When we spontaneously decided to go on this crazy road trip, hitting Yellowstone was a location on both of our lists. We knew that we wanted to visit as many national parks as we could in the time we had, and Yellowstone did not disappoint. While Wyoming, as a whole, was a little too lackluster for us, the park was incredible. We spent two days in the park, and spent the night in the cutest little cabin at Old Faithful. Due to Covid, all food is currently to go, but there are so many distant spaces to sit outside. We were able to get dinner in the lodge and eat outside while we watched the massive geyser erupt. Such a fun experience. Elliott looked up from a mouthful of BBQ baked beans in awe when the water shot into the air. I will say, however, that this was our trickiest stop. There were far more people here than any other location we visited. We were able to keep distance, but for the first time, we really needed to put effort into having that be true.
The lake is such a beautiful shade of blue and the geysers and hot springs are out of this world. I have never seen such vibrant colors! The blues and oranges that glow from beneath the steam is mind boggling. Throughout the park, you can find over 10,000 geysers and hot springs. The difference between the two is that a geyser is essentially a hot spring that builds up enough pressure beneath the surface that it erupts. Old Faithful is the most famous geyser in the park. It is, well, old faithful; it erupts at a constant rate, (about every 92 minutes) so the times can be predicted and shared with guests. When the eruptions begins, water shoots anywhere from 130-190 feet into the air. Many of the other geysers in the park are so unpredictable that they will sometimes go years without erupting. Needless to say, you may not won’t to wait around for each geyser to provide a show.
The Midway Geyser Basin has some of the most brilliant colors in the entire park. When you visit this spot you will see a turquoise pool with neon orange runoffs flooding out of the basin. This was probably my favorite spot. It is a little smelly, super steamy, and has a gorgeous boardwalk. On the boardwalk you will see so many vibrant hot springs, including the largest geyser (Excelsior) and largest hot spring (Grand Prismatic). The insane rings of colors at Grand Prismatic are present because of the type of bacteria living in the water. We visited in the summer, but in the winter the bison and other wildlife in the park will visit to warm up from the cold. The springs never freeze, so they provide warmth to visitors year round.
The hottest and oldest stop in the park is at Norris Geyser Basin. The world’s tallest geyser is found here, but we were not able to see it erupt when we visited. This location also has a boardwalk and museum for visitors. The area provides a lot to viewers, but it is super unpredictable. West Thumb boardwalk passes by geysers, boiling springs, the lake, and mud pots. This was a stop that we really enjoyed because of its variety and charm. West Thumb was actually our first stop, and it served as a great intro into the park and what was to come.
The Canyon Area boasts incredible views of both the colorful canyon and the waterfalls that cascade from the river below. It is surrounded by hiking trails, but also has great walkways for viewers not looking to hike. The canyon is about 20 miles long and has viewpoints for both the 109 foot Upper and the 308 foot Lower Falls from the path. The unique pale color of the stone is due to the amount of iron compounds in the rock and the hydrothermal activity in the grounds.
Hayden Valley was another favorite; okay, so it was our son’s favorite for sure. Driving through Hayden Valley not only gives you some of the most incredible mountain and valley views, but it gets you up close and personal with the park’s wildlife. It is very common to see wolves, grizzly bears, bison, eagles, deer, pronghorn, and more. The bison tend to relax right along the road!
If you are heading to Yellowstone, definitely plan to spend at least two days in the park. If you intend on hiking, plan for longer. This park is huge! You will want and need the time to simply drive through it, yet alone enjoy all of the beauty and history it has to offer.