One of my favourite things about the US is the absolutely stunning natural beauty – something that you can find in pretty much every state you visit however they don’t come more dramatic and more beautiful than in Yellowstone National Park.
Famous for being the world’s first national park (it was established back in 1872!), Yellowstone is a gorgeous area in the state of Wyoming that has become one of the most popular places to visit in the United States. Created on a volcanic hot spot, the park is massive and is the perfect getaway for lovers of natural scenery and stunning wildlife. Suffice it to say, it’s fairly easy to spend a few days here! (*Go prepared for the smell for rotten eggs though – the smell of the sulphur is strong with this one! 😀 )
If you’re planning on visiting soon, here are 10 sights you absolutely HAVE to see when you visit Yellowstone National Park.
1.) Old Faithful
This one is a given; no one would travel to Yellowstone and not see the park’s most famous geyser! Named Old Faithful due to the fact that its eruption are highly predictable (it erupts every 45 – 125 minutes), the geyser is easily accessible from the West Entrance to the park. It is located just west of Yellowstone Lake, and visitors can stand around the perimeter for the perfect view of that Old Faithful eruption.
2.) Grand Prismatic Spring
This is another incredibly famous landmark in Yellowstone – in large part thanks to its beautiful colours! What might at first look like some sort of artistic, man-made creation is actually the Grand Prismatic Spring, which gets its bright colours from pigmented thermophilic bacteria found in its hot waters. This famous hot spring is nearly 300 feet (91 m) around, and 160 feet (49 m) deep. It is located approximately 7 miles (11 km) north of Old Faithful so you best get those hiking shoes on! 🙂
3.) Mammoth Hot Springs
Another beautiful, although slightly less colourful, hot spring in Yellowstone is Mammoth Hot Springs. The Springs are notable for their terraces, which were formed over hundreds of years as the calcium carbonate from the hot water cooled and hardened, leaving behind the intricate structures. Keep an eye out for the park’s famous wildlife, as elk tend to be seen grazing near the edges.
4.) Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
Believe it or not, Yellowstone does have its own Grand Canyon, and it’s one of the most popular places for hiking in the park; which is totally understandable, when you consider how naturally beautiful the area is. For the best viewpoints in the Canyon, head to Lookout Point and Red Rock Point, where you can take in the incredible sights of the Canyon as well as the waterfall from the Yellowstone River.
5.) Lower Geyser Basin
The mud found in the Lower Geyser Basin is definitely going to be the prettiest mud you’ve ever seen (*’pretty mud’ sounds a little wrong – like ‘hot ice’ but there’s good reason for this 😀 ). Why? The high acidity levels in the mud are the source of its varied colours which are particularly found at the Fountain Paint Pots. In fact, the entire geothermal Basin, which is located just north of Grand Prismatic Spring, is made out of mud instead of water. Nearby is the constantly-boiling Ojo Caliente pool, however, for something cool enough to swim in, head for the Queen’s Laundry stream. This area of the park is fairly remote, so keep that in mind as you traverse it and remember – safety first! Don’t go wandering off into restricted areas – they’re restricted for a reason! 🙂
6.) Hayden Valley
For one of the best places in the park to see its famous wildlife, head to Hayden Valley. Located just north of Yellowstone Lake, the area is a favourite spot to find elk, coyotes, bison, and bears (okay, that last one might be much better viewed from a very sensible distance). There are also two well-known hiking trails in the area – the Hayden Valley Trail and the Mary Mountain Trail. There are also a few geothermic favourites in the area, such as Black Dragon Cauldron and Sulphur Spring. While enjoying the beauty of the area, be sure to give any of the wildlife you may come across a very wide berth.
7.) Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Centre
For those adventure seekers that have maybe realised they are not as adventurous as they once thought, the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Centre in West Yellowstone offers a great, safe alternative to finding actual wild wolves and bears in the park. While all of the historical and conservational information is found in the actual building, all of the action is outside, where the bears and wolves live. Not to worry, they are in enclosed areas, making the Centre the safest way to get so close to these beautiful wild animals.
8.) Lamar Valley
If you would prefer to view wolf packs out in the wild, head to Lamar Valley. This is THE spot for finding wolves, as well as coyotes, grizzly bears, bison, and elk. For the truly serious wolf-fan, the Yellowstone Association has wolf-tracking excursions throughout the park that you can always join. The best times to look for wolves and bears are in the early mornings and just around sunset.
9.) Mount Washburn
The Washburn Mountain Range is one of only two ranges that are completely encompassed within Yellowstone Park, and Mount Washburn in particular is a favourite in the range. Located in northern Yellowstone, approximately 20 miles (32 km) from Yellowstone Lake, Mount Washburn is a fantastic place for hiking as well as seeing incredible views of the park. Its summit is at an elevation of 10,000 feet (3,050 m), meaning that the Teton Mountains are visible on clear days! There is even a visitor centre and observation deck nearby, giving all visitors excellent views of the area.
While Old Faithful might get all the attention for being so timely, visitors to Yellowstone can’t neglect an equally impressive geyser – Steamboat. Steamboat is actually taller than Old Faithful and, with eruptions as high as 300 and 400 feet, Steamboat is in fact the tallest geyser in the world! It is found in the Norris Geyser Basin, which formed around the year 100,000 BC. The area around Steamboat is the oldest active geothermal spot in the country and daily tours from the Norris Museum make Steamboat and its surroundings easy to explore.