7 Nov
2013
Posted in: photography, travel
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Take a Trip: Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone grand prismatic spring

Yellowstone National Park sits near the top of my list of favorite United States national parks. I’m blessed to live near enough to it that I’ve visited our nation’s first national park several times. I had someone ask me once if all the hype surrounding the park as a must-see destination was deserved? Unequivocally yes.

west thumb

The majority of the WORLD’s geysers are located in the 2.2 million acres which make up Yellowstone National Park. Most of the park is located in the northwest corner of Wyoming but 4% of the park is in Montana and Idaho. Yellowstone is an interesting ecosystem to explore. There are geysers, Old Faithful being the most well-known, mud pots, bears, moose, wolves, elk, bison, lakes, rivers, lodges, campground and miles of hiking. Plus, there’s the added bonus of saying you’ve been in the caldera of a supervolcano.

We’ve camped inside the park at Bridge Bay, outside the park in West Yellowstone, MT and at Buffalo Bill State Park near Cody, WY. I prefer camping in the park even though the campgrounds are at maximum capacity during the summer months.  Camping in the park allows for early rising to get to spots in the park before crowds form. Yellowstone early in the morning with no crowded parking lots and boardwalks free of the masses is a much different place than Yellowstone at noon on a summer day.

It’s difficult for me to make a list of favorite spots in Yellowstone. It’s helpful to visit with someone who has been before. Visitors can easily get caught up in stopping at every sign that refers to a geyser basin and simply run out of daylight to see more.

 My Top 5 Yellowstone National Park must-sees:

  1. Grand Prismatic Spring — This is the largest hot spring in the United States. The colors are breathtaking (see photo above), and it’s one of the iconic pictures of the park. If you drive to the parking lot for the springs, you’ll be disappointed. Viewing the spring from the boardwalk defeats the purpose of viewing it at all. Park at the trailhead for Fairy Falls and head toward the falls. You won’t have to hike far before you’ll see trails heading up the hill on the left to view the spring from above. It’s a little more work, but worth the effort.
  2. Old Faithful — The first time you visit Yellowstone, you have to watch Old Faithful erupt. It’s an unspoken rule. The Old Faithful Visitor Education Center has an informative exhibit on why Yellowstone is the way it is. You’ll learn a lot about all things geothermal. There are signs posted giving an approximate time for Old Faithful’s next eruption. Make sure to be there a few minutes before the given time. The geyser is faithful but not precise.
    Old Faithful erupting
  3. Mammoth Hot Springs — This part of the park is near the Montana border and looks like no other part of Yellowstone. The landscape is eerily bleached of color. There are a lot of wooden steps to maneuver at Mammoth.Mammoth Hot Springs
  4. Dragon’s Mouth Spring — This is located in Hayden Valley. Photos don’t do this feature justice. You’ll want to take a short video clip. You can imagine a dragon actually lives in the cave and that what you’re hearing is breathing as the water laps in and out. This spring is a favorite for our kids.
  5. Wildlife — Most of the time, visitors know if there are wildlife nearby because vehicle traffic stops or crawls forward. People lose all sense and park recklessly on the road side. While viewing bears, moose, elk, bison, etc., please remember that they’re animals. I’ve seen so many people get dangerously close to animals for a photo. These are not domestic pets. Yellowstone is their home. Respect them and keep your distance.
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