Travel Guide: Top 20 Musts in Yellowstone National Park & the Grand Tetons

Hey guys!! Russ and I just got back from an awe-inspiring trip in the Midwest. We traveled between 4 states over 6 days to see some of the prettiest part of this country and I wanted to share a little behind the scenes action about our trip with you guys just in case you’ve been itching to plan a trip here too! Below, I have listed some of my absolute must-sees if you are interested in making the most of an adventure of this magnitude. Because, trust me, there is just so much to see.

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  1. Fly into Salt Lake City in the afternoon and Book a place in Island Park, Idaho.  It’s a little under 4 hour drive but the sunsets in Utah are worth it.  Island Park is a small recreational town located in Targhee National Forest conveniently located 30 minutes outside of the West Yellowstone entrance. Salt Lake City, Utah

Day One:

2. Once you’re settled in, make the drive from Island Park to Mesa Falls.  The Upper Falls of the Henrys Fork River measure at 114 feet high and 200 feet wide. It is is impressive to say the least.  There is a small museum and gift shop located on the property that adds to the history of this beautiful place.

3. Spend your first day in Yellowstone National entering through the West Yellowstone Gate and head North. We bypassed the Norris area and headed straight to Mammoth Hot Springs to see the boiling water rush over the travertine terraces. The short drive above them is a safe vantage point for those with little ones. We chose to stay on the boardwalks of the Lower Terrace.

4. Next stop, the Lamar Valley, where we hit a traffic jam. The buffalo were feet away from our car.  As they grazed, I hung out the window and took photos. Though there were some brave souls who were getting WAY TOO CLOSE to these wild animals, I had no plans of being stampeded or worse. These animals are unpredictable, wild. I can’t stress that enough.

5. After spending the afternoon in the Lamar Valley, we headed back to the Roosevelt Lodge and then on to Tucker Tower. This is where we caught our first glimpse of the Yellowstone River. I also snagged a few ornaments at the gift shop because I do this everywhere we go. Our tree is getting quite cluttered.

We made our way south to one of the park’s biggest attractions, The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. We didn’t have the best light in the afternoon so I’d recommend aiming for closer to sunset but it was a sight to see. Though we stopped at multiple vantage points, Artist’s Point was the last stop and where we spent the majority of our time.

6. From Artist’s Point we headed to the Artist Paintpots. This particular stop was full of geothermal features such as boiling mud pots, geysers and fumaroles. We hiked the whole path, staying on the boardwalks AT ALL TIMES. Again, DANGER. This place is full of unpredictable elements. Trust me, you don’t want to be the one who slips off the boardwalk into one of these bad boys. Also, don’t read Death in Yellowstone. You’ll have nightmares like I did.

7. Spend the rest of your drive back to Island Park stopping to see animals. At dusk, these guys are all over the place. We saw coyote, moose, elk, deer, you name it. Also, carry Bear Spray if you plan on walking around in this backcountry.

8. Put some time aside to enjoy the sunset on your way out of West Yellowstone. This one goes out to all my photographer friends. Don’t miss out on this opportunity. The animals are one thing but we had the opportunity to view an impressive sunset too!

Let’s Recap: Enter West Yellowstone, Mammoth Hot Springs, animal sightings in the Lamar Valley, Grand Canyon, Artists’ Paintpots & Sunset! On our way out, we stopped at Wild West Pizzeria. The pizza was the perfect pair for a pitcher of PBR and I kid you not, it is a Steelers bar! 6 Time Super Bowl Champs baby!

Day Two:

9. Wake up early and head back into the Park through the West Entrance and head straight to the Upper Geysir Basin. If you hit it early enough, you don’t have to see another person while you view this impressive landscape. We chose to stop and walk the boardwalks to view the geysers and geothermal pools.

10. The Grand Prismatic Spring. I had seen photos of it but until you are in its’ presence, you couldn’t possible appreciate its’ beauty. We opted to skip the up-close and take the hike to Fairy Falls. At just under 2 miles, this short hike gave us the opportunity to view the Spring at a more aerial view. Though I did huff and puff making my way up to the viewing platform, I am so happy we got to see this. The colors were so vibrant. Seriously, don’t miss this.

11. Old Faithful! This is probably the park’s largest attraction. We didn’t hang around for the explosion but you get the gist. Stop at the famed Lodge for lunch and wait out the 90 minutes in between eruptions to see this natural phenomenon in all its’ glory.

12. We couldn’t resist heading south for a glimpse of the Grand Tetons. We chose to have lunch at Jackson Lake Lodge. We split the burger and pickled veggies. After lunch, we made our way to Jenny Lake for a scenic cruise. Though the wildfires in Montana made our view nearly impossible, the smoky haze somehow enhanced the raw beauty of the mountains’ jagged edges. Tip for first timers: Bring a jacket or a blanket for the ride.

13. After our boat ride, we exited the park and made our way to Mormon Row, a famed photographic must-see. This abandoned barn is located on a dirt road that directly backs up to an impressive view of the Grand Tetons.  We encountered pronghorn and a small family farm lined with a colorful assortment of blooms.

14. Once the sun had gone down, we began making our way towards Jackson Hole. We took a drive around town and decided to start making our way towards Idaho. We made it back to Island Park just in time to grab a pitcher of PBR and a chicken sandwich at the Trout Hunter.

 Let’s Recap: Upper Geysir Basin, hike Fairy Falls to view the Grand Prismatic Spring, Old Faithful, lunch at Jackson Lake Lodge, Grand Tetons, Jenny Lake scenic boat cruise, Mormon Row, drive around Jackson Hole and dinner at the Trout Hunter.

Day Three:

15. We woke up late after a long night at the campfire and chose to spend the day exploring Idaho & Wyoming. We headed to Hebgen Lake and Quake Lake, a historic site known as the Night of Terror. When an earthquake hit around midnight on August 17th, 1959, 28 people died in the aftermath when Hebgen Lake shifted 19 feet and the quake swallowed its’ surroundings. Though exquisitely beautiful, this place still has an eery feel to it. After exploring a portion of the Madison River, we stopped at the Happy Hour Bar for a quick Arnold Palmer and relaxed by the lake for the first time!

16+17. We spent our morning touring lakes and we spent our afternoon kayaking 2 of Island Park’s wonders, the Box Canyon and the Snake River. Thankfully, the latter brought us right back to our dock. During our float, we saw Moose, Osprey, Elk and a whole lot of trout. Whether you’re in the mood to fly-fish or to animal watch, this place had more than enough options.

18. After a long day on the river, we chose to have dinner around the campfire with our host. He gave us a tour of his property including his sheep camp! This antique was used by Basque immigrants who worked the land as shepherds and farmers as cozy, mobile shelters. In fact, it was so comfortable, we couldn’t get his dog Colter out of the bed.

19. After dinner, we made our way down to the dock to let our hosts’ dog play in the Snake River while we watched the sun set. Colter frolicked along the dock and we watched the osprey fly over the vibrant sky. #19 Don’t Miss a Sunset! This is the one thing I was most thankful for on this trip. Time to sit back and enjoy the night rolling in.

Let’s Recap: Drive to Hebgen and Quake Lake, stop at Happy Hour Bar, Kayak Box Canyon, Kayak the Snake River, photo shoot with my favs on the dock during sunset, beers around the campfire.

Day Four:

20. Last, but not least…Idaho Falls! On our way to the airport in Salt Lake City, we pitstopped for lunch along the riverwalk in Idaho Falls. August had been kind to the flora surrounding the impressive falls. We stopped to see the Latter Day Saints Temple and reflected on what an amazing trip this has been!

I hope this article was helpful to anyone who is planning a trip in this area! If you have any questions about this wondrous place or any of the other places we’ve been this year, feel free to reach out. Email me (therustienailhead@gmail.com) with any and all inquiries because I would love to help you plan your next big adventure! Where would you like to see The Rustie Nail head to next? Leave your suggestions in the comments below.

Travel Guide to Broken Bow, Oklahoma

Hey y’all!! We are back with our 2nd Edition of our Travel Guides on the Blog! You all loved our Girl’s Guide to an East Coast Trip so much that we decided to add another Guide to the series. A little over a month ago now, Tiffany,  of Wanderlust Floral Designs, and I made our way north of DFW to Broken Bow Lake in Oklahoma. This quaint town, located at the foothills of the Ouachita Mountains, is the perfect place for family vacations, peaceful retreats and even a little adventure. We had a blast exploring McCurtain County and I just wanted to share some tips on where to stay, what to eat and how to get the most out of a small getaway like this.

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Where to Stay: Lakeview Lodge at Beaver’s Bend State Park 

This state-owned facility is exactly what your family is looking for. Each room has a gorgeous view of the lake from your very own balcony. Continental breakfast is included and we managed to snag a Groupon for our stay which made it Uber affordable, around $50/night. For more information on how to stay here, give the front desk a call at (580) 494 6179 or head to TravelOK.com. Word to the Wise: Beware of Spring Break!

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Where to Stay: Rent a Cabin for the Week

Though we did not opt for a cabin, we were lucky enough to meet some locals and check out their digs during our stay. Jerry Isbell of Mountain Vista Luxury Cabins was nice enough to offer up some information on how to rent a cabin/cabins in the Broken Bow area. We encourage you to download their app and check out their Blog for more information on this versatile area.

Jerry & Sherri Isbell
Mountain Vista Luxury Cabin
http://www.BeaversBendVacations.com
info@beaversbendvacations.com
Where to Eat: Grateful Head
I will head back to this place every time I am in the area. This hippie shack, located about a mile from Lakeview Lodge, is the ultimate hangout for friends and family. The walls are decorated with Jerry Garcia and Grateful Dead memorabilia, as well as a few bobcats hanging from the ceiling. An outdoor patio with thousands of twinkly lights and space heaters makes it the ultimate oasis for anyone looking for a good beer and some really fantastic wood-fired pizza. Bands play out on the deck and the gift shop offers the absolute softest t-shirts around if you are in need of a souvenir. We recommend the Psychedelic Supremo or the Tree Hugger paired with one of the Beaver’s Bend Brews.
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Where to Eat: The Blue Rooster
Located in the same parking lot as the Grateful Head, the Blue Rooster is chalk full of southern charm. The menu consists of everything southern fried; chicken, Gulf shrimp, catfish, green tomatoes. The service was great and the Bloody Mary’s were the ultimate way to start off our trip. Plan on spending your night out on their patio with one of the many Oklahoma craft brews that are available at the bar. We recommend the Fried Chicken dinner!
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Where to Eat: Abendigo’s
This place is definitely one of the fancier places to dine in Broken Bow. Tiffany and I rolled into this joint late one night to catch the end of the Rangers game and could not have been more pleased with our experience. Though most places shut down super early in this town, Abendigo’s proved to be the place to grab a late bite and a cold beer. Tiff had the Wood-Grilled Salmon and I had the Chicken Madeira. Both dishes were out-of-this world. We recommend both but highly suggest that you try the Fried Calamari with Dynamite Aioli and Pickled Jalapeno Relish!
What to Do: Beaver’s Bend State Park
This park has so much to offer. Whether you are away for a girl’s weekend, bachelor party or family vacation, this park has a mile-long list of activities to dive into. Head to visitmccurtaincounty.com for all the details.
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Kayaking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Camping
  • Hiking
  • Carson’s Creek (great picnic area & marina)

 

 

What to Do: Beaver’s Bend River Floats

Near a swim beach in Beaver’s Bend, you can find this Rental Facility. For $12, Tiff and I had the pleasure of spending our day on the Lower Mountain Fork River. Though the kayak/canoe trip only takes about an hour, we managed to make it last all day. It was so much fun and the scenery can’t be beat. This was, hands down, our favorite part of the trip. To set it up, just give these guys a call at (580) 494 6070.

For a more adventurous ride, check out Wild Goose Canoe and Kayak. This company is located a little further out of town but worth the drive. They offer 2 trips, a 5 mile or 8 mile down the Mountain Fork River. One of the tours even has a Class 2 Rapids classification and a 3 foot waterfall, Presbyterian Falls.

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What to Do: Girls Gone Wine 

This boutique style wine and gift shop is located near Beaver’s Bend State Park. When planning our trip, I was lucky enough to get in contact with a young woman named Katie who worked here. She proved to be indispensable when it came time to find models for our styled shoot but also blew us away with her knowledge of the wines they had available. She explained to us that the owners, Michelle and Terry, have all the juices for the wine shipped to them and then they actually ferment their own wine! So, of course, we had to have a tasting.

Each variety and blend is innovative and a few of their wines have proceeds that help out local charities. The B’Ark is a kiwi pear Sauvignon Blanc which proceeds benefit Animal Rescue and their Friends 4 Life is a rose, white merlot infused with ripe strawberries, that was created with a friend’s memory in mind. The owner’s friend, Cynthia Shawnee Hutchings passed away in 2008 after battling breast cancer and these friends wanted to help raise awareness for Breast Cancer Research and be able to provide scholarships for their friend’s children. Now that those guys have graduated, the tradition continues. It varies each year but now the proceeds go towards scholarships for seniors at Broken Bow High School, where their friend has previously taught.

We could all learn a thing or two from the girls at Girls Gone Wine. We love that they have embraced their community with open hearts and the Pinot Noir Slushie had me at hello! Stop in here and make sure to tell these girls we said Hello!

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What to Do: Talimena Scenic Byway

This scenic drive panning over 54 miles of the Ouachita Mountains is the perfect opportunity to bust out that camera. For a lax day full of winding roads and sweeping views of the mountain vistas, head here during the fall. The changing colors of the fall foliage may force you to never leave.

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Next time:

So, we didn’t have the time or availability to do everything we wanted while we were in Broken Bow and that means we will be back. Next time, we are hoping to check out the Moon Tower, a restaurant located slightly north of Broken Bow. Owned and operated by Tabb Singleton, a winner of the CHOPPED series on the Food Network, the locals raved about the food.

Another must see, the RUGARU Ziplines. They were not open yet in the beginning of May but we are eyeing them out for our next trip. And lastly, squatch sighting. Yes, we will be on the hunt for the infamous Big Foot, apparently a favorite pastime in this particular part of the country 🙂

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What we Loved: 

Tiff and I had been itching to get out of dodge, beat the concrete jungle that is DFW and set up a styled shoot. McCurtain County provided the perfect backdrop for our shoot and for a relaxing vacation. The drive from DFW was only 3 hours and the sides of the road were covered in Texas spring blooms, everything from blue bonnets to Indian paintbrushes. We jammed out to the likes of Trent Harmon, Chris Stapleton and Sublime as we chatted our way to Oklahoma. Overall, this trip was one for the books. We managed to work and play. It is a balance and war to find time to take care of yourself when building a brand and this trip proved to be exactly what we needed. We got a little break from the hustle, a little time to rest and more stars in the sky than we could have ever imagined.

So if you are in need of a getaway, check out this part of the country and we know you will end up leaving a fresh perspective on the world. For more information, head to TravelOk.com or follows these guys on IG: @hochatime (a lifestyle brand) or @mccurtainok (travel info) or @beaversbend (cabin rentals). Hope you all enjoyed this Guide and looking forward to sharing our next big trip with you guys.

Where would you like to see us head next?