Four Days in Northwest Wyoming

Wyoming is a vast and beautiful state that seems to have as many grizzlies as people, with a population of only about half a million. Being bear aware was the primary message we encountered – making us a little nervous, but we managed to get out alive. If visiting this state, do read up on bear awareness!

On our first day in Northwest Wyoming, we headed into the Bighorn National Forest, with much more dramatic mountains than we anticipated!

We had read about a Boondocking site at Elgin Park Trailhead, but on our way to hike the Sherd and Rainy Lake Loop Trail, we found another spot that was just as good on the way into the trailhead! It was Labor Day weekend and Wyomingites were out to play.

After setting up our camper, we headed down the dirt road to the Circle Park Trailhead and began the hike. We couldn’t find reliable information about this trail, but can say that it turned out to be about 7 miles round trip from the trailhead to Rainy Lake and back.

That night, we returned to camp and were delightfully surprised to meet our WONDERFUL neighbors, Ernie and Gloria, who shared their campfire, tales, and food with us.

 

On our second day, we had planned to head further west, but since we loved our campsite and neighbors so much, we opted to stay put and drive to another trailhead with a popular hike to the Mirror and Lost Twin Lakes. The trail was GORGEOUS but tough for us at the higher elevation. As we met people en route, they all looked at us dubiously that we planned to hike out and back in one day. However, we made it!

After our tough day, we were so thankfully surprised that Gloria had made extra dinner of sausages, salad, and potatoes for us! We cannot say enough about how much we love these people.

After dinner, Ernie took us for a carriage ride on Tina, his mule.

On our third day, we said goodbye to our neighbors and headed out of the Bighorn National Forest but encountered some brake issues on the way west on US 14. There is a 9 mile 6% grade as you leave the forest and it really stressed the brakes on our car and camper.

Once safely down, we had to spend the rest of the day at brake shops getting repairs in Cody, Wyoming…so not a thrilling day. However, we were very glad to have working brakes before heading into much larger mountains.

To continue our maintenance day, we also finally got our new cushions we’d had shipped to our campground just east of Yellowstone for the evening, so that was also very exciting!

On our fourth day, we left for Yellowstone National Park very early, arriving in the park around 6:30am in order to beat the crowds and get a head start on the giant traffic circle that is Yellowstone.

We planned to drive the Grand Loop, since we have Chip and dogs aren’t allowed anywhere but parking lots in Yellowstone. We started at the East Entrance and drove to Fishing Bridge, starting around the loop clockwise. Our tour started with gorgeous views of Yellowstone Lake with morning fog hanging just on the water.

 

Our first stop was West Thumb Geysir Basin, where we got to walk a little bit out onto the lake to see some of the park’s incredible thermal activity.

Next, we drove on to Old Faithful, but we chose not to wait since Chip was in the car. The next expected explosion wasn’t for another hour or so.

On the west side of the loop, we stopped to see the Fairy Falls and the INCREDIBLE Grand Prismatic Spring (very recommended). At this stop, there is a little walkway up and around a few geysirs and the spring gives off an incredible light display.

 

By the time we hit the north side of the park, cars abounded and parking was sparse. We stopped at the Artist’s Paint Pots, but they are honestly skippable.

As we rounded the northeast corner of the loop, we stopped for views of the Upper Falls and Grand Canyon.

The waterfall views were complimented by buffalo as we continued our route south back to the Fishing Bridge.

 

For our final stop before leaving the park, we viewed the Mud Volcano (because it sounded cool). It was a plopping bubble of mud, which was cool as was the adjacent Dragon Cave.

Driving around the park with all the cars is a full day and exhausting experience, especially for Chip who couldn’t enjoy any of the spectacular beauty. So, we left the park and stopped at the Pahaska Trailhead to hike the Pahaska Sunlight Trail before heading back to our campground for the evening.

 

We write these travel stories for our own records, but also to help anyone hoping to plan a trip. For more insight into our Wyoming explorations, please also check out our corresponding YouTube episode.

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