There are plenty of reasons to visit Yellowstone National Park. As well as being the first National Park in the world (designated in 1872), it’s a place of simply outstanding natural beauty. From geysers and waterfalls to forests and lakes, Yellowstone is bursting with things to do and see. Add in the simply ridiculous amount of wildlife you will come across and you have one of the most incredible places in the U.S. Here is my list of reasons why you should visit Yellowstone National Park.
8 Reasons You Should Visit Yellowstone National Park
No visit to Yellowstone would be complete without seeing the incredible Old Faithful geyser. While it’s easily the most touristy part of the park, seeing it erupt is still a special experience. While Old Faithful is not the biggest geyser in the park, eruptions can still shoot water and steam up to 56 metres high! It is one of only six geysers in the park that rangers can reliably predict and eruptions take place around every 90 minutes. There is also a boardwalk that takes visitors to see some of the Upper Geyser Basin’s other geothermal features, including smaller geysers, hot springs and mudpots.
Old Faithful Facts
- Old Faithful was named because the expedition that discovered it noticed that it erupted at regular intervals.
- It can discharge up to 32000 litres of water each time it erupts.
- The Old Faithful Visitor Education Centre has loads of interesting information about the old faithful including a short film. There is also a predicted timetable for eruptions.
- Average height of an eruption is 45 metres.
Mammoth Hot Springs
The travertine terrace formations at Mammoth Hot Springs are located near the park’s North Entrance. Formed over thousands of years from limestone, the terraces can be explored via a series of boardwalks. The colour and shape of the springs are constantly changing giving another glimpse into the amazing hydrothermal activity of Yellowstone. Look out for the Liberty Cap, a 12 metre cone formation shaped by hot springs but now dormant. Nearby, you can see buildings forming part of Fort Yellowstone, which dates back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries when the US Army managed Yellowstone National Park. It’s now part of the park’s headquarters.
South Rim Trail – Artist Point
There is some excellent day hiking in Yellowstone National Park. While there are plenty of options, if you only have time for one hike, you can’t go wrong with the South Rim Trail. It’s only 2.8km (1.75 miles) one way but takes in some of the park’s most incredible scenery. It winds through pine forest and offers spectacular views of the Yellowstone Grand Canyon. The Upper Falls Viewpoint is impressive but the undoubted highlight of the hike is the view of the Lower Falls from Artist Point.
If you want wildlife sightings, look no further. Whether it was luck or not, I have NEVER seen as much wildlife as I have over my two days in Yellowstone. The park boasts the largest concentration of mammals in the lower 48 states (excluding Alaska and Hawaii), with over 60 species calling it home. While bears, wolves, lynx and cougars often prove to be elusive, you won’t have any difficulty spotting bison, elk and moose. I couldn’t believe my luck when I managed to spot a grizzly bear right by the entrance to the park. I managed to tick another sighting off my list as we were leaving the park – a majestic bald eagle surveying its domain!
Norris Geyser Basin
Exploring the Norris Geyser Basin was one of my Yellowstone highlights. There are two distinct areas – Porcelain Basin with its wide open terrain packed with cool geothermal features; and Back Basin which is set among a forest and is home to Steamboat Geyser – the tallest active geyser in the world! I loved the colours of the hot springs, which get their hue thanks to minerals and, incredibly, microorganisms that thrive there! There is so much to see here that you can spend hours traversing Norris’ boardwalks and trails!
Grand Prismatic Spring
The Grand Prismatic Spring is the third biggest hot spring in the world and is also one of the most photographed places in Yellowstone National Park. This may have something to do with its incredible colours that leap out of photos with blues, greens, yellows and oranges as striking as a rainbow. While I wasn’t lucky enough to see it in all its glory (there was too much steam and we visited on an overcast day), I highly recommend an early morning visit. The boardwalk that winds its way through the area affords ethereal views without the crowds that descend here later in the day.
The strong sulphur smell greets you as you approach the 1.4 km (0.8 mile) Mud Volcano boardwalk. Mud Volcano itself might not be as impressive as back in 1870, when its cone-shaped deposit spewed mud across great distances, earning it its name. Despite being reduced to a bubbling muddy pool by an explosion less than two years later, it’s still worth seeing. Along the walk you’ll also come across fumaroles, springs and even a lake. Bison are also often seen in this area – great for more of those wildlife sightings!
Fountain Paint Pots
Another short boardwalk but definitely worth the time! This trail twists around all the different types of hydrothermal formations seen in Yellowstone – from hot springs and fumaroles to geysers and mudpots. The highlight for me was the Silex Spring with its crystal-clear pool. Don’t miss the Clepsydra Geyser which erupts almost continuously!
Yellowstone National Park Interesting Facts
#1 Yellowstone NP lies on top of a supervolcano – an eruption almost 630,000 years ago created the Yellowstone caldera which most of the national park is spread across
#2 Old Faithful doesn’t erupt as often as it used to – back in 1870, the expedition that came across the geyser noted that it erupted every 60 minutes. Now it’s around every 90!
#3 Yellowstone is larger than the states of Rhode Island and Delaware combined!
#4 Yellowstone’s famous bison have roamed continuously here since prehistoric times – the only such place in the whole of USA
#5 Reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone in 1995 has done wonders for the park’s ecosystem. The ripple effect has helped other animals thrive and even changed behaviour of rivers. Watch the incredibly interesting video here.
What: Yellowstone National Park is the world’s first national park, designated in 1872 by US President Ulysses S. Grant
Where: The majority of the park is in Wyoming but it also stretches into Montana and Idaho.
Getting There: Nearest airports are Yellowstone Regional Airport in Cody and Jackson Hole Airport in Jackson – both are just over 80km (50 miles) away from the park entrances. Nearest major airports are in Salt Lake City, Utah (over 500 miles away) and Denver, Colorado (around 400 miles). You would need to rent a car for the rest of the journey. Renting an RV is a popular way to explore USA and there are plenty of companies who offer hire – my friends used Cruise America and said they were great! Check out some of the quirky stops you could make on a USA roadtrip here.
Alternatively, many tour companies include Yellowstone National Park in their itineraries. Trek America offer an itinerary which includes all the places in this post. I travelled with Trek America on their 43 day Grand Trek tour. This is not a sponsored post and contains no affiliated links. However, I thoroughly recommend Trek America from my personal experience.
Getting Around: You need a car to explore Yellowstone. There is no public transport in the park.
Accommodation: I camped during my visit – there are 12 campsites around the park. Facilities are basic and you need to make sure you are always Bear Aware! There are a number of lodges around the park, including the Old Faithful Inn – a historic log hotel built in 1903-1904 and a National Historic Landmark!
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