Driving to Yellowstone from The San Francisco Bay area.

This is a brief post about driving from the San Francisco Bay Area to Yellowstone National Park that might be useful for people that want to visit Yellowstone but, like it happened to me, are undecided about going by car or by plane.
My trip took place this past July and the places and wildlife I saw and photographed were stunning and in most cases exceeded my expectations, but that will be the subject of future posts.
Driving approximately 950 miles to reach the West Yellowstone Entrance in Montana from the San Francisco Bay Area would take about 16 hours driving at the speed limit without making any stops, so it makes a lot of sense to spend one night in a conveniently located place. About half way between the Bay Area and Yellowstone, there is a small town in the middle of the Nevada desert called Elko, which is a town with plenty of hotels and this is where I spent the night. The following day it took another 9 hours to reach the West Entrance of Yellowstone. Driving Northwest away from Elko, it is still desert, very hot and with very few places to stop, I don’t remember seeing any rest area places north of Elko but once in Idaho, the landscape begins to change and there are more towns and  vegetation, passing through Twin Falls and IdahoFalls before leaving Idaho. Approaching Montana, both the weather and the landscape change in a very dramatic way. As I gained elevation, in less than 30 minutes the temperature dropped almost 40 degrees Fahrenheit!! and it was pouring rain, a very nice change after driving through the desert for so many hours.  That part of the trip is actually exciting  because everything gets more interesting very quickly. As you enter Montana and approach Yellowstone and Wyoming, where approximately 96% of the park is located, you can sense that you are getting closer and closer to a very special place. Little by little things get more beautiful, more trees, more pines, incredible clouds, weather, all presented itself in front of my eyes like a dramatic introduction. When you get very close to the west entrance, the road passes through West Yellowstone, a very picturesque town with great character and plenty of hotels and restaurants. I was so excited to get to Yellowstone that I didn’t stop there. Once you turn left on Yellowstone Ave. you are actually a couple of minutes from the West Entrance and when you finally enter the park, you are in a different world in a way because all of a sudden, there are no restaurants, signs, hotels or stores, just Nature and the road you are driving on, and as you enjoy the calmness and the beauty, you realize that you just entered the first National Park in the U.S., also considered the first National Park in the world, probably the finest wildlife habitat of the lower 48 states and with some of the most amazing geothermal features on the planet.