[nextpage title=”How to get there and where to stay”]During our roadtrip in the west of the USA we visited the Yellowstone National Park. The Yellowstone is not only the oldest national park in the world, it is probably also the most famous one. Due to the volcanic activity, the park is unique and well-known beyond the borders of the USA. There are countless geysers, hot springs and mud pots that attract millions of visitors annually. In addition to the volcanic activities, the largely untouched landscape with its magnificent wildlife is also fascinating. There are teeming bisons, black bears, grizzlies, wolves, elks and many other animals. We were absolutely overwhelmed by our visit to the Yellowstone National Park and would like to share our experiences and give some helpful tips!
Directions to the Yellowstone National Park
The Yellowstone National Park is located in the north-west of Wyoming, far from major cities. The nearest big cities are Salt Lake City (about 520 km), Denver (about 860 km) and Seattle (about 1,200 km). There are four entrances to the park (south entrance, west entrance, north entrance and east entrance). If you do not come straight from Canada, the west entrance and the south entrance are the most likely the best entrances for you.
We came from Arizona and Utah via Salt Lake City to the Yellowstone. Because of the huge distances, you should findt interesting stops on your way where you can spend the night. Otherwise you would only run from one motel to the next.. We decided to stay in Salt Lake City. From there we took Interstate 15 north, via Pocatello and Idaho Falls. We then took the road to Swan Valley, Victor and Jackson to the Grand Teton National Park. The route to Idaho Falls is not very spectacular, but as soon as you leave the interstate it will become really nice. The scenery is beautiful and you pass some small, still quite original townships. The Grand Teton National Park is a worthwhile stopover on the way to Yellowstone. From there it is only a two hours drive to the south entrance.
Staying in the Yellowstone Nationalpark
Hotels, lodges and campsites
There are many different types of accommodation in the Yellowstone. There are hotels, lodges and campsites. Depending on whta you want, an overnight stay can cost from 15 dollars (campsite with tent) to several hundred dollars (lodges and hotels). Since we always try to get by with the lowest possible budget, we decided to stay on campsites. You should book hotels and lodges as well as the campsites way in advance (at leat in the main season from July to August) . There are always a certain number of “first-come-first-served” sites at the campgrounds, but these places are usually taken early in the morning. The official site to book accommodation at Yellowstone is www.yellowstonenationalparklodges.com.
As in most of the American National Parks you can camp in the wilderness at Yellowstone (backcountry camping). This requires a so-called “Backcountry Use Permit”. With this permit you can stay on the designated individual campsites far from the large campgrounds. You can stay between one and three nights in these places. You can reserve a backcountry permit online and then get the actual permission at the local visitor center. For more information on planning your backcountry trip, visit the official site of the National Park: http://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/backcountryhiking.htm.
The Yellowstone has a total of 12 campgrounds. Reservations can be made on five campgrounds (for over 1,700 sites). Seven of the campgrounds are “first-come first-served”, so you can not reserve. The Campgorunds with reservations available are located directly at the larger visitor centers in the park (Madison, Fishing Bridge RV Park, Bridge Bay, Canyon and Grant Village). They are very large and are usually equipped with showers, stores and petrol stations. If you prefer a place quieter and closer to nature, you should head for one of the “first-come first-served” campgrounds. This requires (at least in the main season) a little planning, since the camprounds usually fill up very early. In order to avoid unnecessary stress during the main season, we recommend to reserve a place for the first night and then change to a “first-come first-served” campsite early in the morning on the next day. Campground rates vary between $ 15 and $ 27. More information can be found at http://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/campgrounds.htm.
We spent the first night at the Grant Village Campground and went to the Norris campground (highly recommended!) early in the morning of the next day.
Here’s a list of the campsites at Yellowstone:
The highlights of the Yellowstone National Park are listed on the next page. Please turn to the next page!
[nextpage title=”Highlights of the Yellowstone”]
The Yellowstone National Park is really huge (almost 9,000 km²)! The approximately 230 km-long Grand Loop Road, which extends in the form of an 8 gives access to most of the national park. Attention: parts of the street are closed during the winter (October to April). Most of the highlights are right next to the road. There are some parking spaces in front of each attraction, but they are often crowded during the main season. In the next sections we have listed the most important stops.
Old Faithful Geyser
The Old Faithful is one of the most famous geysers in the world. It errupts about every 90 minutes and depending on the duration of the last eruption, the next outbreak can be predicted to the minute. However, if you are expecting a geyser in its natural surroundings, you will be disappointed. Of course, the main attraction in the Yellowstone is fully utilized. There is a huge car park, a visitor center, hotels and a quite interesting museum. Around the geyser, seats are set up for big numbers of visitors.
Upper Geyser Basin
If you are at the Old Faithful, you should also plan to take a few hours for a hike up to the Upper Geysir Basin. It is best to walk directly from Old Faithful and it offers some great highlights such as the Morning Glory Pool, and various geysers.
Bisciut Basin with Saphire Pool
After a short drive west on the Grand Loop Road you will reach the Bisciut Basin. In addition to a few smaller geysers that errupt more or less regularly, there are some beautiful hot springs, such as the Saphire Pool:
Grand Prismatic Spring
Heading north you will reach the next main attraction of the Yellowstone. The “Grand Prismatic Spring”. You can park in the parking lot right in front of it and walk up to the Hot Spring. However, we would not recommend it to use the parking lot right nect to the Grand Prismatic Spring. There are so many visitors and you don’t get a really good view on the Grand Prismatic Hot Spring. You can get very close, but the view is often hidden by the steam. To get a better view from above you should definitely park at the Fairy Falls and walk to the Picture Hill! From there you can see the Grand Prismatic Hot Spring from above.
White Dome Geyser and Surprise Pool
Back on the Grand Loop Road. A little further on, turn right into a small side street, which leads to the White Dome Geyser. A geyser that has grown several meters out of the ground. On the way you will also pass the Surprise Pool, a pretty little bubbling Hot Spring.
Fountain Paint Pots
After the little detour we continue on the Grand Loop Road. The next attraction are the Fountain Paint Pots. There you can find bubbling mud holes, dead trees and steam vents.
Firehole River Swimming Hole
The next stop on the loop is the Firehole River Swimming Hole. Here you can swim in the river. Because of the hot springs, which partly flow into the river, the water is really warm there. If you get too close to the thermal tributaries, it gets really hot.
After about 30 km you will pass the Gibbon Falls. If you want to, you can take a break and look at the waterfall. If you have little time, you can also skip it.
Artist’s Paint Pots
Going north, you will pass the Artist’s Paint Pots. Here you can make a nice little walk. If you’re in a hurry, you can also skip this stop.
Norris Geyser Basin
The Norris Geyser Basin is a very large area with countless hot springs, steam vents and geysers. You should definitely stop here and schedule one or two hours for a complete tour. There are no famous attractions there, but the variety of different geothermal activities makes the Norris Geysir Basin definitely worth a visit.
Mammoth Hot Springs
The Mammoth Hot Springs are another famous sight in Yellowstone. Although they are very remote, you should definitely plan to go there.
The north east section of the Grand Loop Road
The Petrified Tree is the last petrified tree in Yellowstone. If you are on the north side of Grand Loop Road, you should stop for the petrified tree. Another nice stopover are the Tower Falls. Although the north-east section of the Grand Loop Road does have one highlight after another, you should definitely not miss it, if you are after vast untouched landscape and magnificiient views. We think it is absolutely worth the long drive!
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is not comparable to the Grand Canyon in Arizona, but there you can see, where the name “Yellowstone” comes from: yellow rock formations in a breathtaking natural scenery.
Bisons, grizzlies and wolves on the east side
Bisons can be found all over the park, but you definitely can’t miss them on the east section of the Grand Loop Road between the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and Yellowstone Lake. Large herds move along the Yellowstone River and cross the streets as they wish. You should always drive carefully and always be ready to brake. In this area, we have also seen a grizzly and a wolfpak in the distance through the binoculars.
Dragon’s Mouth and Mud Volcano
A secret tip on the east side is the Dragon’s Mouth, a hissing, seething and steamy hot spring, which really lives up to its name. Further hot springs and mud holes can be found along the surrounding trails.
West Thumb Geysir Basin und der Yellowstone Lake
Another highlight is the Yellowstone Lake. It arose thousands of years ago during an eruption of the mega vulcano. The lake is about 350 km² big. On the western edge of the lake are still geothermal active areas such as the West Thumb Geysir Basin.
Here are all the highlights listed in a Google Map:
On the next page you will find a great video of the geysers and hot springs as well as our conclusion to the Yellowstone National Park.
[nextpage title=”Video and conclusion”]
Here is a video of our visit to Yellowstone. Have fun watching!
Our visit to the Yellowstone was an absolute highlight of our roadtrip in the west of the USA. If you think about visiting the Yellowstone, we can only recommend: do it! If you want to do some longer hikes, you should at least stay 5 nights in the park. We only had two nights (and two and a half days). This is enough to see all the major attractions, but for some hikes beyond the hotspots there was no time.
Have you been to Yellowstone National Park and have some tips? So please comment and share your thoughts! If you liked our report, we would be happy if you share it on Facebook, Pinterest, etc.!