Our itinerary for our last few days in the Yellowstone area was:
- A day in the town of West Yellowstone, visiting the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center, and firing all sorts of weapons at Big Gun Fun.
- Old Faithful and Madison areas of the Park
- Horseback riding and a rodeo
- A stop at the Great Salt Lake
A Day in West Yellowstone
West Yellowstone is a charming little town with a very distinct tourist vibe. Sitting just outside of the west entrance to the park, it’s a good alternative to staying at the more rustic locations in the park. On our fourth day in the area, we decided to take another break from the park to spend in town. We started our day at Big Gun Fun. I have to say that when my husband first mentioned this to me as a vacation activity, I wasn’t all that enthused about it. I have nothing against guns, but I wasn’t sure about letting my kids shoot them, even in a controlled environment. However, the kids in our group, including mine, quickly decided it was a “must-do”, so fine, I caved and went with the flow.
Big Gun Fun has just about every type of gun you can imagine, even an authentic replica Gatling gun (which my husband fired). The guy running the place was fantastic. We were a big group (9 of us) and he spent a lot of time walking us all through various types of guns and offered recommendations on ones that would work well for each person.
Once we made our selections, he also spent a lot of time talking about safety, a welcome topic to me. He was incredibly knowledgeable and patient and very calm (all good qualities for a guy who probably spends the majority of his days teaching inexperienced tourists how to shoot). He was also great with the kids, taking things very slowly and letting them get used to things. I felt that they were in good hands, literally. He stood right next to whoever was shooting with at least one hand on their shoulder, often serving as a brace.
Next, we headed to the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center. This is a nonprofit conservation and rehabilitation center – a place of refuge for animals that can’t live in the wild, mostly due to injury. The bears were every bit as majestic and awe-inspiring as I thought they would be. Seeing them up close just reaffirmed the fact that a close encounter with one of these in the wild is a spectacularly bad idea.
Old Faithful and Madison Areas of the Park
The Old Faithful area has the largest and arguably nicest lodge in the park, right next to a large visitor center, complete with a few small stores and a gas station. There’s an app that tells you when Old Faithful is supposed to erupt but with cell service generally unavailable in the park, it’s not very helpful. For this, we went low tech and relied on park rangers and signs in the park to time our visit.
A large crowd had gathered well in advance of the eruption and murmurs changed into ooohs and ahhs emerged from the masses of observers once the geyser started to erupt. After a few false starts, it was on.
As impressive as Old Faithful was, it wasn’t our favorite spot that day.
Horseback Riding and Rodeo
Our group spent an afternoon on a trail ride, which was quiet and relaxing.
We wrapped up the day with a visit to the rodeo in West Yellowstone.
Great Salt Lake
Since we flew in and out of the Salt Lake City airport, we headed back to Utah and had some time to kill so we visited the Great Salt Lake. Tbh, none of us thought it was that “great” (rimshot sound effect). We parked near the tiny visitors center and walked over to the lake. I’m sorry to say that it was rather disappointing. It smelled for one thing and I mean, bad. So bad, we almost couldn’t stand it. But what drove us away for sure were the swarms of tiny flies. We all agreed that we would rather sit in an airport (and who wants to do that any more than necessary) than to endure the smell and the flies. Maybe we just caught the lake when it was having a bad smell day. At least the view was nice.