Yellowstone National Park is amazing! You’re here now and not quite sure how to get started I bet. I am going to share with you 10 of my favorite stops in Yellowstone. Keep in mind that the park is over 2.2 million Acres, and you will not see it all right away!
- My first and favorite thing to do in the park is to find the wildlife! Viewing is best early in the morning and before sunset, but you can possibly see any animal anyplace and at any time! Keep your eyes on the road and observe the speed limit but also keep a careful watch of what is always happening on the roadside! If you see a lot of cars pulled over, it is probably a “bear jam” or a “wolf jam”. When you see this, you want to stop but please observe the park rules. All 4 tires must be off the road and over the white line or you must be all the way in a pullout. Wildlife can be anywhere so taking advantage of the many pullouts and bring binoculars for scanning the mountainsides and meadows. With close watching, you can see a lot! I saw 10 bears last week with my grandson before noon between West Yellowstone and Lamar Valley! Go in early but please try not to do too much dark time driving, that is when most wildlife and vehicle incidents occur, and animals get killed.
- Old Faithful is one of my favorite stops. I have seen her erupt hundreds of times!! The eruption occurs approximately every 90 minutes, give or take a few minutes, and the predictions are based on the last eruption so the rangers can only tell us the next one. There is no scheduled timetable for eruptions. The Yellowstone National Park app does have a geyser prediction feature that is nice to have uploaded in your cell phone before entering the park. While here, take a walk around the Upper Geyser Basin to observe many more geysers and step inside the historical Old Faithful Inn for a look, you will not be sorry.
- Another one of my favorite stops is The Grand Canyon of The Yellowstone River. This is the largest waterfall in the park. There are three different roads to take here to observe the falls from different viewpoints. There are short walks and hikes at each of these points. Do not miss the hike down to the brink! there is nothing like standing right next to the place that the water drops down into the canyon! if you time it just right in the morning, you can catch rainbows in your photos! This area of the park is gorgeous. You can spend a few hours here exploring so do bring snacks and drinks and do not forget your bear spray! There have been recent bear encounters right on the trails here.
- Norris Geyser Basin is sure a sight to see. I spend a couple of hours here at least when I stop by. If you get lucky you may catch Steamboat Geyser erupt, it is one of the largest geysers and can erupt 300 to 400 feet in the air! Another great catch is Ledge Geyser, very powerful and loud when it erupts! The last time I caught this one, I got soaked and photographed rainbows in the mist! Do not miss Hurricane Vent, a very beautiful feature in the Porcelain Geyser Basin area. I have also seen bears, fox and bison here so please be aware that you could see wildlife on the trails. Again, be prepared and carry bear spray.
- Mammoth Hot Springs is a must-see! There is an Upper Terrace Loop Drive that is very nice to see and there are boardwalks to walk around to see the other travertine terraces. Do not miss the turquoise blue Canary Springs, one of my favorite things here. Canary Springs will occasionally go dormant but is flowing at this time. Bring the camera for amazing photos up here! I have seen elk, deer, and bison here so again, be wildlife aware and keep a watch of your surroundings. The months of June and July are the birthing months for the elk so keep a good watch for some baby elk and mom pairs.
- Fountain Paint pots is a very magical area to see. There are boardwalks here to walk around the geyser basin. This is in the Lower Geyser Basin. You can spend about an hour or so walking around here. This area is cool because you find all three types of thermal features here. You can see hot springs, geysers, and fumaroles on this one walk! My favorite here is the boiling and bubbling mud! Do not miss red spouter and perhaps you will be lucky and catch Clepsydra erupting! so many great features here. I have seen wolves and bison walking around here and there have been reports of a black bear on this trail so again, carry that bear spray!
- Another must-see is the Grand Prismatic Spring. Such a beautiful feature, the favorite for many that visit Yellowstone. This can be seen in The Midway Geyser Basin. You want to go here once the air has warmed up to at least 45 degrees, or you will not see the colors due to too much steam. The best way to view this one is to take a short hike from the Fairy Falls trailhead. You will hike up about 1 mile to a viewing deck to get a better view. Bring your cameras up for this awesome view. Sometimes this trail is closed for bear management so watch for signs before heading up, it will be posted if it is closed. Again, you will want to wait for it to warm up a bit before heading up so you can see the feature. The water at this feature is extremely hot so combines with the cool morning air, you get a lot of steam early in the morning.
- A secret stop I like to show my visitors is called Chocolate Pots. This is a feature that is roadside on the left-hand side on the way to Norris from West Yellowstone. Yellowstone has so many surprises, and this is one of them. This is not marked on the map and there is not a sign for this feature. It is just past the Gibbon Meadows picnic area and there is a pull-out for parking. The feature is a steaming giant pot that looks like a chocolate fountain! Do not miss this one! There is also a short walking path here that you can see several other spots of color developing. Sometimes I get lucky and spot mountain goats in this area too, so look up on the mountainside here.
- One of my favorite drives to take in the park is the Firehole Canyon Drive. This is my favorite waterfall in the park. There is a nice area for parking so you can get out and walk around a bit and get some beautiful photos. I have seen eagles, osprey, elk, and coyotes in this area so keep looking for wildlife. When you are done with this drive, take a right at the stop sign and pull into the first pullout. Here you will find a short walking trail and you can see where the falls start to drop. Very pretty photo spot. Also, look on the rock walls here, you will see some cool evidence of lave tubes.
- One final drive for me would be the Firehole Lake Drive. There are many geysers in this area that you may catch erupting! My favorites are White Cone and Pink Cone. They seem to erupt one after the other so if you catch one, head to the other quickly. This is a beautiful spot to catch a sunset or photograph the Milky Way. This drive takes about 20 minutes and has parking at the end and a couple of boardwalks to walk. Enjoy!!!
Well, there you have it, some of my favorite stops. Enjoy your time here in Yellowstone, it is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. The park was originally called Wonderland, once you get in and start exploring, you will see why.
AUTHOR: CINDY SHAFFER