What to Know About Traveling to Yellowstone

With the ongoing global pandemic, many Americans are changing how they travel. Rather than international trips requiring long flights, this summer, more Americans have taken to the roadways and embraced road trips.

Among their stops are frequently National Parks.

Yellowstone is a favorite National Park and some people feel among the most beautiful places in the world.

If you’re thinking about taking a road trip this summer to Yellowstone or flying in and then driving once you’re there, the following are some things to know.

The Basics

Yellowstone is the first National Park in America, and it’s more than two million acres.

It’s divided into regions and habitats that are diverse from one another and include geysers, a lake, canyons and limestone terraces. These are all in addition to the awe-inspiring wildlife roaming freely.

One of the most famous features of Yellowstone is Old Faithful.

Can’t-Miss Yellowstone Sites

If you decide on a trip to Yellowstone, there’s so much to see that it may feel overwhelming, but these are some of the must-dos:

·         Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone: This feature was formed following thousands of years of erosion, and it’s in the Canyon Village area, which is one of the most popular places for hiking in Yellowstone. The canyon is around a mile wide and 20 miles long.

·         Old Faithful: This is course the quintessential attraction in Yellowstone, and the eruptions are on average, around 130 feet high. Old Faithful erupts every hour-and-a-half typically. You can see the eruption by going to the perimeter, or you can take a mile-long hike to Observation Point, which provides a bird’s eye view. You can also watch it erupt from the dining room of the Old Faithful Inn.

·         Yellowstone Lake: The Lake is in the middle of the West Thumb area of the park, and it’s the largest body of water in Yellowstone. It’s also North America’s largest freshwater lake above 7,000 feet.

·         Grand Prismatic Spring: This is the largest hot spring in the  United States, and the middle of the pool is bright blue, while the edges are bright red, yellow, and orange. Pigmented bacteria cause the colors.

·         Hayden Valley: if your goal in visiting Yellowstone is to see wildlife, there’s Hayden Valley, which is north of Yellowstone Lake and is where you may spot bison, grizzly bears, and elk.

·         Norris Geyser Basin: This is another geothermal hot spot in Yellowstone and you can walk along the boardwalks to see acid geysers, including the world’s tallest active geyser, Steamboat.

·         Mammoth Hot Springs: Located to the southwest of the North Entrance, this is an area where there are terraces and travertine formations that look like nature’s own sculptures.

Other points of interest in Yellowstone include Lamar Valley, and the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center.

When Should You Go?

Most people recommend visiting Yellowstone in July or August because there’s often winter snow that’s slow to melt in spring. In some cases, Yellowstone has snowstorms in late spring and early fall as well.

You should be aware, however, that since the summer months are the most popular time to visit Yellowstone, it’s likely going to be incredibly crowded, and it can take away from some of the natural beauty to be surrounded by so many people.

For example, there were 4.25 million visitors to Yellowstone in 2016, and a million of those were in July.

If you want to avoid the crowds and you’re okay with some cooler weather, consider visiting Yellowstone in fall. It’s a good time to watch wildlife, and there are the vibrant colors of the changing leaves to enjoy.

Download the Yellowstone App Before You Go

When you get to Yellowstone, you can buy a week-long pass to go int the park for $25 per vehicle, and you can buy that at any of the park’s entrances.

There are several days of free entrance to the park offered each year.

Before you get there, download the Yellowstone app and then download the content it contains so you can access it offline because there’s no free Wi-Fi in the park. There’s also limited cellular service in the park.

Where Should You Stay?

If you’re going to Yellowstone, you can choose to camp, but if you’re not going to camp, there are some great lodging options.

Just know that lodging near Yellowstone books fast, so make sure you plan far in advance. If it’s the summer high season, it’s pretty unlikely you’ll be able to show up and find a place last-minute.

There is lodging both in and out of the park.

Some of the options in the park include Grant Village, Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and Cabins, and Old Faithful Inn.

Of those options, many would argue the Old Faithful Inn is the most iconic. It’s a log structure built in 1904, and staying there lets you explore some of the most notable areas in the park, including Old Faithful and Grand Prismatic Spring.

If you’re planning to stay near Yellowstone but not in the park, there is West Yellowstone which is the best location outside the park. There’s also Gardiner, convenient to Mammoth Hot Springs, but far from other parts of the park.

Another option is to stay in Jackson Hole, which is about an hour’s drive from the park and also offers some notable spots to see itself.

Jackson Hole offers something for every budget, which makes it a good option, and if you’re going to fly into the area and then drive, the Jackson Hole Airport is pretty convenient.

Jackson Hole is convenient not only to Yellowstone but also Grand Teton National Park, so if you make that your basecamp, you get double the bang for your buck.

Finally, another option is to stay in Big Sky, northwest of Yellowstone, and Yellowstone County.

Big Sky is a major skiing hub but is also known for its whitewater rafting, hiking, and wildflower meadows.

However you plan your exact trip, Yellowstone is likely going to be the adventure of a lifetime.


Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell is a father, martial artist, budget-master, Disney-addict, musician, and recovering foodie having spent over 2 decades as a leader for Whole Foods Market. Click to learn more about me

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