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Yellowstone National Park
Visiting Yellowstone National Park
In mid-August 2010, I took a trip to Yellowstone National Park. I had a Yellowstone vacation many years ago, as a child of 6 or 7 years of age, but wanted to return since I remembered little of that earlier trip. Taking my vacation in mid-August allowed me to avoid some of the hottest temperatures and the swarms of insects that are common during June and July in Yellowstone.
While Yosemite National Park remains my favorite in terms of pure magnificence, Yellowstone National Park is unique with it's super volcano and hydrothermal activity which create the hot springs, geysers, mud pots, fumaroles, and other features. On this page, I will share information that will help you better understand the area, plan your own Yellowstone vacation, and enjoy some views of the park through my own Yellowstone pictures.
My Yellowstone Vacation
I spent only two days at Yellowstone as I had other sites to see on my trip agenda. The photo to the right shows the road entering the park from the east entrance. In two days you can view most of the primary sites. However, if you want to engage in hiking, rafting, horseback riding, guided tours and so forth, more time would be needed. Even if you just take the scenic loop, there can be a great deal of walking involved and some of it can be strenuous if you choose to hike to and from the falls along the North or South Rim of the canyon.
One of the first things I noticed unfortunately were the number of dead lodge pole pine trees. This is due to fire activity over the past 20 or more years. There was of course a massive fire in the late 1980's and smaller ones since. In addition, much of the area has struggled with an infestation of mountain pine beetles which kill off mature trees. Both of these natural occurences act to purge the forest of older growth. In fact, the heat of a fire promotes growth as it forces open the sealed cones which hold the seed for new lodge pole pine trees.
During the afternoon on the first day of my Yellowstone vacation, it became quite cloudy and rained off and on. The periods of rain were generally brief allowing me to continue sightseeing. Clearly this provided a bit of a different mood. The picture to the right here shows a geyser basin under cloud cover. The steam however, isn't due to the weather, it is from the hot springs below the surface.
Geysers are constricted causing the pressure to mount over time. This increased pressure results then in an eruption as they spew hot water periodically. Each geyser is different, errupting at different intervals; some erupting several times an hour and others only every few months or years. There are over 300 geysers at Yellowstone.
Old Faithful is of course one of the most famous geysers at Yellowstone National Park. It is not the biggest geyser but because it's eruptions have been so regular, it is one that nearly everyone views at some point. It is shown here just at the end of an eruption. Another geyser to the rear of Old Faithful is just beginning it's eruption. Similar to a geyser is a furmarole. These steaming openings in the ground don't erupt with water, but vent steam only.
Hot springs also produce a lot of steam. These pools of water may feature a variety of colors due to the mineral particles and the microorganisms that live within their boiling hot water. I have a few pictures of these featured below. Mud pots are hot springs that have less water, they have a particularly strong sulphur smell due to the gases they emit. They aren't particularly attractive, but look like boiling/bubbling mud. Again, I have one shown in the Yellowstone pictures I've featured lower on the page.
The picture to the right was taken the second day of my trip on a very foggy morning. This area was clear but we drove in and out of heavy fog until about 9:30 a.m. This made viewing in some areas very limited as the fog, paired with the venting steam, obscured the view. However, it created a very unique experience as we could hear escaping steam and splattering geysers as they erupted in the Lower Geyser Basin but could not see them until we were upon them.
I included a few pictures of this lower on the page, they aren't ideal for seeing these features, but it demonstrates our rather surreal experience.
Yellowstone National Park is home for many bison, elk, moose, mule deer, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, wolves, coyotes, black bears, grizzly bears, and a wide range of other wildlife. Bison were in rut when I traveled there in August. This meant that they were gathering in larger groups; particularly in the Hayden and Lamar Valleys. During this mating season, it's easy to view herds of bison from the roadways and in fact, they frequently stop traffic as they cross the roads. Getting a close up look is easy, even from your car. The picture to the right was taken from my car, using no zoom.
Bison, elk, and mooose have been known to gore visitors who approach too closely, so safety dictates that you maintain a reasonable distance! These animals always have the right of way. Bears of course are even more precarious, and care should be taken when hiking. It's best to make enough noise to assure you don't sneak up on bears. In fact, you should carry bear spray for protection.
In general, wildlife tends to be seen most frequently in the evening and early morning hours. Of course, this also requires caution when driving as they often cross the roads.
The park offers many unique and even unforgettable sights but if I were to list three of my favorite views in Yellowstone National Park my list would include:
Yellowstone Lake from the Fishing Bridge. Perhaps it's because we had just arrived and it was my first sight of the grand landscape, but the lake was so peaceful, clear and picture perfect I would consider it a loss to miss it. I think it would be hard to see this area and not dream of living with just such a view out your back window. One view of it is pictured here, but there are more below.
The Lower Geyser Basin and Grand Prismatic Spring. We saw this area on the foggy second morning. It created some of the most memorable views. The deep blue pools of water, rising steam, and textured yellow and orange colored surfaces were dramatic and almost dream like. (I have a few pictures of this below.)
Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Just south of Canyon Village, visitors to Yellowstone National Park can take the North or South Rim drives. These allow access to viewing the canyon as well as the Upper and Lower Falls. The canyon walls with their characteristic yellow and red tinged walls are impressive as they drop steeply to the Yellowstone River below. The falls of course are very impressive with the Lower Falls being nearly twice as high as Niagra falls. Both the Upper and Lower falls are shown in the Yellowstone pictures I've featured lower on the page. I highly recommend taking the steep hike down to the brink of the falls to feel the power of the water and view the ever present rainbow they create.
Why is Yellowstone Unique?
Yellowstone has more geysers than any other single location in the world. The park sits atop a volcano; one that last erupted 640,000 years ago. The heat behind the geysers, hotsprings, and steam vents is generated by magma which lies several miles below the surface.
You will begin seeing steam vents soon after entering the park. The one on the right is near Yellowstone Lake when entering from the east. The water in the pools is generally very acidic as well as hot. However, thermoacidophile life (microorganisms) can grow there and add to the beauty of these features.
Be sure to enjoy more of the sights of Yellowstone in the pictures I have posted below.
Yellowstone Pictures - Click on Thumbnail Photos to EnlargeClick thumbnail to view full-size
More Yellowstone Pictures - Click on Thumbnail Photos to EnlargeClick thumbnail to view full-size
Additional Yellowstone Pictures - Click on Thumbnail Photos to EnlargeClick thumbnail to view full-size
See Yellowstone National Park in Winter
Yellowstone National Park Information and Travel Tips
Here are a few things to know before you visit Yellowstone National Park.Admission to the park in 2010 was $25 per for passenger vehicles. This gives you access to both Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks for a period of 7 days. There are also Annual passes ($80) that will get you into all national parks, Senior Passes, and more. Be sure to check road conditions before you plan your trip. Road work within the park can make travel slow during the busy summer season. You can find this information on the NPS.GOV site. Research and plan your visit ahead of time. If your time at the park will be limited, this is particularly important. There are many activities available within the park as well as other sites to see in the general area. Yellowstone travel books are available in public libraries, AAA offers books and maps, and certainly the national park service operates a site as well.Be sure to take along bug repellant, sunscreen, sunglasses, a first aid kit, rain gear, sweaters, and jackets if you plan a summer visit. Shoes should be sturdy and provide good tread.Wildlife has the right of way. You will see wildlife within the park, and may find you have to stop and wait when they cross the road. Drivers should not drive directly toward these animals; they have been known to charge vehicles causing damage. In addition, animals shouldn't be approached too closely, especially if they have young with them. You need to know the safety rules for your own protection, be sure to look these regulations over before you go. The water from hot springs are of course very hot, and much of water in the various features you will see is also quite acidic. The ground around the geysers, mud pots, and so forth is not stable. Therefore visitors should stay on the boardwalks and assure that children do as well. Gasoline is available within the park near the lodges, such as within Canyon Village.There is dining available within the lodges and there are a few stores as well.Lodging within Yellowstone National Park is generally affordable. However, if lodging is full, visitors to the park can stay in surrounding communities. Cody, Wyoming is approximately 50 miles west of the the park. Gardiner, Montana is just on the northern border and West Yellowstone lies just on the western border of the park. Accommodations in these towns is more expensive. Grand Teton National Park lies to the south where additional lodging is available.
Yellowstone National Park Activities
- Backcountry Camping and Hiking
Find information about backcountry hiking and camping in Yellowstone.
- Yellowstone Winter Use
Find out about snowmobiling in Yellowstone.
- Hiking in Yellowstone National Park
Information on day hikes within the park.
- Fishing in Yellowstone National Park
Find out where to fish and about the regulations.
- Boating in Yellowstone
Learn about boating opportunities in Yellowstone National Park.
- Horseback Riding in Yellowstone
Information on horseback riding, wagon rides, llama packing and more.
- Cross Country Skiing and Snowshoeing in Yellowstone
Learn about these and other winter activities in the park.
- Rafting in Yellowstone
Find services for a rafting trip in Yellowstone National Park.
- Kayaking/Canoeing in Yellowstone
Find a kayak or canoe trip through the park.
- Bicycling in Yellowstone
There are several areas appropriate for bicycling in Yellowstone.
- Yellowstone Educational Programs
Seminars and classes available.
Yellowstone National Park Maps
Yellowstone National Park Lodging
- Xanterra Resorts
Yellowstone lodging (cabins and inns) is managed by Xanterra Resorts. You can search availability and make reservations online or by calling.
- Lodging Around Yellowstone
This site will help you find hotels, motels and so forth in the communities near Yellowstone.
- Camping in Yellowstone National Park
Xanterra also manages Yellowstone campgrounds.
Find Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park is located in the northwest corner of Wyoming, USA. It spills over into Montana to the north and Idaho on the western border.
The weather in Yellowstone National Park will vary based on the elevation of the point where you are at any given time. Weather changes quickly and anyone enjoying the park should be prepared for these sudden changes. Layering clothes is suggested. Storms can arrive swiftly, so if you're hiking you need to be prepared for rain and temperature drops at any time.
On my trip, it was alternately sunny and cloudy/raining, at least twice each day. The temperature seemed to vary by as much as 20 degrees throughout the day based on cloud cover and elevation changes; and even more from early morning to mid-day and then again into evening.The conditions listed here are for Gardiner, Montana, on the northern border of Yellowstone National Park.