Yellowstone National Park

Long before Yellowstone became our most-beloved National Park, it was thought to be only a phantom of the imagination of fur trappers who spent too many months in the mountains. Move forward 150 years and you have one of America’s favorite vacation spots.

Located mostly in the northwest corner of Wyoming (Montana and Idaho claim part of the park as well), Yellowstone covers about 2.2 million acres of land filled with geysers, hot springs, mountain meadows and more. The park is actually the remnants of an ancient volcanic explosion which left a caldera (the collapsed remains of a gigantic volcano). Because the caldera still has plenty of geologic activity, the park is able to charm visitors with its spectacular sights, like Old Faithful geyser.

The park has four main entrances which all lead to the central part of the park. It is this central area where you will find most of the activity that you will want to see.  You can find a map of Yellowstone here.  When you get to the park, there are three major areas you will want to concentrate on. The most popular part of the park is the southwest region, between West Thumb and Madison. In this region you will find one of the most active geyser basins (including Old Faithful) as well as several colorful hot springs and boiling mud pots. (Just a warning, you will notice a rotten-egg odor as you get close to several of these features).

The Old Faithful area is vastly popular with vacationers, so you can expect some heavy traffic during peak months. In this area you will find stores, gasoline, and gift shops. Be ready to spend 1-2 hours here as Old Faithful, though very predictable, can vary from season to season in its eruptions.

On the north side of the park you find Mammoth Hot Springs. This site is aptly named for the gigantic mineral deposits which have been formed by hot springs over the centuries. Geologic activity within the past several years have caused the flow of water to subside recently, causing the once spectacular collection of springs to dry out a bit. Still, this site is unlike anything you have ever seen before, and, like Old Faithful there are services available for you to stock up or refuel.

My personal favorite portion of the park is in the east area around Canyon. Here you can find Inspiration Point, the Upper and Lower Yellowstone Falls, and several geothermal features. Dragon’s Breath is a favorite of many. You can hear super-heated water crashing against the deep walls of a cave which creates Dragon sounds to those standing nearby.

The park is far more than geology gone wild. You will also see wild-life everywhere. Beautiful mountain meadows filled with flowers offer a restful place for a picnic. Buffalo and elk are seen in most parts of the park as are moose, black bears, and other other animals. Horseback riding is offered in several places and fishing is permitted in specified areas as well.

Camping is available, but you will want to reserve your spots far in advance. The same can be said for cabins and the famous lodges found in the park. If you have plans for staying anywhere in the park, please plan months ahead.

Yellowstone is a treat for everyone. the sights are unlike anything you can find anywhere on earth and the wildlife is plentiful. It is a relaxing place to vacation and a place to reconnect with the family and to nature. Bring your camera but stay a safe distance from all animals, especially those with their young.

My kids love Yellowstone and so do I. We normally spend at least two days there and we don’t even see everything we want to see. So be sure to plan plenty of time for your visit. I am sure you will enjoy your visit as much as we have.

Yellowstone National Park