Visiting Guide

Yellowstone Wildflowers Are Out

Yellowstone Wildflowers Are Blooming

A quick photo from yesterday morning in Yellowstone park. I wouldn't say the park is known for wildflowers, but right now they are blooming and it's exciting to come across them. Click for larger image.

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Grizzly Bar and Grill

Grizzly Bar and Grill

Interior of Grizzly Bar and Grill

Grizzly Bar and Grill

Grizzly Bar and Grill

There’s a great place to eat just outside of West Yellowstone that has excellent food, very friendly service and is a beautiful drive that will enhance your trip to Yellowstone National Park.

It’s called the Grizzly Bar and Grill and is located in Cameron, Montana. They opened yesterday and it is the only restaurant located on the world-famous Madison River, and yes, it’s possible to get a seat with a view of the river.

I had the Grizzly hamburger topped with blue cheese. The burger was perfectly cooked to my specifications (medium rare), was juicy and had a very good flavor. I especially liked the shoestring french fries because of how the chef adds a special seasoning to them – these aren’t your ordinary fries. The menu includes hamburgers, steaks, and chicken.

Beer and flowers at the Grizzly Bar and Grill

Beer and flowers at the Grizzly Bar and Grill

The wood-filled interior is what I call “Montana rustic” and gives a touch of pleasant western authenticity to your visit.

After a visit to Yellowstone National Park, this would make an excellent mini-roadtrip. There is also, to say the least, some excellent fly-fishing in the area.

There are two ways to get there from West Yellowstone, which are shown on the map below.

I suggest going there via Highway 191, which takes you by Hebgen Lake and Quake Lake.

On the way back, take the route using Highways 87 and 20 so you can go through Idaho and see more of this scenic area.

Address: 1409 Us Highway 287 N, Cameron, MT 59720

Phone number: (406) 682-7118

Hamburger with Blue Cheese

Hamburger with Blue Cheese at Grizzly Bar and Grill.

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The Unofficial “West Gate” to Yellowstone National Park

What’s the best gate into Yellowstone National Park? I like the north one at Gardiner, and the quote on it from Teddy Roosevelt is inspiring, but my favorite is an unofficial natural one.

Drive into the park from West Yellowstone and continue on the road for about eight miles. It’s mostly flat, but then you’ll come around a corner and see these two mountains ahead of you. The roads winds around the bend and as you enter these mountains, with your pulse quickening, you gain entry to explore and view geysers, hot pools, bison, wolves and elk, in an area unlike any other in the world.

This is how it looked yesterday evening – you can use your mouse to zoom in and out on this panorama or scroll back and forth, and the bottom right button launches it in full-screen mode.

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Camera Review: Canon G10/G11

Photographing the Madison River with the Canon G10

Photographing the Madison River with the Canon G10 (while wearing fingerless buffalo fiber gloves). This camera is excellent for taking to Yellowstone National Park.

The Canon G10, and now the G11 [Amazon link], is an ideal camera for taking to Yellowstone National Park.┬áIt can (just barely) fit into your pants pocket, and easily fit into your jacket or purse, so you’ll always have it within reach.

And you always want a camera within reach at the park.

I’ve been driving through on dreary, grey days and it moments the clouds change and there is a stunning landscape. You need to pull out a camera, fast, because those conditions don’t last long. Carrying 35 mm equipment all the time can be a hassle, but with the G10 or G11 you’ll be able to take a quality photo.

Here are the features of this camera that I find especially well-suited for Yellowstone:

Fast start time. A buffalo, a moose in the road, and eagle flying: they are everywhere, but you just can’t predict when. I’ve never missed a shot waiting for the camera to turn on. What this also means is that you let the camera shut down to save battery life and not worry about it causing you to miss shots.

Long battery life. Will it last an entire week? Probably not, I’ve never been out during the day and had the battery go dead, and have gone two days. For 35mm cameras I always get a second battery, but I don’t feel the need for the G10/G11. Just remember to recharge at night.

Mountain range in Yellowstone National Park taken using the G10's stitch assist. It's actually two pictures merged together so I could get more of the mountains in the picture.

Mountain range in Yellowstone National Park taken using the G10's stitch assist. It's actually two pictures merged together so I could get more of the mountains in the picture.

Stitch assist. You’ll be photographing the grand mountain vistas in Yellowstone and to get even more coverage, the G10/G11 offers “stitch assist”. This is when you take two, three or more photos side-by-side and in your computer attach them to together for a very wide shot. The camera will show your previous shot and let you line up the new one against it. This is very handy so that you don’t miss a section.

Mount Haynes picture taken with the Canon G10 in macro mode.

Macro Mode. Why list macro mode? When I’m in a place like Yellowstone I don’t feel like taking pictures of tiny things like mushrooms, which could be found anywhere. I want to capture the essence of the location. Take a look at this photo with Mount Haynes in the background.

I used macro mode to focus up close on the flower, while positioning the mountain in the background. The macro setting throws the background slightly out of focus, creating a feeling of depth. If I didn’t have macro mode, I couldn’t have gotten this shot.

Rapid shooting. For the Yellowstone mud bubbles, the best thing to do is hold down the shutter button and takes lots of shots. One of them is bound to turn out. The G10/G11 has a burst mode so that you can get your Yellowstone mud bubble shot.

This camera is great for beginners who are interested in becoming more creative with their photography, and good for advanced photographers who want an easy-to-carry back-up camera to their big and heavy camera bags.

The handling and feel of this camera is a joy and you won’t be disappointed.

Note: All of the pictures here were taken with the Canon G10. The latest model is called the G11 which is better in every respect, so you definitely want to buy that one, though there’s nothing wrong with the G10 if you can get a good price on one.

Need more information? Canadian photographer Darwin Wiggett gives his G11 review here. (We all wish he would photograph Yellowstone with his distinctive style in capturing mountain light. Encourage him!)

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Fishing with Bison Fiber Gloves

Fishing with Buffalo Fiber Gloves

This winter while ice fishing at Hebgen Lake, just outside of West Yellowstone, I wandered away from the poles to find a new place because nothing was biting.

At that moment my friend started yelling: “You’ve got a fish.”

I turned around and saw the pole tipping deep into the hole. I started running back yelling “reel him in.”

Just as I reached the hole my friend was pulling it out of the water. I could see the fish’s head and part of his body, when it happened: the line broke.

So I did what you would have done. I put my hands together and dived arms-first into the 12-inch wide hole. Up to my biceps in icy water I felt the fish, grabbed the fish, and hauled him out of the water.

In that situation you don’t have time to take off your gloves, and I had been wearing my bison fiber fingerless ones. I took them off, wrung out the water, and then slipped them back on.

I could tell they were heavier than normal, but it wasn’t uncomfortable wearing them. Something like cotton would have been sticky and soggy, but not these. In about five minutes with the breeze they were completely dry.

I’ve just added a page on my online store with more information about fly-fishing with these gloves – the season is almost here in Yellowstone. You can visit the page here, or head directly to my gloves section and order yours today.

Brown Trout caught with Bison Fiber Gloves

I cleaned this fish on-location in the snow while wearing my bison fiber fingerless gloves. They were as good as new after throwing them into the washing machine.

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Snowshoeing In Spring (Virtual Tour)

Great snowshoeing trip yesterday on the Refuge Point Snowshoe Trail. We didn’t quite get half way into the trail when the blue skies you see in the panorama disappeared and dark, stormy clouds started moving in.

There was at least a foot of snow already on the ground and in some places more. Even in the sunny weather we were having trouble spotting the blue trail markers, so decided to turn around and backtracked to the trail head.

I took the panorama about 20 minutes before the snow clouds moved in. Weather changes quickly in the mountains and you always want to be prepared.

More information about this trail is here.

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Trumpeter Swans (photo)

Trumpeter Swans, flying in Montana

Trumpeter Swans

While driving between Great Falls and Bozeman yesterday I spotted these trumpeter swans in a small pond next to the highway. I pulled over with my Canon 300 mm lens [Amazon link] to take some shots, but they are skittish and quickly flew away. The Amazon link doesn’t go to the exact version of the lens – mine doesn’t have image stabilization or USM – but both of those items would be really, really nice. I also got mine used and you can find some good prices on those.

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Camera Review: Canon T1i Rebel

I’ve had the Canon T1i Rebel almost six months now and I am very surprised by how much I like it. I know that many of you are thinking about getting a new camera for your trip to Yellowstone National Park and this is a great option if you want something other than a point-and-shoot. My previous digital camera was the original Digital Rebel (the 300d) and this was a huge improvement.

Live View, in which I can see a video preview of the picture on the back of the camera, is something I’m using now about 50% of the time. It doesn’t work well in a lot of sunlight, but otherwise I find it makes it easier for me to visualize the final shot. I also seem to be better able to notice clutter or other distracting elements.

The viewfinder is easily adequate and I don’t find myself wishing for a larger one, though of course that would be nice.

Start-up time is fast and has never caused me to miss a picture. Battery life is fine, though I always recommend getting a second battery, especially if you are visiting a location like Yellowstone National Park where you will be in a constant state of seeing photo opportunities. Note: using Live View will quickly drain your battery.

The camera includes video which is something I didn’t think I would use, but I’m becoming very interested in it (here’s my YouTube Channel). I’ve made some nice videos, and a lot of bad ones. Here are some tips (remember that any negative finding in this video section could be due to my newness at this):

  • scenes with a lot of contrast, such as bright blue skies and white snow, don’t turn out very well. I’ve been disappointed that I can’t capture some of the beauty of Yellowstone in winter.
  • I never realized how many cars are around. The audio picks up every vehicle that drives by, so if you need clean sound you have to buy a separate audio system. Canon doesn’t let you hook up an external microphone like they do on their more expensive cameras, so it means having a laptop or recorder around to save the sound.
  • using a tripod makes a huge difference in the quality and professionalism of the final product. I usually don’t use a tripod for still shots, but I can’t get away with that using video.

It’s a great camera for a hobbyist or advanced amateur, and you can use the money you save by avoiding the Canon 50d and invest it in good lenses or a tripod.

Here are the drawbacks, or areas of improvements I’d like to see:

  • I’d love to be able to tap the camera view screen to set my auto-focus point
  • internet forums say that Canon’s marketing department forces engineers to have huge megapixel counts because people associate this with quality. The reality, forums say, is that this reduces image quality, especially under low light or when using a lot of depth of field. If this is true, then Canon should change direction. Each Raw file averages 20 meg in size, and it really slows down my laptop when trying to process it in Adobe Lightroom.
  • I like small and light cameras, so the smaller and lighter the better. But this one isn’t bad.

The updated T2i is available now, and that is the one to buy if you can, but you won’t be disappointed in the T1i.

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A Drive in the Snow – Big Sky to West Yellowstone

The route from West Yellowstone almost all the way up to Bozeman is one of my favorite drives in the United States. It takes you through the western part of Yellowstone National Park and you pass numerous mountains and rivers.

Yesterday, as part of my futile quest for Big Horn Sheep to photograph, I drove as far as Big Sky when I could no longer see the mountains. A big snow storm was on the way, and the cars coming from the north were covered with snow.

The video has shots of the falling snow that I took on the way back. I was hoping for one big snowfall in West Yellowstone, but it fizzled out as I got close to home. But still, some very nice driving.

If you do this drive while visiting the area, obey the speed limits, especially the one for 55 mph while in the park. There are many curves on the road, and places to pull over, and I regularly see park rangers set up there with radar units. But more importantly, there are a lot of sheep and elk on this road and you need to give yourself time to slow down, especially at night.

View West Yellowstone to Big Sky, MT in a larger map

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Walking Along Beaver Creek (Video)

This spot around the Quake Lake area is becoming one of my favorite non-park locations.

Beaver Creek road is just beyond the Hebgen Lake dam and, when the road opens, there is a place to park and hike.

The road is closed now because of the snow, so I parked just off the highway yesterday and walked into it. A couple of guys from West Yellowstone were leaving on skis and had just spent a couple of nights tent camping there: “Was it cold?”, “Pretty cold.”

There were moose tracks going up to the creek, but the only wildlife I saw was a bird. The campers had seen nothing all weekend.

If you are looking for a pleasant walk near Yellowstone, this is a nice option, especially if you are going out to Quake Lake anyway.

View My Saved Places in a larger map

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