Yellowstone represents a key part of environmental history. In 1872, Yellowstone was declared the world’s first national park by President Ulysses S. Grant, making it the first area of land to be protected by the federal government.
Yellowstone spans a whopping 3,468 square miles! This massive park includes lakes, canyons, geothermal areas, rivers, waterfalls, and mountain ranges you won’t find anywhere else. In fact, a large portion of the park is an active supervolcano just beneath the surface of the earth. It produced one of the world’s largest eruptions over 630,000 years ago. One of my favorite spots in the park, the Grand Prismatic Spring, is the largest hot spring in the United States and the third largest in the world!
Here’s my guide to this massive park:
What to Know/Remember:
- Although the Instagram shot may be tempting, remember that the animals in the park are still wild! Don’t get head-butted by a Bison.
- Which leads me to…be careful of not only the wildlife that may wander on to the road but also of the people who will pull over to get photos of it!
- Yellowstone has strict paths and rules for a reason! We heard a few stories of people dying in various ways at Yellowstone, including one guy who jumped into a boiling thermal spring to save his dog.
- The park does have a certain smell in some areas…similar to that of a rotten egg.
- Yellowstone is one of the more popular parks, so unfortunately expect large crowds.
- During the months of April and November, the roads in Yellowstone are usually accessible to cars (you can see a live map of road openings here).
What to See:
The roads in Yellowstone are divided into two major loops: the North and the South.
Exploring the North Loop:
- Boiling River: a thermally heated river (yes you can swim in it!)
- Slough Creek: a small hike takes you to a beautiful meadow where you can catch a glance of prancing horses
- Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon: a massive canyon with a waterfall. For the best views hike to Inspiration Point or Artist Point.
- Norris Geyser Basin: a large thermal area with hot springs and geysers.
- Spot some Bison! Drive the road between Pebble Creek and Slough Creek and you are guaranteed to see a herd of these giant beautiful creatures.
- Mammoth Hot Springs: a hot spring with 1,000 year old water that cascades down terraces.
- Chase a waterfall! Yellowstone has nearly 300 of them! I would recommend Gibbon Falls and the Upper and Lower Falls of the Yellowstone.
- Grand Prismatic Spring: the must-see in Yellowstone, a beautiful mixture of colors
- Old Faithful: the famous geyser that shoots water 145 feet into the air throughout the day.
- Fountain Paint Pot Trail: a great walking trail to view some smaller geysers and thermal pools.
- Mud Volcano trail: take a walk down the boardwalk to see Dragon’s Mouth Spring the remains of the Mud Volcano, and other natural wonders of Yellowstone.
- Biscuit Basin: a large thermal area with hot springs and geysers.
- Visit Yellowstone’s neighbor Grand Teton: you won’t regret spending the day hiking along the incredible mountain range
Where to Watch the Sunset:
- Grand Prismatic Spring: the beautiful mixture of colors of the Earth and the Sky will leave you speechless.
- Yellowstone Lake: a gigantic lake that reflects against the vibrant sky.
- Lewis Lake: lake sunset = guaranteed amazing sunset
Where to Camp:
I recommend spending one night in both the North and South parts of the park to make your driving experience a bit easier. I wanted to stay in Slough or Pebble Creek during the Northern part of my stay, but sadly the campgrounds were full!
- North: Indian Creek– upon arrival we watched a deer trying to find some lunch! a quaint campground close to the visit center and the Norris Geyser Basin
- South: Lewis Lake– a comfy little campground where you can walk to the lake and watch the sunset.
Overall, Yellowstone is an incredible reminder of the crazy nature of the world. You will see things that make you question if you are still on Planet Earth! Seeing the massive herds of bison and the beautiful colors of the hot springs will stay in my memories for a long time.
Have you been to Yellowstone? Let me know about your experience in the comments below!
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