Location: Northwestern Wyoming
Entrance Fee: $30/car or free with an Interagency Pass
Must-See: Norris Geyser Basin, Mammoth Springs, Old Faithful, Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone Lake
This is the OG National Park. It’s the first and, in my humble opinion, the best. If you only see one National Park in your entire lifetime (don’t be that guy), this should be the one. It’s literally where “the buffaloes roam.”
No matter from which side you enter the park, you will eventually meet up with the loop road that encircles the park. This makes it simple to see it all. We started from West Yellowstone, a popular entry point, and so started on the Western portion of the road, heading north.
Within 10 minutes of entering the park, we turned around a bend in the road and there it was: the most majestic bison with her babies with a backdrop of a babbling stream. That’s Yellowstone in a nutshell. Its majesty is unmatched, and I cannot emphasize that enough. Plus, you’re guaranteed to see an animal (we saw bison, elk, a grey wolf and black an grizzly bears IN A SINGLE DAY).
But on to the deets you were looking for. Our first stop was at Norris Geyser Basin, a large area of geothermal activity. There is a nice boardwalk so that you can walk right on top of the basin and get up close to its gurgling beauty. This was a great intro to the rest of the hot springs we would see that day, since you can get so close to them and really understand what they’re all about.
From there we continued north on the loop road with an ultimate destination of Mammoth Springs. These natural balconies were built from years of mineral build up. I’d seen them in photos, but they’re so much larger in real life that you can’t possibly capture them in one photo. There are a ton of shorts trails you can choose from in order to see them all. I say just wander around, because you can’t take a wrong turn. Once you’re done there, take a little break at the gift shop just down the road. Maybe warm up with a coffee (it’s quite chilly in Wyoming) or stumble upon AN ELK sitting outside of the convenience store. Because that’s a thing there.
We then continued on towards our campsite at Bridge Bay Campground, which is set right along Yellowstone Lake. Here, the Grand Tetons are mirrored on crystal clear water. It’s dramatic and made the 20 degree night totally worth it. We paid $23.50 for a night, which is decent considering its location and the cost of an actual hotel room in the park (don’t even bother looking if you’re on a budget). Do take a moment to stare up at the stars while you look over the lake. It’s a moment you won’t forget.
The next morning, we headed to the Grand Prismatic Spring to view the kaleidoscope of colors that this hot spring has to offer. Now, don’t get your hopes up too high that you’ll snap one of those rainbow professional photos. With Wyoming’s low temps and the heat of the springs, it’s a whole lot of smoke. I suggest going later in the day if you can’t go later in the season. The warmer it is outside, the better the view you’ll have of the spring. Don’t be too disappointed, though, on the same boardwalk as the Grand Prismatic are other beauties, like Opal Spring and Turquoise Spring. They’re also incredible and a bit undervalued. No matter what time of day you visit, you can’t miss this stop.
Finally, it wouldn’t be a Yellowstone trip without seeing its most famed attraction: Old Faithful. This giant geyser lives up to every legend it has ever inspired. Depending on the season, it can take anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes for you to see the show. Be patient. Grab a coffee and a muffin at the Lodge nearby and wait it out. Eventually it will blow your mind.
Now, you may be thinking…where the bears at? If you’ve got a good eye, you may just see a grizzly or a black bear. We did spot both during our time there. However, bear safety is super important. They’re huge and could take you down quicker than you can say “Aw, so fluffy.” If you’re hiking, I recommend buying or renting bear spray. It’s like human pepper spray on steroids, because your tiny pink bottle isn’t going to cut it. This isn’t to scare you, though. As long as you follow all posted rules and don’t leave food out, you’ll be just fine.
I hope you enjoy this place that has a little piece of my heart. As always, comment with questions.
Bye, Bye, Bye,