When I left off, we had just left Devils Tower National Monument. We wanted to get as far into Wyoming as we could without being on the road too late. We stopped in Gillette, WY for dinner at Perkins (we never eat at Perkins, but we ate at four different ones on this trip). By the time we got back on the road, it was dark. And dark in Central Wyoming means DARK! I was beyond creeped out. Not only were we basically the only car out there, but we were in the middle of an area abundant with wildlife. We’re smarties sometimes, I tell you.
We made it to Buffalo, WY without incident and tucked in for the night. The next morning, we saw this as we loaded up our vehicle…
We made it to the mountains!
Jason and I strategically decided to enter Yellowstone National Park from the north. For our first visit, we wanted to do it up right by going through the Roosevelt Arch. Of course, this did add a chunk to our drive that morning, taking us north into Montana. As we had already learned driving through South Dakota, these are some big states. But the drive was worth it in the end.
This route also took us through the Paradise Valley in Montana, a stretch just north of the park. Beyond beautiful! It truly made for a grand entrance to our Yellowstone adventure!
We wanted to have lunch at Helen’s Corral Drive-In in Gardiner, which was highly recommended by our guide book. But the all too familiar risk of off-season travel derailed that plan. As it was early/mid-May, it was not yet open. Bummer 🙁
After lunch at Cowboy’s Grill, we stopped into the Yellowstone Association store…
And then we checked out the Roosevelt Arch.
Now, you might think from this photo that the arch is out in the middle of nowhere. We always did. Most pictures we had seen of it were just like this one. But I kid you not, it is right across the road from the Yellowstone Association store, right on the edge of Gardiner itself. Not that it was bad, it was just odd and not at all what we were expecting.
Nevertheless, entering the park here felt extra special. The closest thing I can compare it to is seeing that first glimpse of Yosemite Valley. Pretty cool.
Before driving through the arch and going into the park, we had to check out our first elk. They were just chillin’ in the athletic field on the edge of town. No biggie.
Then, we could officially enter the park 🙂
And just like any good national park traveler, we immediately hit up our first visitor center (the Albright Visitor Center at Mammoth Hot Springs).
As we walked around the historic buildings that made up “Fort Yellowstone,” we quickly realized that seeing elk not that big a deal…
For our time in Yellowstone, we stayed in a cabin at Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel. It was such a cute little cabin; we couldn’t have made a better choice.
Ours was a “Frontier Cabin,” which had a bathroom in it. It was just the one room, so it was by no means large. But for our needs, it was perfect. Here’s a little glimpse inside…
We arrived in the Mammoth area around 3:00pm, so we had plenty of time to start exploring…
Next – Mammoth Hot Springs!