Planning a trip to Yellowstone National Park?
Yellowstone National Park is not only vast but varied too. From rivers and lakes to geysers and beautiful valleys, there is a lot to see. Since every visitor to the park has a different interest, we wrote this post with things that a first-time visitor should absolutely do. Without further ado, here are the top 10s:
Grand Prismatic Spring
This was and shall be my favorite attraction in the park. I don’t know if it was the fact that this is the largest hot spring in the United States, and the third largest in the world or the beautiful red, blue, green, orange and yellow, prism-like colors, but nothing mesmerized me like it did. With very little walking involved, the whole area needs need an hour or two to visit so plan accordingly.
Old Faithful (Upper Geyser Basin)
This is the most popular attraction of the park and so I advise you to keep the mornings for this place. Old Faithful, as the name suggests, is a geyser in Upper Geyser Basin, known as the most predictable bursting every 45 to 125 minutes, an average being about an hour. My personal suggestion is to spend some time in just looking at the marvel of nature. If you intend to take pictures, make sure you stay there for the second round of eruptions that you view without cameras. It is worth taking an hour out to walk around and see some more geysers in the area. Most of them erupt in sequence even though Old Faithful is not connected with any of those.
Lower Falls and Grand Canyon of Yellowstone
The Lower Falls of the Grand Canyon are one of the most photographed features of Yellowstone. This is where you would find the yellow rocks that might have attributed to the name of the park. The Grand Canyons of Yellowstone are a must to view from both north and south rim. The road to lower falls provide you with great scenic over lookouts and is not a difficult trek. My favorite would viewpoint is Uncle Toms Trail, but beware there are some 500 steep stairs to go down and climb back. Also, the Canyon Visitor Center is a great stop area if you want to grab some stuff to eat or shop.
The largest water body in YNP is also the highest lake in the lower 48s. And if you ask me, this is the most serene location too. From snow-capped mountains rising through the lake to green trees on the shore, this is where you want to get your drink and sit and relax. Yes, you can buy food and drinks and even shop at The Lake Lodge. Sit back and relax, for I’m assured this is Nirvana!
This place is a great stop to see the Yellowstone Lake in the backdrop. I strongly recommend walking through the trails here and admiring some interesting thermal activity that happens in the park. With a picnic area just outside the West Thumb, and adjoining the parking lot, its a great stop to take a break.
Mammoth Hot Springs
Ingredients like heat, water, limestone, and a rock fracture system combine to make the Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces. This is not only unique to Mammoth Hot Springs but also rapidly changing area. The area has interesting museums that talk about park history and are worth the stop given their proximity to North Entrance.
Norris Geyser Basin
Located in the northwest region of YNP, the basin has two main areas: Back Basin and Porcelain Basin. The Steamboat Geyser is World’s tallest geyser and is located in the Back Basin area. It is currently active and during major eruptions can throw water up to 300 ft in the air. The Steamboat is not as predictable as Old Faithful, and the time between major eruptions can be from 30 days to 9 years. However, a minor eruption occurs every few hours and can throw waters 10 to 40 ft in the air. The Emerald Spring and Porkchop Geyser are other great stops on the back basin trail. The Porcelain Basin got its name from the white winter brought to the surface by the hot water. The Crackling Lake in the Porcelain Basin is the must stop place. Norris Basin’s limited parking is a limitation, so plan well.
Located in the northeast area of YNP, Tower Fall area offer scenic drives. One can observe vertical columns of basalt rock formed by cooling of basalt lava erupted from volcanic eruption over a million years ago. This is where the Tower Creek drops 132 ft and hence the name. Black bears can be spotted in this area during early AM hours. If you are into camping, Tower Fall Campgrounds should be on your list.
Valleys of Yellowstone
As evident by now, YNP offers attractions catering to various audiences. One more thing to add to your trip here is the valleys of Yellowstone. For instance, Lamar Valley is widely famous amongst the photographers visiting YNP. Not just the scenic drives, and tall mountains, but the highest possibility of seeing wildlife makes it a must do. An interesting thing to read is how Lamar Valley plays an important part in the introduction of wolves to Yellowstone. Hayden Valley, on the other hand, is a sub-alpine valley through which people made their way to Yellowstone Lake.
Although not formally a part of Yellowstone National Park, a trip to YNP is incomplete without a stop at the Grand Tetons National Park. With over 200 miles of trail to explore, this place deserves a visit of its own. It is closer to South Entrance of the park. A lot of people camp in Tetons while visiting YNP.
Hope you loved this post and would soon be visiting the remarkable Yellowstone! Let us know if you have any questions.