Tips on What To Do in Yellowstone
Having been established as the world's first national park more than a century ago, Yellowstone has attracted visitors by the thousands with its unimaginable beauty. Yellowstone is home to more than 10,000 geothermal features, with miles of trails to hike or cross-country ski and numerous rivers and lakes that are perfect for fishing.
- Only in the early morning is cycling bearable or safe; there are only a few mountain-bike trails, all accessible to hikers and horses as well. No trip to the park is complete without at least one trailside hike, be it to a waterfall or backcountry geyser; all the visitor centers have free day-hiking handouts for their areas." -- Rough Guides
- You might find that several of the ranger programs will appeal to kids. Yellowstone has a Junior Ranger Program for kids ages 5 to 12. For $3, you get a special activity paper, Yellowstone's Nature. (Sign up at any visitor center.) Kids get a Junior Ranger badge for completing certain activities." -- Frommer's
Yellowstone National Park's geothermal activity has created numerous one-of-a-kind natural attractions, the most famous of which is Old Faithful. Located near the center of the park, Old Faithful is a cone-shaped geyser, which spews between 3,700 and 8,400 gallons of boiling water an average of 145 feet into the air approximately every 90 minutes.
Another popular attraction is the Mammoth Hot Springs, located in the northwest corner of the park. The Mammoth Hot Springs feature multicolored terraces that were formed from mineral deposits left by the underlying hot springs. Located just north of Old Faithful in the Upper Geyser Basin, the Grand Prismatic Spring is the third largest hot spring in the world. It's known for its vivid colors, which are a result of bacteria living in the mineral-rich water. Other geysers, hot springs and mud pools are scattered throughout the park. Make sure to keep your distance, since geothermic activity is unpredictable and could cause injury.
- On any visit, start with the geyser basins and Mammoth Hot Springs to see wildlife and thermal features (caution: both can be hazardous if approached too closely). On the second day, travel to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Hayden Valley, and Yellowstone Lake." -- National Geographic Traveler
- On the road from Old Faithful to Mammoth Hot Springs, stop at Fountain Paint Pot to see the bubbling mudpots, fumaroles, and hot springs, some of which have turned shades of pastel pink and blue because of algae and bacteria." -- Away.com
- Yellowstone is full of landmarks, so it's wise to plan your itinerary in advance … Old Faithful Geyser is one of the more popular attractions -- blowing off steam every 80 minutes -- but don't miss Great Fountain Geyser and Castle Geyser, which are also extraordinary sites." -- Travel Channel
Sports & Leisure
Yellowstone features plenty of hiking and biking trails as well as ideal spots for fishing, skiing and horseback riding. Travelers recommend hiking along the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone or the Continental Divide Trail -- which links several different hikes as part of a continuous trail from Mexico to Canada. Make sure to bring plenty of water -- and to even carry bear spray to ward off dangerous wildlife. Hiking alone is never recommended. Once it snows, many of the park's hiking trails become ski and snowshoe trails, while many roads are reserved for snowmobiles. Before hitting the trails, it's a good idea to check on trail conditions at the visitor's center.
If you're looking to do some fishing or boating, Yellowstone Lake and Yellowstone River are the spots. Just make sure to obtain the proper permits from any visitor's center or ranger station.
- To get the most out of a visit … choose one or two areas to explore thoroughly. Only in the early morning is cycling bearable or safe; there are only a few mountain-bike trails, all accessible to hikers and horses as well. No trip to the park is complete without at least one trailside hike … all the visitor centers have free day-hiking handouts for their areas." -- Rough Guides
- On a longer stay, visit the northern range, or consider a boating or fishing trip on Yellowstone Lake; a backcountry excursion on foot or horse; or any of the numerous easy nature trails throughout the park." -- National Geographic Traveler
- The average snowfall in a Yellowstone winter is about 50 inches, creating a beautiful setting for sightseers and a wonderful resource for outdoor winter recreation. The steaming hot pools and geysers generate little islands of warmth and clear ground, attracting not just tourists but wildlife as well." -- Frommer's
The best wildlife lookout spots depend on the type of animal you wish to see. Hayden Valley is known as a great place to see buffalo, while Mount Washburn is often littered with bighorn sheep. Elk and moose sightings are frequent occurrences, especially around the Mammoth Hot Springs and in the park's marshier areas, such as the Lamar Valley.
Keep in mind that not all wildlife is friendly. Yellowstone is also home to bears -- both grizzly and black -- and wolves. It's best not to go exploring on your own, and you should make a little bit of extra noise when traveling through isolated areas to avoid surprising any unsuspecting animal. If you are a little wary of up-close animal encounters in the wild, visit the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center instead.
- While animals can be spotted year-round (especially at dawn and dusk), visitors during spring and early summer can spy big mammals out with their young, and are more likely to catch predators on the prowl." -- Sherman's Travel
- Park rangers attempt to keep track of grizzlies to avoid human/bear incidents. However, it is best to assume that they are always around; make noise when traveling in isolated spots." -- Frommer's
- Serious animal watchers should check out the park's website for a map of the park and the wildlife that frequent the various areas for ultimate prowling." -- USA Today