Our first official stop in Wyoming is Yellowstone National Park. I think Cody, WY, is worth mentioning because if you're entering the park through its east entrance, this will be your absolute last stop for supplies, including groceries, camping gear, and gas. You will have to drive a whopping 65+ miles through the state park and national forest before reaching the entrance, so ensuring you have everything you need for the trip is essential. They do offer gas and some groceries in the park, but the prices are higher.
The city of Cody itself has a very historical feel. It is most known for the ever-famous Buffalo Bill. With a museum and a center dedicated to the showman, Cody takes pride in Buffalo Bill's accomplishments.
Yellowstone National Park
Upon entering Yellowstone, I was absolutely exhausted. We traveled for about 7 hours, and with pack up and set up, it can make for a long day. After experiencing a "so-so" time in the Grand Canyon and a not-so-great time at Glacier...we thought, why not? Third time's the charm. We managed to get reservations in the park with full hook-ups so we could fully immerse ourselves into the environment.
From what I gathered during the drive to the East Entrance, the RV parks that are "close" to Yellowstone are about an hour's drive away. Now, that's just to the entrance. From the entrance to any of the major attractions, it's about another hour's worth without traffic. So, even on an off-peak day...you may spend upwards of 4-6 hours just driving. If you can, I recommend you stay in the park.
An unexpected surprise was that even though we had a reservation to stay in the park, we still had to pay the entrance fee. This is also something to consider when booking a nearby RV park. Multiple visits into Yellowstone will yield multiple entrance fees.
The Fishing Bridge RV Park itself was really nice. All spots are full hook-ups, but they do require hard shelled RVs since it's in the middle of grizzly territory. Funny enough, we saw everything but bears!
Day #1 Yellowstone National Park
It's easy to find yourself hypnotized with these picturesque landscapes. I found that being a passenger here is a true blessing. Why? Because you don't have to have to worry about wildlife randomly popping onto the road! Our first full day was my absolute favorite day in our time here. It was also probably the coldest day. So cold, in fact, that we experienced snow. Some people have an aversion to snow, but I've always seen it as magical. Plus, when it was cold and snowing, the park was mostly empty. We covered a lot of ground that day. We saw most of the major geothermal attractions which were truly magnificent. When we got home, we were greeted by a bison right outside of our door. That day was filled with mysterious weather, breathtaking geological wonders, and exciting animal encounters. It was a fabulous day.
Day #2 Yellowstone National Park
Since we spent the majority of that first day on one side of the park, we decided to go in the opposite direction the next. The opposite side of the park does have some unique geological features, but it is most known for its landscape. Animal spotting and waterfall discovery are the top things to do here. Having seen deer, bison, and a moose on my first day, I was absolutely determined to see a bear. From a safe and appropriate distance, of course! We spent about 6 hours around Lamar Valley searching for the elusive bear. I thought for sure I would see one. It was another cold and gloomy day, so there wasn't much traffic or road noise. Not all was lost though because we did see the Lower Yellowstone River Fall from two different vantage points. The first was from afar, known as the Artist Point. Another offered a view from directly above it, where you can feel its force as it drops 308 feet. We also experienced Yellowstone's more smellier attractions. These geothermal wonders are mostly sulfur, so they smell like rotten boiled egg steam, and that steam is thick. I had trouble keeping my composure at one point; it was just so dense and heavy. I'd still recommend it to anyone visiting though, it provides a good laugh and memory. My tip: Bring a scarf to cover your face, just in case you can't handle the smell. Luckily, it was in the mid 40s that day, so I already had one handy.
Day #3 Yellowstone National Park
I specifically reserved this day for the world-famous Old Faithful, souvenir shopping, and trying the local restaurant. There was anticipated sunshine, so I assumed the park would be busy. I sure was right! With travel time and crowd awareness, these 3 things took up the majority of our day.
Just across the street from Old Faithful is the park's biggest general store. I love shopping for my Subscriber Winner Boxes. Unfortunately, since we visited towards the end of season, there was a limited supply on merchandise. No worries, though, I did pick up some wonderful items to share with you. Make sure to subscribe for a chance to win!
With Old Faithful herself, I found myself in tedious anticipation of this natural phenomenon. Arriving at exactly eruption time (give or take 10 minutes), I was so excited to see her blow. It ended up being a very long 45-minute wait before seeing her spew. But boy, was it worth the wait. She put on about a 3-minute show, and I noticed most people enjoyed her through the screens of their phones. What an odd way to behold this world wonder. That's alright, though, they were all smiling regardless.
The hour and a half drive back to Fishing Bridge was filled with pit-stops as we let the groups of visitors pass us on the pull-outs. Once we arrived there, we visited the General Store. I was excited to try the cafe they had. Unfortunately, it was packed. I did get a look at the menu, so we would return tomorrow before the lunch rush.
Day #4 Our Final Day in Yellowstone National Park
Another day of sunshine meant another day filled with visitors. We got up early to enjoy the quiet views of Yellowstone Lake and tried to spot a bear. It was our last chance, but sadly, no bear. Maybe it was for the best. I originally planned to see the Prismatic Spring again since I didn't get a clear view on Day #1, but there was something about making that drive for a fourth time, and the potential of it being packed, that made it not worthwhile. Oh well, I'll have to catch it some other time. We did, however, finally try the cafe. It turned out to be a disappointment, overpriced and underdelivered. You will be better off making your meals yourself. I was happy to be home with plenty of time to pack up and relax before the next day's travels. To be honest, I was a bit sad and openly wished for something exciting to happen. Turns out the universe was listening, and it sent 5 deer that grazed alongside the RV. Thank you, universe. It was a great way to say goodbye to Yellowstone.
All in all, our time here was incredible. Going during an off-peak time, preparing appropriately, and making a park plan all paid off. Sure, I didn't hit everything on my checklist, but I'm still taking away some incredible memories.
Things to Do Around Yellowstone:
- Artist Point
- Yellowstone Lake
- Black Sand Basin
- Lake Butte Overlook
Our Average Cost Per Night: $110.00
Wanting to escape the cold of Yellowstone, we headed Southeast to Thermopolis. This city seemed right up my alley! With a world-famous dinosaur museum and the world's largest hot spring, this place was certainly going to add memories to our adventure. Turns out, half of our drive would be traveling out of Yellowstone and back to Cody. So, the 4-hour long drive seemed longer than anticipated. But, at the end of the day, I was happy to make it to our destination safely.
My initial impression of Thermopolis wasn't great. In my opinion, this town needs a bit of revitalization. There are signs of it appearing, though. Many new and upcoming local businesses seem to be popping up, and I love that. I did notice that the locals are incredibly friendly and helpful. Our park hosts are probably the friendliest, most considerate people I've met so far. With a well-maintained state park and the world-famous Dinosaur Museum, I was impressed. The museum was so clean I thought I could reach through the glass. This friendly city has a lot of potential to be one of the best destinations in the state.
When we arrived at the dinosaur museum, I was grinning from ear to ear. I love learning about those magnificent prehistoric creatures. This museum delivered an experience where I could imagine myself walking alongside them. It really isn't all that big, and the digging opportunities were closed for the season. But one thing I truly love taking advantage of in this lifestyle is doing everything during an off-peak season to enjoy activities, like this museum, all to ourselves.
Thermopolis' State Park is the most unique state park I've ventured to thus far. Offering many grassy areas to picnic in, a skate park, and 3 mineral spring houses, there is plenty to do to occupy your time. The word Thermopolis can be translated in Greek to "Hot City." I believe this is appropriate because it is the home to the World's Largest Mineral Hot Springs. If you wish to roam these hot springs, it's an easy stroll on a boardwalk where you will see an amazing close-up to this natural wonder. I recommend that after this mesmerizing walk, you take a dip into one of the 3 mineral spring houses. The state park bath house remains free to this day. It is said that its natural properties can reduce aches and pains, anxiety, and even insomnia.
Things to Do Around Thermopolis:
- The World's Largest Mineral Hot Springs
- Wyoming Dinosaur Museum and Dig Sites
- Los Cabos
Our Average Cost Per Night: $65.00
The city of Saratoga is a great place to make a pit stop. Spending just a few days here offered enough time to roam this small city. Besides a Family Dollar store, there isn't much in terms of popular retail. This is fine because it's nice to support local businesses, especially in small towns. The local grocery store was certainly unique with its main decor being taxidermy.
All the RV parks in this small city are self-contained, which means no laundry, showers, or bathrooms. This was not a big deal since we were just passing through. Luckily, the one we chose offered up-close riverfront views and access - a first for us. The sunsets were sure beautiful.
Saratoga itself is known for its completely free hobo mineral springs pool. It's conveniently open 24/7, all year round, but it isn't much of a pool as it is a large hot tub. If you visit before September, you can jump into the bigger pool located right next to it.
Our Average Cost Per Night: $62.00
By this time, we needed to have an exit strategy in order to beat winter temperatures. Our first 2 days in Cheyenne were BEAUTIFUL. We were able to comfortably roam the state capitol building, local museums, and enjoy its historic downtown. It was the most perfect weather.
Every day after that was kind of brutal. It snowed, and we endured temperature lows of 8 degrees. Our tanks and lines were completely frozen and unusable for about 4 days, which meant no running water. Living on portable gallons of water without knowing how full our tanks were was stressful. Also, I couldn't leave our cat, Dooty, because the constant worry of him being too cold was my primary concern.
It wasn't all bad, though. I love the snow. As I said before, I think it's truly magic. Being able to walk and relish in it brought me so much joy. There is a feeling of peace that settles when you look at an environment freshly covered in snow.
Now...was it worth it? If I'm honest, once we were able to thaw out, we had 3 external leaks and 1 internal leak. We had to close off the back and sleep on the convertible furniture beds just to keep warm. Beds which are not all that comfortable. I mean, it's great that our dining room table turns into a bed...but it's not a real bed. Although we were in the state's capitol, and there were plenty of modern services and retail chains around, given the amount of stress it caused...no, it was not worth it. Even at the beginning of fall, we should have winterized and planned better. Oh. Did I mention that in an effort to get warm, I blasted the heater in our Jeep, which led to our windshield cracking? Just another maintenance expense.
Things to Do Around Cheyenne:
- Visit the State Capitol Building
- Wyoming State Museum
- Anong's Thai Cuisine
Our Average Cost Per Night: $26.00