Weekend Road trip around Olympic NP

My friend Nick and I did a road trip around Olympic NP and checked out places I had on my bucket list! Here’s some idea’s and tips for your next road trip.

We left Saturday morning around 9:30 for our first destination.

The famous Vance Creek Bridge

This is the second tallest bridge in Washington State. Spanning 422 feet across and towering 347 feet above the creek below. Walking along this bridge is exhilarating, scary and dangerous.

There are 2 approaches to this bridge. One is right off NF-23 and the other, also longer, is off NF-2341/2199 but requires you to trespass on private property owned by the logging company. We chose the first approach that allowed us to legally hike as far as the bridge but we must stay off. To make sure no one tries climb up  they put barb wire all around the edge and started to disassemble the bridge and tracks, making the climb more difficult but also more dangerous.

After finishing with the bridge, we then, visited different beaches in Olympic National Park, located on the coast.

The Tree of Life

There is an extraordinary tree hanging on for dear life, although, it should have been dead years ago! The tree of life is miraculous! It is located at Kalaloch Beach, near the Kalaloch Campground.


Ruby Beach

I have seen so many amazing pictures from this beach that I’ve been spoiled. It’s very beautiful but in my opinion it’s better to go for a sunset.

There are 2 campgrounds near Kalaloch and Ruby Beach. Kalaloch Campground is open year-round (make sure to reserve a site, especially during the summer) and  South Beach is open from Memorial Day to Late September.

After Ruby Beach we drove to Third beach where we wanted to backpack and camp. For some reason, we decided to go to Second Beach instead. 1.4 mile roundtrip.

Second Beach

Well, our plan for the night changed but it was totally worth it. I saw the most beautiful sunset. The colors of the sky, the clouds, the rock’s shapes and the reflection took my breath away! If you don’t want or can’t camp on the beach, take a flashlight and hike back at night. This is my NUMBER 1 place from this trip so far. It was so amazing to admire the sky full of stars while eating around the fire.

In the morning, we had a cloudy and grey sunrise but it was still pretty anyway. Also, the temperatures are still chilly in April. So, I didn’t sleep well because it was pretty cold and I woke up every couple hours. But it was fun anyway and a nice first experience sleeping on the beach.

We went back to Third Beach around 8:30am. We walked on the beach as far as the waterfall on the left of the beach. It was nice and relaxing but I’m very glad we changed our plan the day before and went to Second Beach instead.

Third Beach



First Beach / La Push

The beach that everyone heard about from the famous movie Twilight. I guess we had to stop and check it out 😎


Rialto Beach

It was the last place we stopped before we headed home. We had time to do more but we were so exhausted from all the driving and the night we had. We were there for about an hour and 30 min. We walked as far as some rocks on the left and had fun walking and climbing around.


Tips:

☡ It’s bear area. Be very cautious and be sure to bring bear spray even if most people don’t. If you camp you will have to bring a bear canister to keep food in. Only bear canisters are authorized and can be rented at any ranger’s station. Hanging your food is not authorized because of the raccoons.

☡ Check the tides on the Olympic National Park’s website. Especially if you go to explore the beach and the tidepools. The best is during low tides and watch for the returning tide to avoid getting trapped by a rising tide.

☡ Wear insect repellent during warm weather.

🏡 Hotel: If you don’t camp, you can use Airbnb and get $40 off for $75 spent on your first stay. Click Here

What else to see?

Well, I already did some of them or just passed for this time but here’s some ideas:

  • Shi Shi Beach
  • Ozette Triangle
  • Cape Flattery
  • Lake Crescent
  • Port Angeles
  • Forks (if you are a fan of twilight 😉)

 

 

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Grand Teton

You will never forget the beauty of the Grand Teton

Grand Teton National Park is located in Nothwestern Wyoming in the U.S and only 10 miles south of Yellowstone National Park. It is named for Grand Teton, the tallest mountain in the Teton Range at 13,770 feet. Also, it’s a popular destination for mountaineering, hiking and fishing.

How to get there?

If you went to Yellowstone National Park before, then you will drive by the Yellowstone’s south entrance to get the North entrance. The road is closed from early November to mid-May. Otherwise, you can enter at the east entrance or the south entrance.

The nearest airport is Jackson Hole Airport (JAC) located at the base of the Park. It’s 5h drive from Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC).

Where to sleep?

Camping: There are 6 campgrounds in the park. They operate on a first-come, first-served. Advance reservations are not accepted. Campground fees change each year. Only revervations for group camping are accepted at some campgrounds through the Grand Teton Lodge at 307-543-3296. Campgrounds are open from early May to mid-October depending on the campgrounds. During the winter, primitive camping is allowed in the plowed parking lot adjacent to the Colter Bay Visiter Center for $5 per night from December 1 to April 15.

Other campsites are available near and outside of the park.

Backcountry camping: A trip into the backcountry requires planning in advance. All backcountry camping requires a permit.  They are issued on a first-come, first served basis for $25 no more than 1 day before the start of your trip. You can apply at the Colter Bay and Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Centers, and at the Jenny Lake Ranger Stations. For advance reservations you can book through Recreation.gov from the first Wednesday in January through May 15. Fees are $35. Also, bear-proof canisters are required for overnight stays.

Lodge: all details on Grand Teton’s website

What to do?

Many activities are offered but the most famous are climbing & Mountaineering, hiking and fishing.

  • Climbing & Mountaineering: No permit required
  • Hiking: Hundreds of miles of hiking trails wind around the lakes and through the mountains
  • Fishing: A license is required according to Wyoming state laws
  • Backcountry camping
  • Wildlife viewing
  • Scenic drives
  • Boating & floating
  • Biking
  • Horse back riding
  • Cross-country skiing & snowshoeing
  • Ranger Programs
  • Concessioner activities: buzinesses and organizations licenced to provide visitor activities

 

Safety

This is a bear country. Always carry bear spray and make bears aware of your presence.

Be prepared for rapid weather changes.

 

My experience

Grand Teton National Park was a part of the road trip we did with Yellowstone in June 2016. We drove there from Yellowstone’s South entrance at the end of the day. The scenery was spectacular. The Teton range took my breath away. The sky was cloudy and the light came through them. We spent 2 days there.

We stopped at the Visitor Center and asked a ranger where we could find a campsite available, which was Gros Ventre Campsite located near the south entrance and the airport. We were lucky to find a spot that late of the day. However, we were less fortunate the next day and had to drive about 1h outside of the park.

Day 1

I wanted to challenge myself and Grand Teton was a good place for that. Amphitheater Lake was our destination, which starts at the Lupine Meadows Trailhead. But we decided to start at Taggart Lake Trailhead and reach the Valley Trail Junction to get there.

Taggart Lake Trailhead

At the very beginning of the trail we took a right and walked a mile before we had to take another right and walked another mile as far as Bradley Lake. 

Bradley Lake

Then, we walked 1.5 miles and reached the Valley Trail Junction. A turn to the right would lead us to the original Trailhead. We took a left to continue on towards Amphitheater Lake. The trail made a strenuous climb over a couple switchbacks. As we were climbing higher, views of Jackson Hole became even more prominent and both Bradley and Taggart Lakes came into view as well.

Views of Jackson Hole, Bradley Lake (left) and Taggart Lake (right)

After 1.3 miles we took a right and walked about 2 miles. Finally, we reached the short side trail that leads to surprise Lake, which offers an outstanding view of Grand Teton from its southeastern shore. It was only a quarter-mile walk to reach Amphitheater Lake, so we decided to come back there later and swim.

Surprise Lake

Amphitheater Lake lies in a cirque basin below Disappointment Peak. My friend and I climbed on the side of the lake to get a higher view of it. Also, we had a great view of Jackson Hole and Taggart Lake.

On our way down, just before Bradley Lake, we kept going straight instead of taking a left, which was the trail we took earlier. That allowed us to see Taggart Lake before getting back to the parking lot.

Taggart Lake

I recorded this hike but my phone shut down about 30min shortly after.

Recorded: 15 mile – 3,697 feet elevation gain – Total time 7h30 – Moving time 5h

I recommend starting your hike as early in the morning as possible to avoid the hight temperature during the climb.

We wanted to find a spot at Jenny Lake Campground and be closer for our hike the next day. Unfortunately we couldn’t find one, although we tried to find one early before the hike. After the hike, we tried to find a spot at Gros ventre Campground where we spent the night before, but this time we didn’t get one. Probably because it was Saturday. We had to drive about 1h on Gros Ventre Rd to find a spot outside of the park.

Day 2

We took it easy on day two and chose to do Jenny Lake, which is the 2nd largest lake in the park, and String Lake. They are 2 different hikes but we wanted to combine both. Also, they are very easy and mostly flat. We started at Jenny Lake Visitor Center and headed south.

After about a mile, we took a junction that leaded to Inspiration Point. We had a nice and panoramic view of Jenny Lake by gaining about 500 feet elevation.

Inspiration Point

Then, we walked back down to Jenny lake and reached String Lake by crosing a bridge.

I looked at back on the Grand Teton while heading to Spring Lake

We did the loop, which was about 3.7 miles. 

String Lake

Finally we finished the loop of Jenny Lake by the north, which was my favorite of Jenny Lake cause we had a view of the mountains.

I also recorded this hike but unfortunately my phone shut down again. I couldn’t record the entire loop of String Lake. About 1.3 miles are missing, which I drew in black.

Recorded: 10,9 mile – 1,037 feet elevation gain – 5:10 Total time  – Moving time 3:40

Also, there is a shuttle boat that takes you from the Visitor Center to the other side of the lake.


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Yellowstone

The oldest National Parks in the world!

Yellowstone National Park was created in 1872. The park is located in the U.S state of Wyoming. A small part of the park is located in Montana and Idaho. It is known for its wildlife and its many geothermal features. The park contains about half the world’s geysers. Also, you probably know or heard about the Grand Prismatic Spring, which is the largest spring in the park and the 3rd largest spring in the world.

Did you know that Yellowstone National Park is an active super volcano?

You may not see any volcanoes but that’s because much of the entire park is a volcano.



How to get there?

Most people stop by Yellowstone while roadtripping in the USA. They also add Grand Teton National Park to their trip, which is located South of Yellowstone. There are 5 entrance stations but only 2 are open year-round (North and Northeast entrances). Read about access at each station at different times of year on the Yellowstone National Park’s website.

The nearest commercial airlines are located in Cody and Jackson (Wyoming), Bozeman and Billings (Montana) and Idaho Falls (Idaho). They serve round-year. The West Yellowstone airport is serviced from June to early September from Salt Lake City.

Where to sleep?

Camping is the best way to experience Yellowstone. Either inside the park or outside if campgrounds are full. There are 12 campgrounds (over 2,000 campsites) into the park, 5 reservation campgrounds and 7 first-come, first-served campgrounds. Prices range from $15 to $47.75. To make a reservation Click here

Backcountry camping & hiking: Yellowstone has a designated backcountry campsite system, and a Backcountry Use Permit is required for all over night stays. You can obtain your permit at the visitor centers or ranger stations, only in person and no more than 48h in advance of your trip. However, you can reserve your backcountry campsites in advance. For more information, visit Yellowstone National Park’s website.

Lodging: 9 lodging facilities are in the park (more than 2,000 rooms) but only 2 are open in the winter. To make a reservation Click here

What to do?

Depends on the season. Here’s a list of what you can do:

  • Snowmobile & Snowcoach Tours
  • Skiing and Snowshoeing
  • Backcountry camping & hiking
  • Day hiking
  • Bicycling (Spring & Fall)
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Guided Tour: a large choice of services are offered. Backpacking, biking, day hiking, boating, fishing, ski and snowshoeing, painting & photography tours
  • Ranger Programs
  • Horseback riding

 

Safety

Yellowstone is a “dangerous” place. Here’s some rules:

◇ The animals are wild and should never be approched. Always stay at least 100 yards (91m) away from wolves and bears (carry bear spray), and at least 25 yards (23m) away from all other animals. Bison have injured more people in Yellowstone than any animal and they can sprint 3 times faster than humans can run.

From Lamar Valley

◇ Stay on boardwalks and trails in thermal areas. Hot Springs have injured and killed more people in Yellowstone than any other natural feature. You might of heard about the man who died after falling into a scalding hot spring in June 2016.

My experience

It was a road trip from Seattle, which is where I live. It was about 13h drive. My friend Dylan and I spent 5 days at Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park in June 2016. We didn’t hike that much in Yellowstone. It was mostly a drive from point to another point and walk on the boardwalks to admire geysers, hot springs and mudpots.

North Entrance

How much did it cost?

This trip was pretty cheap. We used my friend’s car, so we didn’t have to rent one. We camped every night, which was about $10-15 per night. We mostly had to pay for food and gas, about $400 for both of us.

Day 1

We arrived a bit after 12 pm and started with Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces. It’s a walk on boardwalks above steaming thermal features. We spent about 1h there.

Then, we drove on Lamar Valley, which is known for its wildlife. This is where I saw a bison for the first time. It was an exciting experience. We saw a bear (very far away), a Pronghorn, a bull moose and other animals.

Lamar Valley

Black bear

Bull moose

After that, we had to drive outside of the park to find a place to sleep because all campsites were full. We found one about 20min drive from the North entrance.

Day 2

We started the day early and stopped at these places:

Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces (again) it was a bit different to see in the morning. The steam was more dense probably due to a colder temperature in the morning than in the afternoon.

 ◇ Norris Geyser Basin: It’s a nice 2.25 miles in the hottest and most changeable thermal area in Yellowstone. We did the whole tour in 2 different areas called Porcelain Basin and Back Basin. It was really impressive and beautiful. Each feature was totally different from all the others. We spent about 1h30 there.

Porcelain Basin
Back Basin

◇ Artists Paintpots, which is a 1 mile trail winds through brightly colored mudspots, geysers and steam vents. We spent about 30 min there.

Lower Geyser Basin: This is the largest Geyser Basin in Yellowstone. It’s scattered over a fairly large area and features regularly-erupting geysers, hot springs, and a mud pool. We walked on Fountain Paint Pot Nature Trail and saw various hydrothermal features.

》Great Fontain Geyser and White Dome Geyser are located on the Firehole Lake Drive in the Lower Geyser Basin Area. Unfortunately we didn’t have a chance to see them erupt. Predictions are posted at the Old Faithful Visitor Center.

White Dome Geyser

Midway Geyser Basin: This is where we could admire the beautiful and famous Grand Prismatic Spring. I went to Yellowstone especially for this place. It was on my bucket list since I saw it online before I came to the U.S.

Also, we saw Excelsior Geyser.  The blue color of the water is incredible and will make you wish you could swim in it but the temperature reaches 199°F (93°C) 😱😅

We spent about 30min, walking on boardwalks, which is a 0.8 mile heavily trafficked loop trail.

Upper Geyser Basin has the highest concentration of geysers in the world and includes Old Faithful Geyser (see below). We only walked on boardwalks of Biscuit Basin. Then, we went to the Visitor Center where the Old Faithful Geyser is located.

 Sapphire Pool at Biscuit Basin
Sapphire Pool

》Old Faithful Geyser is the most famous geyser in the world. It’s a frequent and predictable geyser that erupts once approximately every 45 to 90 min, depending on the duration of the previous eruption, which is about 1.5 to 5min and a height of 110-185 ft. We had a chance to see the eruption. It was really cool.

Finally we spent the night in a campsite outside of the Park about 45min drive from the West Entrance.
This day was breath taking. We saw so much in a day. I had never seen places like this before.

Day 3

Mud Volcano

We stopped by Mud Volcano before we went hiking at Avalanche Peak, which is a short and steep hike, 4.2 mile round trip with 2,100 ft of elevation gain.

It has stunning views of the surrounding peaks and Yellowstone Lake at 10,566 ft elevation.

While the crowd was around the geysers and hot springs, we shared the top with a french couple with who I could speak french with 😉 We hung out there about 30 min before we hiked down and drove at Grand Teton National ParkNew blog post is coming soon

Other things to see?

Yellowstone National has more than 900 miles of hiking trails. Here’s other places I wanted to see but didn’t have time:

Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Uncle Tom’s Trail Hike to Lower Falls

Yellowstone River

Mt Washburn: strenuous 6.2 mile round trip, elevation 10,243 feet (3 122m). Stunning views from the summit fire tower.

 

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