**WARNING-this post contains a billion pictures because the best way for me to share our vacation with you is through pictures. If you don’t want to see endless skies, sky scraping mountains and fairytale landscapes stop reading now
Several years ago, my Dad graciously came to escort me and my boys back to Flagstaff so I could be with my best friend after she had her baby. During our time together, he showed me pictures from his job. My dad works for a publishing company that stocks the books in visitor centers in the National Parks. One week he’ll be at the Grand Canyon, the next in the Badlands, then Zion, then Death Valley and so on. The things he gets to see on a regular basis are amazing! All this really got me thinking about how amazing a vacation to visit some of these places with my boys would be.
Looking at a map and expenses, Ian and I decided on Yellowstone and Glacier, even though there were 20 others we wanted to visit. Boy, they did not disappoint!
We drove our vehicle from Texas to Billings, Montana where we rented a large RV. Ian liked to call it “The Beast.”
We left with the Beast and our vehicle and entered Yellowstone at the East Entrance. We were told this route was more forgiving to large RV’s. Even from the entrance, every single view was spectacular. We stopped at an overlook and enjoyed every bit of it.
Our campsite was at the Fishing Bridge. It was a clean camp in an isolated part of the park, which we liked. A lot of the attractions near the hotels and lodges were crowded with people and buses. It was a treat to come back to our quiet side of the park after being among the tourists all day.
Day 1 at Yellowstone
We couldn’t seem to get enough on day 1. We got up early, had a quick breakfast, packed some lunches and headed out the door. On our way to see the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, we stopped at LeHardys Rapids. This collection of quick flowing water from the Yellowstone River was mesmerizing. As we traveled down the roads, we couldn’t believe how much of the wildlife were roaming just off the roadside.
Yellowstone is categorized as a super volcano. It was so fascinating to see the effects thermal distribution has on its land. One of those places was Mud Volcano. It is a caldron that spews mud from the geyser with temperatures at 184 degrees Fahrenheit. The boys thought it and Dragon’s Mouth, a turbulent hot spring, were very fascinating. The boardwalks that led us to these destinations were easy for our littlest one to navigate.
We stopped at the Brink of the Upper Falls. At this point, the steep cliff drop offs and jagged rock bottoms began to scare the living daylights out of me and my 4 boys hiking around. This particular fall is 109ft! The little boys didn’t seem to care.
Perhaps one of the most spectacular sights on Day 1 was the hike down to the Brink of the Lower Falls. This water plummeted 308 feet.
This was the first of our many long hikes. Again, the steep drops made my heart palpitate with fear but we taught the boys good trail protocol and they rocked it. No pun intended. I’m so thankful God stayed our path and kept us all safe. Looking through these pictures I’m reminded how consistently close we were to the edge of sudden death. This also began Evan’s adventures in napping in a backpack on many crazy winding trails.
Our last stop for the day was at Tower Fall. Of course, we had to drive through Mount Washburn and some 10,243 feet heights. Needless to say, the road was teeny tiny with zero guardrails. Ask my family, I did not enjoy this ride. But the view at the end was spectacular.
Day 2 at Yellowstone
See, I wasn’t exaggerating, I have literally a billion pictures
By day 2 in the park, we were certainly tired, but also hungry for more views. We learned on the first day that it is better to go out early in the morning. There’s hardly anyone on the roads, in the parking lots or on the trails. That’s the way nature should be enjoyed, quietly and without hustle and bustle. By lunchtime, most people were out in full force and the crowds were difficult to maneuver with the kids.
First thing in the morning, we drove down to West Thumb Geyser Basin off of Yellowstone Lake. Can I just say, “Wow!”
This is Yellowstone’s smallest geyser basin but so interesting for its location on the shore. A ranger strolling through the park mentioned to us that some of the pools here are so hot that if you fell into them, you would die almost instantly. Great place to vacation right? It didn’t seem to unnerve the boys.
Next up, we made our way to Old Faithful Village. I have to say, it was indeed impressive and exciting but it was perhaps one of my least favorite attractions. It’s so cliché and touristy. It wasn’t as easy to enjoy it with mobs of people pushing each other around. Still, God’s handiwork is quite amazing to see.
We walked around several other geysers and the boys were least interested in this boardwalk and paved trail. It felt like standing in line at Disneyland, as you will see in the faces in some of these pictures.
After we refueled at the cafeteria (more long lines, bad idea) we decided to move onto something off the beaten path. Driving up along the Gibbon River, Ian pulled onto one of the pullouts and we hiked down to the river. It was slow and calm there so we put our aching feet in. One thing led to another and they were swimming in the river, laughing and having a grand time. It was definitely a highlight during our stay in Yellowstone.
To top it all off, we made a memory we won’t soon forget. After dinner in the RV, we walked down to explore the Fishing Bridge. Not unlike Ian, he climbed a hill off the main path and motioned for us all to follow him. What we saw at the top of the hill was simply breathtaking.
The sun was setting and there was a meadow filled with a herd of mule deer. We quietly moved in closer as we watched the herd graze and the babies play around. Off in the woods we could see the male guardian deer who watched us closely until we left. It was just amazing. Perhaps my pictures couldn’t quite capture the beauty we saw that evening on the hill.
Day 3 at Yellowstone
For our final adventure day, as Jacob liked to call it, we drove across the park to Mammoth Hot Springs. Ian and I both agreed that if we had to stay anywhere else in the park, this is where we would go. The little city was quaint and quiet tucked away in the bottom of the Gallatin Mountain Range.
The hot springs themselves were truly amazing to see. The variations of color and build up of mineral deposits were certainly artistic.
By far, my favorite part of this day was our 5 mile hike up Beaver Pond Trail. After we ate our packed lunches (we learned not to succumb to the over-priced generic food in the park) and strapped on our bear pepper spray, we headed up the mountain. Literally, this trail felt straight up but the views were spectacular. We were surrounded by forest, wild flowers and mountains the entire time.
It crossed our minds several times to pack up and move here. The next day we sadly said goodbye to Yellowstone wishing we had just one more day to spend there. Even still, we were excited to see what Glacier had in store.
Glacier Day 1
Ian had reserved a spot for us at the Mountain Meadow RV Park in Hungry Horse, Montana. This park was perfect! We had this beautiful view, a tree covered parking spot with a fire pit and picnic table. We were so happy with this park and highly recommend it to anyone looking to stop in Glacier.
The first day we were here, it was raining off and on most of the day. It was the perfect time to get some more groceries and wash a bit of laundry. A special treat for me was catching up with my cousin, who lives in Kalispell, Montana, for lunch. We visited the Hungry Horse Dam and also a local anomaly, The House of Mystery, which is oddly located on a vortex. Don’t ask me what that means. Considering all we had already seen and done, this ended up being a pretty low key day for us.
Glacier Day 2
The rain was forecasted to let up on our second day in Glacier so we decided to travel into the park through the West Entrance. We again rose early to view the park. The Going-To-The-Sun Road was still closed, which was unfortunate, due to snow so we knew we were limited on what we could see in the park. We stopped first at the McDonald Falls and the mist from the falls and the early morning left an eerie fog everywhere. It was pretty neat.
We made our way to Avalanche Creek which was as far as we could go with our vehicle and the road closure. The boardwalk portion of this trail was beautiful on it’s own but then we found the the 2 mile trail that takes you back to Avalanche Lake and we were blown away by the scenery.
It was slightly drizzly when we started out but by the time we returned, it was full on down pouring with thunder and lightening in the storm. The boys didn’t seem to care about how muddy we ended up.
Of all the trails we hiked, Ian said this was his favorite because of the spectacular view at the end. It was so amazing that someone was proposing to his girlfriend as we arrived on the shore. How romantic is that?
After we dried off and warmed up, we drove to Columbia Falls and had a warm meal in an excellent Italian restaurant. At this point, we were only 11 miles from Whitefish. My dad grew up in that city and my grandparents lived there most their lives. So I decided to take my boys to a beautiful place I remembered, the city beach. The boys played and got wet again, while Ian and I soaked in the sunset and view. It was a perfect ending to a great day.
Glacier Day 3
For our last adventure day in Glacier, we took the shuttle from the Apgar Visitor Center to the Loop. Normally, you could drive this portion of the road but it was closed still. At the the Loop, you could then walk up the road about 3 miles and take in some of the views. I’m so glad we were able to experience this.
O Lord, our Lord,
How majestic is Your name in all the earth,
Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens!
From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established strength
Because of Your adversaries,
To make the enemy and the revengeful cease.
When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained;
What is man that You take thought of him,
And the son of man that You care for him?
I am so proud of my boys and their strength. We seldom had complaints as day after day we trekked as far as we could go with little legs in tow. My oldest was content to carry the heavy Camelback for miles and regularly offered us water as a refreshment. Several times on the trail, Nathan would make up a song of worship as we explored more and more. I have to brag on my 4 year old too. He did almost as much walking as the older boys and always found a way to enjoy it.
He made himself content to play with silverware in restaurants when I forgot to bring the toy bag. Those of you who know Austin, will know what a huge blessing this was. I feel like he grew up on this trip. Although it makes sense because he is my most fearless, adventurous and spunky boy.
This trip was a tremendous treat for us. Our city family enjoyed all the beauty in nature and were constantly finding ourselves worshipping our good Father who artistically created it all.