Top 10 Yellowstone Attractions Not To Miss
At a national park that spans close to 3,500 square miles with land in three different states, there are bound to be plenty of attractions to keep one busy. Yellowstone National Park is one of the most well-known and appreciated national parks our country has to offer. Founded in 1872, it is also one of the oldest parks.
A mystical landscape of wild bison, huge rivers, towering peaks, and explosive geothermal activity at every turn, Yellowstone is truly a place of wonder that everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime.
Unfortunately, many people who visit Yellowstone only stick to the well maintained and most easily accessible tourist attractions, never daring to go into the huge wilderness area that extends into the Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho wilderness. Almost everyone who goes to Yellowstone will at some time make it to see the Old Faithful geyser erupt. However, where you go to see the eruption of scalding hot, sulfur liquid can make all the difference. In this short article, we offer information on ten attractions at Yellowstone that you simply cannot miss as well as information on how to best enjoy some of the most iconic places Yellowstone has to offer.
Get a Private Showing of Old Faithful Geyser
People from all over the world come to see Old Faithful Geyser, Yellowstone´s most famous geothermal object, erupt every 90 minutes on the clock. It is unquestionably mind boggling how a certain geyser can maintain such punctuality over decades, and it is well worth your time to visit. The park authorities at Yellowstone recently built grandstands (bleacher seating) around the Old Faithful Geyser to allow more people to crowd in to the viewing area every 90 minutes.
If you don´t want to have to deal with the crowds or miss seeing the geyser erupt because you were unlucky enough to get a backseat behind some 6 foot, 6-inch guy, consider taking a walk to the backside of the geyser along the boardwalk. You can hang your feet over the boardwalk and enjoy a private showing of Old Faithful.
The Grand Prismatic Hot Spring
While Old Faithful is the most popular geothermal wonder in Yellowstone, there are literally thousands of other bubbling, sulfur-smelling portals into the underworld scattered throughout the park. The Grand Prismatic Hot Spring is the world´s third largest hot spring and has dazzling turquoise color that will make you feel like you´re in the Caribbean Sea and not in the middle of Wyoming. A short hike around the spring will allow you to stare into its near boiling water as you enjoy the beauty that bubbles up from beneath your feet.
Hike Up Mount Washburn
Arguably the most famous peak in Yellowstone, Mount Washburn allows people of all ages to get to the top of one of the highest peaks in the area in order to enjoy spectacular views of the surrounding countryside. There are two different trails that converge at the top of the mountain, and both hikes, though they do take you to an elevation well over 10,000 feet, are moderate climbs that can be enjoyed by the whole family.
It´s best to leave early in the morning (the earlier the better) to avoid some of the crowds along the path. The less noise you make, the better the chance you´ll have of spotting some of Yellowstone´s wildlife such as bears and mountain goats.
Watch Your Step Through Norris Geyser Basin
The Norris Geyser Basin located in Yellowstone National Park is one of the most geothermically active places in the world with hundreds of geothermal features crowded into a few square miles. When walking through this landscape of spewing geysers, stinking mud pots, and brilliant hot springs, you´ll feel like you´ve been transported to the surface of another planet.
The Steamboat Geyser, located in the basin, is the world´s tallest geyser and can shoot water upwards of 400 feet in the air. Unlike it´s more punctual cousin Old Faithful, the Steamboat Geyser is unpredictable, so plan to spend several hours at the Norris Geyser Basin to increase your chances of seeing it erupt. Here’s a quick history of Steamboat Geyser that you should check out. (I’m not seeing the history).
Mammoth Hot Springs
Imagine a place where you could watch steaming water gush down terraced rocks that have been naturally painted brilliant reds, pinks and yellows through the constant activity of the geothermal water running over them. Mammoth Hot Springs might not offer good swimming, but the view of the hot springs “waterfall” cascading over the brightly colored rocks is well worth your time. The area is also one of the best places to get close up views of the elk roaming through the park.
When planning your trip to Yellowstone, you´ve probably come across a few pictures of bison standing proudly over a steaming river. Lamar Valley is the place for those types of Instagram shots. Often referred to as the American Serengeti, this valley is a hotspot for wildlife activity and with a little patience, you have a pretty good shot at spotting buffalo herds, elk, bear, and even wolves.
Grand Canyon of Yellowstone Overlook
There are few places at Yellowstone National Park that offer a more spectacular view than at the overlook of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Two towering waterfalls (the upper falls and the lower falls) fall gracefully and powerfully down the sheer cliffs, giving testament to the power of the water that patiently and gradually carved out the massive canyon.
Hike the Hayden Valley Trail
For people who enjoy longer hikes, there is no better way to get the full Yellowstone experience than by hiking the Hayden Valley Trail. Since this valley is so centrally located, thousands of tourists come here to search for wildlife roaming the valley. The vast majority of visitors, however, stick to the roads and never get into the backcountry.
The Hayden Valley Trail takes you from Yellowstone Lake to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Most of the trail takes you alongside Yellowstone River which makes this a great place to spot huge herds of buffalo and other wildlife.
The National Park is also home to largest high-altitude mountain lake in the continental United States. Yellowstone Lake is a massive body of water with snowcapped peaks surrounding it in the distance. After several days of hiking and exploring the other wonders of Yellowstone, relaxing at Yellowstone Lake is a great way to wind down. Lake Village and its massive hotel make for a great place to pamper yourself after a long couple of days on the trail.
Walk to the Bottom of Tower Fall
While most visitors only visit the Upper and Lower Falls that fall in the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, the Tower Fall, located in the northern part of the park, is equally impressive and offers an opportunity for a close-up view. Once you get to the 132-foot high waterfall, you can opt for a short (but extremely steep) hike down to the bottom of the falls. If you are really brave, consider visiting Yellowstone in the winter time and take appropriate snowshoes to hike down to the bottom of Tower Fall where you´ll find a massive waterfall frozen in time as the entire fall is encased in ice.
The Wonders of Yellowstone
These are only a few of the many things that Yellowstone has to offer. With thousands of miles of hiking trails crisscrossing the park and a virtually infinite wilderness backcountry beckoning you to explore, you could easily spend months at the park and not even see the tip of the iceberg. Check out Live Once Live Wild for more Yellow Stone Information. It is a blog that has great information on all that the park has to offer.
Scott is always exploring new ways to escape his home office and venture into the wilderness. Check out his adventures at LiveOnceLiveWild.com