What to do in Yellowstone National Park

Today, we will be talking about a majestic countryside that will make your jaws drop and your eyes pop out. It is an extremely popular tourist attraction in the United States, the Yellowstone National Park. Known for its wildlife and geothermal features, especially the Old Faithful Geyser, Yellowstone is the oldest National Park in USA. The feats of the Yogi Bear made the Yellowstone National Park famous.

Comprising the diverse and intriguing American states of Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming, a trip to the Great American West promises to be the adventure of a lifetime. And no Great American West adventure would be complete without a visit to the world’s first national park, Yellowstone.

Yellowstone National Park is another world in itself. You can get lost in here, like civilization or urbanization doesn’t exist. The park is complete nature and the wildlife roam freely in there, and not minding the vehicles and the human population. It is a beautiful land with so much to offer. Breathtaking views, amazing terrains, hot springs and so much to explore. It is a favorite and sought out trip for many families on road trips.

Yellowstone is the national park famous for its biomes, wildlife, and geothermal features. The park houses hundreds of species of plants, animals, birds, and reptiles. There are also infinite hiking trails in Yellowstone National Park that provide great views of hills, plains, and creeks that make up the Yellowstone landscape. Relax by the beautiful Yellowstone Lake for a picnic or various fun activities.

The Yellowstone National Park was established in the year 1872, and is going to be 150 years old soon. Being this old, the park is actually one of the oldest national parks in the world. Despite being old, it is also one of the most scenic national parks in the world. It is stretched over an immense geographical area covering as many as three states in the US, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.

Yellowstone Park is one of the most visited parks in USA, and rightfully so. Yellowstone boasts crystal clear waters and gorgeous landscapes of mountains. This is the place to be if you have never been there. The kind of biodiversity found in the park has made people want to come to see it in person. From grizzly bears and wolves to elks, a variety of wildlife can be seen upon your visit.

It sort of has a bit of everything: expansive plains and wilderness, sublime canyons, beautiful lakes, fascinating geologic features, inspiring wildlife, and rustic lodges. It also has some mountains, though it’s an easy drive from Yellowstone to Grand Teton National Park to see really picturesque ones.

You want to answer your boss' constant texts and email, switch off your phone and shove it in your bag. You want to stress about the promotion announcement, do it when you are free, not in the Yellowstone park. Each time you occupy your mind with the worries of home, you will keep on missing the experiences and beauty of nature that is right in front of you.

And we do not come to Yellowstone National Park to miss out, we come here to get the full blown experience of the Wild West. So, shut your past and live in the moment.

The famous Yellowstone National Park was founded all the way back in 1872 and it is about to turn 150 years old. With that being said, it is one of the oldest national parks in the whole world. It is quite large, as it lays over an area that covers three states in the United States. Those states are Wyoming that holds the most of the park, Montana and Idaho.

Yellowstone Park is the most visited national park in the whole United States of America, and there is a good reason for it. It is a place where you will be able to see some of the most crystal clear waters and breathtaking landscapes of huge mountains. This national park is something that every person who has the opportunity to travel should visit at least once in their lifetime.

Yellowstone National Park, spread over Wyoming, Montana and Idaho is the world’s first national park famous for its unspoiled nature and beauty. It has unique hydrothermal attractions, dramatic peaks, and pristine lakes. Visitors are amazed by multicolored pools around hot springs, beautiful forests, expansive meadows, and stunning geysers in this national park.

Yellowstone offers more than 3,000 square miles of mountains, canyons, and waterfalls. If you decide to visit, you'll probably be able to see amazing wildlife as sightings of buffalo, elk, and grizzlies are not uncommon here.

Best Things to Do in Yellowstone National Park

So, without further ado, let us get into the must do things in Yellowstone National Park.

1. Get Acquainted with Horses near Union falls

Can you imagine a countryside that is without horses? Yellowstone National Park is renowned for the vast fields and terrains it offers to the horse riders. Be it morning or evening, you just have to saddle up your horse and take it for a ride that you will remember for a long-long time.

And you do not have to worry about the skills required to be an expert horse rider. You can just be a beginner or be a pro in the sport, your skills would be catered to by the Park and it’s services providers. In Yellowstone National Park, you do not need a car to travel around, a car is too reminiscent of a city.

At this park, you can take a horse, to see the water springs, to be awed by the sunset, or to watch the wolves in the Lamar Valley. A horse would be your companion throughout your visit.

2. See the Hot Water Eruptions of the Old Faithful Geyser

On top of the breathtaking scenery and mountaintops, you will get to experience its amazing biodiversity. They have everything from wolves and grizzly bears to elk, which you will all get to experience when you are travelling through the national park. And on top of all those amazing things, Yellowstone national park has over 500 geysers, but there is one that is better than all 499 others. That amazing geyser is called the Old Faithful Geyser.

Are you familiar with hot springs? They are similar to a vent, but inside the earth’s surface, which burst hot water out of it. A geyser is a kind of hot spring that discharges boiling water. At Yellowstone National Park, there are over 500 geysers. However, there is one that outshines them all and that is the Old Faithful Geyser.

This geyser is known to give out eruptions regularly. Whenever the underground hot spring gets to its highest temperature, it bursts out and shoots up water at 200° F. The way and the speed at which the water comes out of the geyser appears almost magical.And this magical experience needs to be witnessed once in a lifetime.

Most of the crowds are on the road, in the parking lots or restaurants or at 5–6 highlight attractions. As for Old Faithful, viewers are kept back more than 100 metres. This is a result of one-viewing-then-on-to-the-next-attraction syndrome.

If you are lodging at Old Faithful and find out from the rangers what else is going to erupt and when, after you’ve seen bigger geysers like Grand, Great Fountain and Beehive, you’ll notice Old Faithful has been regularly performing but in the background, even in the middle of the night. Some eruptions are taller, some are shorter.

You may decide it’s a lot more fascinating than you first thought, once you allow it to be what it is, away from centre stage. But it you lodge elsewhere or camp, Yellowstone will present an entirely different mood than you thought it would have.

This is where the Earth is young and full of surprises. There is so much more going on than five or so famous attractions.

3. Go Fishing First and Enjoy a Bonfire Later near Yellowstone Lake

When you come and visit Yellowstone National Park, you will never be able to see its glory in just one day. So, you would have to stay a few nights at least. The lodges in the Park offer the utmost comfort and ease of staying here. Along the cluster of East Yellowstone Lodges, you will find a number of streams, these are streams with a diversity of fishes. You can also get day or weekly fishing license.

If you have only one day: tour the Lower Loop, unless your goal is seeing wildlife above all else in which case start predawn in Lamar Valley. If you have two days, do one loop per day. A third day will allow you to relax and enjoy the Upper Geyser Basin.

A fourth day opens up the other sites on the Lower Loop you weren’t able to see on your earlier trip around it. A fifth day allows a substantial hike. Subsequent days open up as many possibilities as you have curiosity and energy. Some guides swear by Norris Geyser Basin. Others insist on seeing West Thumb Geyser Basin. Great! It’s an individual choice.

Midway Geyser Basin view of the grand Prismatic Spring from the hill looking down at it is great if you have more time; it’s a 3.25 km walk. Others love to stop at Moose Falls, Lewis Falls and Isa Lake.

A short walk up the lodges you will come to the Blue-Ribbon Trout Streams, that is basically a fishing sanctuary.You can spend your evenings here fishing with your friends and family and then later at night you can have a bonfire and devour the meal you hunted earlier. Is this not a good life?

4. Marvel at the Majesty of the Grand Canyon from Lower Falls

The lower fall grand canyon has the most beautiful waterfall. Standing at the edge of it and looking down at the gushing water will make you truly wander at the marvels that our planet holds close to its heart. The grand canyon falls into the Yellowstone river and can be accessed from the north and the south to have the most wondrous views. Check it out from both the vantage points and see how majestic nature can be.

5. Astonishing view of deep blue water of Grand Prismatic Spring

The reason why it’s beneficial to leave the interstate and major airports to visit Yellowstone is because it’s like no place on earth, geologically. Of course you can see geysers and other hot springs in Iceland, New Zealand, El Tatio and Kamchatka, to name the greatest concentrations. But Yellowstone has more than all of them combined.

And, many of Yellowstone’s thermal features are in the backcountry, doubly removed from the beaten path. As in Russia’s Valley of Geysers, a huge part of Yellowstone’s appeal after the preservation of these wonders is their natural, undeveloped state, in situ, most of them, Old Faithful being an exception.

But then, the resultant geology of the hot spot beneath has created ~290 year-round waterfalls above 5 m., amazing rivers, lakes and hiking terrain and habitat for a remarkable diversity of wildlife. There is ever so much more to Yellowstone than only geysers.

Yellowstone has geysers and other geothermal features. Yellowstone is a multi sensory experience where you can enjoy seeing the geysers, and grand prismatic spring, and morning glory pool.

Grand Prismatic Spring is a stunning and colorful hot spring. It has 121 feet depth and 370 feet diameter. You can find an astonishing view of deep blue water and patches of various colors like yellow, red and green. The temperature here can go up to 87-degrees.

You can feel the sun on your face, feel the wind in your hair, feel the mist from the steam, and feel the warmth emitted by some of the springs. You can hear the wind in the trees, hear the call of the ravens, and the occasional bugle of a bull elk, hear the clumping of the hooves of the bison on the road, the chattering of chipmunks and squirrels.

You can hear the glub, glub, plop sounds of the mud pots, the hiss of steam escaping the fumaroles, the splashing and gurgling of springs, waterfalls, and geysers. You can smell the pine trees, the smell of fresh air, earth, sulfur, and wildflowers and you can taste huckleberry ice cream.

Here grizzly bears live with black bears, coyotes with wolves and moose and bison with deer, among other species. But here, too, there are rivers for whitewater rafting, lakes, lush forests, canyons and hundreds of waterfalls dotting this natural space distributed between the states of Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. Its boasts of geological features you can not find anywhere else.

It’s also perfectly accessible, many of its most iconic attractions can be viewed on a comfortable scenic drive. The Golden hour, has pros and cons to that. Unquestionably most landscapes come alive at that time. But the famous Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone’s Midway Geyser Basin will mostly only show off ethereal atmosphere in its vapors at those times. When the sun is the highest is the time its astonishing colors are best revealed.

Unfortunately, that’s when the crowds are the most intense and when parking may not be available. Either arrive earlier and wait, as the world passes you by, or park further away off the road where legal and walk in. By the way, everyone will tell you don’t park at Midway and see it from the boardwalk. The superior view is from the overlook off the Fairy Falls Trail.

There are pros and cons again. Plan ahead; reserve your room in the park a year or more in advance to find a reasonable rate. Pad your travel time to the park from home. A 3-day trip to Yellowstone is sufficient if you don’t plan to see attractions along the way or if you don’t want to be able to serendipitously follow your nose at times. Yellowstone is also one of the best National Parks to visit in December in USA.

Once you’re past the famous, bucket-list attractions, you can relax quite a bit more and experience the authentic Yellowstone experience.

Choose your gate of access, the direction you approach the park from. There are many opinions about which gate is best but the most convenient is the one closest to you. The only way to get to Yellowstone originally was by taking a Northern Pacific Railway train to Gardiner, Montana. From Gardiner, passengers loaded into wagons to cross the rolling hills to Mammoth Hot Springs.

But officials felt that there was no real sense of place in that trip. No sense of having “crossed the threshold” into America’s Wonderland. So they built one.

6. Roosevelt Arch

While other parks might have amazing scenery just in or around an entrance, the Roosevelt Arch is the example of an amazing gate built on purpose, to really accentuate how you’ve entered into someplace special.

If you’re coming from Idaho and points west by all means use the west gate. It will give you quick access to the famous thermal basins south of Madison as well as Norris Geyser Basin on the way to Canyon.

Go through it before 8:00 am due to it being the busiest. There’s a daily summer morning and late afternoon traffic jam from people slowing down and stopping for elk even when there’s rangers waving people through. You’re going to see more of them, the elk. If you need to photograph them, park off the fog line and do it.

The eastern gate is via Theodore Roosevelt’s favourite road, Wyoming Highway 16. If you’re coming from points east it will amaze you. The towering rock formations, winding Shoshone River, Sylvan Pass and Yellowstone Lake are breathtaking highlights for this route.

In a perfect world, you’ll heed the advice of many that you need at least a few days. Some will insist lodging outside the park is best and some will say stay inside. It’s a very personal choice based on your amenity needs and how early you plan your trip and reserve lodging.

But, once you’ve made those choices, the amount of time you’ve allotted will help narrow down your attractions to see. This method works well for Grand Teton Park as well as any of the others. Plan ahead, reserve early and research the sorts of things you want to see, even/especially the hikes. Finally, get an early start. More time that you thought sufficient and getting out ahead of the crowd will open up the very best of any park you visit.

Once you’re past the competing-with-the-crowds-for-inadequate-parking phase you’ll find the park is huge and full of atmosphere all those competitors are missing like picnic areas, a walk along a gravel beach/bar, steak dinner with a singing cowboy after a horse or wagon ride, fishing, a boat cruise, history, more wildlife than you saw the other day, amazing changes in lighting and weather and more than 1,700 kilometres of hiking trails.

The first national park is more amazing than you’ve been led to believe. But, you need to have leisure to relax and take it in. The crowded path by midday to the brink of the Lower Falls has an entirely different atmosphere at 8:00 pm or 7:00 am or in between.

The entire park is that way. It’s like stargazing — not so rewarding to those on a tight schedule. You see a lot more after your eyes have adjusted to the darkness. And, though faint objects don’t look like much when observed directly, avert your eyes just a little. You’ll find they come into focus much better and with more clarity.

From the overlook, you are considerably farther from the brilliant Cyanobacteria in the water going directly under the walkway and within which are animal tracks. Delicately unexpected patterns in the vapors over the spring including rare vortexes are entirely missed by those up on the hill.

And the celebrated visual angle, looking down on the spring, is found looking into the larger Excelsior Geyser from much closer. Missing the yellows and oranges? Excelsior’s are enjoyed on the walk to and from the basin and missed on the hill. You need at least twice the amount of days you thought you need to experience the park.

Lodging inside the park allows you to not only experience the sunrise and sunset lighting but also the middle of the night. Additional, you will be well ahead of the daily masses. Before they arrive and after they leave, even Old Faithful and even in July becomes peaceful, serene and eminently photogenic. Reserve a year in advance.

Try not to buy food in the park as it's very expensive, You can buy a cheap cooler to keep in your trunk with drinks lunch meat fruits snacks. Yellowstone is huge, and if you have kids you will be glad you have food on hand. There are lots of pull offs with picnic tables and areas you can just have a picnic just remember to secure your food. Touch you are in grizzly country.

Greater variety is found in the gateway communities but require a bit of a drive. Frankly, if you don’t reserve lodging inside the park considerably ahead of time, you’re probably sleeping in one of those communities already. Cooking at your campsite or bringing an alfresco hamper is most economical and opens up more of the true heart of the park.

Finally, whilst cooking is not allowed inside a hotel room or cabin, an electric tea kettle allows you to prepare oatmeal, ramen noodles or backpacking meals.

If you shop for T shirts and such the smaller shops in the Western towns are usually cheaper than the National Park lodges and stores. Also buy gas outside the park and fuel up the night before or early in the morning. There is so much free hiking and geysers and wildlife and just the beautiful scenery to see that doesn't cost anything except for your weekly pass into the park which is good for 7 days.

7. West Yellowstone

Yellowstone has very rugged terrain but it’s not made of chiseled, hard rock with sweeping sheer faces above glacial lakes. Grand Teton is graced with that. But Yellowstone’s most famous attractions are geysers and other springs, waterfalls and wildlife. Though the majority of its falls are in the backcountry, a motor visitor can see extremely satisfying ones.

You’re welcome to stay outside of the park but if you don't reserve that early you’ll be paying the same as in but you’ll also have driving time to the park and you’ll miss out on relaxed ambiance before and after the summer hoards descend.

West Yellowstone is the exception. It’s right next to the park but still 40 minutes from Old Faithful and traffic is bad coming out of the park. If you don’t get going early, traffic is bad going in. But if you’ve reserved enough time in advance, you can relax and enjoy it.

West Yellowstone, Montana, just outside of the park has a remarkable history museum. There are also memorable museums at Quake Lake, just downstream from Hegben Lake and the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman is worth a visit or two. It’s a bit of a drive, but the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody will easily take up two days between its five museums under one roof.

To dismiss Yellowstone as an overly popular/crowded freak of nature is missing the point and is considered so only by critics who’ve never actually gotten to know or seen it beyond the crowds. That’s okay; they should go wherever makes them happy. But their judgement is shallow. Yellowstone is the fulfillment of an idea that changed the world.

The reason so few visitors see bears is because of the eminent success of its vision. The park is vast, complex and dynamic. It’s bigger than the scope of convenience. And, in its geology, in its displaying evidence of the forces by which our entire planet’s been shaped, there is so much to observe and learn here.

It is highly worth traveling to its remoteness, if one’s into such things. Microbially, as well, it is a window into our beginnings and our future.

No matter how you decide to do it, it is an adventure of a lifetime. Truly an amazing place. Take lots of pictures and you will have lots of great memories.
Kalyan Panja