grand teton sunrise

Sunrise in Grand Teton National Park

The trip that I get asked about the most frequently happened right here in the good ole’ US of A and if you’ve been following along you might remember seeing this on my instagram last summer, and if you are new here I am a wedding photographer who turns my destination weddings into extended vacations with my husband (bc why not?!) This trip was for a wedding in Idaho and we decided to take 10 days and travel from Yellowstone to Grand Teton National Park and then to Boise, ID and finally Stanley, ID to stay in the Sawtooth Mountains. This guide will list our itinerary, all of our must-see spots and hikes, and our favorite stops along the way!

Yellowstone National Park

Day 1— Yellowstone

We flew into BZN and used a rental car to take us from Montana to the North entrance of Yellowstone. We stopped in Gardiner just outside the entrance to stock up on hiking snacks (everything inside the park is pricey!) and for ease of travel throughout the park since it can be hours before you are able to stop for food once you are inside. We also bought bear spray, which multiple national park websites strongly suggested. Mammoth Hot Springs was our first main attraction on the way to our hotel for the night. We hopped out and walked along this trail and a few others that were all short, easy, and the views were immediately off the main road which was ideal after a long travel day. We stayed at Canyon Lodge & Cabins and while all hotels inside the park are expensive, it saved us lots of travel time and was very convenient.

mammoth hot springs in yellowstone

Mammoth Hot Springs

Day 2 — Lamar Valley / Lower Falls / Old Faithful

We did some research and found the best chances of seeing wildlife was Lamar Valley before sunrise. It was about 50 minutes from Canyon Lodge to Lamar and we left around 4:30 AM. Most roads throughout the park are extremely curvy and this morning there was heavy fog. We had to drive slowly and check constantly for Bison (they like to stand in the middle of the road) but it was 100% worth it. We saw wildlife immediately once we got to the valley. The key is to stop whenever you see wildlife photographers with the big telephoto lenses. Some were even nice enough to let us look through and explain what they were watching so we got some rare sightings of multiple Wolf packs, five Grizzly Bears who were sharing a giant carcass with some of the wolves, a Coyote, Bald Eagle, and of course a million Bison.

Grizzly Bears & Wolf pack in Lamar Valley

bison in lamar valley

So. Many. Bison.

From there we went back to Canyon Lodge to eat + check out, and then hike to Lower Falls. This is a very easy trail and well worth it, it’s the largest waterfall in the park and it’s a stunning view (probably why it’s called Artist’s Point). Then on to our last big attraction for the day which was also next to our hotel for the night; Old Faithful Snow Lodge. Old Faithful is a must-see and because it goes off every 60 minutes or so, it’s pretty easy to time out. We went right before our dinner reservation at the lodge, for the perfect pre-dinner show.

Day 3 — Grand Prismatic / Grand Teton National Park

This was our last day inside Yellowstone so we got up early to beat the crowds to Grand Prismatic and it was very worth it! We walked along the boardwalk loop around the basin itself and then hiked to the Grand Prismatic Overlook which is 105 ft above Grand Prismatic to get a bird’s eye view. It was a fairly easy 0.6 mile hike along Fairy Falls trail to get this stunning view and was by far my favorite geyser basin in the park.

grand prismatic geyser basin

Grand Prismatic seen from Fairy Falls Trail Overlook

From here we exited Yellowstone from the West and immediately into Grand Teton National Park. These two parks are connected by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway, making it super convenient to visit both parks during one trip. Because this is a very scenic drive we took our time, listened to lots of Tyler Childers and Zach Bryan, and stopped for lots of pictures along the 3 hour drive from Yellowstone to our hotel in Jackson Hole.

One of our stops along the way that I highly recommend is String Lake with an easy 3 mile loop hike surrounding the lake itself, where you can kayak and swim. It’s the shallowest glacier-fed lake in the area which also makes it the best spot for swimming as the water is the warmest (still very chilly!) Floating in this glacier lake was a highlight of the trip for me.

Swimming in String Lake

We wanted to have at least 1 fancy hotel splurge for this trip and decided to use it in Jackson Hole to stay at Rustic Inn which I could not recommend enough! We stayed in their individual luxury cabins and their hot tub & on-site restaurant were so nice after a long day of hiking and adventures.

Rustic Inn views of cabins

Views from the Rustic Inn

Day 4 — Jenny Lake

During our research we found all the hikes near Jackson Hole with scenic views and chances to see wildlife surround Jenny Lake and the earlier head start, the better. I cannot recommend enough rising before dawn for this hike (and probably any of the trails around Jenny Lake) by the time we were leaving the crowds were insane and likely to scare off any wildlife. Another pro of rising early is seeing the sunrise over the mountains – one of my all time favorite views.

We used AllTrails app to plan this hike and it’s our favorite trail guide. The maps are very user friendly and it’s all based on community reviews with lots of photos, advice, and it ranks each hike’s level of difficulty so you can always be prepared! We took a ferry across Jenny Lake to the trail head on a loop that went from Hidden Falls, up a steep incline to Inspiration Point, and then along an out-and-back to Cascade Canyon. This trail would have continued on to Moose Pond but we felt content (read:exhausted) to turn back at the end of the Canyon. This was my favorite hike of the trip and I think it’s a must if you are in Jackson Hole. The views were gorgeous and we saw River Otters, Pika, and a mama Moose and her calf!

Moose in Cascade Canyon

Day 5 — Sunrise over Grand Teton / Craters of the Moon, ID

Multiple sites also listed watching the sunrise light up Grand Teton was a must-see and while there are multiple spots with clear views of the peaks, I recommend Schwabacher Landing. Go early (another 4AM wake-up call) dress warm, and bring flashlights. Then stake out your spot and watch some magic.

I personally enjoyed our time in Grand Teton more than Yellowstone! I think if you have the time to do both, you cannot miss going to Jackson Hole. I would go back in a second. And I recommend curating the perfect playlist (or use mine!) to take in the views while you drive.

This was our last morning in Jackson and we travelled from here to Boise, ID. This was about a 6 hour drive and we chose to break it up by stopping for about an hour at Craters of the Moon National Park which truly felt like being on another planet. Roughly 2,000 years ago this section of the Northwest had active volcanoes and when the lava cooled quickly it formed a network of air pockets in the rock that Native Americans later used as a giant underground community and living space inside of the caves. Definitely worth the stop and located conveniently right off the highway.

Day 6 — Boise

Boise was not at all what I was expecting and we were pleasantly surprised! We stayed 2 nights in Boise at an airb&b outside the city to work during the day, and explored the downtown for dinner both nights. The main street downtown is blocked off for outdoor dining and there are tons of shops and restaurants. I recommend grabbing some ice cream at Stella’s and walking along Freak Alley Gallery where once a year local artists can claim a section of the wall and paint whatever they want. And for coffee before we hit the road again, we loved Push and Pour. Very good lattes & baked goods and featuring local artist’s work on the walls. 10/10

Cocktails Boise downtown Fork restaurant

Great cocktails & asparagus fries at Fork

Day 7&8 — Tamarack Resort, ID

We headed 2 hours north to Lake Cascade for the gorgeous wedding in the mountains that I got to capture during this trip and stayed 2 nights at Tamarack Resort which had lovely views and we quickly discovered that Idaho is secretly stunning. We relaxed, we watched the sun setting over the mountain range from Tamarack’s gigantic hot tub, and treated ourselves to massages at their spa.

Day 9 — Sawtooth

Hopped in the rental car again and headed 4 hours to the little town of Stanley, ID which sits alongside the beautiful Sawtooth mountain range. We stayed at a tiny house we found on airb&b at the base of the mountains with beautiful views and walking distance to Staley’s small town center with restaurants and shops. Every place we ate here was incredible, and I can recommend the Sawtooth Hotel Restaurant (get their rolls, soup of the day, and blackberry pie).

Day 10 — Hike to Goat Lake

This hike was challenging but stunning and worth every mile (and every fall, RIP my favorite pair of leggings). We used AllTrails again to follow this 8 mile out and back through the Sawtooth Mountains with an elevation gain of 1788 feet to the glacier-fed Goat Lake, which sits in a valley at the top of the mountains. The water is insanely turquoise & clear enough that you can see every fish. We stopped here for a little picnic lunch before heading back for the 2nd leg of the hike. By the time we were heading back we passed more and more hikers so this is another one that you want to rise early for.

Goat Lake Sawtooth Mountains

unedited !!

After this hike we went to a hot spring, which Idaho is famous for, at Mountain Village Resort which was perfect to relax sore muscles. This hot spring has a gorgeous view of the mountain range and Valley Creek, which you can dip into for a cold plunge and is the perfect contrast to the natural spring, which sits at 103 Fahrenheit.

Day 11 — Redfish Lake

We hiked Fishhook Creek Trail, an easy out and back 4.5 mile trail, to get to a stunning view that’s called Heaven’s Gate (you can see why!)

Heaven's Gate valley between mountain ridge

Heaven’s Gate

Then we went to soak up the sunshine at Redfish lake which has more of that gorgeous tourquoise water, white sand beaches, and views of the Sawtooth Mountains.

Views of Redfish Lake

Day 12

We had to pack up and head out early for our flight out of Boise but we were told by locals we had to try a cinnamon roll at Stanley Baking Co. and IT WAS THE BEST CINNAMON ROLL I’VE EVER HAD! Get there early to hop in line, they are worth it! We ate our cinnamon rolls and watched the sun rise over Sawtooth as we waved goodbye to Idaho and our trip out to the wild west. There are so many beautiful places to explore and a lot of them are right here in the US! If you want to see more of my adventures, follow along on my instagram!


sawtooth mountains

A step outside our Tiny House in Stanley, ID

Storms rolling over Sawtooth

12-Day Itinerary Yellowstone and Grand Teton