Unlike Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone gives up its grandeur slowly. Only when you enter and delve deep into the park do the treasures reveal themselves. Surprises come quickly at times with a bison here, a geyser there, a moose, then a marmot; all vying for your attention as your senses become engaged, spurred on by nature unfolding before you.
So much to see and do
Yellowstone National Park is mind-blowing on so many levels. It’s really big! At over 2.2 million acres (898,300 hectares) you can get far away from our modern world and see nature at its most beautiful and brutal state. See geysers blast high into the cobalt-blue sky, go boating on the largest high-country lake in North America that sits on a super volcano. You might see wolf packs take down an elk and eat it like they have done for thousands of years. Or, maybe you will be happy to drive the park roadways like most visitors, keeping a safe distance from the wild creatures inhabiting this first park in America’s National Park system.
With five entrances to choose from you have to start planning early to get the most out of your visit. The North entrance is the park headquarters and has the most historic information. If you are coming from Jackson, Wyoming, the south entrance is the most likely point of entry and allows you to see The Grand Tetons on the way. Plan on spending at least one night and two days to see and experience Yellowstone. There are more than 300 geysers, dozens of lakes, streams and rivers to fish, or rent a boat and explore Yellowstone Lake.
Big and small critters
There are more wild animals in Yellowstone than most of us will see in the wild in a lifetime. Wildlife is one of the biggest draws to this park sprawling over the border of Wyoming into both Idaho and Montana. Chances are good that you will see bison, moose, elk, deer and pronghorn antelope on your drive through the park. If you are lucky, black bear, brown bear or wolves will be seen as you drive the park’s road system encountering one spectacular scene after another. If you go hiking in the backcountry your chances increase for seeing bears and other large wildlife. Yet some of the best wildlife moments might be watching the comical chipmunks (golden mantled ground squirrels) scurrying about as they gather the summer’s bounty in preparation for winter. The Black-capped Chickadees are also great fun to watch as they hang upside down in pine trees singing their distinctive call. Waterfowl like the stately Trumpeter Swan or Common Loons send their call of the wild across the water for visitors to hear, creating memories to last a lifetime.
Lodging choices as big and varied as the park
There are nine lodging choices in the park and several more just outside the park’s boundaries. Choose a grand lodge like the Old Faithful Inn — a western themed hotel, cabins, or a more modern option like Grant Village. Camping remains popular for both the RV crowd and tent campers with over 2,000 campsites in 12 campgrounds to choose from. Just be sure to reserve a site to insure your comfort. It’s no fun to think there will be room at the campground and find you have to drive a long way to find a resting place for the night.
Yellowstone is an all-season park. Although access might be limited, winter activities are gaining popularity as snowmobilers, cross country skiers, snowshoe fans and others seek a snowy experience. Lodging choices are reduced in the winter and with Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and Cabins closed for the next two seasons, one has to plan ahead.
A grand canyon
Highlights most visitors remember are Old Faithful geyser, Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, Yellowstone Lake, and the Old Faithful Inn — said to be the largest log structure in the world! Old Faithful geyser is a must see attraction. This geyser goes off on schedule (every 35 to 120 minutes) making it a crowd pleaser. The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone rewards those who take a short hike with the sound of the thundering 308 foot (93.9 m) lower falls as the Yellowstone River plunges to the canyon below. Get close enough and feel the spray of this mighty rivers falls. Yellowstone Lake has over 140 miles (225 kilometers) of shoreline for hiking, fishing, or just taking in the beauty from one of the pull outs close to the shore. Renting a boat and fishing the lake is a great way to get away from the crowds of summer, and the fishing can be quite good. For hiking, fishing, and boating, be sure and bring a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, bug spray and rain gear as weather can turn from sunny and dry, to windy, rainy, and cold, quite quickly at times. Hypothermia is nothing to mess with at high altitude so be prepared
A grand anniversary
With the one hundred year anniversary of the National Park Service celebration in full swing, get out and see as many of these national treasures as possible. It makes sense to visit Yellowstone first to set the pace. After all, it was both America’s and the world’s first national park!
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