At Yellowstone National Park, you’ll see a lot of wildlife, hot springs, geysers, waterfalls, and wonderful scenery. It has the world’s highest concentration of hydrothermal features.
It’s also huge so bare that in mind as you plan your trip to Yellowstone. The park crosses over into Montana and Idaho and can take a few hours to drive from one end to another. Spending two full days is how long I spent but know that is not enough to truly admire its beauty and what it has to offer.
One cool fact is before Yellowstone became a national park, it was once where Native Americans used to live seasonally. It was a place where they hunted, fished, gathered plants, and used the thermal waters for religious and medicinal purposes.
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GETTING TO YELLOWSTONE
The nearest major airports to the park are:
- Bozeman Yellowstone: BZN; 1.5-hour drive
- Salt Lake City: SLC; 6-hour drive
- Denver: DEN; 8-hour drive
Some of the regional airports are Jackson Hole (JAC) and Yellowstone (WYS), which are much closer to the park. If you choose to fly into a small airport, be sure to check their schedule because they might not have year round flights or many flights during the week.
For me, I drove 8 hours from Denver. Flew into Denver’s airport from Houston using Southwest Airlines. My flight roundtrip was $187.
There are 5 entrances to the park. All entrances are open 24 hours during the summer.
Busiest time to visit are between the months of June and August. Most people visit between the hours of 10 am and 6 pm. I found it to be better and less crowded at the popular spots outside of those times. During the summer, it doesn’t get dark until after 9 pm.
BEST THINGS TO SEE IN YELLOWSTONE PARK
Walk through Old Faithful Geyser Loop
There is a boardwalk so it’s very accessible and easy. You’ll see a wide mix of geysers and hot springs in the same area of Old Faithful, but behind it.
If you need to eat, this is one area of the park to eat if you don’t want to leave the park. Prices are high.
Watch the Old Faithful erupt
Bare in mind that the time between eruptions can vary. You can keep tabs for predictions of the next eruption on the NPS site.
See Lewis Falls
Very easy to view. If you’re coming from the South entrance, the cascading falls will be on the left.
Midway Geyser Basin Trail
Distance: 0.5 miles (0.8 km)
Level of Difficulty: Easy
The boardwalk offers a low-angle view but you get to see the Grand Prismatic up-close. The best view of it is at the overlook.
On this trail, there is also the Opal Pool, Turquoise Pool, and Excelsior Geyser.
Grand Prismatic Hot Spring Overlook
Distance: 1.2 mi miles (1.9 km)
Level of Difficulty: Easy
The Grand Prismatic Spring is the 3rd largest hot springs in the world. The water temperature is 160°F (70°C), which explains the hot steam.
Wondering why it’s so colorful? Well, the yellow, orange, and brown colors are created by thermophiles (heat-loving microorganisms). Those microbes contain colorful pigments that allow them to make energy from sunlight and thrive in the harsh conditions of hot springs.
The spring is 370 feet (112.8 m) in diameter and over 121 feet (37 m) deep.
For parking, park at the Fairy Falls Trail Parking Lot. If you have time, check out Fairy Falls which is in the same vicinity.
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Fountain Paint Pot Trail
This trail is a loop and has a boardwalk. You’ll see lots of thermal activity going on here. Pretty fascinating!
You’ll find fumaroles, mudpots, hot springs, and geysers. If you’re lucky, you’ll likely see some of the geysers erupt.
See Tower Falls
Located near Tower Junction. You can only see the waterfall from the overlook, which is very close to the parking lot. It’s a 132 ft (40 m) drop.
See the Upper and Lower terraces of Mammoth Hot Springs
There is a small parking lot for both terraces and boardwalks that lead to multiple, close views of the terraces. All the rock formation is limestone.
See Gibbon Falls
Another easy waterfall to see. Located between Norris Geyser Basin and Madison Junction.
Be on the lookout for wildlife on the North side
They say Lamar Valley is the best spot to find wildlife. I found a herd of bison and mule deers in the late afternoon between Tower-Roosevelt and Mammoth Hot Springs. Found a flock of mountain sheep between Canyon Village and Tower-Roosevelt. And some deer/elk around Mammoth Hot Springs Area.
Inside the park, there are 9 lodging facilities and 7 campgrounds. I walked into 3 of them but did not book a room: Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, Old Faithful Lodge, and Old Faithful Inn. Each have a dining room and their shower facility to open to non-guests.
Due to how huge Yellowstone is, staying in the park is the most ideal and time-effective option. If you want to stay outside of the park, book below.
If you can, add Grand Teton National Park to your itinerary. I was short on time and wasn’t familiar with Grand Tetons but from driving through the main road, it is STUNNING!
As with anywhere in the United States, I highly recommend using a car to get around and explore on your own accord. I suggest driving from west of Montana or from Colorado because Wyoming and Montana have scenic byways. Landscapes are breathtaking.
This is just an observation that I wanted to share: I don’t have any Native American friends but I hope to learn more about their culture and untold history outside of what I was taught in school. Driving to Yellowstone was my first time passing through an Indian reservation (Wind River). I also passed through other reservations on this road trip. All I will say is it’s a damn shame that much more isn’t given to them since they were on this land we call USA first before the Europeans settled.
Other things to note:
- Because Yellowstone is high above sea level, it will be cold at night once the sun goes down.
- You can take a shower for $4.20 at Old Faithful Inn.
- Wi-Fi is available for a fee at few spots. See NPS for more information.
- I use T-mobile and I barely had reception while I was within the park. There is, however, a Yellowstone app you can download before arriving since cellphone reception is almost non-existent in the park. It allows you to have maps offline.
Disclaimer: Some links in this article are affiliate links, which means if you do book through my link, I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for your support!
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