Yellowstone NP/Northern Loop
We visited the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone in 2006 and loved it, but also felt that we got bogged down by traveling out to Cody (which we loved) and had massive time delays due to the construction on the East entrance that year. So I often felt that we did not see enough of Yellowstone and vowed to go back.
I have used organizing a family reunion in 2013 to pretty much force everyone (well at least my sister and all my cousins) to see this Park (we are all 50 and over and I am the only one who has seen it). We caught some really great sites in 2006 and spent some time at the mud holes, Lake, Yellowstone's Grand Canyon and geyser country. But we sought of missed the Northern Loop and wanted to dedicate enough time to it, while also showing my sister the Sourthern Loop. Assuming we do not hike too much, what highlights do you like on the Northern Loop? I also want to see the Northern entrance, but am curious about what else to see. Figure that I will dedicate two days to the Northern Loop, two days to Cody and then two days to the Southern Loop. Also what ranger tours are best on the Northern Loop (we have learned to really trust the Park rangers on their tours as they are the best!)
Also my wife wants to see a bear (no not the ones in the park in West Yellowstone, but one in the wild). I am not so keen on this as bears are unpredictable and I have happily avoid them on all my trips out west. That much said, where would we most likely see a bear?
Finally, what a great park to be an expert on! I often say Yellowstone is like six national parks in one.... so much to see, so little time. I look forward to your answer.
Sounds like a great idea to take your family to Yellowstone! I'll give you some ideas about the northern part of the park, but first, I'd suggest you book rooms even now by calling the concessionaire Xanterra (307-344-7311). I'd also advise you to stay in two or three different places so that you don't have to cover the same territory many times. Besides Cody, where you can easily get accommodations later, I'd suggest you book rooms at Mammoth Hotel and cabins or Roosevelt Lodge cabins for two nights and at Old Faithful or Lake for two nights.
Going north from the Canyon, I highly recommended stopping for the views from Dunraven Pass and maybe stopping at the top of the pass to take a short hike through one of the most beautiful wildflower gardens you can imagine. If you stay at Roosevelt Lodge, those who are willing to get up *really* early could drive out to Lamar Valley to try to catch sight of some wolves. You'll see lots of bison in Lamar Valley, but around Tower is probably the best place in the park to see black bears. Also, you'll want to see lovely Tower Fall and the interesting geologic formations near there. You might like to take the stagecoaches to the Old West Cookout from Roosevelt.
At Mammoth be sure to go on the Upper Terrace Drive and see the remarkable terraces being formed right under your eyes. South of Mammoth is the amazing Norris Geyser Basin with two different loops that take you past beautiful hot springs unlike anywhere else.
I can't advise you about ranger tours, because they are somewhat different every year. You can read in advance what the lectures will be in the "Yellowstone Today" newspaper for Summer 2013, which is available by May from Park Headquarters (307-344-7381). The ranger lectures in the evenings are also interesting to attend.
There is much more that might interest you in the "nuggets" of information on my website: www.yellowstonetreasures.com.
Have a super trip! Yellowstone never disappoints, if you give it enough time.