How to Have a Fun, Safe Visit to Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park is one of the most amazing places in the United States to visit. What really makes Yellowstone unique is that most of the park sits on top of a super volcano, which gives rise to the geothermal activity including geysers, hot springs, and more. It is a very beautiful place to visit with beautiful mountain views, huge waterfalls, abundant wildlife, and pristine forests. My family and I spent a week there a few years ago and loved every minute of it. Yellowstone has a lot to see and do for the entire family; however, it can also be a very dangerous place to visit.
Have you ever been to Yellowstone National Park
What to see in Yellowstone National Park
Since there is so much to see in Yellowstone, let me start by telling you what my family liked the best:
- Mammoth Hot Springs
- Tower Falls
- Lamar Valley – ton of wildlife
- Upper & Lower Yellowstone Falls
- Yellowstone Lake
- Old Faithful
Driving Safety Tips
Driving through Yellowstone National Park is an experience in and of itself. There are several dangers related to driving that you need to be aware of:
- Due to the amount of wildlife in the park, you have to be alert for wildlife either walking down the road or across it. While we were visiting Yellowstone, we saw bison all over the park on the road as well as elk crossing it.
- Keep an eye out for cars stopping on the roadway or by people driving slowly while looking off to one side of the road of the other. This is a very common occurrence in Yellowstone because there is so much to see.
- Nighttime driving is extremely dangerous. There are almost no streetlights in the park and the roads twist and turn a lot. Another reason the park is so dangerous to drive in at night is once again the wildlife. The first night that we were out there, I made the mistake of trying to see Old Faithful erupt before heading back to our hotel outside of the park. We left that area around 9 PM and it took us a few hours to get out of the north entrance. It was very hard to drive faster than 35 miles per hour and much of the time it was less than that because you could not tell where the road was going or whether or not there were reflectors or wildlife eyes ahead. We did come upon an elk herd that was in the middle of the road at one point.
Hiking Safety Tips
Yellowstone is an amazing place to hike. It is so beautiful there with so many different unique things to see. It is important to remember that Yellowstone is a wild, untamed area, and that it is important to take the proper safety precautions in order to have a great experience.
- Do not hike if you are not in physical shape to do so. Remember that Yellowstone National Park is at a much higher elevation (8,000 feet average elevation) than most people are used to. If you are not used to the high elevation, wait a few days before taking a strenuous hike to allow your body to adjust. We took Uncle Tom’s Trail down to the bottom of Lower Yellowstone Falls on the first day that we were in the park. That was a mistake because there are a lot of stairs back to the top and they are also nearly vertical.
- Always carry a can of bear spray with you and have it accessible. Be sure to make noise as you hike to alert any wildlife in the area to your presence. If you do see any wildlife, remember to keep your distance and slowly back away. The rule of thumb is 25 yards for smaller animals and 100 yards for larger ones, especially bears. Do not run! If a grizzly bear attacks you, lie on your stomach, fold your hands behind your neck, and play dead until the bear is gone. Bear attacks are extremely rare, but it is important to know what to do just in case. It is also a good idea to check with the park service to find out about bear activity in any area that you want to hike.
- It is also very important that you stay on marked trails. At Yosemite National Park, several hikers died because they crossed over a barrier and fell into a river and went over the falls.
Geothermal Area Safety Tips
The geothermal areas in Yellowstone are awesome and potentially dangerous. It is important to stay on the mark paths and to keep kids close by. All of the hot springs, geysers, mud pots, and so on, are at least a couple hundred degrees in temperature. Also, the ground over those areas can be very thin and fragile. The park service has done a great job with building wooded walkways and by staking off dangerous areas.
Weather Safety Tips
The weather in Yellowstone National Park can change rapidly. Always dress in layers and keep rain gear with you. It is also important to remember that it can snow in the higher elevations of Yellowstone during any month of the year. If you choose to snowmobile in Yellowstone in the winter, it is critical to stay on marked trails and always be alert.
Visiting Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming is a once in a lifetime vacation. It is the best family trip that we have taken so far. It is important to remember the potential dangers that exist so that you can have a fun and safe trip to Yellowstone.