One of my favourite things about the US is the absolutely stunning national parks that are literally dotted all over the country. And you know what, Yellowstone is easily up there as an iconic spot you can’t miss. That being said, there’s a shed load of the best things to do in Yellowstone National Park that are dotted all across the park itself. This can make it that bit harder to whittle down a finite list when you’re visiting, especially if you’re short on time.
Famous for being the world’s first national park (it was established back in 1872), Yellowstone National Park is a gorgeous area in the state of Wyoming that has become one of the most popular national parks in the USA.
Created on a volcanic hot spot, the park is massive and is the perfect getaway if you want to see something a little different, totally cool and very geothermal! Suffice it to say, it’s fairly easy to spend a few days here… even with the eggy smell! 😉
Anyway, enough rambling, take a look below at some of the best things to do in Yellowstone National Park. Have the best trip ever!
1.) Spot Old Faithful
You can’t really go to Yellowstone without going to visit Old Faithful, can you? It’s one of the world’s most famous geysers and can’t be missed.
Named Old Faithful due to the fact that its eruption is highly predictable (it erupts every 45 – 125 minutes), the geyser is easily accessible from the west entrance to Yellowstone National Park. Located just west of Yellowstone Lake, you can stand around the perimeter for the perfect view of that Old Faithful eruption.
It really is one of the best things to do in Yellowstone National Park! Just waiting patiently and be prepared for a fright when it goes off.
Oh yeah, and if you want to stay within the national park itself, check into the Old Faithful Inn.
2.) Explore the Grand Prismatic Spring
The Grand Prismatic Spring is totally mesmerising and easily one of the best things to do in Yellowstone National Park. In fact, I’d go as far as saying it’s one spot you have to make an effort for if you’re in Wyoming, generally.
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.) Find Mammoth Hot Springs
Mammoth Hot Springs is another beautiful, although slightly less colourful, hot spring in Yellowstone National Park that you can’t miss.
The Springs are pretty unique, especially for their terraces, which were formed over hundreds of years as the calcium carbonate. Apparently, this is all formed from the hot water cooled and hardened, leaving behind the intricate structures. Though, I’m no geologist, so don’t quote me on that one!
Keep an eye out for the park’s famous wildlife, as elk tend to be seen grazing near the edges.
4.) See Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon
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. Now, this is totally understandable, when you consider how naturally beautiful the area is as the views are just stunning.
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. It really is one of the best things to do in Yellowstone National Park.
5.) Ramble the Lower Geyser Basin
The mud found in the Lower Geyser Basin is definitely going to be the prettiest mud you’ve ever seen.
Apparently, this is due to the high acidity levels in the mud which are 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, the constantly-boiling Ojo Caliente pool is well worth seeing, too. Though don’t ever attempt to go close to the pools, the heat (and gases) can be lethal.
6.) See Hayden Valley
Hayden Valley is one of the best places in Yellowstone National Park to spot some of its incredible wildlife. Located just north of Yellowstone Lake, the area is a favourite spot to find elk, coyotes, bison, and bears.
There are also two well-known hiking trails in the area, the Hayden Valley Trail and the Mary Mountain Trail. Plus, you can always partner these with a visit to the geothermic areas of Black Dragon Cauldron and Sulphur Spring.
Obviously, always be sure to give any of the wildlife you may come across a very wide berth. No one likes a reckless visitor.
7.) Visit the 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.) Explore 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. It really is one of the best things to do in Yellowstone National Park.
9.) Find 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.
It’s easily one of the best things to do in Yellowstone National Park if you love to hike. Plus, there’s even a visitor centre and observation deck nearby, giving all visitors excellent views of the area.
10.) See the Steamboat Geyser
While Old Faithful might get all the attention for being so timely, visitors to Yellowstone can’t neglect an equally impressive geyser called 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 100,000 years ago. The area around Steamboat is the oldest active geothermal spot in the country and you can take daily tours from the Norris Museum make Steamboat and its surroundings easy to explore.