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Yellowstone National Park

Updated on August 19, 2014

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Yellowstone Wildlife

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.

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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.

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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 Enlarge

Click thumbnail to view full-size
A view of Yellowstone Lake on an August morningMud VolcanoBison swimming across the streamA picnic spot on the Yellowstone River near Hayden Valley. Bison were grazing across the road way.At Mammoth Hot Springs under cloud cover.A foggy morning view of the boardwalk leading through the midway geyser basin.The West Thumb Geyser Basin looking out over Yellowstone Lake.The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, downstream from the Lower Falls.In the Roosevelt area, where elk, wolves, moose, and bison can be found in the evenings and mornings.
A view of Yellowstone Lake on an August morning
A view of Yellowstone Lake on an August morning
Mud Volcano
Mud Volcano
Bison swimming across the stream
Bison swimming across the stream
A picnic spot on the Yellowstone River near Hayden Valley. Bison were grazing across the road way.
A picnic spot on the Yellowstone River near Hayden Valley. Bison were grazing across the road way.
At Mammoth Hot Springs under cloud cover.
At Mammoth Hot Springs under cloud cover.
A foggy morning view of the boardwalk leading through the midway geyser basin.
A foggy morning view of the boardwalk leading through the midway geyser basin.
The West Thumb Geyser Basin looking out over Yellowstone Lake.
The West Thumb Geyser Basin looking out over Yellowstone Lake.
The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, downstream from the Lower Falls.
The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, downstream from the Lower Falls.
In the Roosevelt area, where elk, wolves, moose, and bison can be found in the evenings and mornings.
In the Roosevelt area, where elk, wolves, moose, and bison can be found in the evenings and mornings.

More Yellowstone Pictures - Click on Thumbnail Photos to Enlarge

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Tower FallsWildflowers are plentiful in AugustMore wildflowers along the Yellowstone River near Hayden Valley and the LeHardy RapidsSpring flowers thanks to mountain summersThe dream-like Grand Prismatic Spring areaA very foggy morning made viewing the geysers in the Midway Basin area a surreal experience.The Mammoth Hot Springs area
Tower Falls
Tower Falls
Wildflowers are plentiful in August
Wildflowers are plentiful in August
More wildflowers along the Yellowstone River near Hayden Valley and the LeHardy Rapids
More wildflowers along the Yellowstone River near Hayden Valley and the LeHardy Rapids
Spring flowers thanks to mountain summers
Spring flowers thanks to mountain summers
The dream-like Grand Prismatic Spring area
The dream-like Grand Prismatic Spring area
A very foggy morning made viewing the geysers in the Midway Basin area a surreal experience.
A very foggy morning made viewing the geysers in the Midway Basin area a surreal experience.
The Mammoth Hot Springs area
The Mammoth Hot Springs area

Additional Yellowstone Pictures - Click on Thumbnail Photos to Enlarge

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The Upper Geyeser Basin near old faithful. Turquoise blue, crystal clear pools.The lower falls in the Grand Canyon of YellowstoneThe canyonAnother view of the canyon and the Yellowstone River.Lewis Lake on the southern route
The Upper Geyeser Basin near old faithful. Turquoise blue, crystal clear pools.
The Upper Geyeser Basin near old faithful. Turquoise blue, crystal clear pools.
The lower falls in the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone
The lower falls in the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone
The canyon
The canyon
Another view of the canyon and the Yellowstone River.
Another view of the canyon and the Yellowstone River.
Lewis Lake on the southern route
Lewis Lake on the southern route

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.

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.

A markerYellowstone National Park, Wyoming -
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
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Yellowstone Weather

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.

Let Us Know You Stopped By!

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      This is a really good lens about Yellowstone (and I live next to it!). Your information is accurate, pertinent, and interesting!

    • captainj88 profile image

      Leah J. Hileman 5 years ago from East Berlin, PA, USA

      Really wonderful images. What a beautiful place!

    • montanatravel52 profile image

      montanatravel52 5 years ago

      Wonderful tips and amazing pictures, thanks for sharing and a nice read! I was fortunate enough to grow up in MT with Yellowstone almost in my back yard, so I was there very often throughout the years, and your tips are very useful! In fact I wrote a lens on the Yellowstone Park Bison (which I love), and another lens that includes Yellowstone as a necessary attraction to visit, you are so right on!

    • Mandy Stradley profile image

      Mandy Stradley 5 years ago

      Gorgeous!!

    • ccsonian profile image

      ccsonian 5 years ago

      Yellowstone, there is no other place like it. Absolutely beautiful. I am hoping we might get up there this summer.

    • montanatravel52 profile image

      montanatravel52 5 years ago

      GREAT PICS and information on MY favorite park (sorry, but have to disagree with you about Yosemite):) I grew up near Yellowstone Park and our family would visit all the time, and I think you've captured it's beauty and offerings very well!! I recently finished a lens about my favorite 3 MT travel attractions around Billings, MT, and Yellowstone was one of them, OF COURSE:), and your lens helped, thanks!

    • iijuan12 profile image

      iijuan12 5 years ago from Florida

      What a gorgeous lens! I just finished creating a lens on Wyoming and came across yours when searching for other lens that feature the state. You've done a beautiful job!

    • Barb McCoy profile image

      Barb McCoy 6 years ago

      What a beautiful informative lens on Yellowstone. Favoriting, lensrolling, and blessing.

      **Blessed by an Angel***

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      the777group lm 7 years ago

      A wonderful Yellowstone lens and incidentally, your photos were superb!

    • mariaamoroso profile image

      irenemaria 7 years ago from Sweden

      Oh so much I wish I could travel around this fantastic place! Thank you for the lens-tour!

    • GramaBarb profile image

      GramaBarb 7 years ago from Vancouver

      I enjoyed your lens so much! I've been there twice! River Rafting on the Yellowstone River is one of the highlights of 1990 for me.

    • MacPharlain profile image

      MacPharlain 7 years ago

      Thanks for the beautiful pics of Yellowstone and the travel tips!