Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and Rocky Mountain National Parks: Short Visits are Better Than No Visits

Our New Year goal last year was to blog more (and stay caught up), but we didn’t anticipate what a crazy year 2017 would be.  In 2018, we hope to stick to that goal by blogging about the National Parks we visited in 2017 over the coming weeks and those we visit in 2018 as we visit them.

Back in June, we visited Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks on the way to our wedding in Colorado.  A couple days before our wedding, we visited Rocky Mountain National Park with family.

We wanted to bring our dog to Colorado for our wedding, as any millennial dog parent would understand, and therefore needed to drive from Washington to Colorado. We decided to take the “road less traveled” (which might not actually be true because Yellowstone is BUSY), and took the long  home way which went through Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. Even though we didn’t have a lot of time to experience the parks, the views from the car were enough to hold us over until we can make it back out for a longer stay.

We entered Yellowstone from the west, and took a classic picture with the sign. Not but five minutes into the park and we stumbled upon our first buffalo! They are such incredible animals. We were keeping our fingers crossed for bears, too, but those had to wait for Alaska (which totally delivered!).

We decided to bypass waiting for Old Faithful (until next time) and continued on past beautiful Lewis Lake. Dogs are not allowed on most of the trails in National Parks (the ONE negative, in our opinion), but they are allowed in parking lots, campgrounds, and many picnic areas. Kona had fun posing on the snow (in June!).

We drove out of Yellowstone to the south and then entered into Grand Teton National Park. Grand Teton is one of our absolute favorite parks, and we were so glad so that we could catch beautiful Cunningham Cabin while it was still light out.

One of the days we were home in Colorado, we were so excited that some of our family members wanted to check out Rocky Mountain National Park. We entered the park from Estes Park, drove along Trail Ridge Road, where we were greeted with lots of snow, and made our way to the Alpine Visitor Center. We warmed up with some hot chocolate and headed back to Estes Park, seeing lots of wildlife on the way, including big horn sheep, elk, and two moose (not pictured).

Despite the fact that these visits we all too short, we’ll take any time in National Parks that we can get!  Until next time!

The Great Alaskan Honeymoon

As many of you know, Jeff and I have a goal of visiting all 59 U.S. National Parks. Additionally, we just got married. We decided to forego the traditional honeymoon registry, and instead asked our guests to contribute to an Alaskan National Park Adventure, which we have now dubbed “The Great Alaskan Honeymoon.” We are so fortunate to have such generous family and friends, who funded our trip in full and are so thankful to them for making it possible for us to experience the Adventure of a Lifetime!

In this post, we will give an overview of the trip. For those of you that want extra details, stay tuned for blog posts about each individual National Park visit!

Our Route

Below is a map of the route we took through Alaska. Blue denotes travel by land, Red travel by sea, and Green travel by air.

The Great Alaskan Honeymoon Map

Our Great Alaskan Honeymoon Route

Our Itinerary

Day 1

  • Flew to Anchorage
  • Stayed night at hotel in Anchorage
On the plane to Anchorage!

On the plane to Anchorage!

Day 2

  • Drove to Seward
  • Took a boat tour of Kenai Fjords National Park
  • Stayed night at Van Gilder hotel in Seward (got a free honeymoon upgrade!)
Kenai Fjords Visitor Center

Kenai Fjords Visitor Center

Day 3

  • Hiked to Exit Glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park
  • Met Sled Dogs at Turning Heads Kennel
  • Returned to Anchorage
  • Ate at 49th State Brewery (free honeymoon dessert!)
  • Stayed night in hotel in Anchorage
Met a Park Ranger at Exit Glacier!

Met a Park Ranger at Exit Glacier!

Day 4

Day 5

  • Hiked to Tanalian Falls, Kontrashibuna Lake, and up Tanalian Mountain
  • Canoed on gorgeous Lake Clark

Day 6

  • Flew to Katmai National Park via Lake Clark Air
  • Viewed brown bears at Brooks Falls
  • Camped among the brown bears at Brooks Camp

Day 7

  • Went on the Valley of 10,000 Smokes bus tour
  • Hiked to the valley floor, confluence, and waterfall
  • Watched more brown bears
  • Camped at Brooks Camp

Day 8

  • Hiked up Dumpling Mountain
  • Lake Clark Air flight tour of the Valley of 10,000 smokes, including glimpse of Katmai Crater
  • Returned to Port Alsworth to switch planes
  • Flew over Lake Clark National Park to Anchorage via Lake Clark Air
  • Stayed at hotel in Anchorage
Flying back to Anchorage

Flying back to Anchorage

Day 9

Pup-a-lup

Pup-a-lup

Day 10

  • Rented mountain bikes from McCarthy River Tours and Outfitters
  • Biked to Kennecott Mines National Historic Landmark
  • Hiked ON Root Glacier
  • Dined at the Golden Saloon (free honeymoon dessert!)
  • Drove to Kenny Lake (outside of Wrangel-St. Elias NP), stayed night at Wellwood Center B&B

Day 11

  • Drove to Fairbanks, saw 5 moose on the drive!
  • Stopped in NORTH POLE, AK, met Santa and Rudolph, and kissed under the mistletoe
  • Drove around the University of Alaska, Fairbanks and explored the UAF Botanical Gardens
  • Ate dinner at The Pump House, National Historical Site (no free honeymoon dessert 😞)
  • Drove to Chena Hot Springs, saw 4 more moose on the drive!
  • Springed (past-tense verb form of  “enjoying hot springs”)
  • Stayed night at Chena Hot Springs Resort (probably better in the winter when you can see the Northern Lights)

Day 12

  • Checked out some reindeer, goats, chickens, and donkeys at Chena Resort (ask us about the donkeys next time you see us in person)
  • Drove to Healy and ate at 49th State Brewing where they have The Magic Bus (prop from the movie) on display
  • Camped at Riley Creek Campground in Denali National Park

Day 13

  • Took “Camper Bus” on the Park Road to Wonder Lake
  • Hiked part of the McKinley (River) Bar Trail
  • While haze from nearby wildfires obscured the entire Alaska Range most of the day, the sunset revealed “The Tall One” (better than free honeymoon dessert)
  • Camped at Wonder Lake

Day 14

Sleepy Sled Dog

Sleepy Sled Dog

Day 15

  • Had Bearitos at The Black Bear Coffee House in Denali Park
  • Checked out “Northern Originals,” a quilt shop, and bought some fabric – quilt to come!
  • Drove to our favorite little town of Talkeetna
  • Ate at Denali Brewing Company (free honeymoon dessert!)
  • Stayed at the Love-Lee Cabins in Talkeetna
Downtown Talkeetna

Downtown Talkeetna

Day 16

  • Drove back to Anchorage
  • Flew back to Seattle
  • SO happy to see our sweet dog, Kona
Home = Kona

Home = Kona

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