Come visit Yellowstone National Park for an unforgettable outdoor experience. The world's first national park is located in northwestern Wyoming and is the largest of the continental US. On a visit to Yellowstone, you'll get to explore the vast variety of geothermal features and experience the United States' largest wildlife up close.
Good to Know:
- The best time to visit Yellowstone is between May and October when the park is at its most beautiful and to avoid possible road closures due to heavy snow.
- Yellowstone has a lot to offer. If your time is limited, be prepared to miss out on some experiences. You will get the most out of your trip if you plan for at least three days.
- A 7-day pass to Yellowstone costs $35 per vehicle. If you're planning to visit more US National Parks throughout the year, consider buying an annual America The Beautiful pass for $80 for access to all federal parks in the US.
- Yellowstone can get very crowded. This can make finding parking and viewing spots (especially around the main attractions) very hard and you'll find that many of the popular trails may not be as peaceful as you would like them to be. To avoid the majority of the crowds, visit the sights early in the morning or in the late afternoon and go for a less-crowded hike or have a picnic in the meantime.
- While not every area of the park is wheelchair accessible, most major walkways offer a wheelchair-accessible route as well.
- There are several options for staying within Yellowstone National Park. Stay in a hotel such as the Old Faithful Inn or, if you'd prefer to be even closer to nature, choose to stay at one of the campgrounds. With five different entrances to the park, staying in a town outside Yellowstone is also a viable option.
- Consider combining your trip to Yellowstone with visits to close-by Grand Teton National Park and Glacier National Park!
Old Faithful is the park's most prominent attraction. Every 1.5 hours, the geyser erupts and shoots a gigantic fountain of boiling water up to 56 m (185 ft) into the sky. You'll get the best experience if you look up Old Faithful's current approximate eruption times online and arrive half an hour before the scheduled fountain to get the best view. Most people will watch from the boardwalk surrounding the geyser, so avoid the crowds and watch the spectacle from Old Faithful Observation Point, which is just a 1.8 km (1.1 miles) round trip hike from the geyser itself. When returning from the Observation Point, follow the boardwalk-maze through the Upper Geyser Basin, where you'll get to see an abundance of smaller geysers, hot springs, and thermal pools. The Artemisia Trail follows the Firehole River north for 2.4 km (1.5 miles) passing by more geysers and pools, such as the chromatic Morning Glory Pool until it reaches the Biscuit Basin. Continue on the trail of the same name for just a few minutes to see the bright blue of Sapphire Pool. From there, hike back to Old Faithful and drive north. After 11 km (17 miles) you'll pass by Grand Prismatic Spring, the largest thermal pool in the US, and the colorful posterchild of Yellowstone National Park. The pool has a diameter of 90 m (300 ft), its water is 70 °C (160 °F) warm and its bright and vivid blue, red and yellow hues radiate within its grey-ish surroundings. In contrast to every other sight, you should visit Grand Prismatic Spring during mid-day, despite crowds being the largest then, as you wouldn't want the misty morning or evening air to dull its saturated colors. A great hike in this area is the easy, 7.7 km (4.8 miles) long Fairy Falls Trail, taking you past the Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook to Fairy Falls, a nice waterfall at the end of the trail. If you'd prefer a shorter walk, take the trail to the overlook, turn back around, and then drive a few minutes north to Fountain Paint Pot Trail. The 1 km (0.8 miles) long walk takes you past more bright and colorful thermal pools which are a nice addition to Grand Prismatic.
Mammoth Hot Spring
The Mammoth Hot Spring is a unique collection of travertine terraces by the north entrance of the park. When water from the thermal springs flows down the hillsides, it deposits the minerals that harden and give the area its unforgettable look. Two boardwalks give access to the lower and upper areas and take you on a 5.6 km (3.5 miles) walk around the different mineral formations and terraced pools. If you're looking for more hikes in the area, try the 9.7 km (6 miles) Beaver Ponds Loop Trail, taking you on a beautiful walk past a lake and through forests and wildflowers meadows. This trail is great to experience the wildlife as well, though it may be closed at times due to a risk of bear encounters.
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
To the west of the park lies Yellowstone's very own Grand Canyon. After passing through Hayden Valley, the Yellowstone River plunges down two cliffs into the up to 304 m (1,000 ft) deep canyon, where it continues along its way through the park. There are plenty of observation points and trails along the canyon, but you'll find the most breathtaking vista of the lower falls at the end of the 1.6 km (1 mile) long South Rim Trail, at the aptly named Artist Point lookout. If the point or trail is too crowded, however, don't worry. Pretty much every trail along the canyon allows for spectacular views! From the Grand Canyon it is not a far drive south to Hayden Valley, where you'll encounter much of the larger wildlife in Yellowstone, so keep an eye out for bison, elk, and even grizzlies at times! A popular hike in this area of the park is the Mud Volcano Trail. On the 1.3 km (0.8 miles) boardwalk loop, you'll get to see (and smell!) the sulfur-scented muddy geysers. Walk the trail clockwise for an easier incline. If you're leaving Yellowstone after seeing the Grand Canyon but don't want to miss out on Hayden Valley's wildlife, make some stops in Lamar Valley, along Highway 212, which is a good alternative to see some larger animals.
Of course, there is plenty more to do and see in Yellowstone National Park! Spend some time fishing or rowing at Yellowstone Lake, chase more geothermal spots in Norris Geyser Basin, or hike up various peaks in Yellowstone, such as the 5.6 km (3.5 miles) hike up Elephant Back Mountain for great views of the lake or up Bunsen Peak by Mammoth Hot Spring. Each day in Yellowstone holds more adventures!
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