After our drive through Grand Teton National Park, we headed back to Yellowstone to see the southernmost geysers and hot springs in the park. On our previous geyser basin day, we visited Norris, Upper, and Midway Geyser Basins. That left West Thumb and Old Faithful left to be explored.
The West Thumb Geyser Basin was probably the most interesting geyser basin in the park. Located on the south shore of Yellowstone Lake, this area is one of the least explored sections of the park. Its location along the shores of the lake makes it stand out from all the geyser basins in the park and makes for interesting landscape photos. Unlike Midway or even Norris, it was not hard that hard to find a parking spot at West Thumb in the middle of the day.
While all the other geothermal features in the park are on land, West Thumb Geyser Basin is the place to see geysers in the water. Walking the boardwalk at West Thumb several cones can be seen steaming out in the lake. One of the most famous is Fishing Cone. Back in the day when fishing was allowed on Yellowstone Lake, anglers used to dip their catch in Fishing Cone to cook it. Nowadays, fishing in the lake is but it does create a funny mental picture.
We saved the most famous geyser basin in the park for last. Upper Geyser Basin is home to the world renowned Old Faithful and this area is home to not only the Old Faithful Inn where we stayed, but the Old Faithful Lodge, and the Old Faithful Snow Lodge. This area of the park is built for capacity and it seemed like parking was available any time of the day.
With over 1,300 documented geysers, The Upper Geyser Basin has the largest concentration of geysers in the world. With six miles of boardwalk, you could probably take a whole day just to explore the geothermal features around Old Faithful. Add on a five-mile loop and you can avoid the traffic and walk to the nearby Biscuit Basin.
It seemed like no matter what time of day it was, people crowded around to watch Old Faithful. The park publishes eruption times for Old Faithful (give or take ten minutes) and there is even a clock in the Old Faithful Inn that gives you the estimated time. If you want to visit one of the Old Faithful gift shops, do so right before the geyser erupts to beat the crowds. And once again, I highly recommend staying at least one night at the Old Faithful Inn, where you can sit out on the mezzanine and watch Old Faithful with your own chair and not jammed in elbow to elbow with strangers. That alone was worth the price for me!
I think I have finally reached the end of my Yellowstone coverage. Check back next week as I head north to Glacier National Park! To read more about this trip, check out the Epic National Park Road Trip. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.
Yellowstone National Park is known for its geysers, the most famous of course being Old Faithful. We spent our second day in the park seeing as many geysers and hot springs as we could. The geyser basins are crisscrossed by boardwalk trails to allow you to see the geothermal features safely. One thing I didn’t know before visiting Yellowstone is that geysers and hot springs smell like sulfur. Looking at these photos is bringing the smell back to me!
We started the day with the Angel Falls trail to the Grand Prismatic Spring overlook. Grand Prismatic is another iconic location in the park. It was funny, driving around the park and seeing all of the Cruise America RVs with a picture of it on the side. I’ve wanted to see Grand Prismatic since I saw a picture of it in my geography class in college. Years later, I forgot what it was called and tried to figure out where it was by googling “rainbow pond” (true story). The overlook is the best way to get a birds-eye view of the spring. The spring was very steamy when we got up there so, that was disappointing. Probably the most upsetting thing about it was going home and all my Facebook friends going to Yellowstone and posting their beautiful, clear, Grand Prismatic shots. If we had more time in the park, we probably would’ve tried again. At least the pictures from later in the day on the boardwalk (top) made up for it!
After the hike, we headed to the Norris Geyser Basin. Two and a quarter miles of boardwalks take you around seven geysers and nine hot springs in the Norris Geyser Basin. While lesser-known, Norris is the hottest and oldest of Yellowstone’s thermal areas. Steamboat Geyser is one of the most popular features in this area and is the tallest geyser in the world. Its eruptions are unpredictable but it has begun to erupt more often in recent years.
From Norris, we made a stop at the more obscure Artist Paint Pots. While interesting to look at, these bubbling mud pots are not very photogenic. But, a walk through this area is a way to get away from the crowds you will find at the other geyser basins. It is also a good spot to get a view of the Tetons (above).
Next, we headed to the Lower Geyser Basin. At twelve square miles, the lower basin is huge with the geothermal features scattered around in small groups. Mud pots, geysers, hot springs, pools, and fumaroles abound in this basin. Great Fountain Geyser is one of the highlights of the area and Clepsydra Geyser (above) is fun to photograph because of its almost constant stream of water, 10-40 feet in the air.
After Lower Geyser Basin, we figured it was late enough in the day to explore Midway Geyser Basin without too much of a crowd. Being home to Grand Prismatic Spring (right), Midway can get very crowded and parking can be near impossible in the middle of the day. After getting an acceptable view of the iconic spring, we had walked over ten miles and I was ready to head back to the Old Faithful Inn and enjoy watching Old Faithful erupt one last time before heading to bed.
Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to check back next week when I detail our drive through Grand Teton National Park! To read more about this trip, check out the Epic National Park Road Trip. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.
This post contains a lot of information about driving around Yellowstone. Here is a link to a map of the park, that will probably be a helpful reference while you read about our first day in Yellowstone.
Our first day in Yellowstone, we came into the park from Cody. I really believe this played a hand in our ability to see so much of the park in just one day. Unlike the west entrance, there was no line coming in from the east side of the park. The first point of interest coming in this way is Yellowstone Lake and the Fishing Bridge area. This is one of the lesser-visited parts of the park and it felt like we were the only people around for miles.
Yellowstone Lake (above) is a sight to behold. Situated at 7700 feet above sea level and taking up 132 square miles, Yellowstone Lake is the largest high elevation lake in North America. Because of the large surface area, sudden gusts of wind can create large waves making open water crossings of the lake very challenging. Because of that and the cold water temperatures, boating on Yellowstone Lake is not incredibly common.
From Fishing Bridge, we headed north to Canyon Village and one of my must-sees, Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. There is a very large parking area in the canyon area and we had no trouble finding a spot to park. One of the best views of the falls can be found at the Artist Point trailhead (left). I love how even unedited photos of the waterfall look like a watercolor painting. This is one of the most popular areas to hike in the park with plenty of hiking trails for all abilities. For more information about hiking in Yellowstone, visit NPS.gov.
The color of the rock makes The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone one of the most unique waterfalls I have ever seen. At one time a geyser basin was located at what is now the base of the waterfall. The heat and chemical activity of those geysers created rhyolite, a soft and brittle rock. The rhyolite reacts to oxygen in the air and in effect, the canyon walls are rusting, which gives it that unique yellow color.
From Canyon, we headed toward Mammoth. The drive through that part of the park felt longer than going from Lake to Canyon, but maybe it was just that there isn’t anything to stop and see from Norris to Mammoth. I’m not sure if this is normally the route you would take to get from one area to another, but the road from Tower/Roosevelt to Canyon was closed for construction in 2021.
Mammoth Hot Springs (top and right) was another feature on my Yellowstone Must-See list. I had seen photos of the unique, stair-like geothermal feature and wanted to see it for myself. The water in the springs container calcium carbonate that over time cools and creates these unique rock formations. It was interesting walking around and seeing how the pools have shifted over time, as evidenced by forests of dead trees with white, calcified bases.
From Mammoth, we headed to Tower/Roosevelt and this is where we encountered our biggest “jam” of our time in the park. This time, instead of elk, it was a mother bear with two cubs (viewed from a safe distance, of course, and with a ranger standing by with bear spray). It was super cool to see these wild animals through a zoom lens. It was definitely better than seeing them at the zoo!
After our bear encounter, we headed out the Northwest Entrance of the park to Gardiner for dinner. Be sure to stop back next week as I share about our day of exploring geysers and hot springs!
Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip, check out the Epic National Park Road Trip. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.
Yellowstone National Park was the world’s first national park and was signed into law by Ulysses S. Grant in 1872 to protect the otherworldly landscape that is Yellowstone. Located in northwestern Wyoming and spanning into Idaho and southern Montana the park encompasses 3,400 square miles, and is larger than the state of Rhode Island. It is separated into distinct geological areas formed by geothermal features unlike anything I had ever seen. From the sprawling Yellowstone Lake to hot springs and geysers and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, you could spend weeks in the park and not see everything. Ever since we were driving around Yellowstone, I have been trying to figure out how I am going to recap this enormous park!
We only had three days to see as much of the park as we could. Of course, I wanted to hit the highlights: Old Faithful, Grand Prismatic Spring, Mammoth Hot Springs, and Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Surprisingly, in such a short time, we were able to see everything we had hoped to and more.
Staying in the park helped us tremendously. Driving in and out of the park can take away 2 or more hours of your time and when you are battling the record number of visitors that are coming through the gates in 2021, you need all the time you can get. While exploring the park, we heard many people say that you cannot get a room at the Yellowstone Lodges unless you book a year in advance. We managed to get our room at the Old Faithful Inn two weeks in advance. Just keep checking and it helps to subscribe to the Yellowstone National Park Lodges newsletter. They sent out a newsletter that they were opening up more rooms for the 2021 season and I was able to snatch one up before they were gone.
Staying at the Old Faithful Inn (above) was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience. The Inn was built in 1904 from locally sourced materials including lodgepole pine. We stayed in one of the Old House rooms that has walls made of logs. Staying in that (admittedly small) room, you really got a sense of the history of the place. The GyPSy guide called the Old Faithful Inn the only building in the park that feels like it belongs. The Disney Nerd in me understands now where the idea for the Wilderness Lodge came from. Probably the best part of staying at the Inn is sitting out on the Mezzanine and watching Old Faithful erupt without having to be crowded around strangers and enjoying a drink.
Another trick we learned when visiting the park in the summer was to leave in the middle of the day. The parking lots filled up and it got hot, so we headed to one of the towns outside the park for food and air conditioning. Then, we headed back into the park as the day guests were leaving for the day and we explored until the sun went down. We also got lucky with the weather. Our first day in the park was forecasted to thunderstorm most of the day and I think this kept some visitors out. We managed to time it so we were driving when the worst of the rain was coming down and we managed to see most of what we wanted to on that first day.
Now that I’ve given you a little overview and some tips for making the most of your time at Yellowstone, next week I will begin to recap the highlights of the park! Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip, check out the Epic National Park Road Trip. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.
We are back from our biggest trip yet. We were gone for 23 days, visiting 7 national parks, 4 other National park service sites, and 4 state parks spanning 12 states (8 of which were new to us). We had incredible luck on the trip securing a reasonably priced rental car and managing to score last-minute reservations at two incredibly popular national park lodges. To top off our luck, the Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National park opened for the season on the day we needed to use it to get from one end of the park to the other.
This was a once-in-a-lifetime trip during the busiest summers for our National Parks ever! Throughout this trip report, I will share our experiences with the crowds and ways to avoid the worst of the congestion.
Here’s a little breakdown of the trip and a sneak peek of what is to come throughout this trip report:
- Ottowa, IL
- Dakota Dunes, SD
- Ponca State Park
- Badlands National Park
- Custer, SD
- Old Faithful Inn
- Rising Sun Motor Inn
- Watford City, ND
- Theodore Roosevelt National Park
- Moorhead, MN
- Mall of America
- Wisconsin Dells
- Madison WI
- Indiana Dunes National Park
We did SO much on this trip, this will probably take me months to recap, but I am looking forward to it! Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.