Yellowstone Grizzly RV Park and Yellowstone NP

We spent four nights at Yellowstone Grizzly RV Park & Cabins during the latter part of May. It was cold, with temps below freezing most nights, and enough snow to stick. The weather we experienced at Yellowstone Grizzly in West Yellowstone was only heightened at higher elevations within the park. Yellowstone Grizzly is a large RV park just a few minutes from the west gate of Yellowstone National Park. The city of West Yellowstone isn’t large, making any location you stay pretty accessible to the grocery store, post office, visitor center, shops, and restaurants.

Yellowstone Grizzly RV Park & Cabins

210 S. Electric Street, West Yellowstone, MT 59758

www.grizzlyrv.com

  • Full Hookups
  • Pull-Thru Sites
  • Heated Water Spiggots
  • Restrooms with Showers
  • Laundry
  • Playground
  • Cabins
  • Store
  • Dump Station
  • Recycling
  • Large Pet Walk Area
  • Picnic Table

The RV park was at only about 25% capacity, which made it very quiet during our stay, but was also a source of contention for us when we arrived. Check in wasn’t until 1:00, but we arrived at 11:30ish (we were trying to beat some bad weather on the way). They would NOT let us check in early, contending that ‘people were still checking out (even though check out is 11) and all of the sites hadn’t been checked yet.’ We understand rules are rules and we try to adhere to check-in times the best we can, but depending on what time check out was at the last place we stayed or how long of a drive we had, sometimes we arrive early. We’ve NEVER been turned away and we would have no problem being turned away if it was the height of the season or they were close to capacity, but neither of those things were true. Anyway, per their recommendation, we drove over to the visitor center and parked. We walked to get some lunch, which we brought back to the Airstream to eat, and then we sat and waited. And it started to rain. Just before 1:00, we drove back over to Yellowstone Grizzly and checked in. We drove to our site and set up in the rain that soon turned to hail. It was a frustrating situation because it wasn’t necessary, but we put it behind us. Like many RV parks, the sites a fairly close together, but we were without neighbors for three of the four nights, so our site felt spacious. The laundry facilities were acceptable and the showers were decent – not the best I’ve seen, not the worst. We were in a pull-thru site, but I’d recommend to request one of the back-in sites that back up to the Gallatin National Forest so you have more privacy and a nice forest view.

Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center

www.grizzlydiscoveryctr.org

The Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center is located two blocks from Yellowstone Grizzly RV Park. It’s a not-for-profit wildlife park and educational facility that houses grizzlies, wolves, eagles, and raptors that were injured, abandoned, orphaned, or became habituated to humans in the wild. The center also serves as a bear-resistant container testing center where bear boxes, coolers, garbage cans, and dumpsters are tested. It’s a nice place to spend a few hours learning about animals native to the area. It’s $15 per person or $14 with AAA and your pass is good for two days.

Yellowstone National Park

During our stay in West Yellowstone, the weather was not great. It was even worse when we entered the park and drove up to higher elevation. During our time in the park, we visited Mammoth Hot Springs, Steamboat Geyser, Firehole Falls, the Grand Prismatic Spring area, and Old Faithful. Pictures never do anything justice, but that’s even more true with a gray, overcast sky above and the endless threat of rain/snow. It was a little too early in the season to visit Yellowstone as some of the roads were still closed for the season and many trails were closed due to bear coming out of hibernation and on the search for food. We also had to contend with some road construction that caused a decent delay on the drive up to Mammoth Hot Springs. And of course, traffic due to wildlife is always a possibility — bison like to walk down the middle of the road. Due to the traffic delays and the expanse of the park with a lot of miles between points of interest, I think the best way to experience the park would be if you’re staying in it at one of the lodges or campgrounds.

The gloomy, snowy drive to Mammoth Hot Springs
Mammoth Hot Springs – This part of the park has a lot to explore, including Historic Fort Yellowstone
Firehole Falls
The road to Firehole Falls was closed, so we had to park by the road barrier and walk a little bit in order to get this view.
We had a brief moment of sun and blue sky when we stopped at Steamboat Geyser, the tallest active geyser in the world.
Sapphire Pool
Grand Prismatic Spring – I wish the boardwalk in this area was elevated a bit more so that you can actually get a good view of the springs.
Old Faithful – We visited two years ago on a clear, blue day which makes for a completely different experience.
This guy walked out of the woods and on to the road in front of us where we had to wait a bit until the other lane of traffic was clear and we could pass him.

 

Holbrook/Petrified Forest NP

We are making our way north towards Wisconsin from Casa Grande, AZ, so we needed a place to stay for two nights along our route and Petrified Forest National Park seemed like a decent place to stop. As there is nowhere to camp within the park, we stayed at the Holbrook/Petrified Forest KOA for two nights while visiting the area. The KOA is nothing to write home about. It’s basically a gravel parking lot. There are restrooms with showers (which we never checked out), a laundry room (the most expensive we’ve seen yet), a little store, and a decent dog run. There’s also a broke down basketball court, a broke down volleyball court, and a pool that was not in use due to it being out of season, but that also looked broke down. Amongst the piles of miscellaneous stuff lying around, there is also a grassy area for tent camping and cabins for rent.  We paid $49/night for full hookups with cable, which seemed high for the quality of the park. When driving out the south end of the National Park, we noticed there was free overnight RV parking at the Crystal Forest Museum Gift Shop – no hookups, but if you’re looking for a place to stay for a night near the Park, you can’t get any closer or any cheaper.

Holbrook/Petrified Forest KOA

Address: 102 Hermosa Drive, Holbrook, AZ 86025

Phone Number: (928) 524-6689

Amenities:

  • Full Hookups Available
  • Pull Throughs Available
  • Tent Sites
  • Cabins
  • Dog Run
  • Laundry
  • Showers
  • Restrooms
  • Play Area
  • Swimming Pool
  • Basketball
  • Volleyball
  • Horseshoes
  • Store
  • Seasonal Pancake Breakfast and Cowboy Cookout
Our Site – #17
The RV Area of the Park – Gravel with Picnic Table and Fire Ring at Each Site

We weren’t quite sure what to expect at Petrified Forest National Park. We had seen petrified wood at a few other places we had visited before, but obviously nothing to the extent of what’s found in the park. There is more to the park than just crystalized wood, however.

The north end of the park has views of the Painted Desert, which extends all the way to the east end of the Grand Canyon and north to the Navajo Nation.

View of the Painted Desert from Tawa Point

There is a 28-mile scenic drive from the north end of the park to the south. We arrived in Holbrook at the KOA at about 1:30, got set up, and decided to do the drive to see what we wanted to explore more thoroughly the next day. The north and south entrances are both about a 25-minute drive from the KOA. We drove from north to south, stopping along the way at different viewpoints. As we had Max with us, we did not visit the Painted Desert Inn National Historic Landmark. The building functioned as an inn starting in the 1920s, but the maintenance required became overwhelming and today the building is used as a museum.

Petrified Forest is the only National park in the country with a portion of Historic Route 66 within its borders. A 1932 Studebaker sits where the road once cut through the park.

The Crystal Forest Trail is 0.75-mile loop trail that offers the best opportunity in the park to see petrified wood deposits. The trail meanders among hundreds of petrified logs of all sizes and shapes, allowing you to see the colors of the crystalized wood up close. If you’re just passing through the area and only have time to see one thing in the park — this is what it should be.

When we came back to the park the second day sans dog, we stopped at the Rainbow Forest Museum and strolled the neighboring Giant Logs Trail. This is where you’ll find Old Faithful, the park’s most massive log, which measures 35 feet and weighs approximately 44 tons.

We walked the Agate House trail, which is 2 miles roundtrip, to see the eight-room ruin inhabited beginning about 1050BC that’s constructed of chunks of petrified wood and mud mortar.

Our favorite part of the park was the 1-mile Blue Mesa Trail off of the 3.5-mile scenic Blue Mesa loop drive. This area is called the Blue Badlands (even though I would refer to the color as violet) and it’s clear to see how it got its name. The trail is quite steep at the beginning, and since it’s a loop, at the end, but it’s such an interesting departure from the rest of park. You’ll still find petrified logs here, of course, and paleontologists have also found numerous plant and animal fossils in the sedimentary layers.

Petrified Forest National Park was an interesting site to see. You can definitely do it all in one day. It’s the most accessible National Park we’ve been to, as all of the trails are almost completely paved, which means strollers and wheel chairs will be able to make it to most parts of the park. It’s also the most dog-friendly park we’ve been to, as dogs are allowed everywhere except in buildings. The roads are all paved and smooth, so those with RVs will have no problem maneuvering within the park, and there’s a decent amount of RV parking at most points of interest as well. Beware that this area gets VERY windy. During the winter, winds can reach 60mph. We didn’t see any wildlife while in the park, but on our drive back to the campground, we saw two female pronghorns along the side of the road.