Having not seen anywhere close to all I wanted to while we were in Jackson but short on time, we packed up our room, went out for breakfast and headed north on US 26 towards Yellowstone. I wasn't really sure what to expect as we drove up, but the Tetons were just outside of the drivers side window and I hoped the next stop was a stunning as this was.
When we first entered the park through the south gate, there were lots of trees. They were certainly nice, but there was not the big, expansive views I was hoping for. As we drove a little further (and higher up) the trees started to get a little sparser and the views a little bigger. The closer we got to our lodge in Grant Village, more of the picturesque National Park started to show itself.
Once we arrived at Grant Village, we dropped our bags off and started exploring the park. We were there for four days and I knew that I still wouldn't have enough time to see everything I wanted to so we had to get started right away. Pulling out of the long, winding path from the driveway we saw our first elk. As any Kansan with a camera would do in their first hour in Yellowstone, I stopped the car, got out and took about fifty pictures of the elk just standing their eating. Once I was satisfied I had captured every conceivable angle, back in the car I went and off to do more exploring. We didn't get thirty more feet when we saw another three elk roaming around. Lesson learned, there were lots of wildlife in the park and most of it was right by the road...you don't have to stop every time you see one. But, as you can imagine, I usually did.
I wanted to find a spot to see the sunrise the morning of my 40th birthday. A little internet research before we left and some driving around lead me to the West Thumb Geyser Basin. It turned out to be one of the best decisions of the trip. I couldn't have asked for a better sunrise with the steam coming off the lake and a singular cloud over the mountains to give it some color. Also, no tourists. Getting up at sunrise is the way to beat traffic and see the most wildlife in the park.
Later that day and the following days we continued to drive around, and that's how we found my two favorite spots, Lamar Valley and Hayden Valley. The amount of wildlife in these two areas is more than I have seen in my entire life and I could have spent our whole trip there. There were bison, pronghorns, elk, badgers, bears and big horn sheep.
Tourist season from mid June to Labor Day is the busiest with time with literal traffic jams on the roads but if you can get there before or after that and can get up early, you will see the park few others get to.