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Yellowstone and Grand Teton (Lonely Planet National Parks Guides) Paperback – 1 Apr 2003
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If you're on a family vacation, the book is near indispensable. There is good coverage of a nice range of day hikes. It's also exhaustive in telling you the other opportunities available that you might not have thought of by yourself. Rafting down the Snake or biking on the valley floor of Jackson Hole are two good family activities.
There's also plenty of information here about regulations, places to stay and eat, and suggestions for other excursions in the area. The written material (but not the maps, alas) is organized very effectively into regions that really do follow the natural organization of these parks. Once you sketch out an itinerary, the information you want is grouped together and the information you don't need is elsewhere.
Despite these strengths, I find the organization of the book a little odd and I found that it took a while to get used to using it effectively. For example, the last three chapters are on Greater Yellowstone History, Geology, and Ecosystem. You might think that this information belongs earlier in the book as part of your orientation to the area. The book has a nice collection of maps, but they are in a weird location in the middle of the book that forces you to flip back and forth to use them as trip planners for hotels, activities, and hiking trails. These might go more naturally at the very front or back of the book. There are some nice full-color pictures scattered throughout the book (mostly in the front), but none of them go with the text that surrounds them.
Some tips of my own:
Make the hike to Fairy Falls. Especially in the early morning fog, the other side of Midway Geyser Basin (the side NOT on a tourist-tastic boardwalk) is majestic and wonderful. Fairy Falls is the most beautiful of the many falls I saw in the park.
Get the beans at the Roosevelt Lodge. They are the ONLY beans I've ever had that I'd gladly part with $3 for. (Corresponding tip: the beans elsewhere are $3 also--but you can buy your own can of Busch's for half that).
Don't be frightened off by all the Bear talk. The only Bear I saw was halfway up a mountain and about the size of a quarter from where I stood. The Elk on the other hand...
Going to the Tetons will explain the line "Purple Mountains Majesty." Hiking in the Shadow of Moran or the Grand Teton = instant perspective on life.
Driving through the Big Horn Mountains on the way to Yellowstone is every bit as breathtaking as anything I saw in either park. Its "wow" factor led me to even buy a hat as a souvenir.
Wyoming has to have the highest concentration per square mile of what Patrick McManus calls "Old Men" in his classic A Fine and Pleasant Misery story The Theory and Application of Old Men. This was great for my son. I enjoyed it too.
Probably my biggest tip:
Go to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. (If you're coming the way I came, Badlands NP is well worth it too).
My second biggest tip:
Get this book for all the tips it contains. I recommend it wholeheartedly.