Breakfast is not available at our hotel in Grant Village, but there are several breakfast buffets nearby. However, we decided to get breakfast at a small fast-food style restaurant located inside the Grant Village General Store. This turned out to be one of our best breakfast decisions of the trip. Eggs cooked how you want them, sausage patties, bacon, hash brown cakes, and flapjacks (pancakes) were all a part of our breakfast that morning, and at one of the best prices in Yellowstone as well. Breakfast is served until 10:30 a.m., so if you are a late sleeper you can sleep past the morning crowds and eat a late breakfast shortly before the lunch rush hits. And it does hit. We practically had the place to ourselves after getting our breakfast at 10:15 a.m., but by 10:30 there was a long line waiting to place lunch orders.
We left Grant Village and headed north to drive through Canyon Country on our way to Mammoth Springs. This is an area that was hit hard by the wildfires in 1988, and the remains of the old forrest are still strewn among the new growth.
There are many sights to see during this drive. One of the more enjoyable stops was at a place called Mud Volcano. While the Mud Volcano itself was interesting, the most fascinating thing there was the Dragon’s Mouth Spring. The steam coming from the cave made it look exactly the way one would imagine a dragon’s lair would appear from the outside. There were also several bison wandering around in the Mud Volcano area, some of which went wandering across the tourist walkways. Many people were far closer to the bison than the 25-foot distance that rangers will tell you to maintain, but when a bison decides to walk through a crowd there is only so much distance you can create on such short notice.
We also stopped at the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. At first we drove past the southern entrance because we were hesitant to go on another hike, but by the time we reached the northern entrance we had changed our minds. There is a long walk down to the falls, and an even longer walk (or so it feels) to get back to the top, but if you are in reasonably good physical condition then it is worth checking out.
After returning from the walk down to the falls, we went to the restroom building that had a couple of buffalo grazing outside. There was nothing separating us from the bison except a couple of beams on a split log fence. While we were careful to keep a safe distance from the animals on this trip, one of the bison was laying right next to the sidewalk that went to the bathroom and was clearly uninterested in the people walking by. When one person ventured a bit too close to the bison, though, the bison let out a loud huff sound that scared people back into giving the bison some space.
Tower Fall was another fun stop along this drive, though we did not get to see much due to a sudden rainstorm. We ate hot dogs at the general store, and put on rain jackets to get a brief look at the impressive falls before moving on.
We arrived at the town of Mammoth Springs and checked in at the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and Cabins. This is truly the place to go stay you want to disconnect from the rest of the world because there is no internet and no cellular phone service at the hotel. I was disappointed to see there was also no coffee pot in the room, but they provide a free coffee service in the lobby which wasn’t that far from our room.
We picked up a few basic supplies at the general store and then looked for dinner There are two restaurants close to the hotel, the Mammoth Springs Dining Room (for a nicer dining experience) and a cheaper place whose name I’ve forgotten. We ate at the cheap place and regretted it. My son, who had devoured a hot dog at Tower Falls earlier in the day, insisted on another hot dog for dinner. However, he didn’t even eat it because it tasted so bad. He wound up eating some of my hamburger, and later we picked up a couple of lunchables for the kids at the general store. No, we don’t let our kids eat crap like this at home, but when vacationing into middle of nowhere our choices were limited. They wound up snacking on carrot sticks and hummus, so the day was not a complete nutritional waste.
We briefly visited the geyser park up the road from the hotel, then headed out to the hot springs that are just a short drive north of the town. There are two parking lots across from each other that lead to a path that eventually leads to the swimming area. While the hot springs appear to be in Wyoming, the parking lots are just across the state line into Montana. While the walk to the the water is not a big deal, remember to bring towels and maybe a change of clothes because the walk back may be cold. You may also want to change into dry clothes before driving back to the hotel. There are no changing rooms, but there is a unisex bathroom (no sink or running water) where you can change clothes.
One of the hot springs feeds into the river in two locations. While the water is too hot to get into before it hits the river, the hot and cold mixture once it reaches the river is a fun and relaxing experience. The kids loved jumping from hot to cold and back again. Be careful of the water before it mixes into the creek because it is hot enough to scald your skin, and don’t even think about getting into the hot water before it reaches the creek. Also be aware that it closes at 9:00 pm. and a park ranger makes sure that everyone really leaves.
When we got back to our hotel room around 9:45 p.m., the hotel grounds as well as the streets were swarming with elk. We tried to take photos but they did not turn out very well in the darkness. The elk seemed to consider the hotel to be a good place to hang out with their kids too.
The hotel room was hot, and the air conditioner consisted of an open window. There was a room fan, but my wife can’t stand fans and would not let me unit. I spent most of the night hot and uncomfortable, which didn’t result in a very good night of sleep for me. However, I went out to the car several times that night getting out things we needed, and the weather outside was perfect. The building was clearly designed for holding in heat to keep it warm in the winter, so the room was quite warm even with the windows wide open all night.