Spanning three of the United States (Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho), Yellowstone National Park derives its name from the Yellowstone River with which it is associated. It is thought to be named by the American Indians who inhabited this area as far back as 11,000 years ago. This incredible landmark is open twelve months out of the year. That being said include dress for all four seasons in one day, as it has been known to snow in the summer and heat up in the winter. The bottom line is be prepared for anything! Fort a short video trailer and overview of the park click on the link below and scroll down.
Airports There are five different entrances to this National Park with multiple local and regional airports in the vicinity. Before you decide which state you want to fly into you may want to determine if you plan to combine your visit to Yellowstone with any other destinations. I have included a link that references the closest airports. Note that some of the local airports that are only open seasonally.
Grand Loop The park has both paved and unpaved roads as well as biking and hiking trails. Most of the popular attractions lie along the "Grand Loop," which is a figure eight of sorts. It is important to note that occasionally there are detours in the park due to construction, maintenance, and wildlife. This can cause traffic to congest a bit, but I have never personally had this experience. Some people will opt to drive the upper loop one day, and the lower loop the next day, depending on where they enter the park. You can usually get through the main attractions in 2-3 days, but exploring the park in detail, on a more liberal time line has it's benefits. There are a few gas stations in the park. Most people drive their own motor vehicles but I have provided a link for information on shuttle services.
Yellowstone Park Entrances Northeast Entrance The picture below features a typical view en route to Yellowstone through the Northeast Entrance. Weather permitting you can opt to drive along the Beartooth Highway. The closest airline service to this park entrance is Billings, MT.
The high winds and majestic views along the Beartooth Highway enroute to Yellowstone National Park, Montana, USA
West Entrance One of the most popular entrances to Yellowstone is through the West Entrance. The closest airports are West Yellowstone, MT, Bozeman, MT or Idaho Falls, ID. If you choose to combine your Yellowstone destination with other popular National Parks in Southern UT, flying into Salt Lake City, UT is a good option.
Price Each vehicle (not person) pays $25.00 when entering the park. The pass is good for up to seven days. To enter individually on foot, bike, or motorcycle is $12.00 per person. An annual pass costs $50.00. If you are 62 years of age or older you can get a lifetime pass for $10.00. It is worth inquiring into an Inter agency Annual Pass if you plan to visit certain other National Parks within the year. The link below provides more details on price.
A typical view in Yellowstone National Park, USA
Accommodations Lodging Most people camp, find lodging within the park, or stay in or around the West Entrance to the park itself. I like the Hibernation Station (refer to link below) which is a little older, rustic. It is across the street from the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center which provides refuge for Grizzly Bears and Wolves that would otherwise be unable to survive on their own (see link below). If camping and rustic accommodations are not your thing, there is a Hilton in the vicinity along with some other upscale accommodations. Camping There are seven campgrounds operated by the National Park.
Reservations 1-866-439-7375 for future reservations (307) 344-7901 Additionally there are five campgrounds owned and operated by Xanterra Parks and Resorts. For a list call (307) 344-7311.
A Bear at the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center, West Yellowstone, MT, USA
A wolf at the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center, West Yellowstone, MT, USA
Restaurants and Food There are a variety of restaurants in the town of West Yellowstone, MT, ranging from food stands to pubs. That being said this town has kept its down home curb appeal which I will describe as delightfully rough around the edges. While there are a variety of restaurants scattered around the National park, I generally prefer to shop at the grocery store in West Yellowstone, MT. Packing a brown bag lunch, containing enough food for a full 8 hour day in the park, is a near necessity. This allows for optimal flexibility, and maximization of time. Below is a link to grocery stores.
Wildlife in Yellowstone National Park One of the main attraction in Yellowstone is the wildlife. It's common to see birds, bison, moose, elk, deer, buffalo, wolves, coyotes, and even Black Bears and Grizzly Bears. This link provides safety information on bears.
Buffalo grazing and drinking in Yellowstone National Park, USA
Gorgeous wildlife in Yellowstone National Park, USA
YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK HIGHLIGHTS
Mammoth Hot Springs Set into a travertine Hill, this spring evolved over thousands of years as hot water cooled and deposited calcium carbonate. People often mistake this as snow but this picture was shot mid August. The copper color shades are the result of Algae living in the warm pools.
Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park, USA
Mammoth Hot Springs is located near the North Entrance of Yellowstone National Park in the state of WY. Drive time from Mammoth Hot Springs to West Yellowstone, MT is approximately 1hour 10 minutes.
The terraces and pools of Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park, USA
Norris Geyser Basin Norris Geyser Basin is the hottest Geyser Basin in Yellowstone and a must see! It is also home to the world's tallest geyser (Steamboat). Mineral oxides, not algae, are the cause of various colors in this basin.
Norris Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park, USA
Porcelain Basin Porcelain Basin is situated inside Norris Geyser Basin. The acidity of the water has left the basin in a mirage of desolation in which nothing will grow. The area is extremely active in spite of it's barren appearance.
Hot spring and geyser activity across Porcelain Basin, Yellowstone National Park, USA
Porcelain Basin Cont'd The well boarded paths (see below) allow you a safe passage through the pockets of spouting steam. There were surprisingly few people here in the middle of the day at this time of year (August).
Board Walk across Porcelain Basin, Yellowstone National Park, USA
Midway Geyser Basin Excelsior Geyser Crater Excelsior Geyser Crater, located in Midway Geyser Basin, which is part of Lower Geyser Basin, is said to discharge over 4000 gallons per minute into Firehole River (see below). It is imperative to stick to the wooden planked walkways, some of which don't have rails, while walking this section of t he Basin. It's also a good idea to wear nonslip shoes as the moisture on the boardwalks in this area of the park can accumulate quite a bit of moisture.
Excelsior Geyser Crater, Yellowstone National Park, USA
Midway Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park, USA
Firehole River, Yellowstone National Park, USA
Grand Prismatic Spring Grand Prismatic Spring, located in Midway Geyser Basin, is part of Lower Geyser Basin. It is a short walk from Excelsior Geyser Crater, and is the largest hot spring in the United States (250 ft. x 300 ft. at 160 ft. deep)/and the third largest hot spring in the world. Temperature sits at approximately 160 degrees Fahrenheit. The prismatic colors are from bacteria surrounding this mineral rich water.
Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park, USA
Grand Prismatic Spring Cont'd This is what people come to Yellowstone to see! While aerial views from a helicopter is a popular way to see this spring, I enjoy the proximity at close range. Click on this link to see video footage of both Grand Prismatic Spring and Excelsior Geyser Crater.
Feeling the heat coming off of Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park, USA
Firehole River Canyon, Yellowstone National Park, USA This warm swimming hole (Firehole River Canyon) is one of only two spots in the park where swimming is allowed. We enjoyed a relaxing afternoon in the water. Plan ahead to bring a towel and picnic, as this excursion is a short loop off the Grand Loop Road between Madison and Lower Geyser Basin.
Swimming in Firehole River Canyon, Yellowstone National Park, USA
Firehole River Canyon, Yellowstone National Park, USA, is large enough to find some private space away from the rocks where most people gather.
Old Faithful Old Faithful, in Upper Basin, is one of the most popular Geyser's in Yellowstone due to the frequency at which it erupts (approximately every 35 minutes to 120 minutes). The range between interval eruptions can range anywhere from 45 to 125 minutes. There is a section of benches, much like a small outdoor theater, to accommodate the crowds that gather between and during eruptions. The experience is spectacular and sound of the eruption quite loud. That being said, I removed the audio on the below video due to the chattering of the crowd. Video of Old Faithful