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An Illustrated Guide to Yellowstone

Updated on June 25, 2016
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As a hobby, Stefanie likes to write in her free time about things she cares about. She lives in Utah and enjoys camping and fishing.

Firehole River in Firehole Canyon. This is the swimming area, which is closed for now.
Firehole River in Firehole Canyon. This is the swimming area, which is closed for now.
Firehole Canyon Drive
Firehole Canyon Drive

Yellowstone Entrances

Yellowstone's Gates:

  • West Gate (West Yellowstone, Montana)
  • Northwest Gate (Gardner, Montana)
  • Northeast Gate (Cooke City, Montana)
  • East Gate (Cody, WY)
  • South Gate (near Jackson Hole, WY)

Living in Yellowstone

For 2 seasons now, my fiancé and I have lived in Old Faithful, Yellowstone, Wyoming. My fiancé's name is Coty (Coh-dee) and he works for National Park Service, a branch of the Department of the Interior. National Park Service is just that, park service. Coty's job is to clean and take care of the Visitor Education Center in Old Faithful District, and clean up and manage restrooms along the roads. If you have been to Yellowstone in 2011 or come this year and you notice the restrooms are clean in those areas, that's because Coty happens to be a clean freak. I got lucky having a very detail-oriented and clean freak of a man. Be jealous ladies, be jealous. All joking aside, I do my fair share.

When we first moved to Old Faithful last year, an overwhelming sense of culture shock set in for a while. We couldn't just run to the store in the middle of the night, and if we desperately needed something, it'd be a thirty-one mile drive to the nearest grocery store. We always made sure we had everything we'd need for two weeks at a time. You just never know. We came to Old Faithful in July 2011, so it was already tourist season. Coty had never been to Yellowstone in his life, so the drive to Yellowstone to begin with was an adventure.

After meeting a bunch of co-workers, Coty and I got settled for the first day or two and work began. Coty loves his job, which is why we came back a second time. It is a huge pain to move all of your belongings 400 miles away from home, then four months later, move it all back. This year we will be here six months (May-November) and will still have to move all our stuff back again. We are not sure if we're going to go for a third year yet, I guess that all depends on our situation at the time. We have had such adventure up here, and the stories I could share.

You may wonder what I do up here when Coty is at work (or you may not..). I go to the University of Phoenix Online Campus for Criminal Justice. I have been in school nearly four years, and I am definitely done with it. Back to Yellowstone..

Our first trip around Grand Loop Road was frustrating and awesome at the same time. I hate using the word awesome. Let's find another word.. how about mind-blowing? That will work. The frustrating part was the people that have to park their cars in the middle of the road. Have you seen gas prices lately? You should see them in the park! We're at $4.20/g on the low end. I don't know about you, but I can't afford to wait an hour while someone takes 10,000 pictures of one buffalo that's a mile away. At least pull over, people!

We came across Canyon, and I remember seeing that as a child. Everything is so much more amazing when you're older probably because you appreciate it more now. However, when you're a child, everything is so much bigger and amazing. I guess it could go either way. If you have never seen the Canyon, head through Old Faithful and take a left at Yellowstone Lake, and just keep heading up around the Grand Loop. You have to park and get out (tourists are great at that), but please park in the parking lot. There are people from New York that come through here and will rip your head off and honk. You may even get the finger on occasion. For the most part, everybody is here to have a good time. Please don't bring in weird bath-salt drugs, I don't want my face eaten. I don't hesitate to fire upon Zombies.

In the Canyon District there are a couple gift shops, a post office, cafeteria, bar/restaurant and a restaurant (burger joint) inside one of the gift shops. If you happen to go through Canyon, stop at the Canyon Visitor Education Center. That place is huge and really, super nice. You'll learn a lot, and there's lots of stuffed animals. That's not a good thing, but you can get pretty close to a wild animal that -used- to be alive. Don't hesitate to ask the Interperative Ranger at the front desk at the "VC" (Visitor Center) where the animal sightings are today. He or she will pull out their map, show you and tell you how to get there. There's usually a white board as you come in with sightings that you can write down if you saw something, or check it out if someone else saw an animal.

In the park, you have to stay on the paths. Don't go off the boardwalks, and don't write your name or stick your hand into the bacteria mats. I can't tell you how many people I've seen doing this. Some people say, "Oh, it's ok, it's not hot!" Well, check out your hand when you pull it out, then explain the pain you're experiencing as your flesh falls off your bone like a buffalo wing. The acid in those things are crazy, so do not touch. If you walk off the boardwalk, you run the risk of breaking through the thin crust on top, and there could be a new, boiling geyser or hot pool lying underneath just waiting for the surface to broken open.

There was a story about a man (this is going to get gory) who took his dog on a boardwalk that clearly states "NO DOGS". His dog, of course, jumped in. Now, I'm a dog lover myself. I can't understand anyone wanting to put their pet in that situation anyway. If you don't want something to happen to your kid, you don't allow that situation to come about to begin with. The same goes for your animals, right? So, what did the guy do? He jumped in after his dog. As soon as he jumped in, he was screaming that it was hot. Of course it's hot, it stems from a Caldera (in-ground volcano) three miles beneath your feet! He turned around and said screw the dog, and he jumped out. When he took his boots off, (this is going to get gross..warning) his flesh and cooked muscles slid off the bone. He was in such pain, he died a few days later. The dog didn't make it either, but I'm sure you guessed that.

On to the animals; don't get close to Buffalo. Have you seen "When Vacations Attack"?! They'll gore you right open. I know you may think it's cute to set your toddler on the back of one for a picture, but it's not only dangerous, it's illegal. The fine is outrageous. The average Buffalo weighs 2,000 lbs. (907.18 kilos) and can run 30 miles per hour (48 KPH). I had one sneak up on me last year. Yes, they're huge but they are VERY sneaky. His name is Bill and he is our resident Buffalo. We stay away from him, and gander from a distance. But, one day I was walking my dog and he stopped. I didn't hear anything, so I looked in the direction Tank (my dog) was looking, and there was Buffalo Bill eating grass 15 feet from me. Mind you, I'm 40 feet from my apartment. Luckily my big wussy dog just stares and doesn't say a peep, and we turned around and came back inside. Had I not have been alerted by my dog, I would have walked right by the Buffalo and never noticed. The trees are so thick out here, you never know what's a foot or two inside the thicket.

We love living here, even though it's very far from home and family. Yes, it is beautiful here. There's always something new to see or hear about, and always new people to meet. There's plenty off-the-road type of places you can go that do not involve hiking. I'm not a hiker myself, neither is Coty, but I know a lot of people that do hike. We prefer to not wander too far from the car, as we keep our dog inside when we get out for a moment. Yellowstone prefers you to keep your animal in a well cooled vehicle versus outside with wild animals or on the boardwalks. I know you can protect your animal from another, but can you prevent him or her from pooping on the boardwalk? Nope. I have a dog, and he refuses to poop on anything but grass. Is there any grass out here? Nope. I'm sure you wanted to know that. I will add another guide to Yellowstone that involves going off the Grand Loop, and places you can still see from the car, or a little ways from the car. I have a bad knee, so I know all about this sort of thing. If you have any questions, please, please contact me. My email address is I can help you out with your stay, help you plan a trip, and answer any questions you have about the park! It's very easy for me to get information you may not be able to without coming here. Don't hesitate!

The Knotty Porch

The Knotty Porch, Old Faithful
The Knotty Porch, Old Faithful | Source

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    • profile image

      Marsha Dickerson 5 years ago

      What an, no, I won't use that word, descriptive story! I love to hear adventures by the lay person because it gives us a better prospective of Yellowstone. Thanks for sharing. Sounds like you could write a book about all the places visitors can go who may not know about them. I plan on visiting again and plan on checking other sites I missed in the past. Keep the stories coming and include a pic of that dog of yours. Happy writing!

    • Jlbowden profile image

      James Bowden 5 years ago from Long Island, New York


      Very nice description of yellowstone. I have a friend from Long Island, N.Y. who enjoys hiking and the great outdoors. He and his wife have been to this great place in the state of Montana many of times. In fact he had a very close encounter with a Grizzly one time during one of his visits, but fortunately the Grizzly, it wasn't interested at that moment-lucky for him!

      Anyway really informative and interesting article, which I also voted up. I remembered from the article, that you do not like the other AWE word, so I didn't use it. (: Your article also had an added twist of humor, as well as a little gore.

      These two elements always make a story that much more interesting. Something like that found in Stephen King's books.

      Also at this time I would like to extend my greeting and welcome you to our community of online freelance writers.

      You will find the people here-including some new yorkers like myself are truly very friendly, and equally supportive. And to add we read signs on occasion as well.

      If you ever have any questions in reference to our interactive writers platform please, by all means do not hesitate to send anyone of us an email. And we will do our best to answer your questions.

      Again welcome aboard and I will keep an eye open for more of your yellowstone adventure stories. Happy writing to you!


    • miloskc profile image

      miloskc 5 years ago

      I spent two years living in Wyoming and went to Yellowstone during the last week of my stay there. And as soon as I saw the park, I regretted for not going more often.

      Great hub. It would be even better if you could post more photos of the park!