Visiting Yellowstone National Park has been on my bucket list for quite some time. The lure of gushing geysers, bubbling hot springs, colorful and dramatic scenery, and roaming wild animals had me in wanderlust over this destination for many years.
This past June we finally made it happen!
So, did it live up to its expectation?
Yes….and, unfortunately, no.
But before we get into the reasons why not, let’s take a look at the highlights, and why Yellowstone is such a popular place to visit.
Yellowstone National Park Highlights
#1 – The Geysers
The gushing geysers are absolutely amazing to see no matter their size. The main attraction, of course, is Old Faithful, and being right on schedule, the large geyser did not disappoint.
Did you know that they can actually predict the time Old Faithful will erupt – give or take 15 minutes? The schedule is posted in the visitor’s centre.
Tip: My advice to you is to check the schedule when you first arrive. This allows you the opportunity to explore the other sights around the area without worrying about missing the main event.
I love the colours of this one.
#2 – The Hot Springs
Although I have heard of people being able to sit in the hot springs in and around Yellowstone in days of yesteryear, sadly you can no longer do so. Regardless, these bubbling pools captivated me, with each one more fascinating than the next.
The above hot spring is in Yellowstone Lake
Don’t you just wish you could jump into this crystal blue pool? This and many of the other hot springs look so inviting but put one toe in and it would burn you! Most of the hot springs are consistently at a temperature near boiling point.
Mud Hot Springs
Mammoth Hot Springs
The Mammoth Hot Springs are one of the more “famous” attractions at Yellowstone and located in the Mammoth district. The features of this hot spring are quite different from thermal areas elsewhere in the park. As hot water rises through the limestone, large quantities of rock are dissolved, and a white chalky mineral is deposited on the surface, leaving quite a unique effect.
#3 – The Amazing Scenery
Even though seeing any of the above mentioned is amazing enough, Yellowstone also offers an abundance of waterfalls, volcanoes, canyons and dramatic landscapes. There is spectacular scenery at every turn.
Artists Paint Pots
Grand Prismatic Spring
The Grand Prismatic Spring was one of my favourites. Just look at that rainbow of colours!
Tip: In order to capture the colours of this Spring, hold your camera up as high as you can (over your head) and push the shutter button. Obviously, you will need to do this several times to make sure you get it just right.
#4 – The Wildlife
And then, of course, there is the wildlife!
There is an abundance of animals that meander throughout Yellowstone Park. Due to the volume of animals you see in one day, I think people forget they are wild. We, ourselves, had a scary thing happen to us with a male Bison while camping at Indian Creek.
We wanted to ride our bikes across a small bridge to check out the creek, however, there was a rather large Bison in our path. As we continued slowly towards him he started charging towards us.
Having one of the largest land mammals running towards you is definitely a scary thing. We turned around in a hurry and started heading back in the direction we came from. I had nightmares about this incident for days. The outcome could have been really bad if the Bison was at all serious about protecting his territory.
This incident made us hyper-aware of the distance we needed to keep ourselves safely away from the animals. We would cringe whenever we saw people trying to take close up pictures of Bison, Elk and even Bear. Capturing your experience is one thing…but getting too close to the animals is really not worth it!
Unless you are in the protection of your vehicle…
Bison in the park often cause traffic jams, which makes a perfect opportunity to get up close to these guys, while in the safety of your vehicle.
So, after reading about the highlights Yellowstone National Park has to offer, you may be asking yourself, what’s not to love?
The problem for me is the fact that soooo many people also wish to see Yellowstone (for good reason). We couldn’t get over how busy it was (and please remember we were there in June – I can’t even fathom how crazy it would be in July & August!).
Yellowstone is a National Park – yet the traffic is nuts. Because we were there to see the sights, we often drove a bit slower so we didn’t miss anything (you know…Grandpa style)…but we were always courteous and pulled over whenever we could to let the long line of cars go by. And yet, we still had cars passing us on double lines, and around corners. It’s a PARK people, what’s the hurry!?
Parking is also at a premium. We were travelling in our 29-foot motorhome, which made it twice as difficult to find parking at some of the more popular spots (the worst area was the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone).
And obviously, if there are that many vehicles on the road, there are even more people. At times the crowds were unreal.
However, during our four-night stay, we started noticing a trend. The busiest times for all attractions were from about 11:00 am – 5:00 pm. As I always prefer to avoid crowds, we started sight-seeing in the morning and evening instead. This is also prime time for animal sightings as well.
The only negative about evening exploring is photo ops. Taking pictures in the twilight hour can be tricky. When we finally got to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone it was nearing dark. Although still magnificent to see with the naked eye, my photos of that particular landmark, unfortunately, did not turn out. But it was pretty awesome that we had the entire place to ourselves.
If you too are planning a trip to Yellowstone, here are my tips for making the most out of your trip.
Tips for Making the Most out of Your Time in Yellowstone National Park
- Get to those landmarks early in the morning (the earlier the better) – even if you have to go back to your accommodations for a mid-day nap, I promise you it will be worth it!
- Explore from supper time onward – have a late lunch (or really early supper) so that you will be raring to hit the sights when the crowds thin out.
- Get your campsite early! – With that many people in the park, finding a place to stay can be tricky. Either reserve before you go or make sure to seek out a spot early in the day.
- Eat at odd hours – if you are wishing to eat out while in the park, and don’t want to wait over an hour to be seated, try to avoid eating during the regular breakfast, lunch and dinner hours.
- Keep a safe distance from the wild animals – take it from me, the further away the better!
- Enjoy the view – don’t let the idiots behind you push you along too quickly (this goes for driving as well as while walking the trails). You are there to see the sights, so make the most of it (but do have some common courtesy and move over whenever possible).
Need a Place to Stay?
If you are planning a trip to Yellowstone National Park, check out these recommended accommodations.
So tell me, have you been to Yellowstone? What were your favourite spots to explore?
If not, is Yellowstone National Park on your travel wish list?
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