So what is the first thing most people think of when Yellowstone National Park is mentioned? More than likely it is Old Faithful, probably the most well known geyser in the world but there is so much MORE to see and do than just Old Faithful. Even so, make a point to see Old Faithful – it is well known for a reason.
We visited YNP (Yellowstone National Park) around the week of July 4th (it was hot!) and even though the park has over 2 million acres (3500 square miles) everywhere we went was crowded, but not so bad that we couldn’t see and do what we wanted with a little patience. The thing that really sticks in my mind are the people who don’t follow the rules. We didn’t see anyone feeding animals (probably because we didn’t see many animals besides buffalo), but we did see the “brave” person who had to have the “perfect” photo – meaning they were climbing on rock ledges that were clearly marked as dangerous and KEEP OFF. These were people of all ages. I guess “stupidity” knows no age limitations. Fortunately we did not witness any accidents.
YNP highest point of elevation sits at 8,104 feet, has over 1000 miles of hiking trails, over 500 active geyers and 10,000+ hydrothermal areas, a Grand Canyon and nearly 300 waterfalls. So yeah, there is a lot to see and do. We stayed a week and learned that a week is not long enough to enjoy this beautiful area.
Did you know that YNP is not only the first US National park, but also considered the first National Park in the World? Thank you President Ulysses S. Grant (back in 1872) for having the foresight to preserve this space for generations to come! YNP was formed by a volcano many years ago and many of the areas you visit are within the caldera. There is still an active volcano underground and as long as the geysers continue to “blow” it will stay underground. However, if you visit the Mud Volcano area you can see where underground pressures are building as evidenced by the hump or rise in the landscape in the distance. If the geysers, like Old Faithful, who release steam from underground become clogged or covered, it is predicted that there would be a massive eruption. So, don’t throw trash or try to cook chickens in the geothermal pools or geysers!
Our first destination was Mammoth Hot Springs and the Albright Visitor’s Center. On the way there we stopped for photos at Gibbon Falls and marveled at the beautiful forests, streams and fields, many times seeing a small spout of vapor from a hidden geothermal spout or pool, such as Beryl Springs.
Mammoth Hot Springs, true to its name is huge and I think we walked nearly 5 miles between MHS and Albright Visitor’s Center. The temperature was in the high 80s to low 90s and the heat from this massive hydrothermal area had us sweating in no time. It was a steep climb with many stairs and inclines but the view and sheer wonder of this phenominal area was well worth it.
Know before you go –
- If you are going to visit more than one park in a 12 month period, it pays to get a park pass. You can see all the options here
- Pack a lunch. The few restaurants are extremely busy, the food isn’t that great and like most popular attractions – overpriced.
- Fill your gas tank, there are only three in the park and as you might imagine, prices are higher.
- Take plenty of water, especially if you plan to do any hiking.
- Again, if you plan to hike, take bear spray! You can rent it at the Visitor’s Centers.
- Follow the rules, they are there to protect you and the fragile ecosystem that is YNP.
- Finally, if you pack it in (water bottles, wrappers, etc) take it out. Protect the park so your grandchildren can enjoy it too!
- Make reservations early. This includes lodging and restaurants around town and any special events.