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Trip Planning Help - Yellowstone to Albuquerque

Level Contributor
16 posts
10 reviews
Trip Planning Help - Yellowstone to Albuquerque

Hey Everyone -

Looking to take my family out West the last week of May for a Trip that starts in Jackson Hole and ends in Albuquerque. It will be my wife, myself and my 6 year old.

Was hoping to surprise my wife over the holiday with the planned trip as she has always been asking to go!

Wanted to ask a few questions to get some help!

High level itinerary

- Jackson Hole - Night 1

- Yellowstone - Night 2 & 3

- Salt Lake City - Night 4

- Grand Staircase - Night 5

- Grand Canyon - Night 6 & 7

- Albuquerque - Night 8

- Fly home

High level questions

- Should we spend more than two nights in Yellowstone?

- What are the top things to make sure we do/see for a "once in a lifetime" trip to Yellowstone

- Is two nights at the Grand Canyon enough or too much?

- What should we stop and see along the way from...

--- Jackson to Yellowstone

--- Yellowstone to Salt Lake

--- Salt Lake to the Grand Canyon

--- Grand Canyon to Albuquerque (I have always wanted to see the Pueblo's)

Are there tourist type traps to stay away from?

Are there certain lodging traps to stay away from?

I have hotels booked right now but can easily cancel and move -- are there any hotels we should stay away from?

Is the last week in May a good time to visit that area?

Should we stay in one of those Teepee's?


Any other thoughts/help you can provide?


Edited: 08 December 2017, 11:12
Spery, Iowa
Level Contributor
11,210 posts
181 reviews
1. Re: Trip Planning Help - Yellowstone to Albuquerque

This seems way to much to me unless you can add days/nights. Just YNP and GTNP in 8 days would be great! What lodging do you have booked?

The last week in May is just getting all the roads open in YNP, so it may still be wintry weather, or it may be nice, you need to be prepared for winter.

Have you looked at rental car rates picking up in Jackson and flying out of Albuquerque?

Jackson Hole - Night 1> need 2 nights for 1 full day, more if you want rafting, tram, time in Jackson. GTNP is what you see between Jackson and YNP.

- Yellowstone - Night 2 & 3> You need 4 nights to get 3 full days, which is the usual minimum recommendation for YNP, not including hiking.

This could be a very nice, relaxed, GTNP/YNP trip, but what you have is very little time to see what you described as a "once in a lifetime" trip to YNP.

Atlanta, Georgia
Destination Expert
for Road Trips
Level Contributor
35,156 posts
508 reviews
2. Re: Trip Planning Help - Yellowstone to Albuquerque

Agree with thbergs!!

Way too rushed.

Now we did a 10 day trip and started with Grand Canyon then to Yellowstone, Grand Tetons but a lot of driving. Our kids who were older than 6 complained about all the long days of driving.

We flew into Las Vegas and out of SLC. We did it that way in order to have a bit better weather in Yellowstone and the Tetons.

It was a great trip and our kids loved it. In fact sort of kick started the idea to visit Yellowstone and Tetons even more. We now have been 5 times just in past 10 years and planning to go again in June.

Level Contributor
16 posts
10 reviews
3. Re: Trip Planning Help - Yellowstone to Albuquerque

Never thought about it still being winter!

My wife and I both really want to see Yellowstone and Grand Canyon. I think we can shift if needed when it comes to our dates to go out. She just gets the Friday and Monday off over Memorial Day weekend so we opted for that to help with vacation days.

Right now I have these hotels...

Cowboy Village - Jackson

Bar N Ranch - Yellowstone

Courtyard in Salt Lake

Nothing for Grand Canyon yet

Should we just do Yellowstone? We drive 20 hours on a weekend to go to Disney about 8 times a year so we are battle tested on the road :)

Everything I booked is refundable so I can cancel and shift any of it.

Just trying to maximize our time and plan the best possible trip for my family as we have never taken a long vacation like this!

Edited: 08 December 2017, 11:35
N. Idaho
Destination Expert
for Yellowstone National Park
Level Contributor
25,163 posts
112 reviews
4. Re: Trip Planning Help - Yellowstone to Albuquerque

OK, it probably always sounds like thbergs, PeachBelle and I are joined at the hip (and maybe Connie too, lol!) but yes, agree this is WAY too much.

I also think the thing about Grand Staircase Escalante is that you can drive by and see it waaaay off from the road OR you can get to it and do some hiking to actually *see* the area. The driveby doesn't require a night. The actually seeing it option takes more than one night.

To me you've got about 3 trips in here. You've got:

1. Yellowstone and Grand Tetons (I recommend a minimum of 4 nights/3 days for Yellowstone and 2 or 3 nights/1 or 2 full days for Grand Tetons. More is better!)

2. Utah Parks and N. AZ parks (Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce, Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef)

3. Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Taos and the Pueblo communities in the area (Right now your drive from Grand Canyon to Albuquerque is a minimum of a 6 hour drive, wheels turning. That does not leave you with ANY time to see Albuquerque Old Town or to tour any of the Pueblos in the area.)

Which part has your wife been asking to see? I think to have a good experience you're going to need to edit what your destinations are. Otherwise you'll be spending half of your days doing very long drives between parks.

Also, remember when you are planning that 2 nights = 1 full day for sightseeing. One night between 2 long drive days does not give you any time to enjoy your park.


N. Idaho
Destination Expert
for Yellowstone National Park
Level Contributor
25,163 posts
112 reviews
5. Re: Trip Planning Help - Yellowstone to Albuquerque

OK, you were posting while I was thinking and finishing breakfast, lol.

Here is a suggestion for 8 nights:

1 Arrive SLC. You would want to get to West Yellowstone before dark. If you don't have 5 hours from the time you pick up your rental car, stay overnight north of SLC or Pocatello ID or Idaho Falls

2 Overnight Old Faithful

3 Overnight Old Faithful

4 Overnight Canyon

5 Overnight Canyon

6 Overnight Grand Tetons/Jackson

7 Overnight Grand Tetons /Jackson

8 Overnight Park City UT to get you close to the airport for departure tomorrow

9 ?? depart SLC

Book your Yellowstone nights only on Xanterra the official park concessioner. Don't use a 3rd party for this as they will charge you a 10%fee and have pathetic cancellation policies. You can stay at a gateway city but you will increase your drive times.



Level Contributor
16 posts
10 reviews
6. Re: Trip Planning Help - Yellowstone to Albuquerque

Thanks so much, Pam!

A few quick questions. Out of the 3/4 trips you mentioned above which do you think is the MUST DO?

Spery, Iowa
Level Contributor
11,210 posts
181 reviews
7. Re: Trip Planning Help - Yellowstone to Albuquerque

Bar N looks to be in West Yellowstone? That works for YNP if you don't want to stay in the park. for your 2 night plan. It is more driving in and out each day, as you don't want to drive in the dark. With 1 night Jackson, 2 nights West Yellowstone, I would not plan on seeing the upper portion of the park- Mammoth to Lamar.

I personally recommend doing a fine trip of YNP/GTNP. Yellowstone does have it's own Grand Canyon! Plan on doing a separate trip another year for the Utah parks and Grand Canyon.

We can help if you decide to do a more localized trip. If you stick with your current plan, There isn't much to plan for YNP, as you will just drive and see the Canyon side one day and the thermal side the other.

Level Contributor
16 posts
10 reviews
8. Re: Trip Planning Help - Yellowstone to Albuquerque

Pam! Thank you!

Quick question should we fly into SLC or JAC?

Spery, Iowa
Level Contributor
11,210 posts
181 reviews
9. Re: Trip Planning Help - Yellowstone to Albuquerque

JAC is closest, SLC usually has lower cost for flights and car rentals. So, if your budget is OK with Jackson, it saves you the drive back and forth from SLC is you stick with the GTNP/YNP trip.

Salt Lake City, Utah
Destination Expert
for Salt Lake City, Lake Powell
Level Contributor
20,778 posts
41 reviews
10. Re: Trip Planning Help - Yellowstone to Albuquerque

Not, Pam, but IMO, Yellowstone/GTNP and Grand Canyon/Utah parks are must do trips before Albuquerque/Santa Fe. But unless you have a couple of weeks, it's difficult to combine these two trips into one because of all the driving involved. I like Pam's itinerary in post #5 for a Yellowstone/GTNP trip.

Consider this for a Grand Canyon/Utah Parks trip. Note: Weather will be warmer on this itinerary.

Day 1: Fly in to Las Vegas. Overnight

Day 2: Drive to the Grand Canyon 5 hour drive. Overnight

Day 3: Grand Canyon

Day 4: Drive to Page Arizona. 3 hour drive. Overnight (Antelope Canyon/Horseshoe Bend)

Day 5: Drive to Bryce Canyon NP. 4 hour drive. Overnight

Day 6: Bryce AM. Drive to Springdale UT PM. 2.5 hour drive. Overnight

Day 7: Zion

Day 8: Zion AM or all day depending on your flight out of Las Vegas for home. 3 hour drive to Las Vegas.

Day 9: Fly home

I think you and your wife should do some research on Pam's #5 itinerary and on this itinerary. And then pick one of them. You really will have a better trip if you focus on one area. I think it's difficult for people to understand the vast distances between Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon...13 hours, wheels turning. Do you really want to spend all that time in the car and still miss places like Bryce and Zion because you won't have time to stop?

Make a decision quickly. Memorial Day weekend will put pressure on all the hotels on both itineraries.

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