roughly 52 miles from Cody to the East Entrance, so just under an hour of travel time.  While this might seem like a bit of a pain, the drive is very easy and the views will keep you entertained the whole time.  Wyoming provides "pullouts" for slower traffic to use which minimizing the need to pass on a double yellow line.

This part of Wyoming is "wild" or at least "wilder" than most of us are probably used to driving through.  Deer of all kinds, pronghorn all roam about freely.  While we did see some during the day, at sunrise/sunset and at night the animal sightings on the road increase.   So make sure that you are hyper aware on the roads.  Follow all directions on the road signs as well.

Once you get to the any of the entrances, you are looking at another 20-25 minutes until you get to what is called the Grand Loop.  This grand loop will take you through all the major sites in Yellowstone.

Here are some views you'll see coming through the East Entrance road:
1/125, f/8, ISO 2200 @ 70mm

1/400, f/8, ISO 100 @ 75mm

Overlooking Yellowstone Lake
1/250, f/11, ISO 100 @ 27mm
Not only do you have views, but there are also some stops you can make along the way.  You drive through Shoshone National Forest, Buffalo Bill Dam and National Park.  You'll also see a diverting road called South Fork, which provides a great drive and some very scenic sites that are worth your time.

Other Entrances
We took an alternative route on day, going to the Northeast Entrance.  The views there were fantastic as well.    The road called Chief Joseph Highway, is a lot more challenging to drive.  it takes you north and west into the lower section of Montana through Cooke City and Silver Gate.  We wake up extra early to take the 2 hour drive through this roadway, ate breakfast in a little restaurant in Silver Gate.  Below is a picture of a store across the street from the restaurant.  Also, note that cell phone service through most of the Chief Joseph Highway is non-existent.

Taken with my Google Nexus 6p and stock camera app
Timing
By timing, I am referring to when you go to and leave Yellowstone.  The earlier you leave, the less likely you are to run into any kind of heavy traffic.  We noticed that if you are traveling in around 10am, there were a lot of slower vehicles (RV, larger trucks).   We also noticed that late August/early September, the early morning and later evening temperatures are a lot less warm.   The high temp for the day generally peaked around noon-1pm - stayed constant, then dropped around 5-6pm.

Another thing about the temperature - Cody versus Yellowstone.  Cody tends to be a bit warmer than Yellowstone - sometimes a difference of 20-25F.   It was nothing to see 90F in Cody, only to travel to Yellowstone and it be 75-80F.  Make sure to check the temperatures in the destination.
The locals refer to the region as the "high desert", so expect fluctuations in temperature as the normal there.    Low humidity can also be unpleasant.   Being from Ohio where it can get quite humid, it was a bit of an adjustment.  Sinus issues from the low humidity as well as the dusty/windy conditions caused me to rely on my allergy medications more than I had expected.

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