Yellowstone: In 2 Hours.

Have you even been so close to somewhere amazing but didn’t have the time to stop and enjoy it? This happened to us last summer which east bound on I-90. We needed to make it to Rapid City, SD by dinner time the next night in order to meet up with family for a surprise birthday party for our son. Our schedule was tight but not so tight that we couldn’t have a little fun. We had a handful of hours to spare and happen to be miles from the north entrance to Yellowstone. So, what did we do? We drove through, of course. Was it worth it? Yes!

We arrived at the entrance around dinner, ordered a pizza, walked around the village, and took the obligatory pictures by the Roosevelt Arch. We happened to head out on our drive through the park shortly before dusk. This was the beginning of our 2 hour Yellowstone tour. Here are a few reasons that these few hours were well spent!

Mammoth Hot Springs

As far as site seeing goes, this one is not overrated. After dinner and early in the season we were able to see everything we wanted to see without crowds or hassles. The kids were amazed, we were reminded about its simple beauty, and everyone was happy.

Gardiner, MT

Gardiner is the type of cowboy town that kids love. Elk are everywhere. The Roosevelt Arch is welcoming. The take out pizza is great. Cold drinks are easy to find. I hope to spend a day or two there next time we travel through.

Wildlife Viewing

Our 2 hour driving tour went from Gardiner to Mammoth Hot Springs and on to Norris. From there, we headed east to Fishing Bridge and on to Cody, WY. Since we are not avid photographers and aren’t prone to taking wildlife tours, it was not immediately obvious to us that pretty much any drive through Yellowstone at dusk would offer a whole new perspective on wildlife viewing. The elk herds and black bears being pursued by tourists at the park entrance were no match for what we were about to see. (Please do not chase the wildlife by the way. We have seen this so many times and it is not appropriate! or safe.)

The street was lined with cars and spectators waiting for once in a lifetime experiences. We found ourselves being escorted by a herd of buffalo. Things changed from fun and interesting to amazing and unbelievable when the herd crossed the road and dropped down into a valley to swim across a fast moving river. The young buffalo were especially nerve racking to watch as I am not convinced that buffalo are not really built for swimming.

A few miles later we found the usual cars and spectators but the atmosphere had changed. Rather than sitting and looking, everyone was standing and pointing. Our van slowed to a crawl and we learned that a pack of wolves was up ahead. This was my first official wolf sighting and it was awesome! From our van, we saw a wolf running on the hill. With the help of a friendly bystander’s super powerful binoculars, I got a solid look at its face and body. I am sure it was looking at me!

Yellowstone

We made it to Cody, WY in the dark but still in good time to sleep and get ready for another day on the road. Our spontaneous 2 hour tour of Yellowstone left us inspired and wanting more! Not only did the kids stamp their National Park Passport books but they also checked out a famous hot springs, saw young buffalo swim, watched tourists chase black bears around a ranger station, ate pizza next to a field of elk, and saw their first wolf. That’s not bad for a few hour side trip!

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Grant Kohrs Ranch: Don’t Miss This Stop!

Grant Kohrs Ranch: Don’t Miss This Stop!

It can be hard to find quick and fun places to stop when traveling on an interstate. One day when the kids were restless, hungry, and road-weary, we happened to find Grant Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site. It was the best part of our day and a great memory from our trip.

Here are some reasons to stop at Grant-Kohrs Ranch.

1. It is close to I-90.

The ranch is easily accessible from the interstate and is 3.5 hours from Glacier National Park to the west and Yellowstone National Park to the east.

There is a large parking lot, restrooms, and water. We enjoyed a picnic lunch next to our van after our ranch tour. We felt rested and ready to hit the road again by the time we were done. It was great!

2. The kids can try using a lasso while the parents try cowboy coffee.

Wood crates, designed for lasso practice, are spread out in an open space between barns.

A cowboy makes coffee at a chuck wagon. Sip your drink while hearing stories of real life on the trail! Check out the chuck wagon to find out what people were eating and drinking. Imagine cooking with the tools they had and eating out on the prairie.

3. Get your National Park stamps and Junior Ranger badges at Grant Kohrs Ranch.

4. Take a self-guided tour of historic buildings.

Tour a barn that has been in use since 1870 and a stable that was built in 1883. Grant Kohl’s is a working ranch so you never know what you will see!

Signs offer info about each item on the ranch. Tools, old wagons, horse shoes, saws, clothes, chairs, beds.

5. Take a guided tour of the ranch house.

Check out the Ranger tours to get a more in depth look inside some of the historic houses.

6. See a blacksmith at work.

Watch a blacksmith using old style techniques. We spent most of our time here and it was fun to watch real hooks and tools being made.

See real tools being made over a coal fire! It was tons of fun and we learned a lot!

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